Doctor Who #195: The Web of Fear Part 2

"You have a reputation for distorting the truth. You take reality and you make it into a comic strip."TECHNICAL SPECS: Missing from the archives except for a few brief clips, so I've gone for another reconstruction (Part 1, Part 2). (The episode has since been found, see Versions.) First aired Feb.10 1968.

IN THIS ONE... The Yeti attack! Everyone gets separated! The Doctor isn't in it!

REVIEW: No matter what this episode's strengths are (and there are several), it will remain a disappointment that Troughton is on holiday and does not appear except briefly in the reprise. Perhaps we're meant to fear for his survival, but it's really a case of out of sight, out of mind as Jamie takes the reigns, warns everyone of the Great Intelligence and tells them how to stop it (smash the pyramid, save the world). It's not entirely uncharacteristic and he really is at his best when playing the action hero, here coming face to face with a giant ball of fungus that looks like Rover from The Prisoner. Not sure that was the intent, but it's memorable. Victoria doesn't fare so well, telling the soldiers the Doctor must have had a good reason to sabotage the explosive device (yes girl, like maybe survival?) before stupidly going off-grid. At least Watling gets to play sweetly against her real-life father (Travers).

Speaking of Travers, there are some continuity problems that are particularly noticeable because The Abominable Snowmen wasn't so long ago. He knows way too much about the TARDIS and from which era Victoria comes from, when in reality, the Doctor took care of not mentioning any of it either to Travers or the monks. Viewers at the time could have been forgiven for thinking they might have forgotten all about those conversations three months earlier, but it's only been two weeks for me. An odd lapse on the part of the writers. There are some good bits featuring Professor Travers and his daughter however. The former opens up a Yeti control sphere and we have nice pictures of the interior's mechanics (sadly, they're less metaphysical than I'd surmised in earlier articles). Anne, for her part, tears the sensationalist Chorley a new one in a way that makes me think she would have made a fine companion, though she also concludes the Doctor is behind the Yeti (maybe not so much then).

The first Yeti attack is made with only two Yeti, which isn't much, but the brief clips we had (see Versions), too violent or scary for Australian TV, looked really nice. Great lighting, music and sound design. I much prefer my Yeti to roar than to beep. There's something desperate and real about a soldier sitting between the rails firing at the monsters to no avail before getting a faceful of webbing. And back at HQ, the advance of the fungus, reminiscent of the mucus coming down the mountain in The Abominable Snowmen, is tracked on a map of the underground tunnels, which must be thrilling for Londoners who know the stations. We outsiders gets a sense of it, but of course, may not recognize the names.

THEORIES: Let the UNIT dating controversies begin! We're told here that the Tibetan adventure took place in 1935, and further, that it was 40 years ago. In other words, The Web of Fear happens in 1975. That would be fine EXCEPT that the next episode will feature the first appearance of one Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart, not yet a Brigadier with UNIT. If, like me, you'd rather think of the UNIT stories as contemporary with their broadcast date (and it fixes most problems to do so), simply tell your friends that Travers is a senile old man who rounded up 32 years to 40. That's what I do. (Always be wary of a round number.)

VERSIONS: If the main joy the recovered episodes bring is seeing all those lost Troughton performances, you're up a tunnel without a web-gun with this one. One bit of acting you want to see is Chorley checking out Anne Travers' chest in a way that looks like it was really the ACTOR letting his eye be drawn there (and so the BBC immediately wiped the episode). There are way more Yeti in the tunnels than the pictures suggested. And the goopy fungus at the end looks more like soap sudds now that we get a good look at them. Still a cool effect.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - No Doctor and puzzling dialog choices are annoying elements to an otherwise taut monster thriller.

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