Season 11: Production Code ZZZ
Written by: Robert Sloman & (uncredited) Barry Letts
Directed by: Barry Letts
Script Editor: Terrance Dicks
THE DOCTOR: Jon Pertwee & (uncredited) Tom Baker
SARAH JANE SMITH: Elisabeth Sladen
BRIGADIER LETHBRIDGE-STEWART: Nicholas Courtney
SGT. BENTON: John Levene
MIKE YATES: Richard Franklin
LUPTON: John Dearth
I didn’t mean to rewatch Planet of the Spiders this weekend, but when your seven-year-old daughter voluntarily suggests a touch of Jon Pertwee, you don’t turn her down!
This final story of the Third Doctor’s run is one of my absolute favourites, and has been since… wow. Probably since I was about the age my daughter Raeli is now. It’s a complete love letter to Jon Pertwee and the UNIT Years, with callbacks to previous stories. We even get a letter and a parcel from Jo Grant, a year after she left the show – a very rare example of a companion getting a chance to ‘call in’ after making her farewell, even if we don’t hear Katy Manning’s actual voice. We also get some cute character moments from each of the UNIT regulars, including Benton being adorably domestic, and the Brigadier unexpectedly (against his will!) revealing a snippet of his romantic history with a young lady called Doris.
I’ve been surprised in recent years to hear quite scathing criticisms of this story, especially the indulgent but completely awesome many-vehicles chase sequence, and the not-so-great acting among the Metebelis Three colonists. None of which bothers me at all, because I was raised with an Ignoring the Bad Bits lens through which to view classic Doctor Who stories. If you don’t have one, bet you wish you did. I try never to use this power for evil.