The Creature From The Pit
Starring: Tom Baker (The Fourth Doctor), Lalla Ward (The Second Romana), David Brierley (Voice of K-9).
The planet Chloris is plentiful in vegetation but barren of metal. When the Doctor, Romana and K-9 arrive, Chloris' leader, the wicked Adrasta, has the Doctor thrown into a pit at the bottom of which an enormous green monster is supposed to dwell. The Doctor discovers the monster is actually Erato, an ambassador from Tythonus who came to Chloris to trade metal for agriculture and was banished to the pit because Adrasta feared losing her monopoly on metal. But this revelation may come too late, as the Tythonians are en route to Chloris, ready to ravage the planet in return for its treatment of their envoy.
Having had the Doctor save all of time twice in the past two seasons (in The Invasion Of Time and again throughout the Key To Time arc of Season Sixteen), producer Graham Williams decided to refocus the stories of Season Seventeen on more small-scale, person-oriented material. To this end, the concept of the Randomiser was introduced to reestablish the Doctor as someone who wandered into adventures accidentally rather than by design.
Williams also had to deal with several cast changes before production could begin. Most crucially, Mary Tamm had elected not to return for a second year as Romana. Since the character had not been written out of the series in The Armageddon Factor, Williams considered featuring a new incarnation of Romana in each story of Season Seventeen, starring a new actress each time. Incoming script editor Douglas Adams was less than keen about this idea, however, fearing that the writers would quickly run out of reasons to regenerate Romana. In the end, the decision was made to introduce a single new incarnation. Lalla Ward, who had played Astra in The Armageddon Factor, had shared great chemistry with star Tom Baker, and this led Williams to offer her the role. Ward accepted and the casting was announced to the press on February 6th, 1979. It was decided that Ward's version of Romana would be more fun-loving than her somewhat imperious predecessor, to appeal more to children.
Also needed for Season Seventeen was a new voice artiste for K-9, to replace John Leeson. Christopher Barry, who was slated to direct the first serial of the new season, held two rounds of auditions on March 9th and 16th, ultimately selecting David Brierley for the role. Barry himself was returning for his tenth Doctor Who serial, dating all the way back to The Daleks in 1964. He had last worked on the programme with The Brain Of Morbius in 1975.
The serial chosen to be first into production was The Creature From The Pit, commissioned from David Fisher in the fall of 1978 at about the same time as another story, The Gamble With Time. Fisher had also contributed two scripts the previous year, with The Stones Of Blood and The Androids Of Tara. In accord with Fisher's predilection for female villains, the main antagonist was Queen Adastra, named after the Latin words for "to the stars". This was later changed to "Adrasta" by Adams. For a long time, The Creature From The Pit was slotted second in the season's running order; it would eventually be pushed back to third.
Studio work on Serial 5G began with a two-day session starting on Monday, April 7th, then continued with a three-day block from Sunday, April 22nd. Amongst the cast in the small role of Tollund was Morris Barry, who had directed episodes of Doctor Who in the late Sixties. Unfortunately, recording was fraught with special effects problems, as the costume for Erato proved far too phallic in appearance, necessitating a hasty redressing. The wolfweeds caused problems, as their motors frequently malfunctioned. Barry discovered that the modelwork had been poorly photographed, leaving wires visible, and had to be remounted. And finally, he was frustrated by Baker (who was being encouraged by Adams to tailor the Doctor even closer to his own personality) and Ward, who frequently paused to rewrite their dialogue. Unfortunately, this brought Barry's involvement with Doctor Who to a disappointing close. Barry would continue to pursue considerable work in television, including episodes of All Creatures Great And Small and Juliet Bravo.