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Customer Review

40 of 45 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Primitive but fascinating, 7 Oct. 2005
By A Customer
This review is from: Doctor Who - The Web Planet [DVD] [1965] (DVD)
One of the oddest stories ever to emerge fom the Doctor Who canon. Once considered a classic, 'The Web Planet' is now derided by most fans. That's a shame. Of course, we're all much more sophisticated nowadays, but at the time this story was something truly magical. Yes, the production values are pretty ropey - even for 60s Doctor who! - and the sight of giant fibre glass ants banging into the sets (not to mention the cameras!) does take some getting used to; but if you persevere with it, then 'The Web Planet' has a lot to offer. For a start, the planet Vortis is one of the few genuinely realised alien environments in the show's history. It may look like an obvious studio set, but at least it isn't just another quarry. As with the planet Skaro in the earlier story 'The Daleks' there is a real attempt to present Vortis as fully realised, with a history, ecology and culture. The alien Animus that is slowly destroying the planet is one of the creepier entities to have appeared in the series, and the fact that we don't learn much about it actually makes it all the more sinister. The regular team of actors are generally on good form, doing their best to make it all seem real, although William Hartnell does forget the odd line (necessitating some quick thinking on the part of his colleagues) and Maureen O'Brien's growing dissatisfaction with the role of Vicki does manifest itself occasionally. But none of this detracts from the story's essential charm. The other characters are all non-human and, again, effort has been put into presenting them as genuinely unearthly. Overall, 'The Web Planet' has a very weird feel to it. Of course, it does take some effort to watch from a modern perspective, and the pace of the story is at times painfully slow; but if watched in short bursts, rather than in one go, this isn't so noticeable. A challenge to its makers at the time and a brave, though flawed, experiment, 'The Web Planet' really does deserve a little more respect than its been getting over the last few years.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 10 Jun 2010, 22:58:24 BST
A. Holliday says:
Good review, much appreciated.

Your point about watching it in short bursts is an important one. These stories (from 1963 to 1989) are not meant to be watched in one go. They are serials, not movies. Watched an episode at a time, as they were meant to be seen, a lot of the criticisms made regarding slow pacing, or six parters that 'sag' in the middle vanish. Watched weekly, or daily, these stories work. And it should also be remembered re pacing that in 1965 this was not a 6 part story, it was 6 episodes of a continuing series, one in which the audience did not know how long each particular adventure would be, or where it would start or end. All of which makes a huge difference to the viewing experience.

In regard to Web Planet, there are definitely aspects of this story that are pretty silly but, as you say there is a genuine attempt to create a wholly alien environment - this is a daft, but incredibly ambitious story and production. Every time I watch Web Planet, I am totally amazed that the powers that were in the BBC at the time gave the green light to a story that simply could not be realized in any plausible way in 1965, let alone on the budget of Dr Who. The only comparison to Web Planet in terms of concept and ambition that I can think of is probably Avatar, which had, so I understand it, a somewhat larger budget. And a somewhat more conventional story.

We should also remember that Web Planet is still the record holder for the highest viewing figures a Dr Who has ever had (not counting 1979 when a strike on commercial TV stacked the deck somewhat in the Dr's favour. So it may look daft (and would have in 1965) but it is certainly unique.
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