Thursday 2 June 2011

192 The Web of Fear: Episode One

EPISODE: The Web of Fear: Episode One
TRANSMITTED: 03 February 1968
WRITER: Mervyn Haisman & Henry Lincoln
DIRECTOR: Douglas Camfield
SCRIPT EDITOR: Derrick Sherwin
PRODUCER: Peter Bryant
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - Lost In Time
TELESNAPS: The Web of Fear: Episode One

As I write this it's Wednesday 4th May 2011. Yeah I'm a few days ahead but there's a couple of trips away coming up and a hospital visit so having a few (29) blog entries in the bank won't hurt. Besides it means I can spend the morning of my Birthday watching one of my favourite surviving episodes of sixties Doctor Who. And as a bonus I get to talk about the London Underground too! RESULT!

Jamie closes the doors on the Tardis sealing them off from the forces pulling them outside. At a museum in London the elderly Edward Travers is arguing with the museum's owner, Julius Silverstien, for the return of his Yeti when Travers' daughter Ann arrives. Travers tells her that he has reactivated a Yeti control sphere but it's gone missing. She persuades him to come home with her. The museum's owner goes to lock up when he hears a crash. The Control Sphere has broken through a window, reactivating and changing the Yeti. The beast comes alive killing Silverstien. The Tardis materialises in space but finds itself quickly coated in a web like substance. In London some soldiers are in an underground shelter Corporal Lane is on the telephone as Corporal Blake searches for Captain Knight. Knight is giving an interview to journalist Harold Chorley, paying tribute to their commanding officer, Colonel Pemberton, who has been recently killed. Travers is brought in by some soldiers: his presence has been requested by his daughter who is working here. The Web clears a little allowing the Doctor to move the Tardis half a mile from where they were expected to land. They are in a tunnel. Exploring they find they are on the platform of Covent Garden Underground station. The Doctor believes it's night time but walking to the locked surface gates they find it's broad daylight. A news paper seller sits against the gate, but when Jamie taps him on the shoulder he topples over dead, revealing a sign reading "Londoners Flee! Menace Spreads!" Retreating to the tunnels Jamie steps onto the track but fortunately for him the power is off. As they walk down the tunnels to the next station suddenly the tunnel is illuminated. Hiding, they are passed by three soldiers unravelling a drum of cable. Jamie & Victoria follow the soldiers while the Doctor traces the cable back to it's source. Craftsmen Weams thinks he hears something in the tunnel but Staff Sergeant Arnold dismisses his fears. However Victoria then walks into a cob web and screams, allowing the three soldiers to capture them. The Doctor follows the cable to Charring Cross station where he finds in wired to boxes of explosives. He hears a familiar beeping sound and ducks under the platform as a Yeti walk onto the station. Back at the base Lane is unable to contact Holborn to find out what's happened to their ammunition truck. Ann Travers tells him and Captain Knight that she's repaired the blast recorder. Another Yeti joins the first, both pointing guns at the explosives box which cover it in a web like substance. Arnold brings Jamie & Victoria to the fortress where Knight hasn't got time to question them. They tell Arnold they were alone, trying to stop them hunting for the Doctor. However now he believes there's nobody in the tunnels Arnold reports to Knight it's safe to detonate the explosives. There's a small blast on the platform and the web covering the boxes starts to glow.....

LOTS to talk about today :-)

Watching this I almost resent the intrusion of the cliffhanger from the previous episode and the lengthy Tardis scene at the start because it keeps the Doctor & co out of the Underground for so long. The scenes in the Underground are so atmospheric, it's just such a natural location for Doctor Who to be set in with enclosed dark tunnels. I say location, but it's isn't, this is all Studio Sets. Returning director Douglas Camfield had his production assistant Gareth Gwenlan, later to be Head of Comedy at the BBC, enquire of London Transport as to the possibility of filming there. They said no, so designer David Myerscough-Jones created the distinctive Underground tunnels in the studio. So good was his work that London Transport wanted to know how Camfield et al had managed to gain access to their premises without their knowledge and court action was mooted. The character of Edward Travers returns in this episode, at least 30 years after the events of the Abominable Snowmen. He's the second non regular character, after the Meddling Monk, and the first non regular human character to appear in two different stories. Oddly enough the program's MOST regularly recurring character makes his debut later in this story. At the start of the episode Captain Knight is paying tribute to Colonel Pemberton, his recently deceased CO. This character is named after Victor Pemberton, Doctor Who's occasional Script Editor who was at the time writing the next story: Fury from the Deep.

The geography in this episode is a little bit wonky at first glance: How can the Doctor & co step onto the track on the station where the Tardis lands and end up where they do? A little interpretation makes sense of it. We see three locations: The shelter, which we later find out is the deep level shelter at Goodge Street Tube Station. The Tardis materialises at Covent Garden tube station. The explosives are found at Charring Cross Tube station. So although the story makes it seem that Jamie, Victoria & The Doctor have just walked into the tunnel and found the cable the likelihood is they've walked south on the Picadilly Line, and then at Leicester Square walked through the station to the Northern Line tunnels - the Northern line connects Charring Cross & Goodge Street stations - and walked from there. But Charring Cross in the story isn't the present day Charring Cross tube station: the Northern Line station there was at the time named The Strand and not connected to the Bakerloo line as it is now which stopped at a separate Trafalgar Square station (now absorbed into the present day Charring Cross station). "Charring Cross" then is the present day Embankment tube station, serving Nortern, Bakerloo, District and Circle lines.

The Army's 2nd base at Holborn, lies on the Picadilly Line one stop north of where the Tardis landed at Covent Garden. It also has platforms for the Central Line which intersects the Northern Line between Goodge Street & Charring Cross at Tottenham Court Road, for many years the tube station closest to most of London's comic and sci fi shops. Interestingly between Tottenham Court Road and Holborn lies the disused "Ghost Station" of British Museum. Sadly Web of Fear goes nowhere near ghost stations which is a fascinating subject in itself.

This is one of the stories that everyone remembers: Yeti on underground, Daleks in London, Cybermen coming up out of Sewers and "the one with the Seaweed and foam" are probably the four most mentioned sixties stories amongst non fans. The Yeti become the series third returning monster with this story a mere 12 episodes between the end of their last story and the beginning of this one (The Cybermen had a gap of 14 episodes between Tenth Planet and The Moonbase. Although memorable they're probably some way down the all time Doctor Who monster listings due to not having appeared since 1968.

Web of Fear was the first episode of Doctor Who to be returned to the BBC Film and Video library. In 1978 Sue Malden, BBC archive selector, made a visit to BBC Enterprises and found a batch of returned films from Asia TV in Hong Kong. Amongst these was one episode of Doctor Who: Web of Fear 1. She contacted Asia TV but they said they had no other old episodes of Doctor Who. However 14 years later the same television station found prints of all four episodes of The Tomb of the Cybermen in it's vaults. 13 episodes of Season 5 remain. 2 were always known to be at the BBC, four more were actually at the BBC all along but lost. So of the episodes returned from outside sources this season, most of them come from Asia TV. Further searches of their archives have been made and they insist nothing else is there. The only problem with this story is that in 1976 a list of episodes held by the BBC was produced in order to make the Whose Doctor Who documentary. That list includes a lone episode of the Web of Fear: episode one....

I wanted to see Web of Fear 1 when I was younger. I was very fond of the book of this story which I'd read in my local library dozens of times (said Hardback copy now sits on my shelves here) and I knew this episode existed. Anticipation was heightened by watching Abominable Snowmen 2 on Doctor Who - the Troughton Years in 1992. As we saw it wasn't released with Doctor Who: The Ice Warriors in 1998. In fact it didn't come out on video till the very last Doctor Who video release The Reign Of Terror, which Blackstar very helpfully failed to send me necessitating a run round several shops hunting a copy down (thank you HMV in Richmond). Since the soundtrack for the whole story was released on 6th March 2002 that makes this one of four episodes of Doctor Who that I hear before I saw them (the others are Dalek Masterplan 2 and Faceless Ones 1 & 3). Of course it's now available on DVD as part of Doctor Who - Lost In Time.

Sadly this is the only episode of this story to exist and the last episode we get to watch for a bit. We're entering our joint longest run of missing episodes at 13 episodes, equalling the run from Tenth Planet 4 - Underwater Menace 2. Here it consists of Web of Fear 2-6, Fury from the Deep 1-6 (the whole story) and Wheel in Space 1 & 2. But after that there's just NINE missing episodes of Doctor Who.

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