Doctor Who Monsters, Aliens and Villains

The Giant Spiders
Video (VHS) - Planet of the Spiders
Planet of the Spiders
 Name: The Giant Spiders; known to themselves and their followers as the ‘Eight-Legs’

 Format: Television show, Book and Audio

 Time of Origin: Mutated into their current state on Metebelis Three, apparently in the future; precise dates are unknown, but they were able to escape to Earth in 1975 and 2015.

 Appearances: "Planet of the Spiders", "Return of the Spiders", "The Eight Truths", "Worldwide Web", brief appearance in "The Eight Doctors", technically featured in "The Ancestor Cell"

 Doctors: Third Doctor, Fourth Doctor, Seventh Doctor and Eighth Doctor

 Companions: The Brigadier, Sergeant Benton, Captain Mike Yates, Sarah Jane Smith, K9, 2nd Romana, Lucie Miller; Fitz Kreiner and Compassion encountered bone versions of the Spiders that the TARDIS manifested as a defence.

Planet of the Spiders
Planet of the Spiders
 History: Although the Spiders have only made one appearance in the television series, they are significant for the lasting effect they had on The Doctor, his encounter with them having left him with an arachnophobia that has merely varied in all his subsequent incarnations without ever actually going away. Originally normal spiders, the spiders were mutated into their current state when the ship they were on crash-landed on Metebelis Three, the unique radiation of the blue crystals of Metebelis Three resulting in the Spiders mutating and growing significantly in both size and intellect, to the extent that they came to dominate the human population of the planet. With their more long-term goal being to enhance their psychic powers, they began to gather the purest blue crystals together with the intention of creating a psychic web that would greatly enhance their powers.

 The Doctor became involved in this plan when, during a visit to Metebelis Three for a brief holiday, he departed the planet taking one of the last pure blue crystals as a souvenir, subsequently using it to break the hypnotic conditioning of the supercomputer BOSS before giving it to his former companion Jo Grant as a wedding present before her departure for the Amazon with her new husband Cliff Jones ("The Green Death"). However, Jo was forced to send the crystal back to UNIT because their native guides regarded it as black magic, the crystal arriving back at UNIT just as The Doctor’s new companion Sarah Jane Smith was investigating odd goings-on at a Buddhist retreat being attended by former UNIT member Mike Yates, Mike having turned to meditation to try and recover from the trauma of recent events where he betrayed his friends and participated in a plot to destroy the human race ("Invasion of the Dinosaurs") after suffering a mental breakdown following his brief period under the control of supercomputer BOSS ("The Green Death").


Planet of the Spiders
Planet of the Spiders
 Thanks to Sarah and Mike’s investigations, The Doctor learned of the Spiders’ existences, the Spiders using the mental energies generated during the meditation sessions to travel to Earth via psychic ley lines - evidently stretching across time and space given that evidence suggests that the Spiders existed in Earth’s future - to try and recover The Doctor’s blue crystal, aided by some of the guests at the retreat. Although The Doctor initially fought against the Spiders, allying himself with his old Time Lord mentor K’Anpo to free Sarah and others at the retreat from their influence, K’Anpo encouraged him to recognise his responsibility for the course events had taken, prompting him to take the blue crystal back to Metebelis Three and deliver it to the cave of the Great One, the largest spider of all. With The Doctor’s crystal, the queen completed the psychic amplifier she had sought to design, only to learn after she attempted to use her new psychic powers that she had actually created a positive feedback circuit, burning out her mind and seemingly killing the other Spiders on the planet with the subsequent release of telepathic energy due to her link to them (Although The Doctor subsequently spent a decade drifting in the time vortex due to the radiation poisoning he had suffered while in the Great One’s cave, finally returning to Earth as the poison completed its work, subsequently regenerating into his fourth incarnation with K’Anpo’s help) ("Planet of the Spiders").

 Although The Doctor assumed that this encounter would mark the end of the Spiders, the Fourth Doctor faced them once again after he and Romana arrived in a suburban housing estate ("Return of the Spiders"), swiftly learning from a local pizza delivery boy - after making a bet with Romana that Romana could find something unusual in the area - that the inhabitants of 9 Honeysuckle Close had been ordering the meat special for the past four nights. Investigating the house, The Doctor learned that the family who lived in the house were under the control of Spiders who had escaped the destruction of Metebelis Three by travelling along psychic ley lines. Learning that the Spider’s Queen was about to lay her eggs, The Doctor and K9 attempted to destroy the attic, but the Queen managed to extinguish the fire. Fortunately, neighbours had summoned firemen to deal with the blaze, allowing The Doctor to use the hosepipes to knock the Queen off the roof to her death (Although The Doctor told Romana that this didn’t count as ‘something unusual’ as that kind of thing was always happening to him).

Planet of the Spiders
Planet of the Spiders
The Doctor’s next encounter with the Spiders was the result of a brief visit to Metebelis Three towards the end of his seventh incarnation. Feeling rather depressed and melancholy and seeking something to revive his currently-flagging spirit, The Doctor decided to travel to Metebelis Three for a brief holiday, reasoning that the beauty of the planet would give him something to admire and remind him why he travelled while the potential danger would reawaken his interest in life. Unfortunately, the decision proved to be too successful when The Doctor was captured and bound in webbing by one of the last remaining Spiders on the planet, only escaping becoming the creature’s dinner thanks to the arrival of his next incarnation ("The Eight Doctors"), currently visiting his past selves to regain his memories after a trap set by The Master left him with almost total amnesia. Killing the Spider with The Master’s old Tissue Compression Eliminator - which the Eighth Doctor had acquired after helping the Third Doctor fend off an attack from The Master -, the Eighth Doctor then freed his past self from the webbing that he had been trapped in before departing, leaving the Seventh with a renewed appreciation for his life despite the knowledge that his next regeneration was closer than he had expected.

 In The Doctor’s last encounter with the Spiders, he found himself facing the Spiders on a scale that he had never fought before, particularly since the Spiders were using Gallifreyian technology that they had acquired from the mysterious Headhunter.

 During a holiday on Earth in 2015, the Eighth Doctor’s companion Lucie Miller was recruited by an organisation known as the Eightfold Truth, which had apparently been established by the enigmatic self-help guru Clark Goodman to prepare for an approaching apocalyptic event, the Eightfold Truth ‘convincing’ Lucie that The Doctor was manipulating and brainwashing her for his own purpose to help win her over to their cause while The Doctor was occupied with helping a science team track missing space probes. Learning about the Truth, The Doctor discovered from the lost probe’s sensor readings that the ‘Rebel Sun’ that the Truth had predicted would come to Earth was actually a stellar manipulator - similar to the Hand of Omega - that had been stolen by the Headhunter in their last encounter ("Orbis"), the Headhunter selling it to the Spiders for their latest plan in return for a considerable payment. With the Eightfold Truth rapidly gaining members as the Sun approached, and The Doctor nearly killed after an attack with radioactive gas left him in a healing coma for over three weeks, Lucie became the host for the Spider Queen after being identified as the ‘Chosen One’ during her initiation, the Headhunter having programmed the Manipulator to follow her DNA after their confrontation on Orbis to ‘lead’ it to Earth at the right time.


Planet of the Spiders
Planet of the Spiders
 As part of the Truth’s initiation efforts, each member was given a unique crystal, allegedly to help them meditate on their true selves, but in reality these crystals were all from Metebelis III, having been found by Goodman in the 1980s. Goodman had been subtly manipulated by the spiders for years so that the concepts of the Truth would encourage submission to the Spiders’ rule, while his use of the Crystals would influence the minds of the cult’s longest-standing members so that they would be more vulnerable to suggestion and hence easier to control. Using the Stellar Manipulator, the Spiders were able to turn all of humanity into nodes in their telepathic network, dispersing the feedback that had killed the original Great One across multiple minds to increase the time they could maintain the node before it burnt out their minds. As well as influencing virtually all of humanity to consider the Spiders their gods, the Queen used the Manipulator’s power to take complete control of Lucie’s body while sending Lucie’s mind to a virtual ‘storage area’ within the Manipulator. Although the Queen intended to use the power of the hive mind to make everyone worship her, after using a blue crystal to free a few of his key allies from the Queen’s control, The Doctor was able to defeat the Queen by transferring Lucie’s mind into the TARDIS before sending her back into her body and ‘exorcising’ the Queen, forcing the Queen to take control of the Headhunter. Although the Headhunter’s species possessed a natural resistance to telepathic attack, this would only keep the Queen contained for a limited time, but the Headhunter managed to defeat her by chanting worship to the Great One, triggering a feedback loop as the Queen essentially began to worship herself, destroying the Queen but rendering the Headhunter catatonic as nobody knew her real name to help her assert her own identity. Accessing the power of the Stellar Manipulator through the remnants of Lucie’s link to it, The Doctor used it to transmit a signal telling everyone to forget about the Spiders, banishing them back along the astral plane to their home planet, The Doctor hoping that the humility the Spiders would thus be forced to experience would limit the likelihood of them trying something like that again.

 Even without appearing, the Spiders have had a significant effect on The Doctor, with the Third Doctor’s encounter with them having left each subsequent incarnation with varying degrees of arachnophobia, as well as the pain of the memory of the Third Doctor’s regeneration remaining one of their most difficult regenerations. Although the Fourth, Seventh and Eighth Doctors faced the ‘Eight-Legs’ on later occasions without experiencing more than the traditional discomfort and apprehension that one would expect in such a situation, the Seventh Doctor was once tortured by being forced to relive his memories of the Third Doctor’s long death of radiation poisoning ("Love and War"), the Eleventh Doctor specifically asked his companion Amy to avoid even the subject of Spiders when she compared the Cybermats to Spiders ("Blood of the Cybermen"), and the Fifth Doctor had great trouble crawling through an air vent filled with normal spiders due to his fear despite the fact that his companion Peri was in danger at the other end of the vent and required his help, although he was able to overcome his fear in time to save her ("Light at the End of the Tunnel").

Planet of the Spiders
Planet of the Spiders
Although the circumstances of the Third Doctor’s regeneration were unintentionally altered by the Eighth Doctor during a confrontation with Faction Paradox in "Interference Book Two: Hour of the Geek" - the Eighth Doctor unintentionally diverting his past self’s TARDIS when the ship was meant to be returning to Earth in time to confront the Spiders, resulting in the Third Doctor regenerating after being shot on the planet Dust in the far future following a confrontation with the Faction instead -, a temporal ‘ghost’ of the Third Doctor who should have been survived thanks to the TARDIS taking The Doctor’s altered timeline into itself to protect him from the Faction’s efforts to infect him with a Paradox virus that would turn him into a member of the Faction by his eighth incarnation. The Third Doctor’s ‘ghost’ eventually manifested in the infected TARDIS as a version of himself composed of dust particles ("The Ancestor Cell") after the TARDIS was nearly torn apart after being caught in a dimensional rift ("The Shadows of Avalon"), the ghost-like Doctor creating bone spiders to defend himself and the TARDIS from intruders after it manifested above Gallifrey, he and the Eighth Doctor admitting that they knew spiders were somehow important to them even if they couldn’t remember how. At the conclusion of The Doctor’s last battle with the Faction, the Metebelis regeneration was restored to its proper place in The Doctor’s history after The Doctor drained all of the TARDIS’s power away, forcing the universe to choose one reality or the other in order to resolve the paradox of his two third regenerations once and for all.
 
Book - The Eight Doctors
The Eight Doctors
(Terrance Dicks)
Audio - The Eight Truths
The Eight Truths
(Eddie Robson)
Audio - Worldwide Web
Worldwide Web
(Eddie Robson)
Book - The Ancestor Cell
The Ancestor Cell
(Peter Anghelides and Stephen Cole)
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Parts of this article were compiled with the assistance of David Spence who can be contacted by e-mail at djfs@blueyonder.co.uk
 
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