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The Creature from the Pit was the third serial in season 17 of Doctor Who. This was the last story directed by Christopher Barry, who had first worked on the show since 1963. It was the first story produced, though not the first broadcast, to feature Lalla Ward as the Doctor's companion.

This story was one of the season's "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.


The Fourth Doctor and Romana II receive a distress signal and arrive on Chloris. It is a lush and verdant world with only small quantities of metals, all of which are controlled by its ruler, Lady Adrasta. Adrasta keeps order with the aid of her Huntsman and his Wolfweeds - mobile balls of vegetation. A band of thieves, led by Torvin, organise raids on her palace to steal whatever metal they can. But in the mines of Chloris is something huge, a creature thrown into the pit to be forgotten... and the Doctor is about to join him.


Part one[]

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, who then releases the Doctor and orders his death. Karela countermands him and has the Doctor and Romana taken prisoner instead.

The Doctor is paraded in stocks.

As they travel through the jungle, bandits attack them and Romana is taken prisoner by them. The Doctor is taken to the palace of the Lady Adrasta, who rules the planet by controlling all the metal. He examines the throne room and takes particular interest in a plate upon the wall.

Elsewhere, Romana uses a dog whistle to summon K9. With his help, she escapes the bandits.

Adrasta takes the Doctor is taken to a pit to witness the execution an engineer called Doran who failed to make some of the observations the Doctor made about the egg. 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 then jumps into the pit.

Part two[]

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 as her guards slowly hammer away at K9. Eventually Romana tells her that only K9 has the answers what Adrasta is looking for.

In the woods, the bandits decide to attack the palace, believing that the guards will be searching for them.

Adrasta threatens K9.

Within the Pit, the Doctor finds the corpses of Doran and one of Adrasta's men who fell into the pit after being stunned by K9 and then encounters Organon, an astrologer thrown down there by Adrasta. The creature attacks but they manage to escape from its tentacle and then burn it to deter it from attacking again. They then begin exploring the caverns.

K9 tells Adrasta about the TARDIS. Realising that, with such a machine, she no longer needs the creature, she decides that K9 will kill it for her. They venture through a passage and 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.

Part three[]

The guards and Organon retreat and 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.

Torvin and Edu fall under the plate's hypnosis.

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, as it gets stronger with each blow. From the other side, the Doctor bursts through. Adrasta questions how the Doctor did this and he replies that he "asked very nicely". Adrasta admits she knows more about the creature than she has previously let on. 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 hypnotised Torvin and Edu approach, still carrying the plate, which they place on the creature.

Part four[]

With the plate, the creature is able to speak through the person touching it. The Doctor uses the plate and discovers that the creature's name is Erato and 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, Adrasta's people turn on her and Erato his revenge by crushing Adrasta to death.

In the woods, Karela meets the bandits and kills Torvin. She tries to convince the others 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 TARDIS holds the neutron star as Erato weaves a web around it.

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 stabilise the star while Erato weaves an aluminium shell around it. The danger is neutralised. 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.



Uncredited crew[]


The Doctor[]

  • The Doctor jokingly claims that Time Lords have ninety lives (and that he has used one hundred and thirty of his).
  • The Doctor's birth sign is Crossed Computers, which is also the symbol of the maternity service on Gallifrey.


  • The Doctor and K9 are reading Peter Rabbit. Romana has read a few of the series herself.
  • The Doctor claims a ball of string Romana finds in the TARDIS helped Theseus and Ariadne out of the Minotaur's maze.
  • The thieves operate as a democracy.



  • Erato travelled to Chloris in a spaceship that was an egg woven from living metal.
  • Erato's spaceship is powered by photon drive.



  • A neutron star is propelled towards Chloris by the Tythonians after the treatment of their ambassador.

Story notes[]

  • This was the first story for Season 17 to be produced, though it was the third to be broadcast. This makes it the first story produced with Lalla Ward as Romana II, replacing Mary Tamm, and with David Brierley providing the voice for K9, replacing John Leeson.
  • In David Fisher's original script, Lady Adrasta was Queen Adastra, whose name meant "to the stars" in Latin. This was changed by Douglas Adams.
  • Christopher Barry is said to have had differences of opinion with both Tom Baker and Lalla Ward regarding their characters and dialogue during filming of this story. This plus frequent technical problems led to his departure from directing on Doctor Who.
  • Lalla Ward was unhappy with this story. It was the first one she filmed and she was still working out how to play Romana. The fact that the script was written for Mary Tamm's version didn't help. She even wears a white dress like hers. She loathed both her costume and her hair.
  • A clip of this story was used in the documentary "Synth Britannia", first broadcast on BBC 4 on Friday 16 October 2009. (The clip seems to be from part two or three.)
  • A working title for this story was The Creature in the Pit.[1]
  • Christopher Barry described the shoot as the nadir of his career.
  • David Fisher's original outline was concerned with Adrasta's attempts to claim the TARDIS for herself. K-9 eventually takes Adrasta away in the TARDIS, returning her — cowed and defeated — at the story's conclusion. Upon initially being thrown into the Pit, the Doctor is attacked by Hellyn, a former member of Adrasta's team of engineers. In the final episode, a battle fleet from Tithonus (later spelt “Tythonus”) arrives, threatening to destroy Chloris with a photon missile. Erato and the Doctor travel into space in Erato's ship, and the Tithonian weaves a spacesuit for the Doctor, enabling him to reach the missile and disarm it.
  • Although the Doctor's solution to the problem of the neutron star, weaving a shell of aluminium around it, has been criticised as silly, the idea was in fact proposed to David Fisher by members of the Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge.
  • Christopher Barry and visual effects designer Mat Irvine were called on the carpet by the BBC management for the appearance of the creature Erato. The phallic appearance of the proboscis in the first episode resulted in uncontrolled laughter in the studio and prompted an overnight change to add a pair of pincers to the creature.
  • This was Terry Walsh's final appearance in the series having appeared in various roles since 1966 as well as acting as fight arranger and the stunt double for both Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker.
  • Graham Williams ordered a model shot of the TARDIS to be reshot because the wires were visible.
  • Erato proved to be logistical nightmare. Christopher Barry claimed it was impossible to realise. While he blamed the special effects initially, in hindsight he realised that the producer and the writer were to blame.
  • Graham Williams called Erato a giant syphilitic phallus and the whole crew burst into laughter upon seeing it, prompting Williams to reprimand them. Geoffrey Bayldon claimed that there's an outtake of him going, "Oh my, that's a big one". Arms were added to distract from its phallic appearance.
  • Siân Phillips was offered the role of Lady Adastra.


  • Part one - 9.3 million viewers
  • Part two - 10.8 million viewers
  • Part three - 10.2 million viewers
  • Part four - 9.6 million viewers

Filming locations[]

Production errors[]

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.

to be added


Home video and audio releases[]

DVD releases[]

This story was first released on DVD in the UK on 3 May 2010. The one disc set includes a restored version of the story, as well as the following special features:

  • Commentary by Lalla Ward (Romana), Myra Frances (Lady Adrasta), Christopher Barry (Director) and Mat Irvine (Visual Effects Designer)
  • Christopher Barry: Director - documentary that examined the career of Doctor Who director Christopher Barry
  • Team Erato - documentary that examined the special effects group tasked with bringing Erato to life and the problems they encountered.
  • Animal Magic
  • Extended Scene
  • Coming Soon Trailer
  • Radio Times Billings
  • Production Subtitles
  • Photo Gallery

Editing for the DVD release was completed by the Doctor Who Restoration Team.

It was released as issue 149 of Doctor Who DVD Files.

Video releases[]

This story was released on VHS in the UK in 2002.

Digital releases[]

The story is available for streaming in the US through Hulu Plus or Amazon Instant Video in the UK.

External links[]