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The Web of Fear

Production Code: QQ

First Transmitted

1 - 03/02/1968 17:25

2 - 10/02/1968 17:15

3 - 17/02/1968 17:25

4 - 24/02/1968 17:25

5 - 02/03/1968 17:25

6 - 09/03/1968 17:25

Plot

The TARDIS narrowly avoids becoming engulfed in a web-like substance in space. It then arrives in the London Underground railway system, the tunnels of which are being overrun by the web and by the Great Intelligence's robot Yeti.

The time travellers learn that this crisis was precipitated when Professor Travers, whom they first met in the Himalayas some forty years earlier, accidentally caused one of the Yeti to be reactivated, opening the way for the Intelligence to make another invasion attempt.

The travellers work alongside army forces - led initially by Captain Knight and then by Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart - as they battle against the alien menace, hampered by the fact that one of their number has fallen under the Intelligence's influence and is a traitor in their midst.

The Intelligence's ultimate aim is to drain the Doctor's mind. The Doctor manages to sabotage the device with which it intends to achieve this, so that he can drain the Intelligence's mind instead, but he is 'rescued' by his friends before he can bring his plan to fruition.

The Intelligence is repelled into space, and the Doctor and his friends leave the army to clear up the mess.

Episode Endings

In one of the Underground tunnels, the Doctor watches from hiding as two Yeti cover some crates with web fired from guns held in their claws. The crates contain explosives and, back at the army base, Captain Knight gives the order for detonation. The explosives are set off and the web-covered crates glow with light.

Making their way through the tunnels in search of the Doctor, Jamie and Private Evans see a wall of web surging towards them.

In a room within the army base, Professor Travers finds one of the model Yeti control devices beside the body of Craftsman Weams. He is suddenly confronted by a Yeti that has entered the room behind him.

Professor Travers reappears in the army base. He is flanked by Yeti and under the control of the Intelligence. 'I am the Intelligence,' he whispers...

Evans finishes dressing Sergeant Arnold's wounds and returns to the base laboratory, the walls of which are beginning to bulge under the pressure of the web outside. Suddenly one of the walls gives way, releasing a flood of glowing web.

The Doctor, Jamie and Victoria return to the TARDIS at Covent Garden station. They hurry through the tunnels as the Doctor realises that although the Yeti have gone, the trains might soon start running again.

Roots

Quatermass and the Pit (alien menace in the Underground).

Evans sings Sospan Bach while wandering in the tunnels.

The Avengers The Cybernauts

The Thing (1951).

The Doctor plays the Skye Boat Song on his recorder.

Dialogue Triumphs

Professor Travers : [Speaking into microphone] "Erm. It's more than likely that we won't be able to defeat this menace. And that London, in fact the whole of England, might be completely wiped out." [To Chorley.] "There. Did you get that?"

Col. Lethbridge-Stewart : "This Intelligence. Exactly what is it?"

The Doctor : "Well I wish I could give you a precise answer. Perhaps the best way to describe it is a sort of formless, shapeless thing, floating about in space like a cloud of mist only with a mind and will."

Col. Lethbridge-Stewart : "What's it after? What's it want?"

The Doctor : "I wish I knew. The only thing I know for sure is that it brought me here."

The Great Intelligence : "Revenge is a petty human emotion. My purpose for you is far more interesting."

The Doctor : "And what's that?"

The Great Intelligence : "Through time and space I have observed you, Doctor. Your mind surpasses that of all other creatures."

The Doctor : "What do you want?"

The Great Intelligence : "You!"

Soldier : "What's a girl like you doing in a job like this?"

Anne Travers : "Well, when I was a little girl I thought I'd like to be a scientist, so I became a scientist."

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."

Double Entendre

The Doctor : "Can you do it?"

Jamie : "I'll try, Doctor, but I'll have to get to a better position."

Continuity

The TARDIS is trapped in space by the Great Intelligence's web like material [which the Great Intelligence can create anywhere and which has properties which interfere with the TARDIS systems]. It is indicated that the Intelligence has observed the Doctor's travels, and, thanks to Jamie and Victoria's rescue that aborts the Doctor's plan, is free to roam the universe again at the end of the adventure.

The Yeti are different from the Abominable Snowmen: they roar, have glowing eyes when attacking, and carry web guns. The army forces are led by Colonel Lethbridge Stewart, whom the Doctor meets for the first time (see The Invasion).

QV

Dating the UNIT Stories

Location

London (various tube stations within or on the Circle Line, including Covent Garden, Charing Cross, Piccadilly Circus, Holborn, Goodge Street, Cannon Street and Monument), [c. August 1966].

The Abominable Snowmen is said to have taken place in 1935, which Travers says was over forty years previously [an approximation]. The Yeti has been in the museum for 30 years, and the Post Office Tower is now complete.

Links

Trivia

John Levene makes his second Doctor Who appearance, as one of the Yeti. Levene later went on to play Benton, one of the regular UNIT 'team' during the seventies.

Jack Watling returns with heavy make-up as Professor Travers.

Nicholas Courtney (who had previously played Bret Vyon in The Daleks' Master Plan) makes his debut in Episode 3 as Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart, promoted to Brigadier in a later adventure (The Invasion). The Colonel's debut is actually in Episode 2, when only his boots are seen walking through the tunnels. For this sequence, the part was played by an uncredited Maurice Brooks.

The closing credits for each episode apart from Episode 6 are rolled against an image of the pulsing web.

The stock incidental music accompanying the Yeti attack at Covent Garden in Episode 4 is the same as that previously used as a theme for the Cybermen.

Goofs

The Yeti changes shape in the museum scene (not intentional, surely?).

When Jamie and the others are looking at the scanner in the first episode, Frazer Hines rests his hand on the console but withdraws it quickly as if he's burnt it.

When talking about 'underground trains', the Doctor says that this is 'a little after your time, I think, Victoria'. As Victoria comes from 1866 he's wrong: the underground line between Farringdon Street and Edgeware Road opened in 1863.

The 'explosion' at the end of episode one happens several times.

Fashion Victim

Victoria finds a swingin' short skirt plus beads in the TARDIS wardrobe.

The Colonel's tartan beret.

Cast & Crew

Cast

The Doctor - Patrick Troughton

Jamie - Frazer Hines

Victoria - Deborah Watling

Anne Travers - Tina Packer

Captain Knight - Ralph Watson

Col. Lethbridge-Stewart - Nicholas Courtney

Corporal Blake - Richardson Morgan

Corporal Lane - Rod Beacham

Craftsman Weams - Stephen Whittaker

Driver Evans - Derek Pollitt

Harold Chorley - Jon Rollason

Julius Silverstein - Frederick Schrecker

Professor Travers - Jack Watling

Soldier - Bernard G High

Soldier - Joseph O'Connell

Staff Sgt. Arnold - Jack Woolgar

Yeti - John Levene

Yeti - John Lord

Yeti - Gordon Stothard

Yeti - Colin Warman

Yeti - Jeremy King

Yeti - Roger Jacombs

Crew

Director - Douglas Camfield

Assistant Floor Manager - Roselyn Parker

Costumes - Martin Baugh

Designer - David Myerscough-Jones

Fight Arranger - Derek Ware

Film Cameraman - Alan Jonas

Film Cameraman - Jimmy Court

Film Editor - Philip Barnikel

Film Editor - Colin Hobson

Incidental Music - stock

Make-Up - Sylvia James

Producer - Peter Bryant

Production Assistant - Gareth Gwenlan

Special Sounds - Brian Hodgson

Story Editor - Derrick Sherwin

Studio Lighting - Clive Leighton Geoff Shaw was incorrectly credited for lighting in the on-screen credits at the end of Episode 6. Shaw was in fact the story's TM2, i.e. technical co-ordinator.

Studio Sound - Ray Angel

Title Music - Ron Grainer and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, arranged by Delia Derbyshire

Visual Effects - Ron Oates

Writer - Mervyn Haisman

Writer - Henry Lincoln

Bottom Line - from The Discontinuity Guide

'Television? Never watch it. You an actor or something?' The direction is exemplary, with some suitably Hammeresque touches. The set design is remarkable, and the story trots along. Shame they had to make Silverstein such a stereotypical Jew, though.

Analysis - from Doctor Who, the Television Companion

Dark and gloomy underground tunnels... cobwebs... engulfing mist... the feeling of being hunted by a relentless foe that will kill you when it catches you. All the stuff of nightmares, and all found in The Web of Fear.

Doctor Who has, at its best, a quality that makes the viewer accept what he or she is seeing without questioning it. The combination of Yeti and web in this story really makes no sense at all. Why should the Yeti have web-guns? 'Why not?' is the viewer's resounding reply, and the fact is simply accepted.

As a sequel to The Abominable Snowmen, The Web of Fear works very well indeed. By transporting the Yeti from the open spaces of the Himalayas to the familiar yet incongruous environment of the London Underground, writers Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln increase their menace a hundredfold and plug into the hidden fears of millions of commuters and train users who have secretly wondered what might be lurking in those dark places.

The suspenseful and exciting scripts are perfectly complemented by the superb dramatic and atmospheric direction of Douglas Camfield, including some nice touches such as the use of a very effective passage of stock music by composer Bela Bartok for the scene in Episode 1 in which the Yeti is reactivated.

The sets, too, are superb. Denied the use of a real London Underground station and tunnels, designer David Myerscough-Jones created his own highly convincing replica. Indeed a letter of complaint was apparently later received from London Underground alleging that filming had taken place on their property without permission - a true testament to the merits of Myerscough-Jones's work.

If the story has a drawback, it is that the action seems somewhat padded out over the six episodes. There is a lot of to-ing and fro-ing as people wander off into the tunnels only to reappear at some later point. This may well have been intentional, though, as it certainly adds to the sense of unease - knowing that there is at least one traitor in the army camp, eyes and fingers point to whoever appears to be acting the most suspiciously.

'Basically The Web of Fear was a whodunit, with the viewers at home being enticed into guessing the identity of the Intelligence's pawn,' wrote Michael B Holder in Entropy Issue One in 1981. 'All of the way through, the obvious suspect was [television reporter] Harold Chorley, especially when, armed with Victoria's information and directions, he made off to escape in the TARDIS. Certainly I never thought of Staff [Sergeant] Arnold as being a possibility - he was a straightforward [and] unremarkable man.'

Nick Page, writing in Cloister Bell 10/11, dated March 1985, felt that the idea of the Great Intelligence using a human host was not as well realised as in its debut story. 'The only disappointment was the voice used by the Intelligence... In The Abominable Snowmen the Intelligence spoke in an icy whisper with a distinct hissing quality which blended in brilliantly with the baritones of the controlled Padmasambhava... [But] this time [it] used much more human tones when it used the loudspeaker system on the Underground to speak to Travers and Victoria. Even at the end... the alien parasite used Arnold's own voice to communicate with the humans. A disappointing end to an otherwise perfect production.'

The Web of Fear is a rare beast. A Doctor Who story that manages to terrify on a basic level, while still managing to tell a good and exciting story. There is no wonder that the production team looked to this type of contemporary Earth-based adventure when they came to consider how the series might best be developed for the future...

< The Enemy of the WorldSecond DoctorFury from the Deep >

This episode guide is made up of the text of The Discontinuity Guide by Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping, and Doctor Who: The Television Companion by David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker.

The Discontinuity Guide © Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping 1995.
Doctor Who: The Television Companion © David J Howe and Stephen James Walker 1998, 2003.



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