‘RETURN TO THE WEB PLANET’
Please feel free to comment on my review.
The Doctor and Nyssa visit the planet Vortis
This is one of my favourite ‘Doctor Who’ audio stories by Big Finish!
‘Return to the Web Planet’ is another thrilling ‘Doctor Who’ adventure with the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa. This time, the TARDIS duo visits the planet Vortis. This audio story was a subscriber’s special from Big Finish that was released in December 2007. I found this a very engaging and exciting story.
I’ve had the CD cover of ‘Return of the Web Planet’ signed by the lovely Sarah Sutton at the ‘Regenerations 2011’ convention in Swansea, September 2011. I told Sarah how much I liked this story with lovely Nyssa moments in it. Sarah doesn’t remember this story, but she liked the artwork of her and Peter on and inside the CD cover.
I like the artwork for the CD cover of ‘Return of the Web Planet’ too. The artwork was done by Anthony Dry and it feels almost comic-book like when I look at it. Anthony has managed to get really good likenesses of Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton as the Doctor and Nyssa in this audio adventure.
‘Return to the Web Planet’ is actually a sequel to the 1965 TV story, ‘The Web Planet’, with William Hartnell. I must say I did enjoy ‘The Web Planet’, but I found it rather slow-paced and it took some time for me to understand the story, the creatures and the setting. The sequel is so different to that.
The sequel is a much faster paced story and is very engaging. It felt like a proper Christmas special to me when I heard it. It is a 50-minute episode by Daniel O’Mahoney who has done a remarkable job in recreating Vortis on audio with remarkable storytelling and witty dialogue throughout the drama.
The sound effects design and music for this audio story is quite extraordinary as you feel you are actually on the planet Vortis. They got the sound effects for the Zarbi absolutely right. They do sound more feral and can move very fast when they’re running, compared to what they did in the TV story.
I loved the opening sequence where Nyssa and the Doctor walk and explore the planet after having landed in the TARDIS. The Doctor reminisces about his previous visit to Vortis and Nyssa comments on how lovely the planet is and that it reminds her of Traken with forests growing. Forests on Vortis!
They didn’t have forests on Vortis in the TV story, did they?! It isn’t before long that Nyssa and the Doctor are being chased by Zarbi. They have to climb the trees to get away from the Zarbis. The trees are apparently covered in goo, but the Doctor and Nyssa are soon rescued by two Menoptra.
As I’ve said many times before, Nyssa is my favourite ‘Doctor Who’ companion. I love Sarah Sutton’s performance in this story. Nyssa has some really lovely character development throughout this story. She develops a good rapport with the Doctor and I love listening to the scenes between them.
I liked it when Nyssa makes friends with the girl Menoptra called Hedyla as well her father Acheron. I loved the scenes between Nyssa and Hedyla together. Nyssa takes an interest in Hedyla’s paper-made wings and feels sorry for her when she lost her own butterfly wings from those who hurt her.
I liked it when Nyssa encourages Hedyla to use her paper-made wings for flying. I also loved it when Nyssa stands up to Acheron as he refuses to help the Menoptra cities being attacked by the Zarbi. Acheron was hurt by the Menoptra when they hurt her daughter but Nyssa pleads with him to help.
Peter Davison is also excellent as the Doctor. I liked it when he connects to the two Menoptra; Acheron and Hedyla, and expresses concern for the state of the planet when visiting the Desolation. He has to find out what caused the TARDIS to be dragged off course to the planet in the first place.
I also liked the moments when the Doctor interacts with the humans on the planet and he shares his scientific knowledge with Acheron as well as developing his friendship with him. I found those moments funny when the Doctor talks to Claire Wyatt as the Speaker for Mother Light and he can’t get her name.
It was funny when the Doctor gets to ride on a Zarbi and I liked it when the Doctor refuses to leave Acheron when they get captured by the Zarbi. I liked it when the Doctor rescues Nyssa from Yanesh using Hedyla’s paper-made wings. It was lovely when they’re both pleased to see each other again.
I liked Sam Kelly as Acheron, the Menoptra father. As Nyssa describes him, ‘he’s very expressive with his face, with his hands. It’s all big gestures’. I can imagine a Menoptra like that, though Sam Kelly’s floating and flute-like tones don’t distract and are pacier compared to the Menoptra in the TV story.
I also liked Julie Buckfield as Hedyla, Acheron’s daughter. She’s ‘softer, sutler and doesn’t take after her father’ as Nyssa describes her. I sympathised with Hedyla’s loss of her wings when she got mugged by the Menoptra that hurt her. She connects well with Nyssa as they become good friends.
I laughed when Nyssa was being kept called ‘H’nillsa’ by Hedyla and Acheron, as that was done in the TV story with Barbara being called ‘Habara’ and Ian being called ‘Heron’. There’s even a Zarbi called ‘Habara’ which makes that nice connection to the TV story and it was very delightful and reassuring.
The climax of this story took me by surprise. It gave me the giggles especially when Nyssa reacted to the Zarbi colliding with each other in mild shock if not surprise. It was pretty naughty really. I won’t reveal what happened, but as Nyssa describes it, the Doctor had organised a massive Zarbi wedding.
I really liked the scenes at the end when Acheron and Hedyla make a new future for themselves and the Doctor and Nyssa are deciding whether to go back to the TARDIS since they’re reluctant to leave. I’m reluctant to leave Vortis myself too, since I enjoyed listening to this audio adventure very much.
The CD extras are as follows. There are trailers for four Companion Chronicles including ‘Mother Russia’ with Peter Purves; ‘Helicon Prime’ with Frazer Hines; ‘Old Soldiers’ with Nicholas Courtney and ‘The Catalyst’ with Louise Jameson. There’s also an 18-minute suite of incidental music to enjoy. I found the music quite eerie but very refreshing and relaxing to listen to.
So yes! ‘Return to the Web Planet’ is a really cracking good ‘Doctor Who’ audio adventure by Big Finish. With the Menoptra; the Zarbi and the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa in this story, you can’t go wrong. I highly recommended this audio story, if you’re a fan of the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa audios!
‘Return to the Web Planet’ rating – 10/10
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