The Web Of Fear

Doctor WhoThe Doctor, Jamie and Victoria are nearly sucked out into the time vortex when Salamander takes off with the TARDIS doors open. Salamander is ejected from the TARDIS, and the ship lands safely in the London Underground circa 1968. But all is not well in central London: a deadly mist hovers above ground over the Circle Line, and an even deadlier web is filling the tunnels of the Underground. Yeti patrol the tunnels, trapping a batallion of Army soldiers in the tunnels. The Great Intelligence has trapped the Doctor and his friends in a scheme to take over the Doctor’s mind, using the Time Lord’s immense knowledge for evil. Professor Travers, the scientist who the Doctor saved from the Yeti in 1930s Tibet, is able to vouch for the time travelers’ good intensions, though some of the soldiers aren’t so trusting. The Doctor races against time to wrest control of the robotic Yeti from the Great Intelligence and to find a traitor among the contingent of soldiers in the Underground. And perhaps most importantly of all, the Doctor must gain the trust of an unusually open-minded Army officer, Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart.

Order this story on audio CDTrailerwritten by Mervyn Haisman & Henry Lincoln
directed by Douglas Camfield
music not credited

Guest Cast: Nicholas Courtney (Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart), Jack Watling (Professor Travers), Tina Packer (Anne Travers), Frederick Schrecker (Julius Silverstein), Rod Beacham (Lane), Ralph Watson (Knight), Richardson Morgan (Blake), Jon Rollason (Chorley), Jack Woolgar (Arnold), Stephen Whittaker (Weams), Bernard G. High (Soldier), Joseph O’ Connell (Soldier), John Levene (Yeti), John Lord (Yeti), Gordon Stothard (Yeti), Doctor WhoColin Warman (Yeti), Jeremy King (Yeti), Roger Jacombs (Yeti), Derek Pollitt (Evans)

Note: Considered “lost” for decades following a purge of videotape and film stock in the BBC’s archives, five of the six episodes of The Web Of Fear now exist thanks to the 2013 discovery of 16mm film copies in a broadcast transmitter hut in Nigeria. The third episode – in which the Doctor first meets Colonel Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart – sadly remains missing.

Broadcast from February 3 through March 9, 1968

LogBook entry & review by Earl Green

There almost aren’t words to describe how pivotal this six-part adventure from Patrick Troughton’s reign is. The introduction of the future Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart – initially a red herring for the story as the search begins for a suspected traitor working for the Great Intelligence – is only the most visible reason of this story’s significance. Its (then) present-day Earth setting – a little bit easier to create in the studio or shoot on location than any futuristic, otherworldly locale – also plays a big part in determining the direction of the early 70s episodes. The Web Of Fear is almost, in these regards, as important as, say, a regeneration episode, or the first episode featuring a popular monster. As it was, it turned out to be the final appearance of the Yeti in BBC-produced Doctor Who, though the Great Intelligence and its minions would rear their heads again in such spin-off videos as Downtime and the sixth Doctor Missing Adventure novel “Millennial Rites”.

The cast is uniformly excellent, and Nicholas Courtney shines in his introductory story as Lethbridge-Stewart. One wonders if the intention was always to bring Lethbridge-Stewart in as a recurring character – an inordinate amount of attention is focused on the Colonel from his first appearance, in very much the same way that incoming companion characters such as Zoe, Peri, Turlough, and Adric received a lot of quality screen time before stowing away aboard the TARDIS for themselves. Particularly intriguing is that the Colonel never seems to completely doubt the Doctor. There is suspicion, there is curiosity, but there’s never an outright refusal to believe that the Doctor is an otherworldly genius whose police box can travel in time and space.

Previously, I had The Web Of Fear crossed out in the Doctor Who LogBook since it does not exist as a complete story in the BBC’s video archives, but thanks to the excellent remastered 3-CD audio version from the BBC Radio Collection, we can at least hear Web again with rapid-fire narration of visual scenes by Fraser “Jamie” Hines. It’s actually quite effective, and one can almost see the entire thing – good old fashioned radio drama, not unlike Doctor Who’s current state of existence. Even if you’re not a big fan of listening to Doctor Who as opposed to seeing Doctor Who, I recommend this six-parter to you.

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