Doctor Who: The Web Of Fear by Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln (DVD review)

Another of the rediscovered and restored complete stories of ‘Doctor Who’ from 2013 was the sequel to ‘The Abominable Snowman’, ‘The Web Of Fear’ which has already been regarded as a lost classic. Not any more.


Following on from ‘The Enemy Of The World’, the TARDIS has dematerialised with the doors open, ejecting Ramon Salmander but leaving the Doctor (actor Patrick Troughton), Jamie (actor Frazer Hines) and Victoria (actress Deborah Watling) in a precarious position until the Scotsman manages to shut them in. Much later, the TARDIS apparently materialises in space before being covered in webs, that also rapidly disappear, allowing the Doctor to land the TARDIS properly.

On Earth of the 1970s, Professor Travers (actor Jack Watling) having restored the sphere that powers the single robotic yeti to life tries to get it back from the collector he sold it to with little success, not helped by his daughter, Anne Travers (actress Tina Packer), who convinces him to go home and check the ball is still there. It’s far too late as the sphere has discovered the yeti and powered it up.

It is at a much point when the TARDIS arrives in Covent Garden Underground where the power to the rail is off when the Doctor and his companions investigate. Seeing some soldiers laying a wire, the Doctor tells them to go and see where they go while he sees what they were doing. Jamie and Victoria are captured and the Doctor discovers the yeti coating explosives in a web and stays out of sight.

Back at the base, Jamie and Victoria tell the military they were alone and the bomb is detonated. The Doctor sees the web stopping the explosives doing damage but is caught in the shockwave. Jamie relents and tells of the Doctor but the military think it too late and find nothing where the explosive was and think the Doctor sabotaged it. In the meantime, they meet Professor Travers who Victoria recognises, despite being forty years older, and Jamie assists Staff Sergeant Arnold (actor Jack Woolgar) in looking for the Doctor.

With the web fog spreading beyond the Circle Line, there is a fear of them being cut-off. Things change somewhat when Jamie meets a team of soldier and a lost driver, Evans (actor Derek Pollitt) becomes his companion as they look for the Doctor. Meanwhile, Victoria hears Travers considering the Doctor’s involvement and flees to look for him as well. The Doctor, after recovering from being stunned is also looking around and bumps into Colonel Alastair Lethbridge-Stewart (actor Nicholas Courtney), a survivor from an attack by the yeti and who was supposed to be taking charge down there and she guides him to the base with everyone else, including the Doctor, there.

Travers convinces Lethbridge-Stewart that the Doctor is the expert and after much briefing, he comes up with a plan for bombing the web without the yeti webbing it. Unfortunately, someone in the group is putting down the homing devices that attracts the yeti and they’ve already taken out their explosives. When they return, they discover that the yeti have been there and Travers has been kidnapped. With more explosives in Holborn, Lethbridge-Stewart takes a team there to get it but encounters the yeti and his team is decimated. The remaining team go with the Doctor to get spare parts and they are also killed. Lethbridge-Stewart returns to the base and finds he’s been carrying a tracker but it’s too late, the yeti are attacking, only this time the Great Intelligence is using Travers for his voice and gives them twenty minutes to hand over the Doctor, taking Victoria prisoner. Quite why they don’t tsake the Doctor first beats me. It doesn’t give him long to devise a plan but there is suspicion as there might still be a spy amongst them.

Anything beyond here is spoiler but will leave you guessing as to who is who and rather unusually, the ending isn’t the way the Doctor intended it to go and more remarkable how long it then took for the Great Intelligence to return.

No explanation is given to how one yeti became several or the Great Intelligence could make more of them. Even the Doctor describes them as a mark 2 because of their eyes but they are still vulnerable through their chest aperture providing you can get that close. Speaking of which, although it’s not credited, the Great Intelligence’s voice, through a loudspeaker, sounds awfully like Patrick Troughton.

If you have déjà vu with not being able to run the second episode from the episode select option, do what I did and go for the scene select and it’ll work fine. The third episode is dialogue with stills. Shame really as we don’t see the live action introduction of Colonel Alastair Lethbridge-Stewart but having five complete episodes after all this time is still a lucky find.

‘The Web Of Fear’ still holds up well and the fact that you’re not sure who is who even more so. For those of you who remember Jack Woolgar on ‘Crossroads’ a few years later, seeing him here is quite a revelation because . You would believe he was military, capable of leading men. Interestingly, Nicholas Courtney plays Lethbridge-Stewart more stoically than slightly more tongue-in-cheek that he did much later. Then again, this was his first encounter with the Doctor and the trust between them had yet to be established. I think after this one, he knew he had the chap who could help him.

A great story that you will want to own and wish, one day, that its prequel might be found.

GF Willmetts

January 2015

(region 2 DVD: pub: BBC BBCDVD3867.  DVDs 146 minutes 6 * 25 minute black and white  episodes. Price: about £ 6.70 (UK) if you know where to look)

cast: Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines, Deborah Watling, Jack Watling, Tina Packer, Nicholas Courtney and Jack Woolgar

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