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Planet of Evil

Production Code: 4H

First Transmitted

1 - 27/09/1975 17:45

2 - 04/10/1975 17:45

3 - 11/10/1975 18:05

4 - 18/10/1975 17:45

Plot

The TARDIS picks up a distress call and the Doctor and Sarah arrive on the planet Zeta Minor. There they discover that a Morestran geological expedition has fallen prey to an unseen killer and only the leader, Professor Sorenson, remains alive. A

military mission from Morestra has also arrived to investigate. The culprit is revealed to be a creature from a universe of antimatter, retaliating for the removal by Sorenson of some antimatter samples from around the pit that acts as an interface between the two universes.

The Morestrans take off in their ship, but it is slowly dragged back towards the planet due to the antimatter on board. Sorenson himself becomes infected by antimatter and gradually transforms into antiman, a monster capable of draining the life from others.

The Morestran commander, the increasingly unhinged Salamar, attacks Sorenson with a radiation source but this only causes him to multiply, and soon the ship is overrun by deadly creatures.

The Doctor finds the original Sorenson, takes him back to the planet in the TARDIS and throws both him and his samples into the pit, fulfilling a bargain he earlier made with the antimatter creature. Sorenson reappears unharmed and the Doctor returns him to the Morestran ship, which is now freed of the planet's influence.

Episode Endings

The shimmering red outline of a huge creature looms over the Doctor and Sarah. Sarah tries to get away but falls to the ground, and the creature advances toward them.

The Doctor arrives at the black pit leading to the universe of antimatter. As Sarah watches from the bridge of the Morestran ship, the events being relayed there via an oculoid tracking device, the antimatter creature emerges from the pit and the Doctor is dragged forward and topples over the edge.

The Doctor and Sarah are restrained in pallets in the Morestran ship to be ejected into space. The outer hatch opens and Salamar orders his deputy, Vishinsky, to activate the ejection switch. Vishinsky refuses, and a struggle ensues in which Salamar pushes the older man's arm down onto the switch. The pallets slide forward and through an inner hatch.

The Doctor and Sarah leave to keep an appointment with the Brigadier, and the TARDIS spins away through space and time.

Roots

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

Forbidden Planet.

The Quatermass Experiment.

It! The Terror from Beyond Space.

Star Trek's 'The Alternative Factor'.

There are two quotations from Shakespeare ('Night's candles are burnt out...' (Romeo and Juliet) and 'That is the question'), and an allusion to Laurence Oates ('I'm going out now, and I may be some time').

Dialogue Triumphs

The Doctor : "Here on Zeta Minor is the boundary between existence as you know it and the other universe which you just don't understand. From the beginning of time it has existed side by side with the known universe. Each is the antithesis of the other. You call it "nothing", a word to cover ignorance. And centuries ago scientists invented another word for it. "Antimatter", they called it. And you, by coming here, have crossed the boundary into that other universe to plunder it. Dangerous..."

The Doctor : [To Sorenson] "You and I are scientists, Professor. We buy our privilege to experiment at the cost of total responsibility."

Double Entendre

"If you don't come now I shall have to leave you."

Continuity

The time rotor is an instrument on the TARDIS console, the central feature of which is the time column (see The Chase). The Doctor implies that he is unable to tell where they have landed from the TARDIS' instrumentation, sending Sarah back to the TARDIS for his spectrum mixer, with which he will fix their spatial position via the position of the stars (see The Daleks, Frontier in Space).

According to the Morestrans, Zeta Minor is beyond Cygnus A [which can't be a reference to Cygnus within the Milky Way], as distant from the Artoro galaxy as that is from the Anterides. Despite the hugely inaccurate first landing, the Doctor can execute two perfect short range trips (from the Morestran ship to the pool and back to the ship again).

Morestran technology is advanced enough to allow the TARDIS to be 'transposed' back to their ship, but other aspects are unremarkable. Reference is made to Galactic Mission Control [but it is impossible to establish the nature of this body, or the relationship of Morestra to it]. The 'home planet' is also mentioned [it seems likely this refers to an originating Earth colony rather than Earth itself].

Dialogue indicates that many civilisations are facing disaster, including Morestra, whose sun is dying. Sorenson is hoping to extract a new form of energy from the rocks of Zeta Minor. (The Doctor suggests that they think of harnessing the kinetic force of planetary movement instead.) Morestrans have a number of religions or denominations: Morelli was Morestran Orthodox. Their unit of acceleration is STS.

QV

The Doctor's Doctorate

Location

Zeta Minor, c. 37166.

Links

Untelevised

The Doctor met Shakespeare once (cf. City of Death), and describes him as a 'charming fellow... Dreadful actor.'

Trivia

The TARDIS control room appears for the first time since season eleven's Death to the Daleks. This slightly redesigned set was first used for Pyramids of Mars, which preceded Planet of Evil in production order.

Frederick Jaeger and Ewen Solon, appearing in this story as Sorenson and Vishinsky, had previously played Jano and Chal in season three's The Savages.

There is a dramatic freeze-frame cliffhanger at the end of Part Two.

Technobabble

'You've reached the point where your tissues are so monstrously hybridized that the next metabolic change could be the final one.' (Actually, this makes sense, but it is noted here as Clive James referred to this line in The Crystal Bucket.)

Goofs

The TARDIS central column vibrates alarmingly throughout, and the Police Box light carries on flashing long after it has landed.

The camera wobbles when Salamar is talking to Sorenson in the third episode.

The resolution to the cliffhanger at the beginning of episode four is a bit suspect, as the Doctor and Sarah were much further down the ejection 'tubes' when last seen in the third episode.

Sarah knows an awful lot about Morestran ship design.

Sorenson's glowing eyes are clearly 'painted' onto his eyelids.

The 'plaque' on the Force Field Equipment door flaps like a piece of cardboard.

Tom Baker almost falls over after throwing Sorenson and the container of anti-matter down into the pool.

Cast & Crew

Cast

The Doctor - Tom Baker

Sarah Jane Smith - Elisabeth Sladen

Baldwin - Tony McEwan

Braun - Terence Brook

De Haan - Graham Weston

Morelli - Michael Wisher

O'Hara - Haydn Wood

Ponti - Louis Mahoney

Reig - Melvyn Bedford

Salamar - Prentis Hancock

Sorenson - Frederick Jaeger

Vishinsky - Ewen Solon

Crew

Director - David Maloney

Assistant Floor Manager - Karilyn Collier

Costumes - Andrew Rose

Designer - Roger Murray-Leach

Film Cameraman - Stan Speel

Film Cameraman - Kenneth McMillan

Film Editor - M A C Adams

Incidental Music - Dudley Simpson

Make-Up - Jenny Shircore

Producer - Philip Hinchcliffe

Production Assistant - Malachy Shaw Jones

Production Unit Manager - Janet Radenkovic

Script Editor - Robert Holmes

Special Sounds - Peter Howell

Studio Lighting - Brian Clemett

Studio Sound - Tony Millier

Studio Sound - Brendan Shaw

Title Music - Ron Grainer and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, arranged by Delia Derbyshire

Visual Effects - Dave Havard

Writer - Louis Marks

Bottom Line - from The Discontinuity Guide

'The vein vanished. This damn planet took it back. It's alive, you know... It watches every move we make.' For an eight year old, this was the most terrifying slice of Who. Now it seems a little ordinary, a simple reworking of classic themes. It is unfortunate that the detailed jungle set is in such sharp contrast to the (cheap) minimalism of the Morestran spaceship.

Analysis - from Doctor Who, the Television Companion

'With the Zygons now bygones,' quipped Keith Miller in DWFC Mag Number 25, dated March/April 1976, 'the Doctor persuades Sarah, but not Harry (aw!) to journey once more in the TARDIS and whisks her off to the "edge of the universe", to quote the Radio Times, to the rather shrivelled remains of a survey team...'

Planet of Evil is another wonderfully creepy story; and although a number of its central elements are clearly plundered from old cinema films - a practice that would become a defining characteristic of the Hinchcliffe and Holmes approach to the series - it is all done with such style and panache that the viewer, far from complaining about a lack of originality, delights in spotting all the familiar sources to which the writer and the production team are paying homage.

Professor Sorenson's transformation into antiman is only one of a number of references to Robert Louis Stevenson's 1886 novel The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde, as adapted in numerous horror films over the years; and the antimatter creature - very well realised as a shimmering red outline superimposed by way of electronic effects - is, in all but name, the Id monster from the 1956 MGM feature film Forbidden Planet.

The planet Zeta Minor becomes almost a character in its own right as, in keeping with the Jekyll and Hyde theme, it transforms from a relatively safe place during the day to a very dangerous one at night. The opposition between the known world of matter and the unknown one of antimatter, although deeply unscientific, also works well in dramatic terms. The scenes in which the Morestran ship is dragged back toward the planet due to the antimatter on board are very memorable, and the whole thing has the quality of an epic struggle about it.

One of Forbidden Planet's most celebrated features is its excellent design work, and the same could be also said of Planet of Evil. Particularly noteworthy is the superb watery jungle set created by Roger Murray-Leach for the film insert sequences shot at Ealing. 'The main asset of the story was... the scenery,' judged Miller. 'I thought the sets were fantastic, with the flooded ground and dangling creepers. It created a great atmosphere of a totally alien planet. Best I've seen in a long time.' 'The Zeta Minor jungle looks suitably alien,' agreed Kenny Smith in The Paisley Pattern Dr Who Annual in 1993, 'but only during the filmed sequences. With no bright studio lights reflecting off plastic leaves, you're looking at one of the best alien jungles to be seen in the whole of the [series'] history... Just try to ignore the terrible videotaped bits...' In fact the video recorded jungle scenes are by no means as bad as Smith suggested; but the criticisms he made of some other aspects of the production were arguably more valid: 'Character-wise, only Professor Sorenson is of note - the rest are just a bunch of boring old spacemen... As with every other story made in the seventies, the attempts at space clothes are laughable. The groovy flares and open-necked, Star Trek-style shirts, complete with shoulder pads, look so dated.'

Of the story's guest cast, Frederick Jaeger gives the stand-out performance as the tortured Professor Sorenson. Ewen Solon is also very acceptable as Vishinsky, and most of those playing the more minor Morestran roles give a good account of themselves. On the downside, Prentis Hancock unfortunately follows up a rather wooden portrayal of Vaber in season ten's Planet of the Daleks with an equally poor attempt at Salamar here. Regulars Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen, meanwhile, have really got to grips with their respective roles by this point, and both give flawless and highly engaging performances.

The story's closing episode received 'a mainly moderately favourable response' from contemporary viewers, according to the BBC's Audience Research Report: 'It did not have such an exciting plot as some, viewers commented, some also having found it difficult to follow the gist, especially if the preceding episodes had been missed. One minority group regarded it as "ludicrous rubbish" - the monsters too unbelievable even for science fiction - "only fit for children", usually observing that they had watched as their family enjoyed it, but sometimes admitting that they had found it quite diverting, all the same. Another regarded it as not only ridiculous but rather horrible, with "some frightening moments": altogether unsuitable viewing for young children.'

Over a third of those in the sample commented more favourably, however, indicating that '"all the family" had enjoyed this episode and the whole story, commending the series as one geared for the young but also acceptable to adults; a few especially welcomed the ingredient of "idealism" as well as adventure, with good triumphing over evil, promises kept, and experience prevailing. Several sci-fi enthusiasts had found it suitably terrifying and thrilling. Children too, from three to thirteen... had relished the monsters: though decidedly frightening for some of the youngest, they refused to have the set switched off and sat spellbound, sometimes open-mouthed; older children thought the episode interesting and exciting, being also absorbed.'

The welcome reappearance of the TARDIS interior reinforces the impression that the Doctor is finally breaking free of his ties to Earth and resuming his space and time travels in earnest; and although Part Four ends with him and Sarah leaving to rendezvous with the Brigadier, as promised at the end of Terror of the Zygons, the opening scenes of the following story would confirm his increasing reluctance to continue his long-standing association with UNIT.

< Terror of the ZygonsFourth DoctorPyramids of Mars >

This episode guide is made up of the text of The Discontinuity Guide by Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping, and Doctor Who: The Television Companion by David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker.

The Discontinuity Guide © Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping 1995.
Doctor Who: The Television Companion © David J Howe and Stephen James Walker 1998, 2003.



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