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The one with the Yeti in the London Underground
on 23 March 2014
The fifth story from Patrick Troughton's second year as Doctor Who comes to DVD.
Originally a story of six twenty five minute long black and white episodes, all that existed in the bbc archive of this one till recently was episode one. The others having fallen foul of the BBC's old policy of wiping tapes of programmes they never expected to repeat or to have any long term value.
Copies of episodes two, four, five and six were recently found, though. All have been restored to pretty decent picture quality.
Episode three remains gone. To allow for a quick release of the story on DVD, this has episode three recreated by using the original soundtrack and photos that were taken of it at the time that it was broadcast.
The story was the second appearance of the Yeti. And their controller, the great intelligence. The Doctor, plus companions Jamie and Victoria, had met them three stories before, in 'The Abominable Snowmen.' Which was set in 1930's Tibet. And where they met scientist Professor Travers.
The Web of Fear starts with a quick scene that resolves the cliffhanger ending to the last episode of preceding story 'The Enemy of the World' [and which really belongs in the finale episode of that, but was presumably held over just to create a cliffhanger] and then it's 1960's London. Where the much older Travers lets his curiosity get the better of him. The Yeti return.
As London falls foul of a strange fungus, and the Yeti prowl the streets of the city and Underground tunnels, a small army unit is trying to fight back. When the Doctor and friends join them they find they have enemies both outside the military base. And within....
'The one with the Yeti in the London Underground' comes from the fact that this one did stick in the public consciousness for a long time, and attained the status of lost classic as a result.
It's nearly all studio bound, apart from a couple of location bits. Including a superbly directed battle sequence as the Army take on the Yeti. The jump from film material to video recording is noticeable but you do get used to it.
The sets are very good - as a result of which London Underground did inquire how the BBC had gotten to film in the tube without their permission. And the supporting cast are all well drawn. The actor playing reporter Chorley seems to try and imitate Alan Whicker - a name that would have meant a lot to viewers at the time - Travers' scientist daughter comes over as being genuinely intelligent. Although with somewhat stereotypical Welshman Private Evans, who is always looking to get away from danger, you can never be sure if he's meant to be comic relief or not and his attitude does get a bit annoying at times.
Amongst the character is a military man called Col. Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart. Whose first meeting with the Doctor occurs off camera and whose first appearance is in the missing episode three. Nicholas Courtney delivers a commanding performance from the off. And thus the name of the character became rather familiar...
Amongst these people though is someone who is working for the intelligence. This fact creates a great deal of tension [to audiences of the time, who had never seen Lethbridge-Stewart before, they wouldn't have known whether to trust him or not] an the best of the story is in parts three and four when things all seem to go against the humans, and a great deal of tension and action and shocks await.
Six parters could always be overlong, and this possibly is. Ultimately it's perhaps an overlong runaround. But it's a really good one.
Can it live up to it's reputation and the memories of those who saw it at the time?
That's for the viewer to decide. But at least you can get a chance to do so. Which is great.
The dvd has the following language and subtitle options:
It's English audio captioned.
The only extra whatsoever is a trailer for the story 'The Enemy of the World' on dvd. And since that one is already out, the trailer is thus 'also available' rather than 'coming soon.'