Entertainment Magazine

Review #3197: Classic Doctor Who: “Planet of Evil”

Posted on the 22 December 2011 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: John Keegan

Written by Louis Marks
Directed by David Maloney

There was a point, somewhere in the middle of the third episode of this serial, where I actually thought to myself, “What about this planet is actually ‘evil’?” Yes, bad things happen there, and the effect of exposure to the antimatter brings out violent tendencies, but the title implies something a bit more grand and sinister than the actuality.

Review #3197: Classic Doctor Who: “Planet of Evil”

In fact, once it becomes clear that this is “Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde” by way of “Forbidden Planet”, it becomes a bit of a predictable chore. Right around the time I was wondering over the accuracy of the title (the second serial in a row, for that matter), I was concerned that there was something about this story that I was missing. I’d heard that Season 13 was considered a high point for not only the Baker era, but Classic Who as a whole, akin to Season 7 in many respects. So why was this feeling so bland and mediocre?

As it turns out, there is quite a bit of division among the seasoned Whovians regarding this serial, and that leaves me feeling a bit better about my underwhelmed response. Some love it, some loathe it, but most see it as a dreadfully average low point in an otherwise solid season. I’ll put it more succinctly: despite some interesting ideas and homages along the way, this is just plain boring.

Conceptually, I love the idea of a planet that serves as the intersection pointy of two universes, thus creating a place where the laws of physics are twisted and bent in all sorts of unusual and deadly ways. I like the idea of a creature living within the intersection “wormhole”, so to speak, eliminating threats to the delicate balance the planet represents. I even like some of the subtext within the human culture (I assume they are future descendents of colonists from previous Earth empire), which hints at some of the same issues we deal with today. Even the future is not bereft of political maneuvering over alternative energy sources.

It’s the execution that doesn’t quite work. The writing is a bit all over the map, but so is the acting, from Tom Baker all the way down the line. This is probably the least energetic I’ve seen the Doctor since Baker took over. The guest cast is variable, to say the least. Even Elizabeth Sladen, usually quite good, seems to be going through the motions. Though she is almost unbearably cute at this point, the writing saps the character of anything remotely distinct. The intentional rough edges of her Season 11 personality are completely missing here.

The direction is part of the problem, because the difference between the quite good “jungle” sets and the generic spaceship sets are stark, to say the least. And the story begins in the more visually interesting sets, so things get progressively more sterile as time marches on. It becomes much more of a precursor to “Alien”, but without the atmosphere to sustain the tension.

All of which brings me back to the central problem with this serial: the title and the story aren’t even on the same page, yet I’m not sure that the story suggests a better one. It’s just there. It does little to distinguish itself in any meaningful way. Hopefully this is, as mentioned here and there by others, just a short skid in an otherwise solid season.

Writing: 1/2
Acting: 1/2
Direction: 1/2
Style: 1/4

Final Rating: 4/10

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