OVERALL EPISODE NUMBER: 196
STORY NUMBER: 041
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 02 March 1968
WRITER: Mervyn Haisman & Henry Lincoln
DIRECTOR: Douglas Camfield
SCRIPT EDITOR: Derrick Sherwin
PRODUCER: Peter Bryant
RATINGS: 8 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - The Web of Fear
TELESNAPS: The Web of Fear: Episode Five
"Been working it out, I have, see. Come to the conclusion one of you two must be working for this Intelligence!"
The Intelligence relays it's instructions through Travers: The Doctor will surrender himself and have his knowledge drained by the Intelligence, which has built a machine for this purpose. They abduct Victoria and give the Doctor 20 minutes to surrender himself. Evans suggests the Doctor give himself up. Jamie wishes to rescue Victoria so he and the Colonel go on a scouting mission. However on reaching the surface they find the fungus outside. Unable to seal the outer doors they make do with closing fire doors. The Doctor gets one of Travers' broken control spheres working by thumping it and is then able to test his machine to control it. Evans confronts the Colonel & Jamie believing one of them to be a traitor. Victoria & Travers have been brought to Piccadilly Circus where the Intelligence releases the professor. Hiding in the tunnel beyond the station is the wounded Staff Sergeant Arnold. Victoria gets him to take a message to the Doctor telling him where they are. The Doctor has perfected his device and is now able to voice control a Yeti. He goes north to Warren Street to find a Yeti. Arnold is found by Jamie & the Colonel and returned to the Goodge Street HQ. The Doctor's path is blocked by fungus, and his way back by a Yeti which he takes control over.
Evans tends to Arnold's wounds but as he goes to fetch something the wall of the fortress disintegrates letting the fungus in.....
The fifth part of a six part story can be a difficult one: we've had our action episode last week and this thrilling climax is due next week. What do you do in between? Haisman and Lincoln decide to ratchet the tension up a bit on the already stressed survivors. First Victoria gets kidnapped and an old favourite, an arbitrary deadline is introduced.
TRAVERS: Cooperate and the child will be unharmed. You have twenty minutes to make up your mind.At the point there's exactly 20 minutes of the episode left to go!
But the Intelligence does reveal Travers wasn't it's agent before the kidnapping:
TRAVERS: That will not do. The Doctor must submit willingly.There's some great possessed acting from Jack Watling as Travers, the way he moves and, especially on the platform, the way he stands stock still just like a Yeti awaiting it's orders!
DOCTOR: And if I do submit, what of the others?
TRAVERS: Then the others will go free.
ANNE: And my father too?
TRAVERS: And him too. I'm only using this body to communicate with you.
ANNE: He didn't help you before, then.
TRAVERS: Oh, no. I have many other human hands at my command.
Released from the Intelligence's control, Travers returns to his more normal self during his hushed conversation with Victoria on the platform at Picadilly Circus while a Yeti stands guard over them.
Then as the characters, and especially the frightened Evans, start flinging accusations around as to who the traitor is, in walks the injured and bedraggled Staff Sergeant Arnold whose been missing presumed dead since the middle of the previous episode. Covered in strands of the web and still wearing his breathing gear he's unable to give an account of what happened to him after the trolley is pushed into the mist.....
Here's a thought: how's he ended up at Piccadilly circus then? Hmmmmm. The map of the web's progress from episode 4 will provide the answers. Covent Garden, where the Tardis landed is completely surrounded by Web. The shortest distance through it is from the South West. Arnold has wandered down the same line and ended up two stations to the South West at Piccadilly Circus.
It's worth comparing the map, which I've screen capped from the DVD with this telesnap of the same shot as it shows how much is lost around the edges of the telesnaps.
Unfortunately this episode contains one of those effects that just completely take you out of the story. As Jamie & Lethbridge Stewart open the door to the surface the mass of the web is seen pushing against it. Unfortunately the effect has been realised by using something that looks the world like a giant sheet of bubble wrap!
Against that we have some nice model work used at the very end of the episode as the wall breaks down and the web pours into the HQ proper, courtesy once again of the BBC foam machine.
Just how cowardly Evans is is emphasised by two incidents in this episode. First he hides on a chair to get away from the Doctor's controlled sphere, like someone scared of a mouse. Except in Evans' case he has a rifle!
Then as the Colonel returns to HQ with the injured Arnold he's found concealing himself, very poorly, behind the large Underground map that dominates the Ops room and is spotted instantly by Lethbridge Stewart! His nerves are showing especially when he mangles the well known phrase into "I may be stupid but I'm not daft"
Actually look at the map in that photo: there's one clear route left open inside the Circle Line from Goodge Street down the Northern Line to Leicester Square and then down the Piccadilly Line to Piccadilly Circus where Travers and Victoria are.
It's amazing how empty the Goodge Street fortress feels in this episode. For years all we've seen of it has been episode one when it's busy and full of soldiers. Now all that's left is the Doctor and his companions, Anne, The Colonel, Evans and Arnold. Then at the end of the episode the fortress itself is breached by the web.
DOCTOR: What do you want?Am I reading this right? Is everything the Intelligence has done in this story an attempt to gain the Doctor's knowledge? That's what it seems like here. That explanation has come a little from left field here and changed the track of where we're going, almost forming the "change of location" used by many six part stories to stretch it out.
TRAVERS: You defeated me in Tibet, Doctor.
TRAVERS: Now you have fallen into the trap that I have so carefully prepared for you.
DOCTOR: Oh, I see, so that's why you've brought me here. Revenge.
TRAVERS: No. Revenge is a very human emotion. My purpose for you is far more interesting.
DOCTOR: And what's that?
TRAVERS: Through time and space, I have observed you, Doctor. Your mind surpasses that of all other creatures.
DOCTOR: What do you want?
TRAVERS: You! Your mind will be invaluable to me. Therefore I have invented a machine that will drain all past knowledge and experience from your mind.
VICTORIA: But you'll kill him!
TRAVERS: Oh no, he will survive, his mind unharmed. Only empty as a newborn child's.
DOCTOR: And if I refuse?
TRAVERS: Then I shall have to seek the help of lesser mortals, like your companions here. And many, many others.
It's another cracking episode though with the survivors all at their wits end and suspicions being pointed all over the place but if I had to choose one episode to swap to get Episode 3 back it would be this one. All the real drama is in the speech and there's very little visual action to speak of.
The Web of Fear isn't the only Doctor Who story to use the London Underground as a setting: the resistance have a base in a disused tube station in Dalek Invasion of Earth, then Doctor and (the by then promoted) Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart visit Moorgate where they fight a dinosaur in the Invasion of the Dinosaurs. Moorgate is situated on the city branch of the Northern Line and was the site of the 1975 Moorgate Underground Crash, the most serious accident on the London Underground. The Doctor mentions an Tube station in the Sontaran Experiment but I can't remember which one while the Mysterious Planet, parts 1-4 of The Trial of a Timelord are located in the remains of Marble Arch station. The Doctor has even availed himself of another city's Underground Railway: he visits several Paris Metro stations during The City of Death.
When I wrote the original version of this blog entry listening to the Soundtrack I was sat at my Mother's house: she had a classical music concert on (She tells me it's Swan Lake) and as I sat down to write this episode a quiet piece started with a beat sounding exactly like a Yeti control sphere!
I first encountered The Web of Fear as a novelization, by Terrance Dicks, in my local library. They had an extensive range of Doctor Who books (for the time: 1981-4 ish). These are what I can recall reading there:
An Unearthly Child (Paperback)The Web of Fear Hardback sits on my shelves at home to this day, as do the Paperbacks of Invasion of the Dinosaurs and Castrovalva. As we'll see later on it's rather appropriate that my local library, in Tudor Drive, Kingston Upon Thames, should have a copy of Invasion of the Dinosaurs....
The Daleks (Hardback)
The Tomb of the Cybermen (Hardback)
The Web of Fear (Hardback)
The Claws of Axos (Hardback)
The Sea Devils (Hardback)
The Mutants (Hardback)
Carnival of Monsters (Hardback)
Frontier in Space (Hardback)
Planet of the Daleks (Hardback)
The Time Warrior (Paperback)
Invasion of the Dinosaurs (Paperback)
Death to the Daleks (Paperback)
Planet of the Spiders (Hardback)
The Sontaran Experiment (Hardback)
Genesis of the Daleks (Hardback)
Revenge of the Cybermen (Hardback)
Terror of the Zygons (Paperback)
Pyramids of Mars (Hardback)
The Android Invasion (Paperback)
The Brain of Morbius (Paperback)
The Masque of Mandragora (Hardback)
The Deadly Assassin (Hardback)
The Stones of Blood (Paperback)
Destiny of the Daleks (Hardback)
State of Decay (Paperback)
Four to Doomsday (Paperback)
The Visitation (Hardback)
Warriors of the Deep (Paperback)
The Awakening (Paperback)
Several other Who novels were read from other locations:
The Daleks (School)And of course my parents were busy buying them for me too :-)
The Cave Monsters (School)
The Terror of the Autons (School)
The Doomsday Weapon (School)
The Dæmons (School)
The Green Death (School)
Genesis of the Daleks (School)
The Talons of Weng Chiang (Mobile Library)
The Horror of Fang Rock (Kingston Library)