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A Teenage boy with a passion for all things nerdy! Expect a lot of Doctor Who, Cult/Horror Movies, Literature and Novels, History, Comic Books and random thoughts. Posts published weekly on a Friday evening. DISCLAIMER: I do not own any of the items reviewed on this site and i also do not own of the pictures (unless stated so). If you own one of the photos and wish for it to be removed contact me at this adress: Super.pig@live.co.uk. However all of the written work is my own and is protected under copyright law.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Doctor Who: The Web of Fear (Recently Recovered Missing Episode- DVD Release)

I admit that I was rather fortunate when it came to the recent discoveries of Missing Episodes, in that both of the stories discovered (This and ‘Enemy of the World which I reviewed here) happened to be at the very top of my own personal ‘Most Wanted’ list.  I confess however that if I could have chosen any story to be recovered ‘Web of Fear’ would have been first choice every time and I was not alone in my belief that this story was the ‘Holy Grail’ of missing Doctor Who (usually being in the Top 5 of ‘Most Wanted Missing Stories’ Polls). So like ‘Enemy of the World’ this story had some pretty big expectations to live up to and perhaps has more of hard time doing so since the majority of its story takes place in one setting, the tunnels of the London underground, and is a much more ‘talky piece’ where as its predecessor switched from place to place with ease and had some very impressive action sequences. Having Pre-Ordered the DVD it arrived slightly ahead of time and so last night I tentatively put it in the player and sat down wondering whether I was going to end this night with an air of disappointment or praising one of the all time greats of Doctor Who....



Fortunately, it was the latter my view on this story reflecting my previous ‘Most Wanted’ list being once again just ever so slightly ahead of ‘Enemy of the World’.  With some superb sets and a dark almost ‘Quatermass’ feel (reflecting the tone the series would adopt in Jon Pertwee’s first season as the Doctor) the Web of Fear is a perfect example of intelligent science fiction that whilst first appearing slightly ludicrous, emerges as one of the all time classics, not just of Doctor Who but of 1960’s Science Fiction. Being a sequel to the same seasons ‘The Abominable Snowmen’ the plot once again concerns the Great Intelligence and it’s Robotic Yeti. Set some 40 years after the previous tale the Great Intelligence has taken over London and is controlling its invasion from the dark claustrophobic tunnels of the London Underground, a mysterious ‘Web’ likes fungus (appearing as a mist above ground) and its hulking Robotic Yeti being its foot soldiers. A  group of humans hidden in a secret WWII underground base try to combat the menace, but hidden amongst them is a traitor controlled by the Intelligence itself and what of the Doctor? Captured in space and dragged to the tunnels but for what purpose?

It’s been said many a time but the stars of the show really are Douglas Canfield’s direction and David Myerscough-Jones’s superb sets. There’s an old anecdote that apparently the production team asked to film on the real London Underground but were refused permission, when the episodes went on air some time later the production team got a rather angry phone call from some senior official threatening to sue for filming on their property without permission. How true this is is unknown but it’s not difficult to believe when viewing this story, helped by some superb lighting the tunnels give off a very dark and claustrophobic air. Despite it being stated several times that is daylight and the one or two scenes that do take place on surface level being filmed in the day time the story feels as if it takes place permanently at night. I’ve always been a fan of tales that take place in the London Underground, indeed I think I’ve stated my love for the 1967 film version of Quatermass and the Pit several times before and ‘Web of Fear’ takes full advantage of the setting. However the few scenes that take place in and around Covent Garden are equally atmospheric with special mention going to the battle scenes in Episode 4 and extra special mention going to that rather terrifying moment when a soldier is dragged screaming from his safe place above some crates into the claws of a Yeti below...

Speaking of the Yeti, considering that their considered such an iconic Troughton era monster I always viewed it as something of a shame that only two episodes from a total of 12 episodes that they appeared in survived in the archives, not really giving enough footage to view them as a successful monster design or not. Now that we can see nearly a whole story featuring them, Fandom has backtracked slightly on it's opinion regarding the success of the design stating that the Zips are visible in some scenes and their simply too cute and cuddly to be enough of a threat. Go back and watch the scene I just mentioned then tell me that their too cuddly to be threatening. In places, yes the design does leave much to desire but it’s a huge step up from the ‘Mark 1’ that appeared in ‘The Abominable Snowmen’ and in the majority of their scenes (particularly those shot on film) come across as menacing and terrifyingly unstoppable...

The guest cast is above the usual standard and there’s a great deal of memorable characters, many of whom would become fan favorites. Of course there’s Nicholas Courtney’s first appearance as Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, although he lacks his rank of ‘Brigadier’ in this story. Much has been said of the fact that ‘The Colonel’ is played very much as a straight soldier but if anything I think it works to this stories advantage and it’s a lovely character trait that he really can’t stand doing nothing even believing the Doctor about the Tardis straight away because there’s a chance he’s telling the truth, and he has nothing else. There’s also the return of Professor Travers, once again played by Jack Walting with considerably more eccentricity than before but the character is a great deal more watchable as a consequence. His performance is full of brilliant moments and it’s a real shame he doesn’t get much time with Patrick Troughton as they have a real chemistry together. Other scene stealer's include Jack Woolgar as Staff Sergeant Arnold who has brilliant likability throughout.

Admittedly not everything is perfect, there’s some confusion in the ‘traitor among us plot’ in the middle and admittedly episode two seems to drag rather uncomfortably. However, despite being overcome somewhat by the sheer excitement of having brand new stories back in the archives I’m pretty sure I’m not exaggerating when I say that the Web of Fear may not just be my favorite Patrick Troughton story but perhaps my favorite 1960’s Doctor Who as whole. 

2 comments:

  1. I was excited at the discovery of a few missing episodes of this one as well. I first read the Target novelisation in the early 1990's when I was still at secondary school, and it left a lasting impression. I was significantly less excited about The Enemy of the World though. I think the Troughton story I would most like to see recovered is Fury from the Deep. I watched The Moonbase recently and was impressed with the animated episodes.

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    1. Hi Shaun long time no speak! Always nice to hear from you :) I agreed with you until a chance listening of the soundtrack of the Enemy of the World got me super hyped being a keen advocate of 60's Spy-FI and I think that the recovered episodes impressed people a great deal more than what they perhaps expected, it's no secret that its reputation prior to recovery was not exactly a good one. Personally I'm going to have to go with Evil of the Daleks, I reviewed it here a while back and despite not being able to see the whole thing it's still my favorite Dalek story. It's interesting as I've held off buying the Moonbase due to owning the recovered episodes on the 'Lost in Time' set but the reaction to the animation has been so positive I may have to try and get myself a copy!

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