Sunday, 7 June 2009

Doctor Who: The Web of Fear

Part One

"Is it safe?"

"Oh, I shouldn't think so for a moment..."

A direct continuation from The Enemy of the World, so we do get to see the aftermath after all. The Doctor and Victoria clearly aren't hanging on, and some of the roundels are clearly cardboard cutouts, but never mind!

I'm glad at least this episode survives so we can see Camfield's direction in all its glory- the scene with the Yeti transforming is great. And it's fun to see an older Travers with a beard and great, cantankerous dialogue- Jack Watling seems to be having a lot more fun this time around! I'm not sure about the character Silverstein here though- we seem to be getting a little too close for comfort to some rather dodgy stereotypes.

Actually watching the stories in order brings home just how soon it is for a sequel to The Abominable Snowmen to turn up. And it's rather odd that, if the Yeti are considered good enough to bring back, they then have to be completely redesigned!

This is great stuff, in large part a typical "exploring" part one, but also structured rather cleverly. We get the scene with Travers in the museum to establish the Yeti threat, but the next time we see him some time has passed, the army is involved and the threat is already underway with the minimum of exposition. In between these scenes, the web around the TARDIS in space adds tension and reminds us of the larger threat of the Great Intelligence- although why it lets go isn't made quite clear. All this, and the most postmodern line since a prisoner was kept in a corridor in the last story: "Funny, isn't it? How we keep landing on your Earth?"

We have a deserted London and lots of soldiers... this all feels very Quatermass.

Part Two

"A right old Fred Karno's army".

Back to the recons, Joint Venture this time. It's fun to see, or rather hear, Travers' reaction to seeing Jamie and Victoria looking just as they did forty years ago- and The Abominable Snowmen is retrospectively dated back to 1935. Interesting, as I don't recall anything particularly in the story to suggest it wasn't contemporary. Well, aside from occupying Chinese people, obviously...

The Doctor's not in this much, is he? this is the first obvious time Troughton gets a holiday. Still, he had an awful lot to do in the last story.

We get a very odd line from one of the soldiers: "He reckons they're abominable snowmen." So how come everyone is calling them Yeti?

Part Three

"Good to see you don't take things at face value."

A small glass pyramid! There's a blast from the past. As is the Doctor, who it seems we haven't seen for ages. he seems to be accompanied by some mysterious, moustachioed soldier type called Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart. we don't know where he came from, so he's probably a baddie.

Our heroes are by now entirely surrounded by fungus. at this point it becomes clear that we are indeed watching another base under siege.

Crikey, one of our heroes is a traitor, using the model Yeti- I bet it's that sinister Lethbridge-Stewart. But really, aside from the Doctor, Anne Travers and Victoria, it could be anyone. This is feeling even more Quatermass by the minute, and Pat Troughton makes a splendid Bernard. Good stuff.

Part Four

"I have a craft that travels in time and space."

The Doctor's description of the great Intelligence to the Colonel (and us) is creepy, well-delivered stuff. Even more chilling is the realisation that the Yeti just came, took what it wanted (Travers) and went- it just doesn't see the army as a threat.

We get an extraordinary scene here in which the Doctor tells the Colonel about the TARDIS- and Lethbridge-Stewart believes him, showing not only an extraordinary amount of faith in the Doctor but also good judgement. But conversely, having sent a squad of troops to look for the Doctor's police box (!), he's entirely deflated and defeated once the others are all killed. This is a well-rounded and well played character, but not quite the one he would become.

I'm sure the long battle scene between the soldiers and the Yeti looked great, but I couldn't see it! but it was very long. And used the Cybermens' signature tune for some reason...

The cliffhanger is fantastic here. Unlike in The Abominable Snowmen, in this story the Yeti most certainly do pose a threat.

Part Five

"You'd better stay here. Evans. And don't go taking any chances."

I haven't mentioned Evans yet, but he's a nice character: at the same time comic relief and fulfilling a serious function. He reminds us how scary the situation is, shows us how brave everyone else is in contrast, and is himself quite tragic.

The Intelligence, issuing his ultimatum to the Doctor, is a very powerful adversary indeed, and the situation is about as hopeless as I can ever recall it being. This story is superb.

I'm liking the Colonel more and more. He and Jamie make a particularly good team. Incidentally, in a story broadcast while Syd Barrett was still in Pink Floyd, we get two characters called Arnold and Lane...

Part Six

"Prepare for a great darkness to cloud your mind."

So Arnold is the traitor? I'd forgotten about him- I'd genuinely though there were no plausible suspects and so there must not have been a traitor after all. Although I'm sure it would have helped if I was genuinely able to suspect the Colonel, as the original viewers must have done!

There seems to be no hope as the Intelligence starts to drain the Doctor's mind. But we get a great ending as Jamie heroically saves the day only for it to be revealed that the Doctor would have drained the Intelligence's mind into his simply by switching the wires.

Overall, simply magnificent, full of twists and turns as a six-parter should be, action-packed and generally very Quatermass and the Pit. An easy 5/5.

Phew! I admit that review was a bit rushed but I've got some catching up to do...

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