The Creature from the Pit
The Creature from the Pit was the third story in season seventeen of Doctor Who. This was the last story directed by Christopher Barry, who had first worked on the show in 1963.
This story was one of season seventeen’s many “downsized” stories. This meant that the Doctor would be working on a smaller scale rather than saving the universe as he had been throughout the past season.
The serial made use of complicated model work to achieve the space scenes; the original scene had to be filmed again. The Erato prop was also a major problem. A puppet version was unavailable for rehearsals and there wasn’t time for a redesign.
An MK3 Emergency transceiver on the TARDIS identifies a distress signal and brings the craft to the lush jungle world of Chloris, where metal in all forms is a rare and prized commodity. The Doctor, Romana and K9 venture out to discover the remains of an enormous egg in the jungle. The Doctor is immediately beset by Wolfweeds under the control of the Huntsman. He releases the Doctor and orders his death. Karela countermands him and has the Doctor and Romana taken prisoner.
As they travel through the jungle, bandits attack them. Romana is taken prisoner. The Doctor is taken to the palace of the Lady Adrasta, who rules the planet by controlling all the metal.
The Doctor examines the throne room and takes particular interest in aplate upon the wall. Romana uses a dog whistle to summon K9. With his help, she escapes the bandits. The Doctor is taken to a pit to witness the execution of one of Adrasta’s men, an engineer who failed to make some of the observations The Doctor made. He is thrown to a creature that lives within the vast caverns below. Romana arrives and tries to help the Doctor escape as K9 attacks the guards. However, the Wolfweeds quickly surround and disable K9. The Doctor jumps into the pit.
Romana notices that the Doctor is still alive, clinging to the side of the pit. He signals to keep silent as to his survival. Adrasta decides that Romana may be of use, as will the metal K9. The Doctor loses his grip and falls into the pit.
Meanwhile, Lady Adrasta tries to get information out of Romana. Her guards slowly hammer away at K9. Eventually Romana tells her that only K9 knows what Adrasta wants. In the woods, the bandits decide to attack the palace, believing that the guards will be searching for them.
Within the Pit, the Doctor encounters Organon, an astrologer thrown there by Adrasta. They escape from the creature’s tentacle and then burn it to deter it from attacking again. They begin exploring the caverns.
K9 tells Adrasta about the TARDIS. With such a machine, Adrasta no longer needs the creature. She decides that K9 will kill it for her. They venture through a passage into the caverns of the pit.
The Doctor, Organon and a number of Adrasta’s guards come across the creature. The guards attack it, to no effect, and the creature squashes the Doctor.
The guards and Organon retreat. The creature forms a barrier to prevent their return. Within the cavern, the Doctor awakes, seemingly unharmed. Outside the palace, the bandits make their attack and quickly gain access to the throne room. In the pit, Adrasta decides that K9 will destroy the barrier.
The Doctor tries to befriend the creature but it has no way to communicate with him. The creature draws a picture of the plate that the Doctor noticed in Adrasta’s throne room. At that moment, the bandits are stealing the plate. They are interrupted by the guards and retreat into the cavern. The plate activates and Torvin and Edu fall under its hypnotic effect.
K9 is unable to break down the barrier. It gets stronger with each blow. From the other side, the Doctor bursts through. Adrasta questions how the Doctor did this. He replies that he “asked very nicely”. Adrasta admits she knows more about the creature than she admitted. It is a Tythonian. The Doctor uses a mirror to reflect K9’s attacks, killing Adrasta’s guards and scaring off Karela. The Doctor holds Adrasta despite her pleas. She orders Romana to have K9 kill the creature. The hypnotized Torvin and Edu approach, still carrying the plate, which they place on the creature.
With the plate, the creature is able to speak through the person touching it. The Doctor uses the plate. The creature’s name is Erato. It is the Tythonian ambassador to Chloris. It came fifteen years earlier to negotiate a treaty exchanging metal for chlorophyll. Its craft was the vast egg in the jungle. However, Adrasta, knowing her power depended on control of the planet’s metal supply, imprisoned Erato.
Knowing the truth, her people turn on her. The creature exacts its revenge by crushing Adrasta to death. In the woods, Karela meets the bandits and kills Torvin. She tries to convince the bandits to join her in taking the metal. The Doctor arrives and has K9 destroy the metal the bandits stole. With nothing to lose, the bandits and Karela give up.
The Doctor has rescued the Tythonian just in time. Tythonus has declared war on Chloris over the missing ambassador and has dispatched a neutron star to collide with Chloris’ star and destroy the system. It will collide within the next twenty-four hours. Working desperately, the Doctor uses the TARDIS to stabilize the star while Erato weaves an aluminium shell around it. The danger is neutralized. The Doctor’s last act on Chloris is to push Organon, now one of the de facto rulers, toward a mutually beneficial trade agreement with Erato and the Tythonians.