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15 February 2016 @ 03:49 pm
The Randomiser: Planet of Evil  
Planet of Evil is probably a middle-rank Philip Hinchcliffe story. It's better than The Hand of Fear for instance, but it's a little bit too sprawling to compete with the best.

Like much of the Hinchcliffe era, Planet of Evil takes a classic horror story as its starting point. In this case it is Jekyll and Hyde. However this doesn't really become apparent until episode three and appears from nowhere - the story previously having been more Forbidden Planet than anything else. In fact "monsters from the id" might well have worked better with some of the story's tropes than the Jekyll and Hyde take, particularly given there is no reason to suppose the original monster encountered on the planet is anyone's alter ego.

I think this is one of the earliest Tom Baker stories I remember from original transmission. I have a couple of disjointed memories from the Pertwee era (specifically driving under the dinosaur) and my next memories are of Sorensen and his glowing eyes and the Doctor and Sarah strapped into two cabinets, about to be ejected into space. My next memory is from The Invisible Enemy after which point I obviously started making a more serious effort to watch because I recall consistently more of the show from that point on until we hit the Davidson era, by which time I counted myself a fan and was buying DWM.

The science, it should be noted is risible. I'm pointing that out partly because lesser stories would be justifiably ripped to shreds over the nonsense we have here. Anti-matter can't "infect" people and it is extremely unlikely that it is, in any way, sentient (or that it lives in a pond - though to be fair the pond is probably intended to represent a mysterious conduit between the universes of matter and anti-matter, so I might waive the pond). A major component of the last two episodes is the attempt of the Morestran spaceship to escape from the planet and the efforts of the anti-matter to drag it back. One might have been able to explain this as an attraction between the large amounts of anit-matter on the planet and the samples on the spaceship, but instead the story presents this as a power deliberately being exerted by the forces in the pool. It all kind of works, within the context of the story. Though, as noted above, the sudden appearance of Jekyll and Hyde in the middle of a story which, up to that point, was mostly focused on a mysterious and powerful sentience from another universe is a bit jarring.

It's been rightly pointed out that one of the story's triumphs is the alien jungle on the planet. It doesn't look quite real but having just recently (in randomiser terms) experienced the planet of plywood and bubble-wrap in The Hand of Fear, the jungle set is very impressive. A lot of imagination went into constructing something that looked like a jungle and yet was full of alien plants. The monster, an eerie red outline, looks far more impressive than the show's normal man-in-a-suit attempts. Sorensen's bestial Hyde persona is OK, though mildly comical in appearance.

Character-wise it is interesting that Vishinskey originally looks to be cast in the role of the rule-bound antagonist to the Doctor. He is concerned about correct procedure and questions his young superior's judgement, so it is interesting to see that turned around in later episodes where it becomes clear that he is the one prepared to give the benefit of the doubt, who refuses to jump to easy conclusions, while Salamar descends into something close to madness.

Like all of the Hinchcliffe stories, Planet of Evil is eminently watchable, even forty years after it was made. This is something which can't be said for a lot of classic Doctor Who - I mean, I like watching them, as does Tame Layman, but I think we're pretty forgiving. I don't think the Jekyll and Hyde sub-plot entirely works with the rest of the story, but it just about gets away with it. The science may be rubbish, but it has a certain internal consistency and the set design and special effects are a triumph.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/184800.html.
liadtbunny: DW 4 &Romana IIliadtbunny on February 15th, 2016 04:01 pm (UTC)
I watched 'Planet of Evil' last year as it was on TV and I was reminded why I hadn't got it on DVD. I found it boring, it felt like it went on forever. I just wanted it to stop. I don't like 'Pyramids of Mars' either. Obv I'm a complete weirdo;p
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on February 16th, 2016 11:10 am (UTC)
That's interesting - I'd have said that, in general, 1970s Who was better paced than a lot of 1960s and 1980s Who.
philmophlegm: Victoria Waterfieldphilmophlegm on February 15th, 2016 08:25 pm (UTC)
"Sorensen and his glowing eyes" is, I think, the "Turn around, bright eyes" clip in the Doctor Who Total Eclipse of the Heart fan video that I was telling you about yesterday!
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on February 16th, 2016 11:10 am (UTC)
I thought it might be.
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on February 16th, 2016 06:59 pm (UTC)
IIRC, the jungle appeared in a BBC design training manual about how to make sets. So it's literally a textbook example of good design!