Wednesday 20 November 2013

195 The Web of Fear: Episode Four

EPISODE: The Web of Fear: Episode Four
TRANSMITTED: 24 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 Four<

"I wish I could give you a precise answer. Perhaps the best way to describe it is a sort of formless, shapeless thing floating about in space like a cloud of mist, only... with a mind and will."

Knight's party are stopped from reaching Holborn by Fungus as is the Doctor's attempt to get to the Tardis. The Doctor takes a sample of the Fungus in Evans' tobacco tin. Returning to HQ they find the soldiers, including Weams, dead and Professor Travers missing. The Ops room map shows more stations have fallen to the fungus with just a few left. Lethbridge-Stewart speculates on who the traitor is, thinking it may be the abducted Professor Travers while the Doctor feels the absent Chorley is a much more likely candidate. The Doctor tells them about the Tardis and the Colonel decides to mount a rescue mission. The Doctor and Anne work on a device to override the Intelligence's signals and control a Yeti. Evans finds one of the missing Yeti models which the Doctor deactivates. Arnold, Lane & Evans are to take a trolley to Covent Garden while he takes the majority of the soldiers overground to the station. Examining Evans' tobacco tin The Doctor finds it empty, casting suspicion on the Welsh driver. Arnold & Lane don respiratory gear and venture into the fungus with the trolley. Hearing screams Evans drags the trolley back finding Lane's dead body on it. Lethbridge-Stewart's party are ambushed by Yeti. Captain Knight accompanies the Doctor to the surface to fetch electronic spares. While they are raiding a shop a Yeti enters, killing Knight before leaving. Searching Knight's body the Doctor finds one of the other two missing Yeti statues. He returns to Goodge Street just before Lethbridge-Stewart, the sole survivor of the surface expedition to Covent Garden. Searching the Colonel's pockets they find the final Yeti statue as two Yeti enter with an Intelligence possessed Professor Travers.

It's a bit of a bloodbath this episode with virtually the entire supporting cast wiped out. So by the end of it suspects for the traitor are few and you can make an excellent case for it being the missing Chorley, absent for the entire episode. When I first watched this episode for the blog I said that the fight scenes sounded good and looked great from the telesnaps (it was the first time I'd seen them) and that there was even a few moments of the battle preserved thanks to the Australian censors which gave us our first surviving glimpse of Lethbridge-Stewart. Now of course we can watch the entire thing. I'll freely admit that, tipped off by a comment made online, one of the first things I watched when the downloads became available was the battle from this episode (appropriately enough on my iPad while in the bathroom) and it's fab, a superb action sequence. The rest of the episode is superb too especially the sequence with Arnold, Lane and Evans pushing the trolley into the web: Arnold and Lane go in but following screams only Lane's body is pulled out with Arnold missing presumed dead. This scene is one of two sequences in the episode where Camfield's filmed back through the web to show the action occurring outside it and the effect looks superb. It's worth noting that the cowardly Evans doesn't even try to do a bunk following this he just heads straight back to HQ.


That version of the scene appears to be the web effect vision mixed over the scenes in the tunnel but earlier, as the Doctor collects the fungus there's a physical layer too which then has the pulsing web laid over it as the Doctor tries to cut some off


It's interesting looking at the supporting cast: the first few episodes gave us lots of named characters in the army but here most of them are used up giving us one named death per major incident with the Yeti:

Weams dies in the Yeti attack on HQ.
Lane is killed trying to move the trolley through the Web. Arnold disappears in the same incident but at the moment his fate is uncertain.
Blake is the final casualty in the battle at Covent Garden which only Lethbridge-Stewart survives.
Knight is killed by the Yeti at the electronics shop.

You can make a decent case for the traitor being Lethbridge-Stewart at this juncture: he doesn't recognise Evans, supposedly his driver to Holborn, he's responsible for the deaths of all the army personnel trying to get to the Tardis and he's the only character carrying around a Yeti model to survive. Yet we, as 2013 Doctor Who fans know it can't be him. It'd be nice to see some contemporary reviews and see if anyone jumped to that conclusion.

Despite this attempt to rescue the Tardis Lethbridge-Stewart doesn't even see the outside of the Tardis here, that'd have to wait till the Third Doctor's/Jon Pertwee's debut story in 1970. As for the inside of the Tardis, he doesn't see that for another 5 years after this! He first goes inside in the Three Doctors and interestingly it's Patrick Troughton's Second Doctor in it then!

What did happen to the Fungus in Evans' Tobacco Tin? Did it just evaporate? This is really the only solution that makes sense. As far as we can see Evans didn't tamper with it or pass it to anyone else.

This episode is really, really fabulous well worth a watch and one of the best examples of sixties Doctor Who I've seen. We might be be upset about episode 3, the first proper appearance of Lethbridge-Stewart being missing but I think it would have been so much worse if this episode had been the one missing from the set in Nigeria.

If Douglas Camfield makes one mistake in this episode it's his use of Martin Slavin's Space Adventure over the Covent Garden battle scene. Not that it isn't suitable or doesn't fir the action, it works fine on those points. It's just that to my mind, and many other Doctor Who fans too, this piece of music is too strongly associated with the Cybermen having been used in The Tenth Planet, Moonbase and Tomb of the Cybermen.

The appearances of the actors who play the Yeti in these episodes are somewhat chaotic: not every actor is in every episode nor are they credited for the ones they're in. Episode four, with it's battle, easily contains the most with four Yeti actors appearing and a further one uncredited. According to IMDB this is who appeared in what episode: C indicates they're credited, U that they're uncredited and a blank that they're not in that episode:

  Episode 1
Episode 2
Episode 3
Episode 4
Episode 5
Episode 6
John Levene C C   C C C
Gordon Stothard C C   C C C
Colin Warman C U   C    
John Lord   C   C   C
Jeremy King   C C U    
Roger Jacombs           C

If you're a Doctor Who fan you'll immediately recognise the top name on that list: John Levene, the future UNIT Sergeant Benton. He'd already had an uncredited role in The Moonbase episode 3 in early 1967 as a Cyberman. He then spent most of the rest of the year appearing as an extra in Z-Cars notching up 13 episodes between March and September. Four of these were directed by Douglas Camfield, who re-employs him here and would later use him on an episode of Detective, and another was by future Who producer Barry Letts, who was in charge of Doctor Who when Levene became a regular.

The Web of Fear is Gordon Stothard's first acting job. He returns as a Cyberman in four episodes of the Wheel in Space and then, uncredited, as a Prison Officer in Mind of Evil. After that he changes his stage name to Gordon St Clair and appears under this name as Grun, the King's Champion, in all four episodes of the Curse of Peladon. John Lord also returns as Masters, one of Reegan's henchmen in episode 4 of The Ambassadors of Death.

Meanwhile we also have a few more extras playing the soldiers and amongst them are some very familiar names:


Philip Ryan (on the right)returns to Doctor Who in the Mind Robber 2 & 3 as a Redcoat and Inferno 5 & 6 (director D Camfield). Tim Condren (center) had been in Time Meddler 4: Checkmate as a Saxon Warrior (I wonder who directed that ;-) ? ) and would return in Day of the Daleks 1 as a Guerilla. His lengthy career involves a lot of extra and stunt work. But the three most recognisable names here are Derek Ware (IMDB), Terry Walsh (IMDB) and Derek Martin (IMDB.


In this photo Martin's on the right looking at the camera, Walsh is semi obscured behind him and to the left and to the left of him, looking left, is Ware. (My Thanks to David Brunt for correcting my identification of who's who in the photos) Derek Martin's already been in two Doctor Whos: The Romans 4: Inferno as an uncredited extra and The Massacre 3: Priest of Death as a Parisian in Rue des Fosses St. Germain, again uncredited. Several more roles will follow before his only onscreen credits as David Mitchell in Image of the Fendahl 1 & 2. Nowadays he's best known for playing Charlie Slater in Eastenders.

Derek Ware had worked on the program since the very beginning serving as the fight arranger on the very first story, which Camfield worked on as a Production Assistant. He returns for the Aztecs and then the Crusade (Camfield's full directorial debut), cameos as a Bus Driver in The Chase 6: Planet of Decision (in a sequence directed by Camfield). He serves as a Trojan Solider & Fight Arranger for the Myth Makers before being reunited with Camfield during the Daleks Masterplan. He serves as a Spaniard & Fight Arranger on the Smugglers, which is also Terry Walsh's Who debut as a Militiaman, before Fight Arranging episode 3 of the Underwater Menace. For probably your clearest view of him see the first three episodes of Inferno where he's Private Wyatt. He founded the Havoc group of stuntmen, used regularly by Doctor Who in the early 70s until the point where Terry Walsh took over as regular stuntman for the Doctor doubling for first Jon Pertwee and then Tom Baker.

There's some excellent location work in this episode involving the battle scenes in Covent Garden, filmed in and around the real world location . It's really odd seeing the Yeti above the surface wandering the streets of London after our only glimpses of them for years was in the tube tunnels.


There's some lovely behind the scenes shots from this location shoot in the recently released Daily Mirror - The Doctors Archive which is well worth a look for many older and previously unseen photos.

More of the story would have been filmed on location, but famously Douglas Camfield was denied permission to film on the Underground. However we'd already seen filming involving London Underground locations in a previous Doctor Who story. In the first episode Dalek Invasion of Earth the river bridge, under which a roboman throws himself to death on location which is then recreated in studio, was Kew Railway Bridge which carries the District Line over the Thames between Kew and Gunnersbury. Later that same episode there's location filming of Barbara & Susan crossing a deserted London including some filmed at the abandoned Wood Lane Central Line station. In Web of Fear the Army's fortress is the Deep Level Shelter at Goodge Street. Another Deep Level Shelter, at Camden Town, provides a location in The Sunmakers. Incredibly the country railway station seen in Black Orchid was at one time a London Underground station! Quainton Road Station was once served by Metropolitan line trains. The Met terminates now at Amersham, but once upon a time continued north, through Aylesbury to Quainton after which it branched to either Verney Junction or Brill, which is in Oxfordshire!

If you'd like to see The London Underground's homage to Doctor Who then visit the Jubilee line station at London Waterloo. The panels used on the wall there are suspiciously Tardis like as you can see in these photos.

This episode was shown on 24th February 1968. The Web of Fear DVD release is planned for 24th February 2014, the 46th anniversary of the broadcast of this episode.

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