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29 February 2016 @ 08:00 pm
The Randomiser: The Creature from the Pit  
Once upon a time, if you read Doctor Who Monthly, The Celestial Toyroom and Doctor Who Bulletin, you could claim to have a pretty good handle on the opinion of UK Doctor Who fandom as a whole. Back in the 1980s, when I was doing this, I think it is fair to say that the vituperative parts of fandom were pretty scathing about the Graham Williams era but there was already a revisionist movement which wanted his stories reassessed. These days fandom is sufficiently decentralised I'm not sure it can claim to have an opinion, as such, about anything.

At any rate, I've always erred towards the revisionist camp when it comes to Graham Williams. I think most of his stories are at least moderately clever and amusing, even if they don't have the consistent quality of the Hinchcliffe stories that preceded them.

That said, Creature from the Pit really is bad.

Interestingly, I think the story has a pretty good script. The basic premise, of a planet with very few metals and an alien ambassador who wants to trade metal with them, is quite a clever one. There are also some nice touches in the script, in particular the slightly unworldly astrologer in the pit, but also some of the gags, such as the Doctor trying to read books on rock climbing while hanging from his scarf.

Sadly, this seems to be the story where the budgetry cuts Graham Williams was facing came home to roost. It isn't just the terribly unfortunate monster design, which is, admittedly, terribly unfortunate even for classic Doctor Who, where cheap-looking monster costumes are arguably part of the charm.



Terribly unfortunate monster design


But the really daming thing is that the whole story feels desperately under-rehearsed and ends up looking like the kind of amateur dramatic production put on by well-meaning but inexperienced university clubs. Fights are muddled and confusing. Extras shuffle around looking vaguely bewildered. Lalla Ward, never the strongest actor in a production, succeeds in cowing the metal scavengers by force of personality alone, only because it would seem, they consist of even worse actors than she is. The scavengers are clearly meant to be comedy yokel rebels but are toe-curlingly embarrassing to watch in nearly all their scenes rather than even slightly amusing. They are probably the worst aspect of Creature from the Pit.

It's sad in a way because the core of this script is far from stupid, even if it has some fairly stupid bits. The final effect is of a production that ran out time and what we see is the equivalent of an early run through before the performances (and monster costume) could be brought up to standard.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/185993.html.
 
 
 
philmophlegm: Victoria Waterfieldphilmophlegm on February 29th, 2016 09:39 pm (UTC)
I remember reading the Target novelisation and liking it, without remembering the TV episodes (which is odd, because I can remember the rest of that season). So I had no idea why it was considered such a bad story until I saw it for the first time at DocSoc.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on March 1st, 2016 11:45 am (UTC)
The last twenty minutes or so of the story are pretty dumb (and suggest padding) but otherwise I don't see why this script shouldn't have produced a well-regarded story, but what reaches the screen is often well below competent.
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on February 29th, 2016 10:13 pm (UTC)
I actually like Creature, but most of your criticisms are accurate. The bandits in particular seem to have come from Oliver! with all the dubious stereotyping that entails. As you say, the script is good, it's just unfortunate that the realization isn't. I still think it's a pretty good jungle set, though - at any rate better than that two years later in Kinda (which is nevertheless the better story).
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on March 1st, 2016 11:49 am (UTC)
The scavenger/bandits are a horrible drag on the whole thing. It might stand up rather better if they were excised. As you say the jungle looks good and Adastra and Kerala's performances are competent.

On reflection I think it also suffers from not having enough story for 4 episodes. You could probably trim it down to 2 episodes and get something much better.
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on March 1st, 2016 12:38 pm (UTC)
Agreed about the lack of plot. Part four in particular seems dragged out. David Fisher had a habit of going off at a tangent in the last episode or so - probably more noticeable in the era of DVDs and downloads than when viewed one episode per week.
liadtbunny: DW 4 &Romana IIliadtbunny on March 2nd, 2016 03:00 pm (UTC)
The monster is even more unfortunate than I remember! My brain was prob trying to ignore it when I was watching it.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on March 2nd, 2016 04:30 pm (UTC)
Well, there is a case of well selected screenshots going on. When its moving and everything else is happening the overall effect isn't quite a terribly unfortunate as it might be - but it is still distinctly unfortunate.
cynthia2015cynthia2015 on March 5th, 2016 11:40 am (UTC)
I vaguely remember this. The monster looks like an over sized cabbage, wrapped in green transparent wrapping paper.