Doctor Who #198: The Web of Fear Part 5

"I have many other human hands at my command."TECHNICAL SPECS: Missing from the archives except for one brief clip (a scream), I've had to go to a reconstruction (Part 1, Part 2). (The episode has since been found, see Versions.) First aired Mar.2 1968.

IN THIS ONE... A possessed Travers kidnaps Victoria and the Doctor modifies a control sphere to control a Yeti he names Fred.

REVIEW: The Great Intelligence makes a showing, speaking through a possessed Travers (and strangely, a P.A. system) like it did Padmasambhava back in the day, but Watling gives it a wheezier voice and is all the more creepy for it. The Intelligence presents itself as an atemporal watcher, observing the Doctor's travels and lusting after his mind. Usually, immortal beings seek a Time Lord BODY, since they're really proud of their minds. No doubt these are more resilient to alien energies inhabiting them (regeneration is seen as a kind of stored, explosive energy). The image of a child-like Doctor, drained of his knowledge and experience is a percussive one, with Jamie and Victoria playing his parents until he "grows up". Still, one must wonder how intelligent and quick-to-develop a Time Tot would actually be.

As if anticipating a life as a parent, Jamie is particularly mature here. A bit impatient and reckless, perhaps, but he's right there suggesting viable tactics to Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart. It's too bad he never gets to use them, what with the fungus or Yeti constantly at the gates (almost comically so). But that's part of the push and pull that seems innate to the 6-parter, and I don't mean that in a good way. 6-parters, while no doubt a useful configuration for production purposes, are proving to be a hotbed of padding. Scenes that lead nowhere, and in the Doctor's case, real-time technical fiddling. There's just so much sphere remote control action I can take before my eyes glaze over, you know?

The 6-parter also seems to introduce and do away with guest characters almost at random, not that it's necessarily a bad thing because it makes each of them unsafe. Captain Knight, for example, seemed the butch hero of this set, but that didn't save him from the Yeti, especially once the even more butch Colonel showed up. Chorley's been gone a while, so the role of annoying supporting character passes to unfortunate Welsh stereotype Evans (who thankfully achieves some light humor). Arnold returns, a bit banged up, and is just about the only one no one accuses of being the Intelligence's pawn (so of course...), and the Doctor gets a pawn of his own by taking control of Fred the Yeti. Bless.

THEORIES: Readers wondering where the whole Dalek Fred meme (the name of the Dalek who kills the 10th Doctor for about a minute and a half) came from can look to this story at least for the first appearance of that surname. Connection?

VERSIONS: One performance worth looking at on the recovered video is Troughton's facial kindness to Anne Travers, which it makes it look even more like she was next in line for companionhood.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Jack Watling does a good, creepy job with the Great Intelligence's voice, and the story continues to play on the characters' paranoia as the walls close in (and, at the very end, burst!), but I can't help but grow impatient at the obvious padding.

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