The TARDIS is drawn again to the planet Vortis by a powerful gravitational force – the same circumstances which once trapped the Doctor and his timeship there in his first incarnation. Determined to find out what’s trapping the TARDIS now, the Doctor and Nyssa set out to explore, but are nearly trampled by a stampede of Zarbi. An eccentric Menoptera scientist and his daughter, living in isolation away from the rest of their kind as they study the Zarbi, whisk the time travelers to safety. As the scientist’s daughter tends to Nyssa’s minor injuries, the Doctor and his new friend set out to discover what’s still causing ships to crash on Vortis. But they find that much more is going wrong: a new breed of colonization has come to Vortis by accident, and it may change the planet’s entire ecosphere forever, unless the Doctor can stop it.
Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Sam Kelly (Acheron), Julie Buckfield (Hedyla), Matthew Noble (Yanesh), Claire Wyatt (Speaker)
Notes: This story returns to the setting of 1964’s The Web Planet. It was sent only to subscribers to Big Finish’s Doctor Who audio plays, and has not been sold separately at the time of this writing.
Timeline: between Renaissance Of The Daleks and The Haunting of Thomas Brewster
LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green
Review: For some reason, perhaps by coincidence, Big Finish seems to have designated Peter Davison as the “Follow-Up Doctor”, with Return To The Web Planet and The Bride Of Peladon arriving close together. Perhaps this is a case where the audio producers are imitating their television counterparts of yesteryear a bit too closely: Davison’s Doctor was the Follow-Up Doctor on TV too, revisiting such adversaries as the Silurians, Omega and – repeatedly – the Master. So in a way it fits.
Now, why anyone would want to revisit The Web Planet, I have no idea. I’ve been known to praise that Hartnell-era six-parter for its ambitious attempt to do big-budget science fiction on a 1960s BBC TV budget, but in trying to chase that praise down with actual viewing, I find myself struggling to make it to part six. Return To The Web Planet isn’t quite like that, but it’s a good choice for a subscriber incentive special: at around an hour long, it doesn’t really have the time to wear out its welcome. Any longer, and that might’ve been a real danger.
Kudos must be given to the sound designer for actually recreating the wacky warbling Zarbi sound effect from the ’60s – as goofy as it sounds, it really does seal Return‘s authenticity. But even more kudos should be offered for the awesome cover artwork, which hearkens back to the days of Chris Achilleos’ colorful-bordering-on-psychedelic cover artwork for the early Target Books Doctor Who noveliations. It’s a great touch for this story, and a huge surprise after months of feeling that Big Finish’s cover artwork has lost something with the new, Missing Adventures book cover-inspired design and layout. Return Of The Web Planet is the return of me wishing Big Finish sold big poster-sized prints of their cover art, a sentiment I haven’t felt in a long time.
Return To The Web Planet does exactly what it says on the box, and does it in less time than the usual two-disc adventure – and even more mercifully, it does it in less time than the original Web Planet. Not a bad gift to the faithful followers of the audio adventures.