The Web of Fear
The Doctor: Shall we go out and have a look?
Victoria: Now? Is it safe?
The Doctor: Oh, I shouldn’t think so for a moment.
Story Code: C5.5.
Production Code: QQ.
Story Number: 41.
Countdown week: 27…
When the results of the 2009 DW Magazine Survey of all 200 stories were published recently, nestling among the Gothic Toms and Nu-Who modern classics, in the top 25 of the survey was The Web of Fear (at number 23.) Not bad for a story for which only one episode of six survives (you can imagine that it’s easier to impress voters when a story has at least most of its episodes.) This makes it the most popular mostly-junked story which is non-Dalek (e.g. the two Troughton Dalek stories are higher up the survey.) The one episode that is left – it’s BBC Four’s favourite Doctor Who episode! (They’ve used it as part of their Summer in the Sixties Season and their London Tube Season and their Fantasy Sixties Season.)
So, just why is this story revered by fans and BBC season schedulers alike? (Also, me?)
One reason – it is chock full of great images which resonate with the viewer (a lot of which feature in the initial episode.) For example, the imagery of the TARDIS within the web in space is superb. Likewise, the image of the Yeti coming to life, glowing from within. (It occurs to me that Yetis are the reverse-Daleks: a mechanical centre within a seemingly organic shell, rather than an organic centre within a mechanical shell.) More great images in Episode 2 – including the advancing Yetis in the tunnel – thankfully a clip survives of this sequence and the utterly brilliant fan-recon I watched made good use of it. The moody camerawork and the production design is superb. I’m glad Professor Travers kept some of the cool Yeti chess pieces from the previous Yeti story. Many telesnaps from the other episodes provide other impressive images.
Another reason this story is revered – the introduction of UNIT. Halfway through the story: the Brigadier! (Well, Colonel.) If this is a proto-UNIT story, is Ms Travers the proto-Liz Shaw? These two characters are well drawn by the script and actors, indeed the whole cast provide interesting characters – which is another reason the story is such an entertaining one. The battle of Covent Garden: Proto-UNIT vs The Yetis – brilliant. The fan-recon I watched made good use (again) of the existing clips of this sequence.
Another reason – the tension sustained across six episodes. A really tense serial, with a real sense of the base being slowly but surely sieged by encroaching web-foam and Yeti. At the end, the final flourish, a shout-out to the First Doctor from the Second Doctor – some petulance. Awesome story.