The Doctor (actor Jon Pertwee) has taken interest in a stage mentalist, Professor Clegg (actor Cyril Shaps), who actually conceals his real abilities of precognition and telekinesis. He has Clegg demonstrate his abilities to Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (actor Nicholas Courtney), while testing them with instrumentation. A parcel arrives from Jo Grant, returning the blue crystal from Metabelis 3 that he gave her as a wedding present, saying it was giving bad luck to the South American natives. Clegg inadvertently activates it and after a telekinetic storm, dies. The Doctor’s investigation of his instruments discovers that Clegg had seen a giant spider.
Sarah Jane Smith (actress Elisabeth Sladen) arrives back from seeing Mike Yates (actor Richard Franklin), no longer with UNIT but spotted something odd at a mediation centre that he had retreated to. After an overt lookaround, they both go back covertly and watch an unusual mediation that materialises a giant spider which promptly merges with and becomes invisible on their leader, Lupton (actor John Dearth) that guides him and zaps anyone who doesn’t obey. The spider (voiced by Ysanne Churchman) wants the blue crystal back. The distracted Doctor fully concentrates when he hears of the spider.
The dominated Lupton arrives and steals the crystal and the Unit officers, the Doctor and Sarah Jane pursue in various vehicles until the man suddenly disappears, being teleported by the spider back to the mediation hall. Simpleton Tommy (actor John Kane), attracted by the blue crystal steals it. There is a battle of wills between Lupton and the spider with the two-legs winning and they plot together to fool the queen spider when they are called back to Metebelis 3.
Meanwhile, the Doctor and Sarah Jane arrive and together with Mike Yates, try to convince the retreat’s Tibean deputy leader, Cho-Je (actor Kevin Lindsay) that they need to see Lupton, despite his assurances that the man couldn’t have done all they say unless he could teleport. Sarah Jane is side-tracked by Tommy who wants to give her the crystal. However, she spots Lupton going to the cellar and tells Tommy to tell Yates where she’s gone. When Lupton teleports away, Sarah Jane steps on a mediation mat and goes the same way in front of the Doctor, who immediately returns to UNIT HQ to use his TARDIS, which already has Metebelis 3’s co-ordinates.
He arrives to find her about to be captured by the queen spider (voiced by Kismet Delgado) while in a human village. The Doctor battles the queen spider’s human guards but is blasted, seemingly dead. Sarah Jane, in the distraction, is disguised. There is revolution in the village and because the queen spider and the guards couldn’t get the villages to give up Arak (actor Gareth Hunt), his father, Sabor (actor Geoffrey Morris) is accepted as a substitute to be executed later.
As night curfew approaches and the queen spider and guards are gone, Sarah Jane discovers that, although badly injured, the Doctor is alive. Mumbling instructions to Sarah Jane to get a satchel from the TARDIS, she does so but is captured by Lupton and taken to the spiders base and cocooned, joining father.
Arak recovers the satchel and the Doctor uses it to cure him, although he still sleeps to dawn. Over breakfast, Arak and his brother, Sabor (Geoffrey Morris), explain to the Doctor what has been going on. The humans came there four hundred years ago in a crashed spaceship and the effects of the blue crystal evolved the spiders to what they are today. The Doctor also realises he obtained his blue crystal before they had arrived there and that this is the future. On Earth, Tommy is affected by the blue crystal and finds himself getting smarter and begins reading books.
The Doctor has Arak and Sabor collect various stones and tests them until he discovers one that can neutralise the telekinetic blasts, which he hands to the villagers before going to Sarah Jane’s rescue. During this process, Lupton is ordered captured and so is the Doctor.
Cocooned, the Doctor can only watch as Sarah Jane is taken away for a private talk with the queen spider. The Doctor escapes and runs into the blue crystal cave where the unseen Great One demonstrates his fear as the crystals damage him. He flees and runs into Sarah Jane who teleports them both to the TARDIS.
On Earth, Mike Yates had convinced Lupton’s conspirators to let him make the numbers up to create the channel to return Lupton and Sarah Jane back to Earth. Unfortunately, despite Cho-Je trying to intervene after being warned by Tommy, it isn’t humans that arrive but spiders. Cho-Je and Yates are rendered unconscious as the spiders take over the conspirators.
The TARDIS materialises and although the Doctor’s stone can ward off their telekinetic blasts, Tommy helps them escape. Tommy also finds he’s mostly immune to their attack along the way. He takes them to the Abbot, K’Anpo (actor George Cormack), and the Doctor thinks he knows the Tibetan and realises it’s his old teacher who also has the crystal given to him by Tommy. He’s outside warding off the telekinetic blasts and the Doctor realises he has to return to Metebelis 3 and return the crystal and face the fear of his own death.
K’Anpo teleports him to the TARDIS and conspirators attack and injure him. As K’Anpo regenerates, the Doctor arrives on Meteblis 3 and meets the Great One (voiced by Maureen Morris) and…well, a change is as much you need at this point.
It’s a bit difficult to discuss this as its mostly spoiler, but I couldn’t help but wonder if the Cho-Je manifestation is a similar thing to the Doctor’s Watcher in ‘Logopolis’ and maybe an indication that with all the time travel the Time Lords do, that time literally catches up with them from time to time.
Ysanne Churchman, who does the queen spider voice might sound familiar beyond ‘Doctor Who’, if you remember the 1965 puppet series ‘Space Patrol, then she was the voice of the Venusians Slim and Marla amongst others.
The audio commentary comes from actors Elisabeth Sladen, Nicholas Courtney, Richard Franklin with producer/director/co-writer Barry Letts and script editor Terrance Dicks, with nary a modulator. I was surprised that no one actually asked just why would the Doctor at that time take an interest in experimental ESP? I liked Richard Franklin’s description of his character Mike Yates looking like Rupert Bear and Sarah Jane Smith coming out of the film ‘Fairly Modern Millie’, yet nothing about the strips on his jumper signifying his original military rank. All right, a captain wouldn’t have strips but he had more there than a sergeant. Likewise, when Sarah Jane arrives back at UNIT HQ, she still has time to change her clothes before seeing the Doctor, although Lis Sladen does explain that the wardrobe mistress had money to spend on her clothes for her. I didn’t realise that Tom Baker’s first story, ‘Robot’, was being recorded elsewhere as this story was being completed. There’s a lot of insight given to Jon Pertwee’s last story which will certainly be worth your time listening to but if you’re a Who fan, would you ignore these audio commentaries? A true time capsule.
The extras DVD is really loaded. ‘The Final Curtain’, despite the blurb on the back box cover saying it covers all of Pertwee’s tenure as the Doctor, actually focuses on this story. Most of the cast have appeared in some way in the show before, which is more than I thought. It’s rather amusing that co-writer/producer/director Barry Letts didn’t realise at that time that all the Lupton/spider had to do at UNIT HQ had to focus and teleport and the entire chase would have been unnecessary. If I was going to rationalise it, I would have said Lupton and the spider were struggling inside his head and was really only doing things the human way. For all the spider knew, mad-cap chases was the normal thing that humans did.
The interview with John Kane who played Tommy really was hilarious as he explains his impromptu test of the character with his taxi driver on the way to the BBC TV centre. I never realised he was also a scriptwriter as well as a busy stage actor. Then again, more recent experience has shown me that actors who play dim characters tend to be the smartest of the bunch.
‘Directing Who’ is Barry Letts discussing his work and a little beyond with a certain TV series. I liked the nice little tit-bit that with the advent of the colour licence fee that the BBC had more money than they knew what to do with and that some of it was channelled into more outside filming on ‘Doctor Who’.
‘Now And Then’ is a travel around Wiltshire and northern Somerset for the outside recording of the show comparing as it was to how it is today.
If you want to a have a mega-session of watching this story again, there is the 95 minute omnibus edition. Having watched the show twice over, that will have to be for another time.
(region 2 DVD: pub: BBC BBCDVD1809. 2 DVD 150 minutes 6 * 25 minute episodes with extras. Price: about £ 5.00 (UK) if you know where to look)
cast: Jon Pertwee, Elisabeth Sladen, Nicholas Courtney, Richard Franklin, John Levene, John Dearth, Cyril Shaps, Gareth Hunt, Geoffrey Morris, George Cormack and Kevin Lindsay
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