Doctor Who #197: The Web of Fear Part 4

"We're the flies, all right, but where is the spider?"TECHNICAL SPECS: Missing from the archives aside from a relatively generous number of clips, I had to go to a reconstruction again (Part 1, Part 2). (The episode has since been found, see Versions.) First aired Feb.25 1968.

IN THIS ONE... The Yeti attack, take Travers, attack again, destroy the army, attack again, kill Knight, and attack one more time, because it's the cliffhanger.

REVIEW: This is the action-heavy chapter to be sure, as everyone tangles with either the Yeti or the Great Intelligence's pulsing fungus (its body-stuff slowly materializing on Earth). Chorley and Arnold disappear, making them prime suspects for being the Intelligence's pawns, but the accusatory finger continues to point at Evans whenever it can. But while the production continues to play on the paranoia (with an extra helping of Lovecraftian description), it takes a back seat to the violence of the Yeti attacks. The first one is shocking enough, but the second is an extended battle in which all of Lethbridge-Stewart's soldiers get killed. There are quite a few clips from these sequences, and that's exciting, but the reconstruction also splices in "soldiers battling in a warehouse" from The War Machines. If it didn't, it would seem to go on forever. I wish we had more of it, especially the bits with the Brig in the middle of the action - and a bazooka! - or if only to see if and how they kept it fresh (see Versions). Strangely, they use the Cybermen music over the battle, which just sounds wrong because it's so distinctive.

It's interesting to see this early version of Lethbridge-Stewart because we know what's to come. At some point, the Brig will become the Doctor's foil and often play the role of the unbeliever. Not here. He takes the stories of the TARDIS in his stride, and without batting an eyelid, prepares to rescue the craft so they can use it to escape. (I imagine a What If story in which the platoon got lost in time with the Doctor, Jamie and Victoria.) The latter two don't fare as well, as the Doctor benches them before going off to the lab with Anne Travers. It's really too bad that in a moody story with a returning monster both these companions have faced before, the writers couldn't find a place for them.

There's a nice conceit about the Yeti pawns being used a homing beacons planted on people the traitor wants dead, a fun re-imagining of the sympathetic magic they were once used for. However, it's all a bit repetitive as each party gets attacked. Presumably, it wouldn't be as bad if we could see what was happening, so...

VERSIONS: If you're wondering what that gross overlay is at the end of the each episode's credits, it's now used as a fungus-eye view filter when soldiers are at the gates, so that's what it is. The full battle scenes look cool enough for Doctor Who in this era. The choreography isn't perfect, but Lethbridge-Stewart cuts a heroic figure fighting the Yeti. Knight dies a horrible death, judging from his open eyes. And the Doctor flails his hands at a Yeti's back to make it leave Knight alone, which looks silly, but pretty perfect for this Doctor. As for the traitor's identity, there's a shot that really does suggest it clearly, an expression on his face that's quick, but telling.


REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Big action set pieces can be fun, but when the video's missing, they don't quite work so well. Good thing it's back in the archives, then!

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