Doctor Who #199: The Web of Fear Part 6

"Prepare for a great darkness to cloud your mind."TECHNICAL SPECS: Missing from the archives, it's back to a reconstruction (Part 1, Part 2) for me! (The episode has since been found, see Versions.) First aired Mar.9 1968.

IN THIS ONE... The Doctor submits to the Great Intelligence's mind drain, but to turn the tables, but all he manages is to cut it off from Earth.

REVIEW: The mystery of the Great Intelligence's pawn is solved as Arnold walks into the final scenes with a mind-draining helmet on his head, apparently an animated husk, long dead. I'm not sure that's an entirely satisfying solution because while the character might be considered suspect since episode 1 (where he intuited something about the Doctor he probably shouldn't have), and later made a miraculous return to action, there's really very little hint that he's the Intelligence in any of his dialog. In this very episode, he suspects the just-returned Chorley of being the pawn, but since HE'S the pawn, and no one else is there, we must ask just who he's trying to kid. The answer is the audience, us, and that's not exactly playing fair, writers.

It's also not a very strong showing for the Doctor as he fails to accomplish his goal. Oh, the Intelligence is defeated all right, cut off from the Earth plane, but he really wanted to drain its mind. Well, what the hell does that mean? Seems a dangerous thing to me to absorb an evil entity's mind (when pretty much all it is is "mind") into your own. Regardless, if he didn't want Jamie to screw everything up by trying to save him, he really should have let him in on the plan. Or at least no give him the means to control Fred the Yeti, whose role is largely disappointing seeing as the Doctor lets it re-assimilated into the Yeti army and never plans to use him. The on/off switch that works on all Yeti is all that was actually required.

I don't mean to come down so harshly on the episode, which I generally liked, but writing about it, all the plot holes float to the surface (yay! mixed metaphor! I don't feel bad given this story's DNA). The Doctor's attempt is a clever one, no doubt spawning lessons his seventh self will take into account as he perfects the mastermind facet of his mind. He also plays some of his best recorder music. The final escape from publicity is played for laughs, and Victoria utters the famous repeated meme "All these tunnels look the same to me." Arnold's burnt body is a simple make-up effect, but no less creepy. And hey, the door's left open for a repeat engagement. Maybe the new series can deliver a third (canonical) part to the Yeti saga. (It did, but just for the Great Intelligence, not the Yeti themselves.)

VERSIONS: The recovered episodes are even less fair in terms of who is the Great Intelligence's pawn because the performances don't really support. It's like no one told the actors who it was, so they all play it as if they aren't, with perhaps a fleeting, sinister moment in case. Good performances throughout though, perhaps a little richer for it. Anne Travers is still one of the better characters and should have replaced the useless Victoria right there. There's an awful lot of smoke in the climactic sequence, so it's better when the characters stand close to the camera. The pyramid blowing includes a neat little special effect. The fungus effect is gone from the end credits. The Target novelization includes a postscript in which Lethbridge-Stewart thinks of creating UNIT to deal with similar threats.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Many bits to enjoy both in terms of laughs and scares, but plot holes abound.

STORY REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - The Yeti are back in much more fearsome form, and are given an atmospheric, visual mish-mash away from Tibet. It looks great though, enough to overlook some of its padding and logic problems.



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