Unseen in the UK for 45 years – marvellously restored and remastered and brought back to life for you to own on DVD. The TARDIS narrowly avoids becoming engulfed in a cobwebby substance in space. It 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 Intelligence's goal is to drain the Doctor's mind; can the Doctor sabotage the device before the Intelligence’s plan comes to fruition?
Web of Fear was one of my favourite target novelisations back in the day, I was disappointed to learn (in 1982) only 1 episode was intact and never expected to write this review. The yeti (1st seen in Abominable Snowmen) return after one of their control spheres is reactivated led by the Great Intelligence (recently seen battling Matt Smith) and spread a deadly weblike substance through the London Underground.
This a good sequel to Snowmen, more of the same but different. A very innovative idea to place the yeti in an incongruous setting such as the Underground. As you will know even if you're only ever seen Ep1 (as on Lost in Time), a small section of the underground was recreated brilliantly in studio and show from myriad different directions & angles so it passes for lots of bits of the underground. the script is a good script confident in the brilliance of its monster and enemy and just out to make a thumping good action adventure.
The characters are good too, the returning Travers ( also in Abominable Snowmen) is excellently portrayed by Jack Watling. He plays the role here as an older man (some 40m years separates the 2 stories) and avoids the usual playing much older than your self cliche's. Instead he gives us a more temperamental & emotional man & suggests he gets tired easily. Playing Travers' daughter Anne is Tina Packer. An instantly likeable character when she rebuffs mild advances from Capt Knight. She is also believably intelligent and a credible scientist. Taking a leaf out of Ice Warriors' Jan Garett she finds time to have a change of costume. Derek Pollit's Evans is a coward you can't help liking ( what a trick missed not seconding him to UNIT and having the Brig exasperated in later stories by his behaviour!) and Jack Woolgar's Sgt Arnold is the sort of tough but fair army type so often played by one Mr Hartnell before he was the Doctor. The man of the match of course is the Brigadier; who at this stage is still Col Lethbridge-Stewart. Great debut as the character by Nicholas Courtney, sadly his 1st appearance is in the still missing Ep 3 represented by soundtrack and telesnap pictures but what a memorable start as he holds the Doc at knifepoint! The hallmark of the character-military but human and not narrow minded is here for all to see.
A great show for Mr Troughton, devious (he doesn't tell others what he's up to), clever, compassionate and with Miss Travers almost flirty! Frazer Hines' Jamie gets to do plenty as the man of action & forms an odd couple double act with Evans. Deborah Watling's Victoria now warming up to being out of her era ( for the character her outfit is quite daring) does her usual stuff getting captured etc. but she does it so well you don't mind. Shame she doesn't get more screentime with Jamie. The yeti are a marvellously incongruous monster & just fantasic fun. With John Levene playing one it means Sgt Benton's in the story too (Levene recalled that at this early point when he only got the monsters to play, Troughton was very encouraging to him).
Generally the webstuff is well made occasionally there are pulsating things clearly made of cellophane but the look is generally pretty good. Great direction & the soundtrack only episode doesn't ruin things at all (in a few bits they cannily reuse other episode's footage).
Good restoration work too.
Just briefly because I thoroughly enjoyed this, no extras! There clearly was ample time to do a commentary even if animation and a making of doc might have delayed things too much.
This story never comes to life on audio and now it's restored to glory, I recommend it for evreyone.Read more ›
The Web of Fear has long been regarded as an all-time Doctor Who classic, even when all we had to go on was one surviving episode and the soundtrack. With four of the five missing episodes now recovered its reputation seems secure, as with the luxury of more visuals it's clearly a story where everyone was on the top of their game.
Key to this was director Douglas Camfield. Long regarded as the best Doctor Who director of his era, viewing all five existing episodes only serves to enhance his reputation. The studio scenes set in the Underground are full of menace and shadows, with the Yeti rarely seen full on. The brief glimpses we do see are much more effective, as in the cold light of day they are fairly comical.
This is best demonstrated in the Covent Garden sequence in episode four - the initial shots of the waddling Yetis doesn't do them any favours, but this is quickly forgotten when Camfield orchestrates one of the best action sequences in 60's Who. Given his affinity with the military, it's a pity he never directed more during the early 1970's when the UNIT/Pertwee era would have fitted him like a glove.
Patrick Troughton is totally commanding as the Doctor. Encapsulating Troughton's strengths is a difficult task in just a few words, but his economy of performance is always striking. He could clown with the best of them, but Troughton is so compelling when he downplays. The less he does the more effective it is - just a glance or a few words can say so much when they're delivered by a quality actor.
Apart from the return of Jack Watling as Travers, the story is most notable for the first appearance of Nicholas Courtney as Lethbridge-Stewart. He's put through the mill here, particularly in the aftermath of the doomed Covent Garden expedition. But he's only one of a uniformly strong cast, with Jack Woolgar as Staff Sgt Arnold and Jon Rollason as the oily Harold Chorley giving particularly good performances.
True, the story does lack a little logic. The Great Intelligence seems to have draped London in a web of fear purely to lure the Doctor into its trap. But how did they know that the Doctor would return to this point in time? If it had been the early 1970's then the Doctor did have a base on modern day Earth, but in the Troughton era this wasn't the case. One draft more might have come up with a better plan for the Intelligence, one which actually involved the Earth rather than the rather cod sci-fi concept of draining the Doctor's brain.
Notwithstanding this, The Web of Fear is a creepy tale that deserves its classic status. The Enemy of the World might be a better written and more ambitious story, but Web is a supremely good example of the Troughton base-under-siege story.
It's bound to disappoint some that the missing episode three is represented with a telesnap recon rather than animation. And like Enemy of the World, this DVD lacks the special features that we've come to expect. The one plus-point the DVD has over the ITunes download is that it's VIDfired. Whilst it's a shame there's no commentary, documentary or animation, it's maybe worth taking a moment to wonder why.
Several possibilities have been mentioned over the past few months. The first is that the contract with Dan Hall's company Pup Ltd (who, following the collapse of 2E, were commissioned to produce extras) expired before these stories were found.
The second possibility is that there could have been numerous expenses incurred in retrieving these episodes, so maybe a bare-bones release is partly to regroup some of the money already spent.
And it could just be that BBC Worldwide knew that this story would sell without special features, so maybe an extras-packed SE might follow in the future.
Maybe sometime the complete story of Philip Morris' efforts will be told (in the third edition of Richard Molesworth's Wiped! maybe?) and will answer some of these questions, but for now we just have the stories. Although if anyone had told me at the start of 2013 that within twelve months I'd have all of Enemy of the World and most of The Web of Fear sat on my shelf in DVD format I'd have bitten their hand off. And I doubt I'm the only one.
If anyone doesn't want to buy this bare-bones release then they can stick with the non-VIDfired ITunes download and wait for a possible SE which may or may not happen. I'm more than happy though to have this DVD on my shelf as whilst it may lack the special features of other releases, the quality of the story shines through.Read more ›
Once thought lost, this 1968 Doctor Who outing was recently recovered and is now, as if by some miracle from on high, put out on DVD. But has the wait and hype been worth?
A sequel to 'The Abominable Snowmen', this six parter sees the return of the Yeti and the Great Intelligence, who have enveloped London in a strange 'web', and now battle the last stand of humans in the London Underground. The Second Doctor, Jamie and Victoria are soon ensnared, even far out in space, by the web, and arrive in the Underground to investigate. So then, how does it stack up? Actually, quite well. Aside from a rock solid cast and a rather effective and imposing new design of the Yeti, the story oozes a claustrophobic, almost classic Horror style with its black and white cinematography. This is at its best during the first awakening of the Yeti at, literally, an old dark house. The combination of gradually building music, use of shadows and a slow pace help make the moment all the more effective.
Of course, this is all for naught without a good script, which this also boasts. Once again, the small, claustrophobic nature comes into play, creating a pot-boiling, suspicious atmosphere, where you're left unsure as to who to trust, with several fairly well done red herrings sprinkled across the six parts. Granted, this is partially ruined given this story introduced the much beloved Brigadier, here a mere colonel, but Courtney still delivers a slightly intimidating, unknowable performance. And combined with that thick layer of visual atmosphere, and you have a very well aged serial.
As for the DVD release itself, that's another boat altogether; this is a bare bones vanilla release, a first for 2Entertain's Classic Who releases. There are no, I repeat, NO, special features. No commentary tracks (not even the one off track from the Lost in Time boxset), no interviews (not even from archive sources), no featurettes (which for a much valued and hyped show, is straight up bizarre), not even a photo gallery or the publicity materials in PDF, which are usually the absolute bare minimum for these releases! Why such a lazy rush job, I cannot even fathom, and it seems like a really silly thing to do. Of course, this could be forgiven except they are charging the exact same price as any of the other Classic Who release, when you're getting maybe a third of the usual content. That is just shameless, and don't be shocked if in two years time, this becomes part of a 'Revisitations' boxset.
To cap off, while this DVD release screams 'cash-grab' and more work should've been put into it, it doesn't change the fact that 'Web of Fear' is a very good story, laced with great characters, visual flair and a very intense atmosphere. However, avoid paying the full retail price, as this is not a practice I would like to encourage from 2Entertain, so looked to the used market or sales for this title.Read more ›