"Before the Animus came, the flower forest covered the planet in a cocoon of peace."TECHNICAL SPECS: Part 5 of The Web Planet. First aired Mar.13 1965.
IN THIS ONE... The Doctor and Vicki escape, rejoin Barbara and the Menoptra and together they plan an attack on the Animus. Meanwhile, Ian is underground with a group of mining bugs.
REVIEW: You know, there's a lot of poetry to the Menoptra and Optera's existences, and it really comes out in this episode. Each species gets a chance to describe their unique point of view, with the Menoptra worshiping a God of Light above forests of flowers, and the burrowing Optera talking about holes to the surface as mouths that speak light. It's rather wonderful. And sad too. One of the Menoptra's had its wings cut and will never know the joy of flight again. And Ian is privy to a brusque funeral ceremony when one of the (named!) Optera kills itself to bung up a hole through which an acid pool is draining. Life is as harsh on Vortis as it is in the Earth's insect world. That these insects speak and have a personality makes us care about these creatures on tv, even if we slaughter them by the millions in our gardens.
It's interesting to note that Barbara is once again used as a strategist, and it makes sense that a historian would have this kind of knowledge. The Doctor amends her plan, but only slightly, and to incorporate himself into it. He and Vicki have used the realigned control wishbone to enslave a Zarbi, which becomes Vicki's second pet on the program (she calls him Zombo). The Doctor's freedom is short-lived though, as his return to the carcinome gets him sprayed with webbing. The planet's finally living up to its name. And as predicted, this episode puts the last's MacGuffins into action. The Doctor is to smuggle the Isop-tope into the center of the web, while he must give up his ring (see Theories) so the Menoptra can use it to control the Zarbi in their planned distraction. From this review, you might think there isn't much to this episode, but it is quite evocative in its language and probably the best part of the serial yet.
THEORIES: So what CAN the Doctor's ring DO? He's always worn it, but we're on the fifth story of the second year and only NOW does it come into play. When the TARDIS lost power, he could still use it to open the door, and yet, from the outside, he still needed the key to access it in Marco Polo (but will do so with the help of the correct light frequency in The Daleks' Master Plan). So it's not a universal pass key. He also links it to the Animus' control collar and uses it to direct the Zarbi, but it's never been associated with Time Lord powers of hypnotism before (it will again in The War Machines, where it will also protect him from electrical shocks). I suppose it could be a focus for the Time Lord's telepathy, but only now is it extremely "valuable" and something he does not willingly part with. Nor do Doctors beyond the first wear one (it didn't fit the Second's finger). It's possible that it's Time Lord technology, and that it has various properties the Doctor has chosen to use only rarely. It's probably also a family heirloom with sentimental value? Could it even be his wedding ring? Or represent some other important bond to another Time Lord? Rings do have an importance in Time Lord society. There are Time Rings, of course, though they're more like bracelets. There's the Ring of Rassilon too, and maybe Time Lords wear rings in honor of their society's founder, perhaps upon graduation from the Academy. That the Doctor did away with his means nothing. He's a renegade, after all. But what other Time Lord wore a ring, and recently too? That's right, the Master, and it was a key component in bringing him back from the dead. The Ring of Rassilon did mean immortality (as a curse, but still). Could a Time Lord's ring play a part in the regeneration process? Perhaps in your FIRST regeneration, triggering your twelve?
REWATCHABILITY: Medium - We get to learn a lot more about the aliens in the story, and that they truly are more than actors in rubber/funfur suits. It's charming, though low on incident.