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Planet of the Spiders (TV story)

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Planet of the Spiders
Third Doctor Great One
Novelised as: Doctor Who and the Planet of the Spiders
Doctor: Third Doctor
Companion(s): Sarah
Featuring: The Brig, Benton, Yates
Main enemy: The Great One, Eight Legs
Main setting: England, Metebelis III
Key crew
Writer: Robert Sloman
Director: Barry Letts
Producer: Barry Letts
Release details
Story number: 74
Number of episodes: 6
Season/series: Season 11
Premiere broadcast: 4 May - 8 June 1974
Premiere network: BBC1
Format: 6x25-minute episodes
Production code: ZZZ
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Doctor Who television stories
The Monster of Peladon Robot
Memorable moment
Professor Clegg's psychokensis - Doctor Who Planet of the Spiders - BBC02:14

Professor Clegg's psychokensis - Doctor Who Planet of the Spiders - BBC

Another memorable moment
Possessed by the Eight Legs - Doctor Who Planet of the Spiders - BBC01:06

Possessed by the Eight Legs - Doctor Who Planet of the Spiders - BBC

One more memorable moment
Third Doctor regenerates - Jon Pertwee to Tom Baker - BBC04:04

Third Doctor regenerates - Jon Pertwee to Tom Baker - BBC

Behind the scenes video
Exclusive First Look The Final Curtain Part 3 - Planet of the Spiders01:34

Exclusive First Look The Final Curtain Part 3 - Planet of the Spiders

More behind the scenes stuff
Exclusive First Look The Final Curtain Part 2 - Planet of the Spiders01:25

Exclusive First Look The Final Curtain Part 2 - Planet of the Spiders

Planet of the Spiders was the fifth and final story of Season 11 of Doctor Who. It was the final regular appearance of Jon Pertwee as the Third Doctor and the first (uncredited) of Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor. This would also be Richard Franklin's departing performance as Mike Yates, who also makes his final appearance outside of cameos. The story was the first to use the term regeneration to describe the biological process that caused Time Lords to change in physical appearance and introduced one of the Doctor's mentors, K'anpo Rimpoche, as a means to further explain the mechanic and cement it into the Doctor Who mythos. Counting his regeneration along with the Third Doctor's, this is the only one of the Doctor's regeneration stories to feature a case of double regenerations, and the only televised story where more than one Time Lord regenerates.

Synopsis Edit

The blue crystal that the Doctor took from Metebelis III in a previous adventure is desperately sought by the Eight Legs, a race of mutated spiders, as the final element in their plan for universal domination. With help from an old mentor, the Doctor realises the only way to foil the plot is to make the ultimate sacrifice. The Doctor must risk death to return to the cave of the Great One and save the universe.

Plot Edit

Part one Edit

In the English countryside, Mike Yates, discharged from UNIT and recuperating at a rural Buddhist meditation centre, is concerned about a small group who meet secretly in the basement; he suspects they may be attempting to summon something evil through their meditation. Meanwhile, the Doctor is researching psychic energy and enlists the assistance of a clairvoyant, Professor Herbert Clegg.

His experiments backfire when Clegg's fixation on the Metebelis crystal (which Jo Grant had recently returned to the Doctor) leads to his seeing giant spiders, and he dies of a fright-induced heart attack. Mike enlists the assistance of Sarah Jane, whose initial scepticism is erased after they are nearly run off the road by a hallucinatory tractor. Sneaking into the basement they see the group, led by Lupton, summon a giant spider (similar to the ones Clegg saw) into existence...

Part two Edit

The giant spider melds with Lupton, and together they infiltrate UNIT and steal the blue crystal, leading to a lengthy chase involving the Whomobile, a small helicopter, a hovercraft, and a speedboat. The Doctor finally catches up to Lupton's boat, but when he jumps on board, Lupton vanishes...

Part three Edit

Lupton re-appears at the meditation centre, secretly observed by the simple-minded handyman Tommy, who later steals the crystal to add to his collection of "pretties". The Doctor and Sarah Jane investigate the meditation centre. Exploring the basement Sarah steps on Lupton's mandala and is transported to Metebelis III, where a small group of humans are held in bondage by the giant spiders, who refer to themselves as the Eight Legs. The Doctor follows in his TARDIS to rescue Sarah Jane, but is incapacitated by the Eight Legs' human guards...

Part four Edit

On Metebelis III, the Doctor lingers in a coma. Tommy's brain is healed when he looks deep into the crystal. Lupton becomes embroiled in a plot led by his spider host against the Eight Leg Queen. The Doctor recovers thanks to a machine Sarah retrieved for him from the TARDIS. In doing so, however, she is captured by the Eight Legs. Thrown into a cell with a man named Sabor, Sarah learns the history of Metebilis 3: the humans are descendants of survivors of a crashed spaceship, and the Eight Legs were common spiders onboard that became mutated by radiation from the blue crystals. The Doctor finds a type of stone which nullifies the effects of the Eight Legs' energy rays, which the humans will use in their rebellion. The Doctor attempts to rescue Sarah Jane, but is captured again by the Eight Legs as well...

Part five Edit

The Doctor escapes from his cocoon, and reaches the mouth of the cave of the Great One, who warns him not to enter due to the lethal radiation within. She orders him to return the blue crystal that he stole, and humiliates him by forcing him to march in a circle like a tin soldier via her psychic power. The Doctor is too overcome by fear to face her, and escapes with Sarah Jane back to Earth in the TARDIS. They meet the leader of the meditation centre, the Abbott K'anpo Rimpoche. Meanwhile Lupton's followers, possessed by the Eight Legs, fire telekinetic force at Tommy, the only person standing in the way of their taking the crystal...

Part six Edit

Sarah Jane is revealed to be under the control of the Queen, which explains how she and the Doctor escaped so easily. With the blue crystal, which Tommy had given to K'anpo, the Doctor is able to free her mind. The Doctor is astounded to discover an old friend; K'anpo is his former mentor, a fellow renegade Time Lord now enjoying peaceful exile on Earth. The attack of Lupton's followers is repulsed with the help of Tommy, but K'anpo is injured and forced to regenerate by merging with his assistant, Cho Je, who was a projection of K'anpo's self.


The Doctor regenerates into his fourth incarnation.

The Doctor realises his greed for knowledge and his theft of the crystal has set all these events into motion, and that he must face his fear and probable death by returning it. He pilots the TARDIS to Metebelis III and enters the cave to confront the Great One, an enormous spider, who desires the blue crystal to complete a crystalline web that will amplify her psychic power to infinity.

However, once the crystal is in place, the web overloads and destroys both her and the Eight Legs. The Doctor receives a lethal dose of radiation from the cave, and barely manages to escape to the TARDIS.

Three weeks later, Sarah Jane and Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart meets inside UNIT HQ and discusses the Doctor's disappearance. While the Brigadier tries to remain optimistic and tells her that it isn't the first time the Doctor has been gone for a prolonged period of time, Sarah Jane fears that they might never seem him again. Just then, the TARDIS appears in front of them. The Doctor appears in its opening with a weary and worn-out look on his face, but he still manages a warm, albeit weak, smile when a surprised Sarah runs up to greet him. He explains to her that he got lost in the Time Vortex and did not have the strength left to land his TARDIS, and therefore had to wait for it to land on its own accord. He tries taking a step forward, but he promptly collapses on the floor. The Brigadier and Sarah quickly run to his side to tend to him, and Sarah asks the Doctor why he had to go back to Metebilis III, and he admits that he went back because he had to face his fear; it was more important to him than just going on living. Sarah then tearfully begs him not to die. The Third Doctor cups his hand up to her cheek and sees her crying. He softly replies, "A tear, Sarah Jane? No, don't cry. While there's life, there's..." [hope]. The Doctor cannot finish the quote before death claims him, eyes still open. Regeneration cannot commence in time to save his life and he dies permanently.

As Sarah closes his eyes and weeps, the projected image of K'Anpo/Cho Je appears and assures Sarah Jane and the Brigadier that the Doctor still has a chance to live. He needs help to begin the process that will save him from demise, and Cho Je is happy to fulfill that role. He decides to give the Doctor a little "push", and then vanishes, telling the Doctor's companions, "Look after him". The Doctor starts breathing again and regenerates into his fourth incarnation — much to the surprise of Sarah Jane and the annoyance of the Brigadier. Sarah Jane exclaims, "Look, Brigadier, Look! I think it's starting!" The resigned Brigadier answers, "Well... Here we go again." The face of the Third Doctor fades away and reforms. A younger man, with long, curly brown hair, is born from the regeneration- the Fourth Doctor.

Cast Edit

Crew Edit

References Edit

The Doctor Edit

Crystals Edit

Foods and beverages Edit

Individuals Edit

  • The Doctor mentions being taught in the ways of escapology by Harry Houdini.
  • Mike Yates refers to the last time he encountered Sarah as "that business with the dinosaurs".
  • The Brigadier's watch was given to him eleven years ago in Brighton by Doris.
  • The Brigadier phones Sullivan, the UNIT Medical Officer.
  • While on stage, Herbert Clegg jokes about Archimedes.

Media Edit

Psychic powers Edit

  • The Doctor is studying ESP. According to the Doctor, mental powers are "dormant" in most humans, but they do exist; telekinesis is indeed rare in Homo sapiens.
  • Herbert Clegg shows the power of telekinesis and psycholotry.

References to real-world culture Edit

Species Edit

  • While talking to Lupton, Barnes speculates that the spider they saw may have been a Tibetan demon that Cho Je had previously warned them about. This may be a reference to the Robot Yetis. (TV: The Abominable Snowmen


  • The Doctor hints that the TARDIS is alive.

Technology Edit

Story notes Edit

  • This is the first time the term "regeneration" is mentioned on screen.
  • This is the first time we see someone other than the Doctor regenerate (K'anpo Rinpoche).
  • This story features a large chase scene including Bessie, the Whomobile, a police car, a gyrocopter, a hovercraft and a boat.
  • Tom Baker is uncredited in the conclusion of Planet of the Spiders, when Jon Pertwee transforms into Tom Baker. Since no regeneration was shown at the end of The War Games, this marked the first time since William Hartnell changed into Patrick Troughton in 1966's The Tenth Planet that an on-screen hand-over of the role had occurred. Significantly, therefore, it was the first end-of-season regeneration to show the incoming actor.
  • Elisabeth Sladen is credited as 'Sarah Jane' in Radio Times for parts two and three.
  • Nicholas Courtney is credited as 'Brigadier' in Radio Times for parts one and two.
  • Cyril Shaps (Professor Clegg) is credited as 'Professor Herbert Clegg' in Radio Times for part one.
  • Ysanne Churchman (Spider Voice) is credited as 'Lupton's Spider' in Radio Times for parts four to six.
  • Kismet Delgado (Spider Voice) is credited as 'Queen Spider' in Radio Times for parts four to six. She is credited on-screen together with Ysanne Churchman for part two, but not in Radio Times (the programme listing bills only Churchman).
  • Radio Times credits Maureen Morris (Spider Voice) as 'Other Spider Voices' for part four, and as 'The Great One' for parts five and six.
  • Walter Randall (Guard Captain) is credited as 'First Guard Captain' in Radio Times for parts four and five.
  • Max Faulkner (Guard Captain) is credited as 'Second Guard Captain' in Radio Times for parts four and five. He is not credited on-screen for part four because these sequences were intended for part five only.
  • George Cormack (K'anpo) is credited in Radio Times for part five, but not on-screen because these sequences were intended for part six only.
  • Although Kevin Lindsay (Cho Je) is credited on-screen for part two, he does not actually appear in the episode, as his scenes were edited out prior to transmission.
  • Parts of this story were recorded at the same time as parts of Robot. This not only meant that Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker were literally playing the Doctor at the same time, but also that Elisabeth Sladen — and to a lesser extent, Nicholas Courtney and John Levene — were having to rush back and forth between the two productions.
  • The Time Beetle featured in TV: Turn Left shares some similarities with the Eight Legs: it too is a giant-sized insectoid that can latch onto a victim's back, becoming invisible to disguise its presence at the same time.
  • Jo Grant sends the Doctor a package containing the blue Metebelis crystal which the spiders covet, making this serial a sequel of sorts to TV: The Green Death. This is also one of the first times - possibly the first - that a past companion has played a role in a later story, although Jo does not actually appear in the story (she does, however, appear in the novelisation).
  • In A History of the Universe and aHistory, the scenes set on Metebelis III are arbitrarily dated to 5433 (the crash was 433 years ago and the ship is capable of intergalactic travel).
  • Incidental music from part two exists.
  • The phrase "Where there's life, there's hope", is a quote taken from the Roman philosopher Cicero.
  • Tommy's story is similar to that of the protagonist of the novel Flowers for Algernon, a story of a mentally challenged man whose intellect is artificially boosted to genius levels.

Ratings Edit

  • Part one - 10.1 million viewers
  • Part two - 8.9 million viewers
  • Part three - 8.8 million viewers
  • Part four - 8.2 million viewers
  • Part five - 9.2 million viewers
  • Part six - 8.9 million viewers

Myths Edit

  • Roger Delgado's Master was originally to have been written out in Planet of the Spiders, and after the actor's death the story was revised to incorporate Lupton in place of the Master.
It is true that had Delgado not died, he would have been written out in the final story of season eleven. He had informed Barry Letts that he would only appear as the Master in one more story during the filming of Frontier in Space. Letts agreed to the request, seeing it as an opportunity to dramatically end Season 11. He asked writer Robert Sloman to help him write a story which would at last define the relationship of the Doctor and the Master, before having the Master sacrifice himself to save the Doctor. Sloman delivered at least an initial round of scripts, called The Final Game, before Delgado's death forced the complete suspension of the story line. Planet of the Spiders was a wholly different story, save perhaps for Barry Letts' desire to incorporate certain Buddhist philosophies.
  • A frequent corollary to the above is that The Final Game would have also incorporated the regeneration of the Third Doctor.
Sloman had delivered scripts to Letts two weeks prior to Delgado's death on 18 June 1973. Pertwee didn't announce his retirement until after his request for a raise was denied in December 1973. The first scripts of The Final Game could not logically have included any elements pertaining to the Doctor's regeneration, because writer Robert Sloman didn't know Pertwee was going to leave.

Filming locations Edit

  • Tidmarsh Manor, Tidmarsh, Berkshire
  • Bloomfieldhatch Lane, Stratfield Mortimer, Berkshire
  • Membury Airfield, Membury, Wiltshire
  • River Severn, Westbury-on-Severn, Gloucestershire
  • Mortimer Station, Stratfield Mortimer, Berkshire
  • Mereoak Lane, Stratfield Mortimer, Berkshire
  • Le Marchant Barracks, London Road, Devizes, Wiltshire
  • BBC Television Centre (TC1, TC6, TC8), Shepherd's Bush, London

Production errors Edit

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.
  • The Doctor's flying car is a different colour in the studio (gold rather than silver). This is due to the silver Whomobile reflecting the yellow backdrop used for the CSO screen.
  • In part two, Richard Franklin trips up on the word "much" when he tries to say, "No, it's much better you go by yourself."
  • In part six, the puppet strings for the Great One's legs can be partially seen, as can some of the smaller Eight Legs' strings once they have overturned in pain from the infinite psychic feedback of the crystal web.

Continuity Edit

Home video and audio releases Edit

Video release Edit

This story was released on VHS as per follows:

Region 2: April 1991
Region 4: September 1991
Region 1: May 1994

DVD release Edit

This story was released as Doctor Who: Planet of the Spiders.

Released: Region 2: 18th April 2011
Region 1: 10th May 2011
Region 4: 2nd June 2011 Special Features:

Notes Edit

  • This story was released in Region 2 on the same day the public was informed of Elisabeth Sladen's passing.

See also Edit

External links Edit

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