Doctor Who: Planet of Evil (parts three and four)

“Planet of Evil” is definitely in that large segment of Doctor Who that starts strong and peters out. One problem is that the serial’s star is the jungle planet, and it’s largely absent from the second half, with the action set on a very boring and beige spaceship. The other problem, and I do hate picking on an actor, is the character that the unfortunate Prentis Hancock is forced to play. There are military idiots, and then there’s Commander Salamar, who doesn’t even have the decency to be written as losing his grip or even remotely sympathetic. If we felt sorry for a man in over his head, that would be one thing, but Salamar is just an incompetent jerk. Nobody could play the part well. Hancock didn’t have a prayer of making this character work.

Worse, a huge hunk of Salamar’s boneheaded military tough guy act is just there to get himself killed and pad episode four out, because this story just plain runs out of plot. Interestingly, we asked our son in between episodes what he thought, and he actually saw where this was going. There are two anti-matter beings, the big weird one on the jungle planet, and the werewolf creature that Frederick Jaeger’s character is becoming. Our son believed that Jaeger was the more frightening threat, because he was going to turn into a weird video-effects beast: “He’s going to change and be like that creature on the planet!” Thanks to Commander Salamar’s stupidity, he does, giving the story about fourteen more minutes of action.

Our son definitely had fun being frightened by this one. He told us that it was really, really, really scary. “Three scarys?” asked his mother. “No, four,” he replied. “Three isn’t enough!”

One thought on “Doctor Who: Planet of Evil (parts three and four)

  1. Well, it impressed your young son, and he was probably the target audience Philip Hinchcliffe was going for. As he would comment a few decades later, when these stories were made no one could have conceived that they would eventually be re-watched over and over again on videos, DVDs and the internet.

    Speaking of DVDs, I was rather amused by Prentis Hancock recounting how when this story was being made he and fellow actor Ewen Solon tried to figure out among themselves just how the heck their characters made any sort of sense. The backstory they came up with between them was that Salamar’s father was some sort of high-ranking military official back on Zeta Major, and that was how Salamar got promoted to Captain, but everyone back home knew he was incompetent, so they assigned Vishinsky as his second-in-command to try to keep him from screwing things up too badly.

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