‘THE WEB OF FEAR’
Please feel free to comment on my review.
Yeti in the London Underground
Here’s another lost classic found after all these years!
This is the second of two missing stories to be found from Patrick Troughton’s era of ‘Doctor Who’!
Found in 2013 with ‘The Enemy of the World’, this was a 50th anniversary present that fans weren’t expecting. I certainly wasn’t expecting these episodes to be found and it’s great to have them back. ‘The Web of Fear’ is a classic as it features the celebrated villains of the Second Doctor era – the Yeti!
This is the Yeti’s second appearance in ‘Doctor Who’ following ‘The Abominable Snowmen’. I’m very pleased to have seen this story on our family DVD player. Sadly, only one episode (‘Episode Three’) out of this six-part story is still missing. But it’s great that most of ‘The Web of Fear’ is back here on DVD.
‘The Web of Fear’ was broadcast in 1968. The only episode to exist before the story’s recovery was ‘Episode One’ on the ‘Lost in Time’ DVD. The episode ended on a cliff-hanger which was truly gripping. New series writer Rob Shearman doesn’t have to cry anymore as the story’s now complete.
Like ‘The Enemy of the World’, I purchased the audio soundtrack to accompany the story. In a similar situation, it was hard-going for me to listen to this story on audio despite the linking narration provided by Frazer Hines. Thankfully I can now see and enjoy the story of ‘The Web of Fear’ on DVD.
‘The Web of Fear’ features the Yeti, which are monsters I’ve been fascinated with from watching documentaries and seeing them briefly in ‘The Five Doctors’. These creations by Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln could not be seen on TV properly, so it was great to actually watch them on DVD.
Also this story’s features the first appearance of Nicholas Courtney as Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart, who would later become the Brigadier in the series. Jack Watling also makes his second appearance in ‘Doctor Who’ as Professor Travers. The late Jack Watling happens to be Deborah Watling’s father.
The story follows on directly from ‘The Enemy of the World’. The Doctor, Jamie and Victoria arrive in London during the 1960s where the TARDIS lands on the platform of an underground tube station. They explore before discovering army officers who deal with a menace that turn out to be the Yeti.
I’m impressed with director Douglas Camfield’s work in making this story action-packed. He utilises the army for fight scenes against the Yeti and the action sequences in ‘Episode Four’ with the Brigadier…sorry Colonel, leading his men to fight the Yeti in the streets of London are mesmerizing.
I especially liked how the underground tunnel scenes were filmed. According to Frazer Hines, they were actual 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 producers for using the underground station.
This story is a prequel to ‘The Invasion’, as the events of this story would 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’ and to utilise the army forces again for the action-packed scenes.
I really enjoyed Patrick Troughton as the Doctor in this. I liked his horrified face when he discovers it’s the Yeti in ‘Episode One’. I also liked it when he and Anne Travers get to work together on the spheres. To see the Doctor watching the Yeti sphere roll about on the floor was a magical moment.
It was interesting how the Doctor suspects that not everyone is who he or she seems, since he’s wary that someone is a traitor working for the Yeti and the Great Intelligence. It gets tense when he reacts to Travers being possessed and when he and Anne Travers are in the tube tunnels with Yetis.
Frazer Hines is equally good as Jamie in this. He and Evans go down the tunnel to find the Doctor before coming up against some Yeti and web-like fungus in the tunnels. I found it tense when Jamie was angry and determined to go after Victoria and rescue her from the possessed Travers and Yeti.
I liked the comedic moments shared between Jamie and the Doctor in this one, including when he tries to tell him that a light is flashing on the TARDIS console. I found it tense when Jamie accidentally jumps onto the underground rails before the Doctor reassures him the electricity is off.
Deborah Watling is wonderful as Victoria in this. 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 reintroduces herself to Travers and telling Jamie who he is. It’s a wonderful scene!
I found Victoria rather brave when she goes into the underground tunnels to look for the Doctor and Jamie. It was tense when she finds the Doctor under the capture of Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart in ‘Episode Three’. It was tenser when Victoria is with Travers and they are 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’s good, back then it was uncertain. I really liked the whodunit plot of who’s working with the Yeti, as it could be the Colonel.
Jack Watling as Professor Travers was a joy to see. I liked that first scene where he’s trying to get the Yeti back from private collector Silverstein. He’s pretty erratic and irritable in his eccentricity. He comes across as a pretty clever man and is delighted when the Doctor, Victoria and Jamie show up.
The guest cast also includes Tina Packer as Anne Travers, Professor Travers’ daughter; Jon Rollason as Chorley, a television news journalist; Ralph Watson as Captain Knight; Jack Woolgar as Staff Sgt. Arnold and Derek Politt as Welshman Driver Evans, who I found really funny and cowardly at times.
The Yeti, I found interesting. They happen to be robots dressed up as the Yeti and are being controlled by the Great Intelligence. The Intelligence uses the Yeti to carry out their dirty work and to kill and kidnap humans in their conquest of Earth. It is frightening when one Yeti kills Silverstein.
The Yeti also use some sort of web-like fungus to kill or paralyse their human victims in the underground tunnels. They also have guns that spray firing web-like fluids. These are upgraded versions of the Yeti as they look scarier compared to the originals from ‘The Abominable Snowmen’.
Sadly there aren’t many DVD special features for this story. There’s a trailer for ‘The Enemy of the World’ and a DVD sleeve booklet.
If you have the ‘Lost in Time’ DVD, there’s a commentary for ‘Episode One’ of ‘The Web of Fear’ with Deborah Watling and script editor Derrick Sherwin, moderated by Gary Russell. There’s an audiobook trailer on Disc 1 for the missing episode stories of ‘Doctor Who’ on audiobook CDs. There’s also a documentary on Disc 3 called ‘The Missing Years’ which looks into the missing episodes of ‘Doctor Who’, presented by Frazer Hines and Deborah Watling.
I was saddened there wasn’t an ‘Episode Three’ for the DVD and we get a tele-snap episode. I had to switch on the subtitles to hear what the characters were saying. Why couldn’t they have re-animated ‘Episode Three’?! I hope we’ll get a special edition DVD where ‘Episode Three’ is animated.
I really have enjoyed ‘The Web of Fear’! It’s a great action-packed adventure with splendid direction and wonderful performances. I’m so pleased that this story has been found. It is one of the most significant stories in the show’s history, setting things in motion for the Doctor working with U.N.I.T.
‘The Web of Fear’ rating – 8/10
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