In an odd bit of serendipity, the Classic Capitology minions have capped a regeneration story just in time for this regeneration ‘announcement’ weekend with the Tour’s cap addition of Planet of the Spiders.
Pertwee’s swan song was typical of his era in way that Logopolis and The Caves of Androzani weren’t, and also was typical of six-part stories during the 70’s in that they almost were always (about two episodes) too long. When the distinguishing memory taken from the story is that of an almost episode-long chase sequence (the second episode for those unfamiliar) which itself was done as a concession to Pertwee’s love of gadgetry and various modes of ‘exotic’ transport, then you know there are problems with the storytelling.
Having said that, there are a number of nice moments within the story. It’s the most subtle appearance of another Time Lord in series history with the combination of K’Anpo/Cho-Je but also quite important for those viewers at the time who had forgotten about the regeneration process (after all Pertwee had been there five years and an on-screen regeneration hadn’t occurred in eight). When that happens in the last episode ahead of Pertwee’s own, it prepares the viewer for what is to come. In this way it was Logopolis before Logopolis. Planet of the Spiders also turned left well before Turn Left with the spider on the back, but here it is merely a representation of possession.
Anyone who’s a fan of CSO will be very happy with Planet of the Spiders. Almost all of Metebelis 3 (properly pronounced here as opposed to recent references in Hide) is a CSO festival, complete with halo, fringe effects for Pertwee, Sladen, et. al., but this is the way things were done back in 1974, and would remain a staple of Doctor Who for quite some time to come
In watching Planet of the Spiders you definitely get the feeling (almost guiltily) that it was time for Pertwee to go. Much like the tiredness that had crept into Troughton last season, there’s a general sense of ennui to Season 11 that only a regeneration would cure (in hindsight). Ironically Pertwee was keen to continue for a sixth season, but the BBC disagreed, at least at his asking price. It’s certainly impossible to think of Genesis of the Daleks with Pertwee holding the wires of Dalek Doom.