Sunday 17 November 2013

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: iTunes The Web of Fear
DVD PREORDER: Doctor Who - The Web of Fear [DVD]
TELESNAPS: The Web of Fear: Episode One

"Now is it safe?"
"Oh, I shouldn't think so for a moment!"

I wrote this originally on Wednesday 4th May 2011. Yeah I was a few days ahead but there was a couple of trips away coming up and a hospital visit so having a few (29) blog entries in the bank did't hurt. Besides it meant that I got to 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. As I explained at some length yesterday it'd be better to chop the opening Tardis scene off and bolt it onto the end of Enemy of the World 6, starting this episode at the museum! (a challenge to any video editors out there) But the actual opening of the story is superb, almost straight out of a Hammer Horror film, complete with candles, and the sequence as the Yeti change form and come to life might as well be Frankenstein's Monster coming to life.

Web1_yeti1 Web1_yeti2

I can't be 100% sure but I believe this sequence features the earliest born actor in Doctor Who. Frederick Schrecker, playing Julius Silverstein the Yeti's owner , was born January 10, 1892 in Vienna, Austria. He'd have been 76 when this episode was made. He made his film acting debut in 1913 in Der Feldherrnh├╝gel as the Regimentsarzt (under the name Fritz Schrecker) He died 8 years later on July 13, 1976 (age 84) in London. As far as I'm aware he's the only actor to appear in Doctor Who who was born in the 19th Century.


The scenes with Silverstein in his museum, originally planned for location filming at the Natural History Museum, are brought to perfection by the music used: Bela Bartok's Adagio from Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta. This appeared in the previous story, the Enemy of the world, most notably in episode 4 when Salamander enters the shelter, but to me it works much better here. It's not the only piece of music this story that returning director Douglas Camfield will reuse!

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. 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.

The geography in this episode seems 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 Piccadilly 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.

Since it's the centrepiece of the action it's probably worth reproducing a diagram of the Northern Line c1968. I've included the names then and, where different, now plus which other lines they intersected then and what stations mentioned in the story they're connected to.

{The location of the Army's Fortress}
(Central Line for Holborn)
(Piccadilly Line for Piccadilly Circus (West) and Covent Garden & Holborn (East))
[Now Charring Cross]
(Bakerloo Line for Piccadilly Circus)
[Now Embankment]
(Bakerloo Line for Piccadilly Circus)
(Circle & District Lines for Cannon Street & Monument (East))

Knowing that the Charring Cross scenes are at the present day Embankment explains why the army is attempting to destroy that tunnel: they want to stop the Yeti, and the Web, penetrating from the South West corner of the Circle Line they currently hold (see later episodes) onto the Northern Line. It's worth asking yourself what the Yeti are doing on Charring Cross station. Did they just stumble across the explosives that Staff Sergeant Arnold's party have laid or did they know it was there somehow......

The Army's 2nd base at Holborn, lies on the Piccadilly 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. The most recent series of new Doctor Who did feature the Great Intelligence, the Yeti's controlling force and "snowmen" albeit of the more icey kind. Some have seen their inclusion as an on screen hint of the imminent return of the story.....

Returning to Doctor Who for this production are Douglas Camfield, absent since the 12 part Dalek Masterplan two years earlier, and Melvyn Haysman & Henry Lincoln, who wrote the Yeti's previous appearance, The Abominable Snowmen. There's an indication in the script that Haysman and Lincoln might be Pink Floyd fans: Web of Fear features characters named Arnold & Lane. Seeing the names together makes you think that inspiration may have come from the Floyd's 1967 hit Arnold Layne.

Right lets get the changes in behind the scenes personnel out the way: It's Peter Bryant's first show as producer proper, after a trial run on Tomb of the Cybermen. The new script editor is Derrick Sherwin, an actor turned writer. He'd been working on the popular soap opera Crossroads and brought with him to Doctor Who a writer he'd worked with there to act as his Assistant Script Editor: Terrance Dicks, who'll we'll here much, MUCH more from later.

There's a little on-screen nod to the production staff at the start of the episode when 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 (Tomb of the Cybermen, while Peter Bryant was having his trial at producing) who was at the time writing the next story: Fury from the Deep.

Appearing as a soldier in this episode only is Bernard G. High. High had appeared occasionally in Z-Cars during 1967 as Det. Constable John. By an odd coincidence his director in all 3 appearances was one D Camfield who later reused him as a Unit Soldier in Terror of the Zygons 2! His final Z-Cars appearance, Finch & Sons pt2 also features Richardson Morgan who plays Corporal Blake in this story and later returns as Rogin in Ark in Space!

Web of Fear was the second 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 which she believed to be from Asia TV in Hong Kong (Note this information, taken from the first edition of Wiped! Doctor Who's Missing Episodes was removed for the The Second Edition). 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 prior to 2013 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....

The recent recovery of a near complete set of prints for this story has shed some light on the origins of the BBC's existing print of Web of Fear 1. The prints returned from Nigeria had been sent to them by RTV in Hong Kong. The BBC's print is likely to be the copy of Web of Fear sent back from Australia on 04/06/1975. This batch of films also included all the stories which have had individual episodes recovered in the UK over the years: Galaxy 4 episode 3, Underwater menace 2, Faceless Ones 3, Evil of the Daleks 2 and Wheel in Space 3.

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 (at the time of the original Blog) four episodes of Doctor Who that I heard before I saw them (the others are Dalek Masterplan 2 and Faceless Ones 1 & 3 - 11 more episodes have been returned since and added to the list). Of course it's now available on DVD as part of Doctor Who - Lost In Time with a commentary by Deborah Watling (Victoria) and Script Editor Derrick Sherwin moderated by Gary Russell.

The return of the Web of Fear doesn't affect us for this episode at the moment but a copy of Web of Fear 1 was returned with the four other episodes and apparently that's of superior quality to the existing one so when the DVD comes out it might be interesting to compare the episode there with the one found on Lost in Time.

Join us tomorrow as we WATCH Web of Fear 2 - something I never thought we'd be able to do!

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