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[PDF / Epub] ☀ Doctor Who and the Planet of the Spiders Author Terrance Dicks – Cravenjobs.co.uk

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10 thoughts on “Doctor Who and the Planet of the Spiders

  1. says:

    The Doctor Who re-reading experience. Comments on the books and the TV serial it covers, and my recollections of the story



    So, I pick a book at random from the hundreds I have on the shelves to begin my re-read, and this is what I pick up. I definitely remember seeing this story when it first came out (I was 11 at the time), and to be honest I don't really remember much about it except for one thing. There were GIANT FRICKING SPIDERS in it, even though they weren't very good models of GIANT FRICKING SPIDERS, they were still GIANT FRICKING SPIDERS (I think you can guess how I feel about spiders, let alone GIANT FRICKING SPIDERS).

    From what I can gather about this serial, opinions were divided about it. Many felt it was overlong, hugely padded and often badly acted (so, typical Doctor Who from this era then). On the other hand, this was Pertwee's last outing as the Doctor, and featured the first Regeneration that was actually described as such. Add to that we had another Time Lord living on Earth (who also Regenerates), a wild multi-vehicle car chase, our first hint that the Tardis is actually alive, an armed revolt with lots of death on the planet Metebilis 3, shenanigans in a Buddhist monastery in the heart of the British countryside, a psychic that dies a rather gruesome death, a bit of Venusian karate from the Doctor, a rather sympathetic depiction of someone with learning difficulties, a cameo appearance by former companion Jo Grant, and a final hurrah for the disgraced Captain Yates. And don't forget the GIANT FRICKING SPIDERS

    On to the book then. Well, at only 120 pages you are hardly going to get a huge amount of characterisation. It's more of question of "this is what happened, then this happened, and finally this happened", though what characterisation we did get felt true to life. Being plot driven is hardly a bad thing, but the book makes this story feel a lot more exciting than the actual serial - with 6 episodes to narrate, that left just 20 pages per episode. The car chase alone took up 1 episode, for example. We get to know just enough about the human enslaved by the spiders on Metebilis 3 to feel for them when they finally revolt, inspired by the Doctor of course. The final confrontation between the Doctor and the Great One in the deadly radioactive crystal cave is suspensefully written. Sarah Jane acquits herself well here, proving why she is regarded as one of the best companions for the Doctor. The Brigadier and UNIT provides the comic relief. There is an interesting amount of Buddhism is this story, prompted by the Producers interest in the subject, which is generally well handled (even though in the serial the two Tibetan monks were played by white actors, and the attitude shown by Jo Grant to her Indian porters in the Amazon felt like it belonged to a much earlier era - this was still the 1970s, after all, and blatant racism was pretty much the norm).


    At the heart of this story is the idea that the Doctor needs to hold himself to a higher standard than ordinary people, one that has been much more clearly explored in New Who. By stealing the blue crystal in the first place (in an earlier episode that was alluded to in this book but not elaborated on), the Doctor sets himself up for his own fall. In the end, the only way to make amends is to sacrifice his own life for the greater good. At least he succeeds in freeing the human slaves from the GIANT FRICKING SPIDERS but the cost there is also high, with widespread bloodshed as the slaves turn against the human collaborators.

    There's not really much else to say about this book, except that Terrance Dicks was the author of a huge number of Doctor Who books, and as he was the script editor at the time this serial came out, he probably had a better handle on who the Doctor was than anyone else had at the time.

    So, for one last time GIANT FRICKING SPIDERS!. What more could you want in a book?



  2. says:

    2016 - Still fun, still much like watching the old TV versions - short scenes, etc. Still 3 stars

    2014 - Elisabeth Sladen did a decent job with the narration. I especially liked the high, squeaky-but-so-evil voice she used for the Spider characters. The plot and pacing clearly reflected the 20+ minute segments of the old, original Doctor Who shows, with lots of scene changes. I could almost see the old yellow flivver named Bessie that Jon Pertwee drove, as well as the Brigadier and the Sergeant from UNIT. Fun, likeable, not great.


  3. says:

    The Third Doctor's swansong was a fitting end to a great Doctor. I only wish the novelization had included the full scene between the Doctor and Sarah Jane just before the regeneration.


  4. says:

    Often, the main difference between the televised version of a story and the novelisation is the special effects, the reader's mind having so much better resources. With this story, though the effects weren't always great, they weren't as embarrassing as those in, say, "Invasion of the Dinosaurs" and, for me, didn't spoil my viewing.
    What did jar was some of the worst acting I've seen in Doctor Who. One of the denizens of Metebelis III in particular sounded as if she'd been dragged in from the street to read lines she'd never seen before from a cue card. In a second language. Thankfully, in the book we're spared that, and Metebelis III is much more convincing in prose.
    Back on Earth, on television, we were treated to some of the best acting I've seen in Doctor Who, and it's a shame to lose John Kane's sensitive performance. Fortunately it was so strong, I envision Tommy, and "hear" his voice when reading. I'll be interested to hear what someone who hasn't seen the story on TV makes of this character, as it could easily have been patronising, especially in those long ago, politically incorrect days.


  5. says:

    I have previously found the televised story tedious (it's the old six-parter problem which has at least one episode where very little happens) and I wasn't looking forward to rereading the novelisation... However there were a number of positive points - the addition of a prologue with Jo in the Amazon actually sending the jewel back to the Doctor, not really adding much except in a 'feel-good' sort of way; the chase sequence seems to go much faster than onscreen... I confess that I didn't recall much of the detail (had to look at the first episode to check one or two details) but this version seemed to have had some effort made to produce a decent retelling. (So much so that I read it in almost one sitting.)


  6. says:

    Planet of the Spiders was the last adventure for the Third Doctor and one of my favorites. After recently watching the television serial on Classic Doctor Who I discovered the audiobook novel by Terrence Dicks. Elisabeth Sladen narrates the story and portrayed the Sarah Jane Smith character in the 70's episodes. All which makes it even more memorable. Sound effects included and the reading are done very well. If you are a fan of Doctor Who I believe you would enjoy.


  7. says:

    Concentrate. Concentrate! 😀


  8. says:

    Novelizations of classic "Doctor Who" episodes are a bit of a tricky thing. Their relative merits often hinge on your feelings about the particular television adventure on which they're based and there's rarely much an author can do to improve the story much. You can get a few points for added character depth and, of course, the imagination's ability to render scenes and special effects is vastly superior to most on-screen effects, but more often than not it comes down to the basic plot itself.

    That's the case with "Planet of the Spiders." It's a six-part story to end the Jon Pertwee era as the Doctor that suffers from more padding than an overstuffed couch. There's a lot of chase scenes, endless scenery chewing and a lot of moments that could easily be cut and make this story a four-part one. With the novel, Terrance Dicks is able to compress a lot of this and push some things together so the story doesn't feel like it's lagging quite as much as it does on screen. Dicks adds a prologue that sees Jo Grant sending the famous blue crystal back to the Doctor that works fairly well and is one of those additions you wish could have been in the televised program. Unfortunately, Dicks also leaves out a scene late in the story where the Great One battles the Doctor, taking over his body and forcing him to spin in a circle while he unsuccessfully tries to defy her wishes. It's a great scene and maybe Dicks felt like Pertwee did it so well on-screen that putting it on the printed page might not do it justice. But it becomes necessary in the late stages of the story to understand the Doctor's decision in the final moments and his having to face his fears.

    One dilemma that comes with reviewing an audio book is separated the reading from the source material. Elizabeth Sladen's reading of "Spiders" is well done and she does the best she can with the source material. The production itself is superb, but it's the source material that fails here, not Sladen herself. Here's hoping she'll get a stronger story for her next reading.


  9. says:

    Giant, intelligent spiders from the planet Metebelis 3 have been constructing a device which will expand their already formidable mental powers throughout the universe. The device is an intricate latticework made of very special blue crystals, and only one more crystal is needed to complete it. It just so happens that that final crystal is in the possession of Doctor Who on Earth. By projecting their mental powers, the spiders are able to take control of a few humans on Earth, and use them to steal the crystal and transport it to Metebelis 3. But these eight-legged fiends have seriously underestimated Doctor Who.

    I’ve listened to a couple of these Doctor Who adventures now, and I have to say they’re a lot of fun. There’s always plenty of action and thrills, and also a fair amount of that dry British humour. If you’re looking for something deep and meaningful, this isn’t for you. If you just want to be entertained for a few hours, you should definitely check out Doctor Who.

    The Planet of the Spiders is based on actual episodes of the BBC television series. The six-part storyline originally aired on television in May and June of 1974. This audio production was written by Terrance Dicks in 2009 and is available from AudioGo, formerly known as BBC Audiobooks America. The audiobook is narrated by Elisabeth Sladen, who starred as the Doctor’s companion Sarah Jane Smith in the original airing.

    Steven Brandt @ Audiobook-Heaven


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