The Web of Fear

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041 – The Web of Fear
Doctor Who serial
Yeti (Doctor Who).jpg
A dormant Yeti awakens
Cast
Others
Production
Writer Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln
Director Douglas Camfield
Script editor Derrick Sherwin
Producer Peter Bryant
Executive producer(s) None
Incidental music composer Stock music
Production code QQ
Series Season 5
Length 6 episodes, 25 minutes each
Episode(s) missing 1 episode (3)
Date started 3 February 1968
Date ended 9 March 1968
Chronology
← Preceded by Followed by →
The Enemy of the World Fury from the Deep

The Web of Fear is the partly missing fifth serial of the fifth season of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in six weekly parts from 3 February to 9 March 1968. This serial — which marks the return of the Yeti, the Great Intelligence, and Professor Edward Travers — is the sequel to The Abominable Snowmen. It marks the first appearance of Colonel Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart, subsequently better known as the Brigadier, and acts as a precursor to the numerous later serials involving the UNIT organisation. For four decades only episode 1 of the story survived in the BBC archives, the others being presumed lost. Episodes 2, 4, 5, and 6 were recovered from Nigeria in 2013, however, leaving only episode 3 missing.

Plot[edit]

Professor Travers, of the Tibetan expedition seen in The Abominable Snowmen, is at the home of private collector Julius Silverstein when his daughter Anne arrives to fetch him, he tries to persuade Silverstein to return the Yeti robot. Professor Travers claims to have reactivated a control sphere, and now it has gone missing. Silverstein is having none of it and implores Anne to take her father home. Once they have left, the control sphere smashes its way into Silverstein's home and activates the Yeti, which kills Silverstein.

After Jamie manages to close the TARDIS doors, continuing on from events at the end of The Enemy of the World, The Doctor, Jamie, and Victoria find that someone or something has caused the TARDIS to materialise in space mid-flight; the ship becomes enshrouded in a weblike substance. As the web clears, the Doctor operates a device to land the TARDIS some distance away from its expected point of materialisation, on the London Underground system in the Covent Garden station. The station is in darkness and deserted, although it is broad daylight outside. At the station entrance, Jamie spots an old man seated outside the gate, but they find that he is dead and covered in cobwebs.

Professor Travers is brought to the Second World War deep-level shelter under Goodge Street tube station, referred to as the Fortress HQ. Anne has asked for his help to defeat the menace affecting the tube system, he encounters Harold Chorley, the only journalist allowed to report on the crisis. The Fortress is now commanded by Captain Knight, after the death of Colonel Pemberton, he disapproves of Travers' presence.

Moving through the underground train tunnels, the Doctor and his companions see three soldiers unwinding a drum of cable along the tunnel. Jamie and Victoria are discovered and captured.

The Doctor follows the cable as far as Charing Cross tube station,[note 1] and hides when he hears a pair of Yeti coming. The robots fire their web guns and cover a pile of boxes marked Explosives 808 with a thick cobweb substance.

Jamie and Victoria are taken to the Goodge street HQ. They learn that the tunnel is going to be blown up. After the Yeti have left the platform the Doctor goes to the boxes to examine them and is caught by a contained explosion.

Craftsman Weams (of the R.E.M.E) soon works out that the explosion in the tunnel did not register on the blast recorder. Jamie and Victoria find out about the Yeti and meet Travers. He is overjoyed to be reunited with his old friends from Tibet. Knight, Corporal Lane and some other soldiers head to Holborn after they find out that an ammunition detail with a truck at Holborn tube station have been attacked by Yeti.

Jamie heads off with Staff-Sergeant Arnold to see if they can find the Doctor. They soon meet up with Knight and Lane, who have come under attack by Yeti. When they try to detonate some explosives the Yeti use their web guns on the boxes causing the explosive blast to be contained once more. The Yeti are recalled. In the Underground there is poison fungus expanding in the tunnels. It begins to move again threatening to engulf the whole of the Circle Line.

Victoria has overheard Anne speculating that the Doctor might be behind the Yeti emergence and so heads off to look for the Doctor.

Knight's party in the tunnels encounter Private Evans, the driver from the ammo truck at Holborn. He explains that he saw a Yeti carrying a glass pyramid moving ahead of the fungus; Jamie claims destroying the pyramid will stop the Intelligence. The group split up with Knight, Arnold and Lane returning to HQ and Jamie and Evans carrying on searching for the Doctor.

As the fungus continues to engulf the Circle Line, Evans and Jamie become trapped at The Monument station with the fungus closing in from both ends of the station. A Yeti emerges from the fungus carrying a glass pyramid which Evans shoots with his rifle causing it to explode, but Jamie is surprised when the fungus continues unabated. They make their escape via an archway. Elsewhere, Victoria is reunited with the Doctor and a mysterious Colonel who takes them back to HQ.

At HQ, the Doctor is sure that the Great Intelligence is attempting to conquer Earth once more. Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart, who was also part of the Holborn ammo detail, is there to take command of the fortress from the late Colonel Pemberton. He holds a briefing, during which the reason for London's desertion is revealed as the fog or mist on the surface, which follows the path of the fungus underground. If anyone enters the fog they do not come out again.

As the fungus continues to spread, the Doctor advocates blowing up the tunnel above their Goodge street HQ, thus sealing them in and away from the expanding fungus. However there is an enemy in their midst: someone unbars the doors to the HQ and places a beacon for the Yeti outside the explosives store. A Yeti breaks into the HQ's storeroom and destroys the explosives with pulsating fungus, thus preventing the Doctor’s plan. The Colonel decides to recover some ammunition from Holborn.

Chorley, who has been attempting to find a way out of the underground, is told of the TARDIS by Victoria and he rushes off to Covent Garden tube station to find it, locking Victoria and The Doctor in the common room. They are released when Jamie and Evans return to the base, and they all go to intercept him. Meanwhile, the base is attacked by Yeti, which kill the guards and Craftsman Weams and knocks out Anne and Professor Travers. The Yeti drag Professor Travers unconscious body away.

When they reach Covent Garden the Doctor's party discover it to be barred off by fungus. The soldiers also cannot reach Holborn as it too is blocked by fungus, which is continually closing in on Goodge Street.

The Doctor obtains a sample of the fungus to experiment on. They find Anne unconscious and Travers gone. The Doctor informs Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart and Captain Knight about the intelligence and the TARDIS. The Colonel decides to recover the TARDIS from Covent Garden station; he will go over ground with the remaining troops while Arnold, Lane and Evans take a baggage trolley through the underground at the same time to load the TARDIS on. Knight will remain with the Doctor. The Doctor discovers that the web sample is gone and Evans is suspected of being the traitor.

At the fungus, Arnold and Lane put on gas masks and go through the fungus with the baggage trolley, but when they enter the fungus Evans hears piercing screams. He pulls the trolley out on a rope to find Lane dead and Arnold gone.

On the surface there are Yeti waiting for the soldiers at Covent Garden. The soldiers take cover in a nearby builder's yard and shut the gate but the Yeti find another way in. The men open fire, but their bullets have no effect on the Yeti; their hand grenades, however, are highly effective, felling many of the robots, who despite this smash down the main gate as well. The troops retreat and deploy their bazookas against the Yeti, but the Yeti kill two men with their sheer strength. Another four are killed by the Yeti web guns, and the Colonel orders a retreat into a nearby warehouse.

The Doctor needs electrical components, so Knight takes him to an electronics store on the surface. In the shop, Knight is killed by Yeti, who leave the Doctor alone. He discovers a Yeti model in Knight's pocket, which brought them to the shop. Meanwhile, The Colonel is the only survivor at the warehouse and returns to HQ alone where the Doctor finds a model Yeti in his pocket before two Yeti break in with Professor Travers, who is possessed by the Great Intelligence.

Through the controlled Professor Travers, the Great Intelligence explains that it brought the Doctor here in order to drain his mind. Unless he submits to the Intelligence, it will drain the brains of Jamie and Victoria. Victoria is taken as a hostage by 'Travers' and the Yeti while the Doctor is given twenty minutes to ponder his future. He decides to surrender himself if he can’t find another solution and applies himself to the control box once more, He and Anne manage to get the control box to direct the sphere if they are kept very close. The Doctor then develops a voice control system for the sphere.

Victoria is taken to Piccadilly Circus tube station, where the Intelligence abandons its control of Travers. They are soon joined by Staff-Sergeant Arnold, who turns up dishevelled and bleeding, having somehow survived the web. He is hidden from the Yeti and agrees to head off to HQ to tell the Doctor what is happening. Arnold soon links up with the Colonel and Jamie, who are searching in the tunnels. All three agree to return to HQ to support the Doctor, but he and Anne have gone off to track down a Yeti. They use the control box to deactivate a Yeti and substitute the servile control sphere.

Back at HQ, the fungal web bursts through the walls.

The Doctor and Anne release their servile Yeti, knowing it can be controlled later if needed, and then run into Jamie and the Colonel, who bring them up to speed. A little later they find Arnold, who explains that HQ has been destroyed and Evans has deserted. He slips away again while the others are herded by the Yeti and marched toward Piccadilly. In the central ticket hall of Piccadilly Circus station, there is an enormous glass pyramid, the machine designed by the Intelligence to drain the Doctor's mind. The Doctor, Jamie, Victoria, Anne, Travers and Lethbridge-Stewart are all reunited at Piccadilly Circus, with Evans brought to them soon afterwards. It turns out that the human agent of the Great Intelligence is Staff Sergeant Arnold, who has been killed and his body reanimated by the Intelligence.

The Doctor submits to the Intelligence, places himself inside the glass pyramid, and is just about to have his mind drained when Jamie calls out to the servile Yeti to attack and to get Arnold. The Yeti attack each other and Sergeant Arnold while Anne, Travers, and Jamie drag the Doctor from the pyramid against his wishes. After Jamie rips its wiring out, the pyramid explodes, and the Yeti and Arnold fall to the floor, lifeless without the influence of the Great Intelligence, which has now been dispersed back into space. Everyone is happy except for the Doctor. He explains that he had sabotaged the conversion headset and would have drained the Intelligence had the device been used – but now the Intelligence is free once more. The Doctor, Jamie, and Victoria slip away and head back to the TARDIS.

Continuity[edit]

The future Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart makes his first appearance in this story, with the rank of Colonel. His next appearance is in The Invasion, and from that serial onwards, he serves as the central figure of the UNIT organisation. He mentions the Yeti in "The Invasion" and in the tenth-anniversary story The Three Doctors, and again in the twentieth-anniversary story The Five Doctors.

The design of the Yeti is significantly different from those in this story's predecessor, The Abominable Snowmen. In the first episode, a dormant "Mark I" Yeti – a prop from the earlier story – is reactivated, and a transformation takes place. The Doctor describes the subsequent Yeti as "Mark II".

A Mark II Yeti costume from this story was reused in The Five Doctors. The costume had not fared well in storage (and reportedly had acquired a foul odour[citation needed]), which limited its use to a single brief and darkly lit scene.

The novel The Face of the Enemy by David A. McIntee features a brief look at an alternate version of the Great Intelligence's invasion, this version taking place in the alternate reality visited by the Third Doctor in Inferno, with Britain being aided by the alternate version of the Master.

A very brief clip of the TARDIS suspended in space from episode 1 is later included in episode 10 of The War Games in the next season.[1]

In the 2012 Christmas special "The Snowmen", set in 1892, the Doctor gives a lunch box with a map of the 1967 London Underground on it to the Great Intelligence during the course of his plans to prevent the Great Intelligence from destroying mankind by the means of mutant telepathic snow. Doctor Simeon's card, which is seen in the Christmas special, refers to the Great Intelligence with GI in a Victorian font as his logo.

Production[edit]

Serial details by episode
Episode Broadcast date Run time Viewers
(in millions)
Archive
"Episode 1" 3 February 1968 (1968-02-03) 24:53 7.2 16mm t/r
"Episode 2" 10 February 1968 (1968-02-10) 24:38 6.8 16mm t/r
"Episode 3" 17 February 1968 (1968-02-17) 24:34 7.0 Only stills and/or fragments exist
"Episode 4" 24 February 1968 (1968-02-24) 24:50 8.4 16mm t/r
"Episode 5" 2 March 1968 (1968-03-02) 24:19 8.0 16mm t/r
"Episode 6" 9 March 1968 (1968-03-09) 24:41 8.3 16mm t/r
[2][3][4]

Patrick Troughton took a week's holiday during the rehearsals and recording of Episode 2. Consequently, the Doctor appears only in the reprise from Episode 1, and the Doctor's first meeting with Lethbridge-Stewart takes place off screen.

The Tube sets were reportedly so accurate that the BBC was accused of illegally filming on London Underground property.[5] Several props were reused from the previous Yeti serial, including control spheres and model Yeti.

Cast notes[edit]

David Langton was originally cast as Lethbridge-Stewart, but he pulled out before rehearsals and Nicholas Courtney (originally cast as Captain Knight) was given the part instead. However, it is an extra named Maurice Brooks who is first seen in the role, his booted feet appearing briefly late in Episode Two.[6] Actor Nicholas Courtney previously appeared in a different role, that of Bret Vyon, in The Daleks' Master Plan.

Missing episodes[edit]

For many years only episode 1 of this story and a few clips of the other episodes existed in the BBC Archives. The clips are those that were censored and physically cut from the film by the New Zealand authorities when they purchased the rights to broadcast the story. In October 2013, the BBC announced that copies of episodes 2,4,5 and 6 had been found in Nigeria, and returned to the BBC Archives.[7]

Advertising[edit]

A week before Episode 1 was shown, BBC1 broadcast a special trailer following Episode 6 of The Enemy of the World, featuring the Doctor (Patrick Troughton) warning viewers about the new, more frightening versions of the Yeti.

Commercial releases[edit]

In print[edit]

Doctor Who book
Book cover
Doctor Who and the Web of Fear
Series Target novelisations
Release number 72
Writer Terrance Dicks
Publisher Target Books
Cover artist Chris Achilleos
ISBN 0-426-11084-6
Release date 19 August 1976

A novelisation of this serial, written by Terrance Dicks, was published by Target Books in August 1976, entitled Doctor Who and The Web of Fear.

Home media[edit]

In 2003, Episode 1 of this story & episodes 1 & 3 of The Faceless Ones were the final episodes of Doctor Who to be released on VHS by BBC Worldwide. Episode 1 and the surviving clips were released on DVD in the United Kingdom in November 2004 in the three-disc Lost in Time set. The audio soundtrack, along with additional linking narration by Frazer Hines, has been released on MP3 CD.[8]

On 11 October 2013, the newly recovered episodes were released on iTunes along with the original episode 1 and a reconstruction of episode 3 from telephotos and the original soundtrack. This version was also made available on Virgin Media's on demand service, together with numerous other stories, as part of the show's 50th anniversary commemoration.

A DVD of the story was released on 24 February 2014.[9]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ At the time the story was made, "Charing Cross" was the name of current Embankment tube station, while the current Charing Cross was two separate stations - the Bakerloo line "Trafalgar Square" and the Northern line "Strand."

References[edit]

  1. ^ Howe, David J.; Walker, Stephen James (1998). "The War Games: Things to watch out for...". Doctor Who: The Television Companion. London: BBC Worldwide. p. 173. ISBN 0-563-40588-0. Retrieved 21 October 2010. 
  2. ^ Shaun Lyon et al. (2007-03-31). "The Web of Fear". Outpost Gallifrey. Archived from the original on 18 June 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  3. ^ "The Web of Fear". Doctor Who Reference Guide. Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  4. ^ Sullivan, Shannon (2007-07-05). "The Web of Fear". A Brief History of Time Travel. Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  5. ^ Howe, David J.; Walker, Stephen James (1998). "The Web of Fear: Analysis". Doctor Who: The Television Companion. London: BBC Worldwide. p. 144. ISBN 0-563-40588-0. Retrieved 20 September 2010. 
  6. ^ Anonymous, "The UNIT Story, Part One," Doctor Who Magazine Special, Winter 1991, Marvel Comics, Ltd., p. 9.
  7. ^ Jefferies, Mark (11 October 2013). "Doctor Who 'lost episodes' found with The Enemy of the World and The Web of Fear available on iTunes". The Mirror. Retrieved 11 October 2013. 
  8. ^ "Doctor Who: the Abominable Snowman / The Web of Fear (BBC MP3 CD Audio): Books: Original Soundtrack". Amazon.co.uk. Retrieved 2010-09-15. 
  9. ^ "BBC Confirms 9 Lost Troughton Episodes Recovered!". Doctor Who TV. 11 October 2013. Retrieved 11 October 2013. 

External links[edit]

Fan reviews
Target novelisation