Customer Review

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An experimental tale, and a hard one to rate, 16 Jan 2010
This review is from: Doctor Who - The Web Planet [DVD] [1965] (DVD)
After my effective reintroduction to vintage 'Doctor Who' with Tom Baker's 'The Brain of Morbius' (see separate review), I decided to go back to the black and white era, and chose 'The Web Planet' to start with.

First broadcast in 1965, 'The Web Planet' was heavily promoted at the time as the creative team tried to come up with a new alien race that would match the phenomenal success of the Daleks. And as such, it was generally met with huge disappointment, and has long been considered a weak story amongst vintage 'Who' fans as a result.

The biggest gripe with many about this story, is the costumes - they are clearly people inside giant ant and moth costumes. But personally, I can live with this - at least they were aiming for something imaginative, and I rather like the concept of the ant-like Zarbi and war with the moth-like Menoptra, pulling off their wings (yes really!).
That said, the underground, centipede-like Optera, introduced later in the story, admittedly ARE terrible - they look like home-made costumes for a children's fancy dress party, and rank amongst the worst and most unconvincing alien costumes ever seen in vintage 'Doctor Who'!

But costumes aside, I really like what this story was aiming for. The first episode, with the Doctor (William Hartnell on fine form) and Ian investigating the strange planet, has a wonderfully alien appeal. But I find that, as with many Hartnell-era 'Who' stories, whilst having great concepts, the storylines themselves aren't the best, and it is the shaky story more than the dodgy visuals that ultimately let this one down for me.
Episodes 1-3 are reasonable, but I have to say that by episodes 4-6 the story was really being stretched, and much of the time I didn't have a clue what was going on. The story could have comfortably made a four-parter and still have room for padding; it is really stretched at six episodes.

Another problem is that all of the creature costumes look exactly the same, making it impossible for the viewer to tell any of them apart and engage with any of the alien characters. It was daring for them to try a story completely devoid of non-humanoid species, but they should have aimed to make each 'character' at least more distinct looking for sake of viewers trying to keep up with what was going on.

I should also mention an effect employed during production where Vaseline was smeared on the camera lens to try and give an 'alien' look. All this does is make the picture look horribly blurry and adds nothing; I really wish they hadn't bothered.

There are also some unintentionally amusing moments, such as one of the Zarbi running forwards and accidentally banging the camera as it goes past.

There are the usual array of extras on the DVD, including the in-episode trivia subtitle track, which are always my favourite features on 'Who' DVDs; cast and crew commentary, which I haven't had time to completely listen to but sounds to be the standard commentary fare; 'Tales of the Isop', a retrospective of the story; William 'Ian' Russell reading a Zarbi story from the first Doctor Who annual; and a PDF of said annual to view on your PC.

Although occasionally popping up in various other 'Who' media over the years, the Zarbi have never yet made a reappearance on-screen, and I would love to see what modern 'Who', with all of it's CGI effects, would make of them; it is a setting that I would really love to see revisited.

All-in-all... I'm not sure how to rate this one. I like what they were going for and that they dared try something different. I am quite willing to use my imagination to look past the dodgy costumes, but it is really the overall plotting that sadly stops this one from being as good as it probably should have been.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 13 May 2013 20:36:27 BDT
I have not seen this since 1965; when as a 7 year old (who never hid behind the sette) concealed myself behind the curtains. I can still, to this day remember the Zarbie, the Lepo... moth type things and the terrifying, upside down scrubbing brush killer, that the Zarbie called upon to do their dirty deeds (Opta ?) I can also recall the Zarbie pulling the wings off the poor old butterfly people and chucking them into a pit. Really scary stuff back then, and not convincing?... you try and tell that to this 7 year old!

Posted on 1 Aug 2013 18:46:46 BDT
Lovely review Jay - I hope you do more because its thoughtful and erudiite. I do however agree with Simon -I too was seven and Dr Who never usually spooked me -but this and the Faceless Ones are the exceptions - I was scared poohless with this one !
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