The Web Planet

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013 – The Web Planet
Doctor Who serial
Captured by the Animus.jpg
The Doctor and Vicki are captured in a web by the Animus.
  • Catherine Fleming — Animus (voice)
  • Roslyn de Winter — Vrestin
  • Arne Gordon — Hrostar
  • Arthur Blake — Hrhoonda
  • Jolyon Booth — Prapillus
  • Jocelyn Birdsall — Hlynia
  • Martin Jarvis — Hilio
  • Ian Thompson — Hetra
  • Barbara Joss — Nemini
  • Robert Jewell, Jack Pitt, Gerald Taylor, Hugh Lund, Kevin Manser, John Scott Martin — The Zarbi
Writer Bill Strutton
Director Richard Martin
Script editor Dennis Spooner
Producer Verity Lambert
Executive producer(s) None
Incidental music composer Stock music by Les Structures Sonores
Production code N
Series Season 2
Length 6 episodes, 25 minutes each
Date started 13 February 1965
Date ended 20 March 1965
← Preceded by Followed by →
The Romans The Crusade

The Web Planet is the fifth serial of the second season of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in six weekly parts from 13 February 1965 to 20 March 1965. The serial involves the TARDIS crew landing on the desolate planet Vortis, and allying themselves with its former inhabitants, the Menoptra, as they struggle to win back their planet from the malignant Animus.


An unknown force pulls the TARDIS off course and onto the planet Vortis. The Doctor and Ian investigate and try to find the source whilst Barbara tends to a disoriented Vicki who has been affected by the natural high-frequency communications of the ant-like Zarbi monitoring the TARDIS. Vortis is a thin-atmosphere planet with natural crag-like rock formations and what appear to be pools of acid. The Doctor recognises the planet from the remains of a dead grub-like creature; however, he is puzzled by the presence of moons around what should normally be a moonless planet.

Meanwhile, inside the ship, Barbara is influenced by an unknown force through her gold bracelet. This force mesmerises her and draws her outside, leaving Vicki alone in the untended TARDIS. The TARDIS begins sliding across the planet's surface, apparently being pulled by an unseen force. In her trance, Barbara walks into a trio of butterfly-like Menoptra – all that remains of a reconnaissance force sent to prepare the way for an invasion spearhead. They free her of the trance by removing her bracelet, and then debate what to do with her. Barbara escapes; however, she is immediately captured by the Zarbi and brainwashed through the use of a gold neck-harness. The Zarbi take her back to the Menoptra, killing one and capturing another, whilst the third escapes. The Zarbi take Barbara and a Menoptra called Hrostar to the Crater of Needles, where they are forced to gather vegetation and drop it into rivers of acid, thereby feeding the central force of the Zarbi, called the Animus.

The Doctor and Ian, having discovered the theft of the TARDIS and a trail leading away, begin tracking it. They are captured by the Zarbi and are taken to the Carsinome, where they find Vicki and the TARDIS. There they indirectly meet the Animus, who talks to the Doctor through what appears to be a mental communications device. The Animus forces the Doctor to help it track down the Menoptra invasion spearhead and the following main invasion force of the Menoptra. Ian escapes, whilst the Doctor, who has already worked out the invasion plans of the Menoptra, and Vicki try to bide their time.

Ian, trying to find Barbara, meets with a Menoptra called Vrestin, the only escapee of the Zarbi ambush. He learns from Vrestin that the Menoptra were native to the planet Vortis along with the Zarbi, until a great evil force, the Animus, slowly and gradually took control of the planet through the mindless Zarbi. By the time the Menoptra had noticed this it was too late, and they had to flee the planet. The Menoptra fled to the moons that had been pulled into orbit around Vortis by the great evil force of the Animus – the same force that had pulled the TARDIS off course. The Zarbi soon locate Ian and Vrestin, but they manage to escape by falling down into an underground tunnel, where they meet the Optera. Ian soon realises that the Optera are descendants of the Menoptra, who had fled underground. The Optera had lost their wings through the generations and consider the Menoptra as gods, although they don't recognise Vrestin as a Menoptra. Ian and Vrestin convince the Optera to join them in fighting the Animus.

Back in the Carsinome, the Doctor accidentally releases a bit of information about the Menoptra invasion force, particularly that the spearhead plans to land at Sayo Plateau just north of the Crater of Needles. The Animus uses this information to ambush the spearhead. Barbara and Hroster escape from the Crater of Needles and try to meet up with the spearhead and also to warn them of the ineffectiveness of their weapons against the Zarbi. They fail to convince the spearhead force of the uselessness of the weapons, and the spearhead Menoptra are massacred by the Zarbi forces. Only a few survive and manage to hide in one of the Menoptra's old temples. There they try, without success, to radio the main force and warn them that their weapons are useless against the Zarbi.

Meanwhile, the Doctor works out that the Animus uses gold as a conductor to channel a mesmerising force. He counteracts this force and then uses the hidden power of his ring to control one of the Zarbi. The Doctor escapes with Vicki and his captive Zarbi, and meets up with Barbara and the Menoptra. They all devise a plan to attack the Carsinome, with the Menoptra acting as a diversionary force whilst the Doctor and Vicki try to reach the Animus with the Isop-tope device, a living-cell destructor.

The Doctor and Vicki make their way back to the Carsinome, where they are taken to the centre to see the Animus, a great spider-like creature. Here they are mesmerised and made helpless by the Animus. Meanwhile, Barbara and the Menoptra attack the Carsinome from the outside, using the Doctor's ring to control a Larvae Gun, the Zarbi's living weapon. At the same time, Ian, Vrestin and the Optera try to dig their way to the Animus from below. They all make it to the centre and to the Animus where, with a singular act of willpower, Barbara manages to use the Isop-tope device on the Animus, destroying it.

In the end, with the Zarbi free from the control of the Animus and the Menoptra and Optera free to live on Vortis, the Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Vicki leave in the TARDIS.


The story had the working title of The Webbed Planet. Episode six was initially titled "Centre Of Terror". The novelisation restores this title for the sixth chapter.

Jacqueline Hill was not written into "Escape To Danger", in order to give her a week of holiday. She was not credited on the episode. She requested that the credits be amended for overseas sales, but this did not happen.[1]

Daphne Dare created the unique costumes for the varied alien species.

Cast notes[edit]

Noted choreographer Roslyn de Winter was hired to create the distinctive movements and stilted speech of the Menoptra. She was so successful that the production team asked her to take on the role of the Menoptra Vrestin (which she accepted).

This serial marked the television debut of Martin Jarvis. He later appeared as Butler in Invasion of the Dinosaurs and as the Governor of Varos in Vengeance on Varos.

Broadcast and reception[edit]

Serial details by episode
Episode Broadcast date Run time Viewers
(in millions)
"The Web Planet" 13 February 1965 (1965-02-13) 23:57 13.5 16mm t/r
"The Zarbi" 20 February 1965 (1965-02-20) 23:20 12.5 16mm t/r
"Escape to Danger" 27 February 1965 (1965-02-27) 22:52 12.5 16mm t/r
"Crater of Needles" 6 March 1965 (1965-03-06) 25:50 13.0 16mm t/r
"Invasion" 13 March 1965 (1965-03-13) 26:04 12.0 16mm t/r
"The Centre" 20 March 1965 (1965-03-20) 24:32 11.5 16mm t/r

The first episode of the serial was watched by 13.5 million viewers, the highest number for any Doctor Who episode in the 1960s.

Believed lost in the BBC's early 1970s purge, negative film prints of all six episodes were recovered from BBC Enterprises in the late 1970s. Unedited prints of all six episodes were also discovered in Nigeria in 1984. The BBC holds two different versions of episode six; one in which the "Next Episode" caption referred to "The Lion" and the other with the caption naming "The Space Museum", which was the only story still available for sale by the BBC in 1974. (The different caption is not due to The Crusade being withheld from sale to Arab countries as is commonly thought, since the package of serials sold to Arabic countries did not extend beyond The Rescue.)[5]

In 2008, Mark Braxton of Radio Times acknowledged the effort put into the costumes and "superbly atmospheric" sets, despite the fact they did not hold up well. He felt that the story had an "almost total absence of excitement" and might not even work as a four-parter, but it did have ambition and a deeper meaning about good versus evil.[6] Neela Debnath of The Independent stated that The Web Planet was "enjoyable" with ambitious writing that "lacks impact given the poor quality of the visuals".[7] Den of Geek named The Web Planet as one of the ten most underrated classic Doctor Who serials, noting that it "is a joy for being so different" even if "the ambition might outstrip the execution".[8]

Commercial Releases[edit]

In print[edit]

Doctor Who and the Zarbi
Doctor Who and the Zarbi.jpg
Author Bill Strutton
Cover artist Chris Achilleos
Series Doctor Who book:
Target novelisations
Release number
Publisher Target Books
Publication date
2 May 1973
ISBN 0-426-10129-4

The serial was the second to be novelised by the publisher Frederick Muller. It was written by Bill Strutton under the title Doctor Who and the Zarbi in 1965. In 1973 Target Books acquired the rights to the novelisation and reprinted it as one of the first in their long-running series of Doctor Who novelisations, although when the imprint began numbering the books in the series, The Zarbi was listed as Number 73 in the series. A Dutch translation was published in the Netherlands in 1974, and a Portuguese one in 1983.

In 2005 the novel was also issued by BBC Audio as part of the Doctor Who: Travels in Time and Space audio book collectors' tin, read by William Russell.

Home media[edit]

The Web Planet was released on a double VHS in 1990. In North America it was released as a single VHS. It was released on DVD on 3 October 2005 in the United Kingdom.


  1. ^ Howe, David J.; Stammers, Mark; Walker, Stephen James (1994). Doctor Who The Handbook - The First Doctor. London: Doctor Who Books. p. 92. ISBN 0-426-20430-1. 
  2. ^ Shaun Lyon; et al. (2007-03-31). "The Web Planet". Outpost Gallifrey. Archived from the original on 18 June 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  3. ^ "The Web Planet". Doctor Who Reference Guide. Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  4. ^ Sullivan, Shannon (2005-07-03). "The Web Planet". A Brief History of Time Travel. Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  5. ^ Molesworth, Richard (2010). Wiped! Doctor Who's Missing Episodes. Telos Publishing Ltd. pp. 316, 419. ISBN 978-1-84583-037-3. 
  6. ^ Braxton, Mark (21 December 2008). "Doctor Who: The Web Planet". Radio Times. Retrieved 20 December 2012. 
  7. ^ Debnath, Neela (28 February 2012). "Review of Doctor Who ‘The Web Planet’ (Series 2)". The Independent. Retrieved 20 January 2013. 
  8. ^ "Ten Under-rated Classic Doctor Who Stories". Den of Geek. 6 July 2009. Retrieved 20 December 2012. 

External links[edit]

Target novelisation