The Creature from the Pit
I find it rather sad and weary to sit down and think about the show in its current
state, so therefore I don't do it very often. When I do, my tiny tucked away mind always
seems to visualise a smelly and ploppy swamp which is gradually getting smellier and more
plopp-ridden. This fantastic feat of the imagination usually ends in my vomiting over and
into a Paddington Bear money box, a present from my Grandmother on my eighth birthday.
Whether this is a psychological sign of my loathing of today's Doctor Who, or just proof
of my joint dislike for Paddington Bear and my Grandmother ... I suspect the former, as I
can always develop quite a fierce temper when viewing any one story from the past couple
I can get even more passionate, but this time in rampant joy, on recalling stories
screened when Graham Williams was producer. To dive into absolute crudeness for a moment
only, these stories were tons better than anything that is being mashed and scooped onto
our plates today. Much, much better. So, it is my attempt to have a tiny peep at one of
these better serials. That one being The Creature from the Pit.
I do not think it is any longer controversial to say that Season 17 was a most
entertaining and enjoyable year of Who to enjoy. If Shada had not been cancelled, it would
have been one of the best batch of stories from the past decade. I say this not to annoy,
but because I believe it, and if that annoys then I'm not in the least bit inclined to beg
for pardon. The Williams era produced and gave us some quite polished television, whatever
the glorified moaners choose to screech.
With the advent of Season 17 the humour hit exactly the right resounding note, and did
not interfere with the Doctor's character. It was because of his sense of humour that he
appeared more alien than ever, and this new side to his character carried him through the
poorer stories with flying colours. Nowadays, with all the stories poor, we do not even
have a good Doctor to distract.
Tom Baker and Lalla Ward were quite simply the best double act the show has ever seen.
They suited each other like a toilet and Domestos, always coming across as fun loving and
never treating a situation with too great a seriousness. How else is one meant to survive
in this hectic world, never mind hectic universe, without letting one's hair down and
putting on a smile?
Creature from the Pit may have been Lalla's first full studio story as the new Romana,
yet I can find nothing to fault in her portrayal. The fashion with which she manipulates
her captors, the bandits, in episode one, cannot fail to have you in huge drowning bursts
of uncontrollable laughter. We've missed out on an older woman since Lalla left, but I'm
sure we'd all be grateful if we didn't have to put up with the brainless wood carvings
that we seem to be stuck with at the moment.
Creature was David Fisher's third DW script. If I had my way, it would not have been
his penultimate effort. I rarely get my own way though, so sadly David Fisher would only
write one more script for the series. All of his four scripts for Doctor Who I greatly
admire. Apart from flawless characterisation, he always managed to get a good plot in
there as well; a feat to be applauded, particularly in the programme we are discussing.
Although I consider The Leisure Hive to be his best work, Creature is not far behind. Even
all the hanging about in episode three is made up for by the sharpness of everybody's
tongues. It was interesting to see Christopher Barry back behind the cameras after such a
considerable period of absence. He may not have enjoyed the experience, but it doesn't
really show. The studio scenes on film are most refreshing, and the handling of the
dreaded inflatable creature is very presentable. Anything is preferable to a dirty CSO
blob, after all. Perhaps Barry's most noticeable contribution to the story is his choice
of cast, which can only be described as pretty bloody wonderful. I can honestly say that
it would be impossible for me to find one single actor in this story who did not appear
tailor-made for the parts they played. Even the Lady Adrasta, played just slightly wildly
by Myra Francis, has the ability to transfix the viewer with her icy coolness and then
have you laughing uneasily at her spicy retorts, all of which Tom Baker handles with an
ease which puts him above the situation, as the Doctor should be ...
Special mention has to go to Geoffrey Bayldon as the cute and cuddly Organon, without
whom we'd have all laughed a little less. No? You disagree? Oh, go away then. The other
two members of the supporting cast who contribute beautifully are Eileen Way as the
not-so-cuddly Karela and John Bryan as thee not-so-cute Torvin : "My boys ... my
lovely boys ... what delightfully high metal content!" His lines almost persuaded me
to grow a beard and become mad myself. Alas, I couldn't cultivate a respectable beard.
Well, not a lot more I can say, really. I'm not sure I know what people enjoy reading
anymore. Do they devour a story review because of factual information? Quotes? Detailed
desciptions of the female companion's dressware? I don't really know, and despite not
caring one jot, I can but hope that these ramblings have given you a tiny insight into why
I think The Creature from the Pit is superb, and also why the Williams years should be
treated with a little more respect all round by everybody.
Issue three contents
Five Hundred Eyes index