Me: Right, this is it.
Sue: This is what?
Me: Jon Pertwee’s last story. Six more episodes and it’s over.
Sue: Really? Why are you telling me this now? Are you winding me up again?
Me: I was going to keep it a surprise, but this story works better if you know it’s the Third Doctor’s swan song. It would have been common knowledge at the time, too. The reason I know this for a fact is because my mother sat me down and explained to me what was going to happen in advance; she probably did it to stop me freaking out when Pertwee was replaced by another actor. Oh, and you’d have to be an idiot not to see it coming a mile off, so I’ve decided to put you out of your misery now.
When the story’s title appears, Sue turns to me and laughs.
Sue: Spiders, eh? You must really hate this story. Don’t worry, you can hold my hand if you get scared. I’ll protect you.
Yes, I suffer from arachnophobia. I also live in the countryside, which means I spend a great deal of my time screaming for Sue to come and rescue me from the eight-legged ****ers.
Me: This story had a profound effect on me. You could say it made me the person I am today.
Sue: Afraid of spiders?
Me: No, afraid of Buddhists.
Sue: I beg your pardon?
Me: You’ll see.
A lonely-looking man is walking down a country lane…
Me: Do you recognise him?
Sue: Is it the actor who plays Yates? Is he playing a different part?
Me: No! That’s Yates!
Sue: But I thought he was persona non grata?
Meanwhile the Doctor and the Brigadier are painting the town red.
Sue: Is this what they get up to on their days off? What the hell is going on? Why isn’t the Doctor off exploring the universe or something?
A torturous comedy routine is followed by a Turkish belly dancer named Sherezadi.
Sue: They’ve come to a working men’s club to see a STRIPPER??!
Lethbridge-Stewart’s eyes almost pop out of his head.
Sue: Brigadier! I am very disappointed in you.
Yates breaks into a large country house and makes for the cellar, where a group of middle-aged men are meditating over a Roger Dean album cover.
Me: I told you Buddhists were bloody terrifying.
Sue: They look more like bank managers than Buddhists.
Me: It is possible to be both. Have I told you that Barry Letts was a Buddhist?
Sue: So does Doctor Who have a Buddhist agenda, then? We’ve seen Buddhists in the show before, haven’t we?
Me: I grew up associating Buddhism with monsters and alien invasions, which I’m fairly sure wasn’t Barry’s intention.
Professor Clegg (the clairvoyant act at last night’s sordid cabaret) is summoned to UNIT HQ to speak with the Doctor.
Sue: It’s a bit like MI5 bringing Derren Brown in for questioning. You can tell he’s got mind control powers because of his beard.
The Doctor wants Clegg to help him with his research into ESP.
Sue: Is he going to form an alliance with Clegg? Can you see what I did there? It’s because the Doctor is a…
Me: Yes, very good, Sue.
Sue: Why is the Doctor fixated on this particular subject all of a sudden? Is he sick of all the mind control, as well? I still don’t understand why he isn’t off having an adventure on some alien planet somewhere. This is out of character. He couldn’t wait to leave, but now he’s hanging around UNIT like a spare part.
Yates meets Sarah Jane at a remote train station in his sports car.
Sue: He’s starting his midlife crisis early. And his MG needs a service, too. Listen to it squeaking! That would turn Sarah right off.
Yates has an exclusive scoop for Sarah’s magazine.
Sue: So is Sarah Jane a journalist again? Has she left the Doctor? Why does she trust Yates again? And in which magazine did she publish her story about the giant penis in a cape?
Yates wants Sarah to investigate the suspicious meditation centre.
Sue: Yates has the look of a young Mick Jagger. I think the long hair suits him. I’m glad they brought him back to finish off his story. Not that I was expecting any kind of resolution.
The Buddhists are led by a grumpy fellow named Lupton.
Sue: He looks familiar.
Me: Where in Doctor Who have you encountered this actor before?
Sue: Wasn’t he in On the Buses?
The Doctor hooks Clegg up to a machine that Sue recognises as a salon-style hair dryer.
Sue: Those are the same headphones from the story with the giant maggots. He’s nicked them from the giant computer that was brainwashing everyone.
Clegg’s mental powers reveal that the Brigadier has enjoyed extra-marital relations with a young lady named Doris.
Me: I told you he was having an affair.
Sue half-laughs and half-tuts. And then UNIT’s monitor screen is filled with Drashigs as Clegg probes the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver with his mind.
Sue: I suppose the Doctor should count himself lucky it isn’t showing images of the giant cock in a shower curtain. How would he explain that to the Brigadier?
When Benton walks into the lab, he dismisses the Doctor’s contraption as an overblown hair dryer as well.
Sue: Me and Benton would get on like a house on fire. We think the same way. Is the actor who plays Benton still alive?
Me: Yes! You passed him in a corridor about three months ago. You were invited to see some of his stand-up comedy, but you were too busy hiding in the hotel’s restaurant to bother, which was probably for the best.
Sue: That was never Benton! Never in a million years! I thought I passed Ian Levine in that corridor.
Back at the meditation centre, Sarah interviews a Tibetan monk named Cho-Je about his beliefs. At one point Cho-Je says, “The old man must die and the new man will discover to his inexpressible joy that he has never existed”.
Sue: In other words, don’t worry, Tom Baker will be along shortly. There’s a lot of foreshadowing going on in this episode. I like it.
Jo Grant has sent the Doctor a package from the Amazon. The Doctor asks Clegg to identify its contents before he opens it.
Sue: Is it a DVD boxset? That’s what you usually get from Amazon.
Me: Very funny.
Sue: Is it the blue crystal from the one with…
Me: The giant maggots? Yes. Yes, it is.
Sue: I know it’s called The Green Death, by the way. I just like winding you up.
Their interview concluded, Mike and Sarah pretend to leave the meditation centre, only to double back again.
Sue: There are lots of references to the past in this episode. And Sarah Jane is flirting with Mike Yates now. They set that up weeks ago. It’s a bit like Lost, this.
Professor Clegg’s mind makes contact with the Metebelis crystal.
Sue: The Doctor’s only gone and killed him! While he was in his care! That’s a health and safety nightmare. UNIT will be up to their necks in litigation for months. Unless they cover it up, of course.
The episode concludes as something materialises in the meditation centre’s cellar…
Sue: So Buddhists are making giant spiders appear out of thin air.
Sue: Erm… Why?
Sue: Only five more Jon Pertwee episodes to go. I can’t believe it. I bet Part Five will still be rubbish, though. And I bet you remember this from when you were young, Neil. Or were you too scared to watch it?
Me: My strongest memory about this story concerns the edited omnibus repeat that aired over Christmas in 1974. I’m standing in Coventry’s Pool Meadow Bus Station, waiting for a Number 7 with my mother, and I’m screaming the place down because we’ve missed both the bus and the omnibus. I know it was the Christmas repeat because my mother tried to pacify me with a gingerbread snowman.
Sue: Omnibus edition?
Me: Don’t even go there. I raised the possibility that we might watch the omnibus edition instead, but our readers on Twitter and Facebook nearly tore my head off.
Sue: Would you jump off a cliff if they told you to?
Me: I don’t know. What would it do to our stats?
A giant spider is about to make its move.
Sue: Does the spider jump onto his back? Oh look, it has… And now it’s invisible. Yes, I’ve definitely seen this before. I’m sure of it. It definitely jumps onto a woman’s back later.
Me: Did the woman in question look like Catherine Tate by any chance?
Me: I thought so.
When the Doctor hooks the Metebelis crystal up to his machine, he sees spiders writhing around on a monitor. I turn away, repulsed.
Sue: So did Doctor Who make you afraid of spiders, Neil? Is it Doctor Who’s fault that I have to keep rescuing you when you take a bath?
Me: I don’t think so. It probably reinforced my fear of them, though. I still have problems watching this story today.
Sue: So is Lupton Spider-Man, now? Can he climb walls and swing around on webs and stuff? He might want to think about a costume of some sort. That brown roll neck jumper isn’t going to cut it.
The Doctor admits he is responsible for Clegg’s death, and Sue doesn’t understand why he hasn’t turned himself in to the police.
Sue: At least he cares that he’s accidentally killed Derren Brown, I suppose. And doesn’t Jon Pertwee look tired all of a sudden?
Sue is enjoying this episode (she adores Sarah’s hat and coat ensemble), and she can’t believe her eyes when she spies the Whomobile and Bessie in the same car park.
Sue: This really is a greatest hits package, isn’t it?
Lupton barges into UNIT HQ, and when Benton tries to intervene, Lupton electrocutes him.
Sue: Have they killed Benton? Is this Benton’s last story, as well? Does UNIT get killed off? I’m a bit worried now.
Lupton steals the Metebelis crystal, and the Brigadier tries to stop him with deadly – but incredibly inaccurate – force.
Sue: The Brig ought to be a better shot than that! Is it any wonder UNIT can’t hit a barn door at 20 paces if he’s the one training them? Good grief.
The chase begins.
Sue: Is this one of those special Top Gear challenges where they have to get from one end of the country to the other in different vehicles?
Me: It’s more like Wacky Races.
It isn’t long before this high-speed pursuit attracts the attention of the police.
Sue: It’s Mel Smith in a panda car!
Sue begins to suspect this scene is nothing more than padding.
Sue: That’s the same fork in the road. They’re going round and round in circles. I’m guessing that none of this is in the omnibus? They must have cut this out.
Me: You’d have thought so, wouldn’t you? But they didn’t.
Sue gives me a funny look. And the chase goes on.
Sue: I’ve never seen a car chase where the participants actually get out and swap vehicles. You wouldn’t catch Bullitt doing that.
With Lupton now in a gyrocopter, Sue thinks she’s spotted a fatal flaw.
Sue: I can’t wait to see Tom Baker driving around in the Whomobile… Hang on a minute, what happened to the spider? Why hasn’t Lupton splattered it all over the upholstery?
And then, to Sarah’s horror (and Sue’s delight), the Whomobile takes to the skies.
Sue: It’s turned into Grease.
The Doctor follows Lupton’s gyrocopter to the coast.
Sue: Not boats as well! What comes after the boats? Trains? Buses? Space Hoppers?
Lupton steals a motorboat from Terry Walsh.
Sue: He’s familiar.
Me: He should be, he played the Doctor last week.
And the chase goes on.
Sue: There’s more driving in this episode than there is in the film Drive!
Me: Ah, a comedy tramp. It really is a Now That’s What I Call A Jon Pertwee Episode, now.
Sue: It reminds me of Live and Let Die. It’s as long as Live and Let Die.
The Doctor finally catches up with Lupton’s boat, but when he boards the vessel, his quarry is nowhere to be found.
Sue: Why didn’t Lupton do that 10 minutes ago?!
Back at the meditation centre, a young man with learning difficulties is drawn to the Metebelis crystal.
Sue: He looks like a young Colin Montgomerie.
Lupton confers with one of his Buddhist colleagues about what happened in the cellar earlier with the giant spider.
Sue: He looks familiar.
Me: Bizarrely, and I’m not making this up, Barnes looks like someone who teaches Buddhism at our university. I think he specialises in distance learning. You know, because he astrally projects to his lectures… Oh, suit yourself.
Lupton is unhappy about losing his job as a sales director, and he’s decided to channel his energies into achieving world domination instead.
Sue: From redundancy to world domination – that’s quite a career move. I hope you don’t do something stupid like this when you take your severance this summer, Neil.
Barnes leaves Lupton to his own devices.
Sue: (As Lupton) Make sure you don’t step on the giant spider on your way out.
Lupton heads for the cellar to meditate, but when Sarah follows him, she’s accidentally transported to Metebelis 3.
Sue: Metebelis 3 looks quite nice. Are you sure this is the same place as before? It was a shit hole when the Doctor last visited the place.
The Doctor follows Sarah in his TARDIS.
Sue: Why doesn’t he use the mat? It would be a lot quicker. And more reliable.
Sarah is introduced to Metebelis 3’s human inhabitants.
Sue: He’s definitely familiar… Is he a 1970s porn star?
Me: I don’t know. How many 1970s porn stars are you familiar with?
Sue: It’s not Jason King, is it?
I eventually jog her memory thanks to the internationally-recognised hand gesture for Gareth Hunt.
Sue: Is he, really? That isn’t very nice.
Me: Oh, for God’s sake, it’s Gareth Hunt!
Me: The New Avengers.
Sue: The what?
Me: The Nescafe adverts.
Sue: Oh, him!
Sue: Oh. My. God.
Me: Sue, I’d like you to meet Jenny Laird.
She’s gobsmacked by Jenny’s performance (if performance is the right word).
Me: Believe it or not, RADA named an acting prize after Jenny Laird.
Sue: Was it the booby prize for the most stilted performance of the year? Maybe Barry Letts hired the wrong Jenny Laird by mistake? This woman can’t act. I could do a better job than her and I’m shit!
Despite Jenny’s best efforts, Sue is quite taken with Metebelis 3, especially its Butlins-style chalets and “lovely cobbled floors”. And when the TARDIS arrives, she’s even more impressed.
Sue: The TARDIS is having a good day. Look at that. Inches away from where the Doctor needs to be. For a single episode, Jon Pertwee’s TARDIS acts like Matt Smith’s.
But before the Doctor can rescue Sarah, a giant spider decides to spoil things.
Sue: Just step on it!
The Doctor is zapped by the spider’s guards and he stumbles to the floor unconscious.
Sue: Is this it, then? Is he going to regenerate?
Sue: So when is he going to regenerate? It must be a long regeneration if there are still three episodes left. And I thought David Tennant’s regeneration was drawn out. Or does Tom Baker turn up in the middle of the story and sort everything out?
Sue is convinced she’s spotted a famous extra lurking in Jenny Laird’s shadow.
Sue: It’s Meryl Streep.
Me: Don’t be silly. They couldn’t afford Meryl Streep and Jenny Laird.
Meanwhile at the meditation centre…
Sue: These men look – and act – like a paedophile ring.
Tommy begins to read from a children’s book.
Sue: I had that book when I was at school! I remember the pictures and everything!
I’ve never ever seen Sue this excited in the middle of an episode of Doctor Who before. Anyway, the crystal clears Tommy’s mind and he discovers, to his astonishment, that he can suddenly read fluently for the first time.
Sue: What a brilliant idea. And they did it really well, too. It’s a great performance from Colin Montgomerie.
Back on Metebelis 3, the Doctor is barely conscious.
Sue: Don’t just lie there! Regenerate!
The Doctor gives Sarah the key to the TARDIS so she can fetch a machine that might save his life.
Sue: That’s weird. I thought the TARDIS used a Yale key.
The colonists on Metebelis 3 debate their next move.
Sue: They’d be better off staging a production of Hair.
The Doctor activates the life-saving machine and… BOOM!
Sue: Where’s Tom Baker? Oh, this is getting silly, now. It’s still Jon Pertwee.
Yates stumbles across the local paedo ring and is tied-up for his troubles.
Sue: Yates is wearing a brand new pair of shoes. Look at his sole. It hasn’t got a mark on it.
Me: That’s very deep, Sue.
The Doctor enters the spiders’ city.
Sue: It looks like spun.
Me: A spun web? Yes, it does.
Sue: No, spun. Tuff spun to be precise. It’s a material they used to diffuse studio lighting. Don’t you know anything?
The episode concludes with the Doctor failing to rescue his companion. The look on Sarah’s (and Sue’s) face says it all, really.
Sue: How disappointing.
The spiders really want their crystal back.
Sue: You can’t blame the spiders for being annoyed. If a spider stole the Star of India from us, we’d be pissed off as well.
Sue feels sorry for the actors who have to interact with Jenny Laird.
Sue: She’s certainly not helping Gareth Hunt. He goes as stiff as a board as soon as she comes near him.
A spider strikes a deal with Sarah: the crystal in exchange for peace, love and harmony.
Sue: I’d want to see something on paper first. Although I bet you wouldn’t be able to read their handwriting.
If there’s one thing that disappoints Sue, it’s the spiders’ habitat.
Sue: Their lair isn’t what I expected at all. I thought it would be a dark cave covered in cobwebs, but it looks like a car showroom.
And she can’t work out which spider is which.
Sue: They all look and sound the same to me. How do they seriously expect me to keep up with this?
Sue: Speaking of which, couldn’t they have hired a real Tibetan to play the monk instead of yellowing somebody up? Oh, and Cho-Je is definitely in on it. Whatever it is.
The Great One taunts the Doctor.
Sue: The Doctor is genuinely scared. Either that or it’s indigestion.
The Great One forces the Doctor to march around in a circle.
Sue: This is very disturbing. I don’t know what to make of this.
Cho-Je is electrocuted by a spider. And then Yates is struck down as well.
Sue: It’s turning into a blood bath. Just so long as they don’t harm Tommy…
As Tommy leads the Doctor and Sarah to safety, Sarah remarks on the fact that he suddenly appears “normal”.
Sue: That was a very poor choice of words. I can’t say I’m very happy about that.
Tommy sincerely hopes that he isn’t “normal”.
Sue: That salvaged it. That was a great line, so I apologise for jumping the gun. Although I’m warning you now, Neil, if Tommy dies, this story will get zero out of 10 I don’t care if it’s Pertwee’s last or not.
The Doctor meets the abbot, K’Anpo Rinpoche.
Sue: Is it the Master?
Me: I’ll let you have that one. I can actually see where you’re coming from for a change. But no, it isn’t the Master. Sorry.
The episode concludes as Tommy is attacked by brainwashed Buddhists who are backed-up (quite literally) by spiders.
Sue: That was a great cliffhanger. A character in danger that I actually care about for a change. They’d better not kill him, though. I’m serious, Neil.
Sue: They never did fix the titles, did they? That’s a shame. Not that I’ll miss these titles. The bit where the Doctor’s legs turn into a tunnel never really worked for me.
Confusion quickly sets in.
Sue: This is a long recap. The episode will be over by the time it finishes.
And then the recap is interrupted by scenes we’ve never witnessed before.
Sue: What happened to Tommy? Is he dead? What’s going on?
And then the original cliffhanger suddenly picks up where it left off.
Sue: I think that worked. Just about. I don’t think you could get away with it every week, though. It doesn’t help that we watched two episodes back to back, either. It’s like Barry wanted another go at the cliffhanger.
Sarah, now under the thrall of the spiders, zaps the Doctor.
Sue: Does Sarah make the Doctor regenerate? Does she have to live with the guilt?
Sue reaches for a cushion and then thinks better of it.
Sue: This is technically hypnotism-stroke-mind-control. I should be smashing you in the face right now, but I’m enjoying it for a change, so I’ll let you off.
After freeing Sarah from the spider, the Doctor admits he’s at fault, and he shouldn’t have stolen the crystal in the first place.
Sue: That was a powerful message. I’m glad they’re addressing the Doctor’s flaws. It’s almost as if I was supposed to think he was a pompous **** all along. And doesn’t David Tennant’s regeneration echo these sentiments a bit? It’s a nice twist and not what I was expecting at all.
Sadly, K’Anpo’s claim that Cho-Je was a projection of his future self goes down like a lead balloon.
Me: Try to imagine that William Hartnell could project Patrick Troughton. It’s a bit like that.
Sue: That doesn’t help, Neil.
The Doctor realises he will have to face his greatest fear.
Sue: Is he frightened of spiders, or is he frightened of being made to walk around in circle? Which one is it?
As brainwashed Buddhists converge on Tommy, Yates redeems himself by taking a psychic bullet, an act Sue welcomes with open arms (she’s disappointed when it turns out that his “compassion” saved him). And then K’Anpo regenerates into Cho-Je.
Sue: He makes it look so easy. And it prepares the children for the upcoming regeneration, too. Easily confused children like you, Neil. Your mother needn’t have warned you, after all.
The Doctor enters the cave of crystals to face the Great One.
Sue: The Great One actually lives up to her name. All the spiders look pretty good, actually. I’m impressed.
The crystal transforms the Great One’s thoughts into a deadly feedback loop, and the Doctor has to rush back to his TARDIS as the mountain explodes around him.
Sue: So it didn’t kill the Doctor, after all. He’s fine. So what kills him, then?
Weeks pass and the Doctor is nowhere to be seen.
Sue: Does he regenerate in an unseen adventure? That would be disappointing.
The TARDIS returns to UNIT HQ.
Sue: Does Tom Baker walk out?
The Doctor, damaged and dying, stumbles into Sarah’s arms. He tells her that the TARDIS brought him home.
Sue: So is UNIT his home now? Not Gallifrey? That’s interesting.
When the Doctor dies, Sue doesn’t say a word. And I can’t say anything either because I’m too choked up, and if I look at her she might see just how choked up I am, so I honestly don’t know how she’s reacting right now. And then she breaks her silence…
Sue: Yeah, that was a good scene. Nicely played. I can’t say I’m disappointed to see Jon Pertwee go, but yeah, that was nicely done.
Just when all hope seems lost, a projection of Cho-Je ushers in a new era.
Sue: Why does the Doctor need someone to kick-start his regeneration for him? The next time he regenerates, won’t people wonder where the little genie is?
Me: Who says he won’t be around next time?
Sue: Okay, fair enough.
And then the moment we’ve all been waiting for arrives…
Sue: It’s Tom Jones!
Sue: I’m still not entirely clear why – or how – the Doctor died. In fact, the plot didn’t make a lot of sense to me. But the regeneration was effective, and some of the performances were excellent. I wish you’d let me see the omnibus edit. I bet it would have flown by.