Jon Pertwee’s Third Doctor may not have been my favorite, but he was enormously popular when these episodes were brand new. I can see why. The show changed quite a bit. It became more adventure focused and less silly. Personally, I like silly. Doctor Who didn’t entirely remove the silly. It just changed so the silly was incidental rather than intentional in many cases.
However, Pertwee did eventually call it quits to pave way for various successors. His last serial was one called, simply, “Planet of the Spiders.”
In many ways, this serial didn’t seem to have much going on in the first episode. Basically, we can split the plot into two halves. One has Sarah Jane visiting Captain Yates at a rest retreat. The other has the Brigadier and the Doctor doing some questionable science.
OK, two things. 1) Almost any science on Doctor Who is questionable and 2) Sarah Jane barely met Captain Yates before.
But enough of that. Yates seems a lot better since he was plotting to wipe out most of the human race. I blame the computer that controlled his mind. It makes as much sense as anything else. While staying at a retreat for Tibetan-style meditation, Yates sees a former salesman named Lupton is up to something. If you think it is weird Yates called Sarah Jane, well, it makes more sense when he explains why. He knows weird things are happening that UNIT should investigate. He also knows his personal street cred is a little low at the moment. Sarah Jane can act as a go-between. That actually makes sense.
As for the Doctor and the Brigadier, they are taking in a show. Neither looks too excited. Oh sure, the Brigadier perks up for an exotic dancer, but then he says he wants to adapt her routine into an exercise regimen for his men. And he says it in a way that makes too much sense not to be the truth. But no, the Doctor wants to see the psychic Professor Clegg.
Why? The Doctor is looking into psychic powers because it’s the 70s. People thought that was real science. Some probably still do. Regardless, Clegg is a real psychic. He’s not a real professor. He just accidentally answered a question during his show before his assistant asked it. That’s proof of psychic powers, not a poorly-rehearsed routine.
As such, Clegg agrees to perform some experiments for the Doctor. He really is legitimate. Then Benton shows up with a package from Jo Grant. It’s that crystal the Doctor got from Metebelis Three. You know, Planet Hellhole. Clegg sees it’s from another world before the Doctor even opens the package.
And then two things happen. Yates and Sarah Jane observes Lupton and some others chanting until a giant spider appears in the center of the room. And at that exact moment, the crystal flares with weird lights and kills Clegg.
So, is the real problem here the Doctor had to go to Metebelis Three at one point or that Jo Grant is still screwing things up when she doesn’t even work there anymore?