Doctor Who: The Web of Fear
(6 episodes, s05e23-e28, 1968)
Picking up right after the last serial, we get the return of Professor Travers, the Yeti, and the Great Intelligence. It’s been forty years and two serials since we last saw these guys, and the professor has provided a way for the Great Intelligence to return from being blown up and take over the world. He kept a control sphere, reactivated it, and there you go.
The TARDIS gets trapped in a web, which is intriguing because it tells me that the Great Intelligence can intercept the ship’s random flight plans. Is it an analogue to a bow wake or propeller noise in the depths of time? It’s never explained. Regardless, the Doctor breaks them free and the TARDIS materializes in the London Underground. And now the cute little reference to London’s subway in The Snowmen makes more sense.
They explore, find it abandoned, and encounter some soldiers. Jamie and Victoria get apprehended by the soldiers, and the Doctor is waylaid by a couple of Yeti who prevent an explosion from destroying the subway tunnels by covering it in the same web that snared the TARDIS.
We get to meet up with Travers again – I absolutely love his revelation that holy crap these are the same people I met forty years and two serials ago – and get introduced to new players Anne (the professor’s daughter) and Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart (hey, I know that guy!).
It turns out that the Intelligence has a mole in the base, and a reporter known as Chorley really wants to get away from the whole situation. Victoria lets slip about the TARDIS, Chorley go in search of it, and the travelers chase after him. I’m presuming that it’s because they don’t want him to die because I assume that the TARDIS is locked. Of course, that’s only because the First Doctor made a habit of locking it when he left, but I don’t know for certain that the Second Doctor has that habit.
The actual plot gets explained by the Great Intelligence: It was impressed that The Doctor defeated it forty years and two serials ago, and instead of destroying such talent, the Intelligence wants to possess it. The Intelligence gives the Doctor twenty minutes to surrender, takes Victoria as incentive, and promises to leave once it has the Doctor’s intellect. Realizing that a full-frontal assault is futile after Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart loses all of his troops, the Doctor rigs a control sphere to control a single Yeti and leaves to meet the Intelligence face to figurative face.
Everyone comes together at the lair of the Intelligence, and the being speaks to everyone through the mole, the now lifeless body of Staff Sergeant Arnold. The Doctor submits to the mind absorption, but Jamie looses the controlled Yeti to disrupt the proceedings and free everyone. The Doctor is angry because he had reversed the headset to absorb the Intelligence, but now it’s free (free fallin’) in space and no longer connected to the Earth. Crisis abated… at least for another 44 years in our world, anyway.
I question the Doctor’s efforts in this one. The Great Intelligence is so immense and powerful, and I don’t know if the Doctor could handle that kind of download to his brain. I feel that 1) it would have killed him, or 2) it would have backfired and given the Intelligence a corporeal form. That’s one hell of a gamble.
It was fun to see the Yeti again, even if it was in a poorly done reconstruction. The reconstructions are starting to wear on me, and while I’m still enjoying the journey, I’m really looking forward to the coming seasons just to see the stories a bit more clearly.
I need to seek out the recently discovered film version (which is still missing episode three), but my enthusiasm to do so is a little less for this one. It was a good story overall, but really slow. It needed to be tightened up and streamlined to four or five episodes. Even with that complaint, it’s still a good missing link in the mythology and a good springboard for things to come, and I did enjoy it.
Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”
UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Fury from the Deep
The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.