The Web of Fear
|041 – The Web of Fear|
|Doctor Who serial|
|Directed by||Douglas Camfield|
|Written by||Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln|
|Script editor||Derrick Sherwin|
|Produced by||Peter Bryant|
|Incidental music composer||Stock music|
|Running time||6 episodes, 25 minutes each|
|Episode(s) missing||1 episode (3)|
|First broadcast||3 February 1968|
|Last broadcast||9 March 1968|
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.
The serial is set on the London Underground railway over forty years after the 1967 serial The Abominable Snowmen. In the serial, the incorporeal Great Intelligence leads the time traveller the Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton) into a trap where it can drain the Doctor's mind of all of his knowledge. This serial marked the last regular appearance of the Yeti, although they would return for small cameos in The Five Doctors and the Reeltime Pictures spin-off Downtime.
The Web of Fear marks the first appearance of actor Nicholas Courtney as 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 decades, only Episode 1 of this story was known to have survived destruction. However, on 11 October 2013, the BBC announced that four of the missing episodes were discovered in Nigeria and were put back in their archives. Episode 3 remains missing. On 23 November 2020, to celebrate the show's 57th anniversary, the BBC released a special trailer confirming that the episode would be animated for a DVD and Blu-ray release in 2021.
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Following the events at the end of The Enemy of the World, Jamie manages to close the TARDIS' doors, stabilising its flight. The TARDIS materialises in deep space; an unseen entity enshrouds the ship in a web-like substance. As the web clears, the Second Doctor operates a device to land the TARDIS away from its original flight course, bringing it to Covent Garden tube station. The station is in darkness and deserted, with the city outside appearing completely abandoned.
Approximately 40 years after his Tibetan expedition in The Abominable Snowmen, an elderly Professor Travers reactivates a control sphere during his studies. The sphere inserts into an intact robot Yeti from Tibet at a private collection in London and escapes. In the following days, London is beset by thick fog and a deadly web-like fungus begins to infest the London Underground. Professor Travers is brought to the Second World War deep-level shelter under Goodge Street tube station, where his daughter Anne has asked for his help to defeat the menace affecting the tube system. Also present are Captain Knight, the current leader of the military manning HQ, Staff-Sergeant Arnold, who acts as Knight's deputy and Harold Chorley, the only journalist allowed to report on the crisis.
Moving through the underground train tunnels, the Doctor and his companions encounter the military, who are trying to stem the spread of the fungus by demolishing tunnels with explosives. Explosives laid at Charing Cross tube station[note 1] are neutralised by the robot Yeti by smothering the explosion with the fungus using web-spraying guns. The reappearance of the Yeti signifies to the Doctor that the Great Intelligence has returned and redirected the TARDIS' flight in order to bring him to the Underground as part of its plans to conquer the Earth. Knight, Arnold and Chorley are initially suspicious of the Doctor, Jamie and Victoria, believing them to be responsible for sabotaging the explosion. Professor Travers, recognising them from their encounter in Tibet, convinces Knight that the Doctor will be key to defeating the Yeti.
The group are joined by Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart and Private Evans, the sole survivors of an ammunition detail which was attacked by Yeti at Holborn tube station. Lethbridge-Stewart assumes command of HQ from Knight. The web expands enormously, engulfing the whole of the Circle Line. Further attempts to use explosives to halt the web are blocked by Yeti attacks, and the military's explosives store is consumed by the fungus. The Doctor discovers a Yeti-attracting beacon at the scene, convincing him that someone at HQ must be in league with the Intelligence. Meanwhile, Chorley, who intends to desert and flee, is told of the TARDIS by Victoria and he rushes off to Covent Garden to find it; the Doctor, Jamie, Victoria and Evans rush to intercept him. When they reach Covent Garden, the Doctor's party discover it to be barred off by fungus. While they are gone, the base is attacked by Yeti, killing several of the soldiers and knocking out Anne and Professor Travers. The Yeti then leave with Professor Travers' unconscious body.
On returning, the group find Anne unconscious and Travers gone. The Doctor informs Lethbridge-Stewart and Knight about the intelligence and the TARDIS; the Colonel decides to recover the TARDIS from Covent Garden station, hoping that it will allow them to escape. The Colonel leads the remaining troops overground to Covent Garden, while Arnold, Evans and a third soldier, Corporal Lane, take a baggage trolley through the underground at the same time to transport the TARDIS on. The Doctor and Anne attempt to build a control box to block the signal between the Intelligence and the control spheres, though the Doctor finds that they are low on components and is escorted above ground by Knight to find more.
Arnold and Lane put on gas masks and attempt to go through the fungus blocking Covent Garden with the baggage trolley, but when they enter the web Evans hears piercing screams. On pulling the trolley out on a rope, Evans finds Lane dead and Arnold gone. On the surface, the Yeti ambush the soldiers at Covent Garden. Despite downing several robots in the ensuing battle, all except Lethbridge-Stewart perish. At an electronics store on the surface, Knight is killed in a Yeti attack, though the robots leave the Doctor alone. He discovers a Yeti beacon in Knight's pocket, which brought them to the shop. Later, the Colonel returns to HQ alone where the Doctor finds a model Yeti in his pocket. The Doctor deduces that the traitor in HQ slipped the beacon onto the Colonel and Knight. At that moment, 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 to London in order to drain his mind of all his knowledge of time and space. Unless he submits to the Intelligence, it will drain the minds of Jamie and Victoria instead. The Intelligence gives the Doctor 20 minutes to submit. Travers is released from the Intelligence's control and is taken as a hostage by the Yeti along with Victoria at Piccadilly Circus tube station. The Doctor and Anne work on the control box further and successfully reprogram a control sphere, which they load into a disabled Yeti to make a covert, voice-controlled ally within the Intelligence's ranks.
Staff-Sergeant Arnold, who turns up dishevelled and bleeding, having somehow survived, links up with the Colonel and Jamie in the tunnels. All three agree to return to HQ to support the Doctor, though they find that he and Anne have left while searching for a Yeti to reprogram. At that moment, the fungus bursts through the walls of HQ, swamping Goodge Street shelter. Lethbridge-Stewart, Jamie, Arnold and Evans meet up with the Doctor and Anne, before the group is ambushed by the Yeti, who herd them to Piccadilly tube station. Arnold slips away and meets Chorley, who has been wandering the tube network and has become hysterical with fright.
At the ticket hall of Piccadilly station, the group rejoins with Travers and Victoria. Chorley and Arnold appear and Arnold is revealed to be the traitor, having been killed and his corpse reanimated as a vessel for the Intelligence. The Doctor appears to submit to the Intelligence and places himself inside a pyramid-shaped machine that the Intelligence intends to use to drain his mind. Just as the Doctor is apparently about to have his mind drained, Jamie calls out to the servile Yeti to attack Arnold; Jamie, Anne and Professor Travers try to drag the Doctor from the machine 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. After saying goodbye, the Doctor, Jamie and Victoria slip away and head back to the TARDIS.
|Episode||Title||Run time||Original air date||UK viewers|
|1||"Episode 1"||24:53||3 February 1968||7.2||16mm t/r|
|2||"Episode 2"||24:38||10 February 1968||6.8||16mm t/r|
|3||"Episode 3"†||24:34||17 February 1968||7.0||Only stills and/or fragments exist|
|4||"Episode 4"||24:50||24 February 1968||8.4||16mm t/r|
|5||"Episode 5"||24:19||2 March 1968||8.0||16mm t/r|
|6||"Episode 6"||24:41||9 March 1968||8.3||16mm t/r|
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. According to the director permission was sought from London Transport to film in the Underground but the fees they would have charged to do so were overly expensive. Several props were reused from the previous Yeti serial, including control spheres and model Yeti.
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. Actor Nicholas Courtney previously appeared in a different role, that of Bret Vyon, in The Daleks' Master Plan (1965–66). Actor Richardson Morgan went on to appear in the Fourth Doctor serial The Ark in Space.
For over forty years only episode 1 of the story and a few clips of the other episodes survived in the BBC Archives, the others being presumed lost. 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 by Television International Enterprises Archive/Philip Morris, and returned to the BBC Archives. Episode 3 of The Web of Fear was originally among the discovered episodes, but went missing in the months between the discovery of the films and their return to the BBC. Morris later explained it was most likely stolen for its value, being the first appearance of the Brigadier.
The DVD release of this story features episode 3 presented in tele-snap format, with the surviving off-air soundtrack.
On 23 November 2020, the BBC announced that the missing third episode was being re-created using animation for a new release of the serial.
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. Only the audio for this trailer survives. It was officially reconstructed by the BBC using animation to tease the animated release of Episode 3. 
|Cover artist||Chris Achilleos|
|Series||Doctor Who book:|
|19 August 1976|
The audio soundtrack, along with additional linking narration by Frazer Hines, has been released on MP3 CD.
In 2003, Episode 1 of this story and 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.
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.
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|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Second Doctor|
- The Web of Fear at BBC Online
- Photonovel of The Web of Fear on the BBC website
- Doctor Who Locations – The Web of Fear
- Doctor Who and the Web of Fear title listing at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
- On Target — Doctor Who and the Web of Fear