I’m fairly new to the Doctor Who scene, only having come onboard when the series relaunched in 2005 with the Ninth Doctor, played by the wonderful Christopher Eccleston. As such, I’ve been going back when I can and watching the previous incarnations of The Doctor, but that can be rather daunting, as the series began half a century ago when William Hartnell brought the character to life. The BBC has come up with a brilliant idea and is now releasing DVDs of the earlier episodes, and “The Web of Fear”, a series of 5 episodes from 1968, is one of them.
“Web” opens with Professor Travers (Jack Watling) trying to talk private collector Julius Silverstein into returning a small Yeti robot that was found on an expedition, saying it was too dangerous and that the Yeti will find it. Silverstein sends him away, claiming him a fool, but low and behold, the robot is activated and the collector is killed. Meanwhile, on the TARDIS, the Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton) and his companions, Jamie (Frazer Hines) and Victoria (Deborah Watling) notice that not only has the TARDIS materialized in mid-flight, but it is being covered in a mysterious webbing. It quickly disappears, but the group decides to go back to Earth and see if they can understand what it was. They land in London, but it’s not the bustling metropolis that we know it to be today- it’s deserted, even in broad daylight, and at their landing point in the London Underground, they are completely alone. The episodes follow The Doctor and his companions as they work with The United Nations Intelligence Task force, or UNIT, to find the killer yeti robots and save London.
These episodes are not complete, however. Episode 3 is one of the many classic Who episodes that are currently missing from the BBC archive. For the DVD, they have taken still photographs that were taken as the episode was being filmed and recreated the entire episode with the original recorded dialogue. This keeps the mini-series going without missing a beat, and it gives it an almost high-speed storyboard feeling. Some of the acting is a little stiff, and the yetis really aren’t that scary compared to what’s on screens these days, but back in the late 1960s this was high tech. It’s certainly charming, and interesting to see how far the series itself has come.
“Doctor Who: The Web of Fear” is now available on DVD. If you’re a Whovian, this is something that should be in your library.
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