Watching the Web of Fear

Web of Fear - Londoners FleeI re-watched The Web of Fear and rather than a review I present my thoughts. I won’t over-explain the plot as I would hope any fan knows that this is about Yeti, London Underground, the Second Doctor, Jamie, Victoria and the first appearance of the Brigadier (as a Colonel). I will explain why I think this is such an effective story.

Why only watch it now?

The story has been mostly missing for a very long time, and I have heard the sound-track release a few years ago. It is also one of the stories I remember watching at the time and I have always thought it one of the best. It has something to recommend it – I was seven and a half when it was broadcast and I know I watched it. Like Ice Warriors, Yeti, Tomb of the Cybermen, Wheel in Space and War Games it has never been forgotten.

What makes it stand out (and what doesn’t)?

Two things really shine the performance of Nicholas Courtney and the set. The Colonel character is played with charisma and mystery. We have the benefit of knowing what happened next but at the time the Lethbridge-Stewart character was sinister in places, commanding yet could easily have been an agent of the Great Intelligence. Great stuff.

[pullquote]a real achievement [/pullquote]

The real star is the look and feel with the creation of a convincing London Underground that fooled even the tube company themselves. Spend some time looking at angles, changes of station sign, posters, use of tunnels and the way the sound is worked. This is a real achievement in terms of economical use of sets. Obviously cost was split across six episodes and there are very few locations used but maximum exploitation is made of them.

Other thoughts: Victoria’s character gets little to do except wear a short skirt, Jamie looks so young and has a go, the whole Quatermass feel is impressive and characters such as the selfish reporter flesh it out well. The Welsh soldier is a bit stereotyped, the web in space catching the TARDIS is weak but that can all be parked as window-dressing. The Yeti look clumsy as costumes but the direction and acting mitigates some of that.

I do like the ending – Jamie saves the day just to get his ear bitten off by the Doctor. Great stuff.

What about the reconstruction?

With only a couple of wobbles I was very impressed with the clarity of the print and the whole production really suits black and white (almost as though they filmed it that way!). The use of stills to pad out the still missing third episode is OK, a reconstruction might have been nice though dearer and slower to produce. It is what it is and familiarity with the story carries the listener through. The biggest regret is that the first appearance of Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart is still absent.

Why only two Yeti stories?

This is such a strong story there must have been temptation to use the Yeti / Great Intelligence again. Once the show moved to colour it might be the costumes didn’t work or maybe new production teams wanted to forge their own series. We ended up with Daleks, Cybermen and to a lesser extent Ice Warriors continuing. The return of the Great Intelligence in recent stories demonstrates that they did have mileage. Perhaps it is as simple as the Professor Travers element – would he be in a third story? Would the next be in twenty years time when his daughter is older? I don’t know – someone who does please enlighten me.

That’s Web of Fear then – a wonderful memory that on re-watch has not been diminished. Wow!

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