OVERALL EPISODE NUMBER: 063
STORY NUMBER: 013
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 20 March 1965
WRITER: Bill Strutton
DIRECTOR: Richard Martin
SCRIPT EDITOR: Dennis Spooner
PRODUCER: Verity Lambert
RATINGS: 11.5 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - The Web Planet
"What I take from you will enable me to reach beyond this galaxy, into the solar system, to pluck from Earth its myriad techniques and take from man his mastery of space!"
The Animus speaks with the Doctor and asks why they escaped. The Doctor will be brought to the Centre. Barbara and the Menoptera start the mock attack. Vicki realises she's dropped the isoe-tope. The Zarbi are drawn out of the city by the attack. Ian, Vrestin & the Optera encountered a stream of water in the rock. The Optera are scared of going to the surface but their leader Hetra agrees to go with them. Hrostar is killed killing a Larvae gun. The Doctor & Vicki reach the Centre, containing a huge bright light and a huge spider like creature which is a body the Animus is growing. They are dragged into the Animus' web. In the control centre Barbara finds the Tardis allowing the Menoptera to try to communicate with their home base. It doesn't work, but they discover the missing isoe-tope. Ian is now climbing through the tentacle like strands of the Animus web. The Menoptera near the centre but encounter Zarbi resistance before they are blinded by the light of the Animus. The isoe-tope seems to have no effect but Ian's arrival allows Barbara to get close enough to destroy the Animus. The Zarbi, now lacking control, revert to being the mindless cattle they were previously. No longer diverted by the Animus water starts to spring up on Vortis' surface. The Optera emerge onto the surface for the first time in generations. They wish to fly like their cousins the Menoptera: Vrestin tells them that they won't be able to but maybe their children will. Prapillius returns the Doctor's ring. The travellers leave a now peaceful Vortis behind.
The images at the end of the story really stand out in my mind. We've got the Optera, on the surface for the first time in Generations being exhorted to not be afraid f the light by Vrestin. Then right at the end, all the peoples of Vortis stand together free.
The Centre set, where the Animus resides and the final battle takes place, looks really nice.
Fan opinion when I was growing up had The Web Planet down as one of the great Doctor Who stories with it's array of alien life forms. It's less well regarded now that it's been seen by more people: general opinion holds that the effects and costumes have dated and it's a little hard to follow. Every time I watch it it improves a bit and I'm more and more impressed with what they achieved. Yes some of the effects don't quite work: the smeared lense to show the atmosphere doesn't help and having the Zarbi's "human" legs be far bigger than the other two pairs is a little distracting. Strip away the costumes and it's what people think of as a pretty traditional Doctor Who story: The Doctor shows up on an alien planet, discovers an evil in power and overthrows it.
But the first thing I think of when someone says Web Planet now is the tune heard in the early episodes when on the surface: it's stuck in my head!
Since we're approaching the end of March it's worth noting that this story contributed to a well Doctor Who Magazine April Fool joke. The Phoenix Rises was a supposedly "lost" Hartnell story that was found and would be completed using the Davison era cast! Supposed pictures from the episodes were shown that were actually sourced from early episodes of this story showing The Doctor and Ian in their special jackets! The give away was that filming was due to commence on April 1st!
The Web Planet was novelised as Doctor Who and The Zarbi, the second Doctor Who novel which was published in 1965, and then reissued by Target books in 1973 at the start of their range of Doctor Who books. The Zarbi & Menoptera, along with the Vrood & Sensorites, appear in the first Doctor Who annual but have never returned on screen. The story was missing from the BBC archives, but all 6 episodes were found at BBC Enterprises in the late 1970s and issued on a double VHS set in 1990 and on DVD in 2005.