‘The Web of Fear’ (TV)

web-of-fear-dvd300

‘THE WEB OF FEAR’

Please feel free to comment on my review.

Yeti in the London Underground with the Second Doctor, Jamie and Victoria

For Deborah Watling and her half-sister Dilys

Here’s a classic ‘Doctor Who’ story that was considered lost but is now found! 🙂

‘The Web of Fear’ is the second of two missing ‘Doctor Who’ TV adventures from the Patrick Troughton era that were found in November 2013. Now in 2021, the story has been re-released in a Special Edition on DVD and Blu-ray and it has a brand-new animated episode, which is of course ‘Episode 3’.

The first of the two missing ‘Doctor Who’ TV stories from the Patrick Troughton era found in 2013 was ‘The Enemy of the World’. It’s great the recovery of ‘The Enemy of the World’ and ‘The Web of Fear’ was a 50th anniversary present of ‘Doctor Who’ that the fans weren’t expecting in that year. 🙂

I certainly didn’t expect these two classic black-and-white ‘Doctor Who’ TV stories to be found. I’m pleased they came back. It’s only a matter of time before more classic ‘Doctor Who’ stories from the black-and-white days can be recovered like ‘The Daleks’ Master Plan’, unless it gets animated in full.

‘The Web of Fear’ is a classic ‘Doctor Who’ adventure since it features the celebrated villains of the Second Doctor era – the Yeti! I’m pleased the story is completed with an animated third episode to fill in the gap. Mind you, the episode’s animation has a lot to be desired (more about this later on). 😐

This story happens to be the Yeti’s second TV appearance in ‘Doctor Who’. Their first appearance was ‘The Abominable Snowmen’, which can currently be heard in full on a TV audio soundtrack either on TV or on Audible along with its surviving ‘Episode Two’ contained in the ‘Lost in Time’ DVD.

You don’t have to worry about checking out ‘The Abominable Snowmen’ first before seeing ‘The Web of Fear’. I’m pleased my parents and I were able to see ‘The Web of Fear’ on our family DVD player. At the time, only one episode was missing and ‘Episode 3’ was filled in by a telesnap version.

At the time of this review, ‘Episode 3’ is still missing. But it’s great to know that most of ‘The Web of Fear’ is back after being lost for so many years. It’s incredible to think that both ‘The Enemy of the World’ and ‘The Web of Fear’ were recovered in Nigeria and we have Philip Morris to thank for that.

‘The Web of Fear’ was broadcast in 1968. The only episode to exist before the story’s recovery in 2013 was ‘Episode 1’ in the ‘Lost in Time’ DVD. The episode ended on a cliff-hanger, which was truly gripping. New series writer Rob Shearman won’t be crying anymore as the story is mostly complete.

Like ‘The Enemy of the World’, I purchased the audio soundtrack on CD to hear the story in full. In a similar situation, it was hard-going for me to hear this story on audio, despite the linking narration provided by Frazer Hines. Thankfully I can view and enjoy ‘The Web of Fear’ in full on DVD/Blu-ray. 🙂

The Yeti are a set of ‘Doctor Who’ monsters that I’ve been fascinated with from watching them in documentaries and seeing them briefly in ‘The Five Doctors’. It’s good that the Yeti as creations by writers Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln can be now be seen in full glory both on DVD/Blu-ray. 😀

This story also features the debut of Nicholas Courtney as Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart. He would later become the Brigadier in the TV series. It’s amazing from this one TV appearance, Nick Courtney would be recognisable as Lethbridge-Stewart compared to Bret Vyon in ‘The Daleks’ Master Plan’. 🙂

The late Jack Watling also makes his second ‘Doctor Who’ appearance as Professor Travers in this adventure. In case you didn’t know, Jack Watling was the real-life father of Deborah Watling who plays Victoria in ‘Doctor Who’. It was sweet to see scenes of Debbie Watling and her father together.

‘The Web of Fear’ follows on directly from ‘The Enemy of the World’. The TARDIS trio get the TARDIS doors closed after Salamander fell out into the time vortex. The Doctor, Jamie and Victoria soon arrive in London in the 1960s and the TARDIS lands on the platform of an underground tube station.

The trio explore the tube station before they discover army officers and soldiers dealing with a menace that happens to be the Yeti. Will the Doctor, Jamie and Victoria thwart the Great Intelligence again? Will Professor Travers and Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart help? Will this be tricky? 😐

I’m impressed with the story’s direction by Douglas Camfield as he makes this story action-packed, utilising the army for fight scenes against the Yeti. The action scenes in ‘Episode 4’ with the Brigadier, sorry Colonel, who leads his men to fight against the Yeti in the streets of London are mesmerizing. 🙂

I especially like how the underground tunnel scenes were filmed. According to Frazer Hines, they were film sets. To look at them, you would think they were in the London Underground tunnels. London Transport in 1968 was actually going to sue the BBC for utilising their underground station. 🙂

This story is also a prequel to ‘The Invasion’. The events of this story will inspire Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart to form U.N.I.T. where we would see him again as the Brigadier. Douglas Camfield would also go on to direct ‘The Invasion’, utilising the army forces again for the many action-packed scenes.

I greatly enjoyed Patrick Troughton as the Second Doctor. I liked his horrified face when he discovers it’s the Yeti in ‘Episode 1’. I also liked it when he and Anne Travers got to work together on the Yeti spheres. To see the Doctor observing the Yeti sphere roll about on the floor was a magical moment!

It was interesting how the Doctor suspected that not everyone was who he or she seemed. He’s wary that someone is a traitor working for the Yeti and the Great Intelligence. It gets tense when he reacted to Travers being possessed and when he and Anne Travers are in the tube tunnels with Yeti.

Frazer Hines is equally good as Jamie here. He and Driver Evans go down a tunnel to find the Doctor before coming up against some Yeti as well as some web-like fungus. It was tense when Jamie became angry, determined to go after Victoria to rescue her from the possessed Travers and Yeti. 😐

I liked the comedic moments shared between Jamie and the Doctor in this story, including when Jamie tried telling the Doctor that a light was flashing on the TARDIS console. It was tense when Jamie accidentally jumped onto the tube rails before the Doctor reassured him the electricity’s off. 🙂

Deborah Watling is wonderful as Victoria here. I loved the look on her face when she recognised Professor Travers. I was looking forward to seeing that scene when the story came out on DVD. I liked it when she reintroduced herself to Travers and telling Jamie ‘it’s Travers’. It’s a lovely scene! 🙂

I found Victoria rather brave when she went into the underground tunnels to look for the Doctor and Jamie. It became tense when she found the Doctor under the capture of Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart in ‘Episode 3’. It was tenser when Victoria was with Travers and they were both prisoners of the Yeti.

It was great to see Nicholas Courtney as Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart. At this point, we’re not sure whether he’s good or bad. Even though viewers today know the Brigadier is good, back then, it was uncertain. I really like the whodunit plot of who’s working with the Yeti. It could have been the Colonel.

Jack Watling as Professor Travers is a joy to see here. I liked that first scene where he tried to get the Yeti he got from Tibet back from private collector Silverstein. He’s erratic and irritable in his eccentricity, but comes across as a clever, delighted when the Doctor, Victoria and Jamie show up. 🙂

The story’s guest cast also includes Tina Packer as Anne Travers, Professor Travers’ daughter in the adventure. There’s Jon Rollason as Chorley, a television news journalist who becomes annoying to everyone else; there’s Ralph Watson as Captain Knight and there’s Jack Woolgar as Staff Sgt. Arnold.

There’s also Derek Politt as Welshman Driver Evans, who I found really funny in this adventure. He could also be cowardly at times. Also, I don’t know if it’s me, but his Welsh accent is pretty strong in this adventure. Sometimes the way he talked could be really silly, especially when he goes ‘boyo’. 😀

I found the Yeti interesting in this. They happen to be robots dressed up as Yeti and they are controlled by the Great Intelligence. The Intelligence uses the Yeti to carry out their dirty work like killing and kidnapping humans in their conquests. It was very terrifying when a Yeti killed Silverstein.

The Yeti also utilise this web-like fungus to kill or paralyse their human victims in the London underground tunnels. They also have guns that spray and fire web-like fluids. These are upgraded versions of the Yeti, as they look scarier compared to the originals from ‘The Abominable Snowmen’.

The actors playing the Yeti in this adventure include John Lord, Gordon Stothard, Colin Warman, Jeremy King, Roger Jacombs and…John Levene. Yes! Before he became Sgt. Benton, John Levene played a Yeti in this ‘Doctor Who’ adventure. He previously played a Cyberman in ‘The Moonbase’. 🙂

Okay, let’s talk about the animated ‘Episode 3’ for a bit. Now at the time I saw the complete ‘Web of Fear’ story on its original DVD release in 2013, I was saddened there wasn’t an animated ‘Episode 3’ already for the DVD. We got the telesnap episode instead. I had to switch on the subtitles for that. 😐

This was so I could understand what the characters were saying. I hoped there would a Special Edition DVD release of ‘The Web of Fear’ where ‘Episode 3’ was animated. Thankfully my wish was fulfilled, though I ended up having ‘The Web of Fear’ Special Edition on Blu-ray instead which is nice.

However, I must say, I’m rather disappointed with the animation for ‘Episode 3’ of ‘The Web of Fear’. The animation is provided by Shapeshifter Studios, a company that specialises in motion capture. I wish ‘Episode 3’ was animated by Cosgrove Hall instead like for ‘The Invasion’ DVD release.

I feel that animation versions of classic black-and-white ‘Doctor Who’ stories have gone out of the window lately. For the most part, they’ve been decent enough. But the animation featured in ‘Episode 3’ of ‘The Web of Fear’ feels inconsistent since it doesn’t match to what’s in the live-action.

For example, there are way too many hand movements and gestures made by characters in ‘Episode 3’. There weren’t many hand movements and gestures by characters in the two animation episodes for ‘The Invasion’, so why should there be plenty of that in ‘The Web of Fear’s animation episode? 😦

The likenesses for the characters like the Second Doctor, Jamie, Victoria, Travers, Lethbridge-Stewart and Anne aren’t that great either. Some of them are bit sketchy. Thankfully, they only animated one episode as opposed to the whole story which had been done for previous lost ‘Doctor Who’ stories. 🙂

I know I shouldn’t make a big deal out of this since the purpose of the episode is to fill in the blank of a six-part adventure. But it seems like recent animation ‘Doctor Who’ stories can’t recreate the magic of ‘The Invasion’ animation and you just end up making fun of the hand movements and gestures. 😐

There weren’t many DVD special features for ‘The Web of Fear’ on the original 2013 DVD release, but there was a trailer for ‘The Enemy of the World’ 2013 DVD and a DVD sleeve booklet with production notes in it. On the ‘Lost in Time’ DVD, there was a commentary for ‘Episode 1’ of ‘The Web of Fear’ with Deborah Watling and script editor Derrick Sherwin, moderated by Gary Russell. There was also an audiobook trailer on Disc 1 of the ‘Lost in Time’ DVD for the missing episode stories of ‘Doctor Who’ on audiobook CDs. There was also a documentary on DVD of the ‘Lost in Time’ DVD called ‘The Missing Years’ which looked into the missing episode of ‘Doctor Who’, presented by Frazer Hines and Deborah Watling.

On Disc 1 of ‘The Web of Fear’ Special Edition DVD/Blu-ray, we have the black-and-white story with the black-and-white version of the animated ‘Episode 3’. The special features also include a stereo sound audio mix option for the story and audio commentaries on each of the six episodes. As well as the original audio commentary for ‘Episode 1’ with Deborah Watling and script editor Derrick Sherwin, moderated by Gary Russell, there’s an audio commentary on ‘Episode 1’ with Frazer Hines, Ralph Watson and Tina Packer, moderated by Toby Hadoke. On ‘Episode 2’, there’s an audio commentary with studio cameraman Roger Bunce and special sound designer Brain Hodgson, moderated by Toby Hadoke. On ‘Episode 3’, there’s an audio commentary with motion capture artist and director Adam Boys and head of Shapeshifter studio production David Devjak, moderated by Toby Hadoke. On ‘Episode 4’, there’s an audio commentary with Ralph Watson, John Levene and stuntman Derek Martin, moderated by Toby Hadoke. On ‘Episode 5’, there’s an audio commentary with Frazer Hines and Tina Packer, moderated by Toby Hadoke. And on ‘Episode 6’, there’s an audio commentary with Frazer Hines, make-up designer Sylvia James and Tom Woolgar, the son of actor Jack Woolgar who played Staff Sgt. Arnold in the story, moderated by Toby Hadoke.

On Disc 2 of ‘The Web of Fear’ Special Edition DVD/Blu-ray, there’s a colour version of the animated Episode 3 with a stereo sound audio mix option and the audio commentary with motion capture artist and director Adam Boys and head of Shapeshifter studio production David Devjak, moderated by Toby Hadoke. As well as ‘The Missing Years’ documentary with Frazer Hines and Deborah Watling, there’s the ‘Going Underground’ making-of documentary, the ‘Shapeshifter Animation Process’ featurette and ‘The Many Voices of Jack Woolgar’. There’s also the ‘Episode 3’ telesnap reconstruction, the ‘Episode 3’ telesnap reconstruction with linking narration provided by Frazer Hines, a photo gallery of the story and a trailer for the story. There’s also a full set of camera scripts and a ‘Radio Times Listings’ for ‘The Web of Fear’ in PDF format, which be viewed via a computer DVD or Blu-ray drive.

I have enjoyed ‘The Web of Fear’ both on its original 2013 DVD release and on its 2021 Special Edition Blu-ray release. The story in live-action contains splendid direction by Douglas Camfield and wonderful performances by the cast including Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines and Deborah Watling.

I’m disappointed by the animation in ‘Episode 3’ for the Blu-ray release, but I’m happy that most of ‘The Web of Fear’ was found in 2013 and that it’s at least complete with an animation episode. This is also a significant story in the show’s history, setting things in motion for the Doctor’s exile on 1970s/80s Earth.

‘The Web of Fear’ rating – 8/10


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4 thoughts on “‘The Web of Fear’ (TV)

  1. Timelord 007

    I bet you thought like i did we’d never actually get to see this story nearly complete, i think this is a cracker & the typical base under siege adventure synonymous with the second Doctor era.

    I’m struggling to write review’s at the minute, the old writers block but you write these reviews effortlessly & brilliantly Tim, there a genuine pleasure to read as you put so much content into them.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  2. Tim Bradley Post author

    Well I was surprised to hear that both ‘Enemy of the World’ and ‘Web of Fear’ were found at the same time and after all these years. It was good timing, especially as a present for the 50th anniversary of ‘Doctor Who’. I certainly enjoyed this adventure and found it more engaging than ‘The Abominable Snowmen’. Although I do wonder whether ‘The Abominable Snowmen’ looks better on a TV screen than on audio.

    I’m pleased you’re enjoying my ‘Doctor Who’ reviews, Simon. I hope to add more to my blog to keep you entertained.

    Tim. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  3. Timelord 007

    Hmmmm bit mixed bag the animation of Episode 3, appreciate trying something like motion capture to feel more organic but as you say the characters’ animations lack detail & i agree the hand movements jarring but i do prefer it over the telesnap recordings.

    This is a spooky Doctor Who adventure very well directed by Douglas Camfield & the set designs are truly impressive, my only gripe with this was the climax it builds up towards a pay off which didn’t deliver because of Jamie, after 6 episodes would it be too much to ask for a satisfying conclusion instead we get the oh the great intelligence has survived, the Doctor had a clever way defeating the threat but undone by Jamie pulling him out the machine which i thought odd as no other Doctor would let his companion do this.

    I agree Evans is hilarious, proper cowardly but what could’ve been a silly character is given charm and likeability by actor Derek Politt.

    Great review Tim, detailed & informative, as always you weigh up the pro’s and con’s & give a clear narrative as to why you like or dislike something.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Tim Bradley Post author

      Hi Simon.

      Glad you enjoyed my updated review on ‘The Web of Fear’. Yeah the animation for the new ‘Episode 3’ isn’t that great. I agree, it’s better than the telesnap version of the episode, but I would have preferred Crosgrove Hall’s animation over this as in ‘The Invasion’ episodes compared to the animation in this episode where it’s all hand movements and the characters appear sketchy.

      Interesting thoughts you have about Jamie undoing what the Doctor had in mind in order to stop the Great Intelligence forever. I imagine this was to set up the aborted Season 6 finale ‘Laird of the McCrimmon’ where the Second Doctor and his team met the Yeti again, but it didn’t happen because of the fallout between Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln over ‘The Dominators’. A shame that. I wonder if ‘Laird of the McCrimmon’ will ever be adapted as a Big Finish audio story.

      Glad you like Driver Evans’ character and found him hilarious in the story. Yeah Derek Politt does give charm and likeability to the character despite him being cowardly. I’m pleased you enjoy how I weigh up the pros and cons of a story in my reviews.

      Many thanks for your comments.

      Tim. 🙂

      Like

      Reply

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