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Two classic stories from the end of the Tom Baker era - the first to be filmed with Lalla Ward playing Romana, and then the first to be filmed after she left.

The Creature from the Pit, which I missed first time round due to living in the Netherlands that year, is nothing like as bad as I had feared it might be. The Creature itself is admittedly not fantastic, but by the standards of Season 17 (which includes the Nimon and the Movellans, and the Mandrells who I have yet to experience) it's pretty decent. Lalla Ward is still getting into being Romana and notably less assured in the role than in any of the other stories I've seen her in. And the plot makes the cardinal mistake of finishing at the start of episode 4 rather than the end, relying on hand-waving and dodgy special effects to get us through the last 20 minutes. But it's all done with great gusto, especially from Geoffrey Bayldon as the court astrologer. And there are some great lines as well. I remember David Fisher's novelisation with affection, and I'm sure I'd still rate it higher than the original show, but it really wasn't too embarrassing, rather to my delight.

The Keeper of Traken, broadcast barely a year later, seems like a completely different show; gone are K9 and Romana, replaced by the ambiguous Adric and the newly appointed Nyssa; and we have the return of the old enemy as well. I saw a comment on the New Beginnings box set from somewhere to the effect that it's basically the same story told three times over, and there's something in that, but Traken still has some originality, as the corruption of the Melkur brings about a military coup and the downfall of order. Geoffrey Beevers is better than I remembered as the Master, and the disrupted Trakenites all put in a good show. Tom Baker, however, rather seems to have lost interest. Eight-year-old F offered the most damning comment when I was trying to get him to guess the true nature of the Melkur (his first guess was that it was a weeping angel from Blink, his second that it was a Cyberman, and he got it right third time); he asked me slightly plaintively, "Why didn't they make Doctor Who exciting back then?"

Anyway, two stories which are neither especially bad nor especially outstanding.


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 14th, 2008 09:50 pm (UTC)
Popping up under this icon (which I'll get around to making more legible one of these days) to say that I remember The Keeper of Traken part one to be the first episode of Doctor Who where I could remain seated instead of hovering by the door or on the stairs, such was the lack of tension (I was ten and two months when it was first broadcast). Normal had been restored by part four, though, and I voted it best of the season in the first DWM season survey. (I think it came second to Logopolis in the end.)
Jan. 14th, 2008 10:06 pm (UTC)
And there are some great lines as well.

"We call it ... The Creature", "We call it ... The Pit" spring to mind. And something about "hirsute". But it's fun, and I think if you liked this one, you'd like Nightmare of Eden too.

I have a soft spot for Keeper of Traken - indeed, for all the stories in the New Beginnings box set. I do think Tremas is another of those missed opportunities for a really intelligent (and indeed, older) companion.
Jan. 15th, 2008 04:41 pm (UTC)
The monster itself in *Creature From the Pit* is utterly glorious; it's essentially a shambling green mound with a huge, quivering penis on the front, steadily jerking up and down. What I wouldn't give to have been a fly on the wall the first time its rather limited mechanical function was revealed to the actors.

Tom Baker attempting communication by seizing the monster's phallic appendage and burying his face in it was also classic; tell me he wasn't cackling in his heart of hearts as he did it.
Jan. 16th, 2008 04:06 am (UTC)
Lalla Ward is still getting into being Romana and notably less assured in the role than in any of the other stories I've seen her in.

The Creature from the Pit was actually the first story she filmed in the role, for reasons I can't remember. Destiny of the Daleks and (I think) City of Death were done earlier, so no one had quite settled what the second Romana should actually be quite yet.

I've always found the story tremendously enjoyable, so I think it's definitely underrated. (Then again, I don't think there's that much wrong with Nightmare of Eden, barring the stupidity of the final episode.)

As for The Keeper of Traken ... it's never going to be one of my favourites, because it's more pointedly "significant" than actually entertaining, but every time I watch it, I come to the conclusion that I actually like it more than I think. There are a lot of Doctor Who stories like that, to be honest.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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