Saturday, 6 June 2009

Doctor Who: The Web Planet

The Web Planet

"Chesterton! What are you doing, dear boy? Fiddling and gaping over there! Come over here and learn something!"

This instantly looks eerie and weird, with the sets, the Zarbi and the beeping. The episode is very creepy and atmospheric, with the strange planet affecting the Ship. It's interesting here how the Doctor's ring suddenly assumes a significance it hasn't really had before. You get to see an awful lot of the TARDIS interior without roundels here- what's that bit that Barbara spring cleans.

I like how the ring given to Barbara by Nero in the previous story becomes important in this one. There's a real sense of all this being one big adventure.

It's an effective ending with a nice build-up, with both Barbara walking into the acid (shades of Marinus!) and the TARDIS disappearing.

The Zarbi

"Really, you must learn to pay attention, dear boy. How on Earth do you expect to ever learn anything from our time together if you don't listen to a word I say?"

Well, the resolution to Barbara’s cliffhanger is a bit of a cop-out, but then I suppose it had to be. The resolution to the TARDIS disappearing works though. Interesting once again that the interior of the Ship is affected by external movement.

The Menoptra are interesting, their movement being very stylised. The whole look of this story may have dated, but if you accept it in the spirit of a theatrical production rather than an attempt at being cinematic the design is actually quite effective.

Vicki leaves the TARDIS halfway through part two of a story- is this a record?

I’m not sure about the ecosystem of Vortis- surely giant insects would need more oxygen in the atmosphere, not less? And how come such a barren world can support such large creatures?

This is still entertaining, but by the end it’s looking a bit worrying that we have a full four episodes left!

It might be a few days until I post about the next parts, but that’s because of general Christmas chaos- the story hasn’t defeated me!

Escape to Danger

"Come on- drop this hairdryer or whatever it is!"

Love the title- so bad it's good! Also loving the way the fluid link gets another mention as Vicki fortuitously realigns it. I wonder if we'll hear of it again? on the other hand, the line "If only Barbara were here we could go" signals we've now reached a point equivalent to The Daleks: The Expedition in that from now on everything will feel padded and give off a sense of treading water until the end, and it's only episode three. Which is a shame, as the design and even much of the dialogue in this story is often wonderful.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. The Doctor telling the Animus that "I have great secrets in my ship. We could help you" may feel out of character from a contemporary perspective but by this point it's hardly out of keeping. More surprising is the fact that the Menoptra's realising the Doctor (albeit under coercion) has betrayed the landing point of the invasion is not followed up when they finally meet. But again, I'm getting ahead of myself.

An interesting fact about the TARDIS is relayed to Ian by the Doctor- the time and relative dimension link, apparently, must under no circumstances be broken. Which means, in practice, that it should never be, er, unplugged...

Barbara's not in this episode, and frankly I miss her. And already the Zarbi are becoming familiar enough to seem comical rather than threatening. The Doctor's mind games with the Animus are interesting, I suppose, but this is beginning to drag. It looks great, but it's becoming very dull.

Crater of Needles

"Yes. That is the... question, isn't it?"

Barbara! Yay! She and her Menoptra mates get to do a lot of standing around talking considering they're supposed to be slave labourers. Er, "Isop-tope"?

It's cool that with the Optera we now have beetles to add to ants (Zarbi) and wasps (Menoptra). Although this whole section of the plot is of course pure padding and openly so.

I can't emphasise enough how weird it is to see Martin Jarvis as a Menoptra. Although "see" is perhaps not the word as I was forewarned. But still...

The plot is now reaching a glacial pace. The Animus has now rumbled the Doctor's cunning procrastination, but he and Vicki "will be dealt with when the invasion has been repelled". Although it's rather alarming when they're both apparently lobotomised by having those gold things round their necks.

Amusing to see that, although a mass invasion of Menoptra is taking place on the plateau, we never see more than two Menoptra on screen at once.


"Hilio, the Menoptra have no wisdom for war".

The situation is dire at this point, there seems to be no hope, but rather awfully I don't much care by this point as the story is just dragging so much. Which feels in some ways an awful thing to say as much of the design is magnificent and much of the dialogue is wonderful, of which more shortly.

It's most interesting how the Doctor's ring gains an enormous significance in this story which it never has before: "...I can control that necklace with this power of my ring." I hope we see this developed.

The Menoptra, although by this point beginning to truly annoy as ineffective drama queens, are given some wonderful dialogue in this episode'; they speak of "song-spinners". But even better is the dialogue of the otherwise insufferable Optera: "A silent wall! We must make mouths in it with our weapons. Then it will speak more light".

The Centre

"What Vortis is, I am. What you are, I become".

The centre of the Animus looks great in the way this story often does, by which I mean on the level of design rather than any modern notion of special effects. But then "realism" in the context of something this fantastic, on television in 1965, could not have been the intent; take it as intended and the look of this story is a wonderfully successful experiment. Which is a shame, frankly, as it drags so. It's noticeable in these final scenes how poorly served the character of Vicki has been.

Interesting, though, that the Animus should specifically target Earth to "take from man his mastery of space". but, er, why exactly does the Animus die?

Overall, well... the design and elements of the dialogue are so wonderful, and the first episode so genuinely eerie, that I thought long and hard for reasons not to give the story a 1/5. But I couldn't- the plot just drags and the alien characters just don't function as dramatic characters. Which is a shame: the experiment may not have succeeded other than on the visual level, but I'm glad it was attempted.

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