Cool Things About “The Web of Fear”
(And 14 Stupid Ones)
(But we're not telling you which is which)
(We're expecting you to work that out for yourselves)
By Alan Stevens and Fiona Moore
Originally published in Celestial Toyroom Issue 494
1. The story begins with the Doctor and Victoria writhing on the floor while Jamie attempts to get into a better position. Well, that's the Troughton era for you.
2. And, immediately prior to this, Salamander was sucked out, and Jamie nearly joined him. These really do just write themselves.
3. Julius Silverstein is not exactly one of Doctor Who's most nuanced portrayals of ethnic minorities.
4. He does get a little competition later, of course, from Driver Evans, the lackadaisical, cowardly, singing Welshman.
5. Music from this serial was used in The Shining. Not sure if Stanley Kubrick was a fan of Douglas Camfield (considering he's known to have watched the fourth episode of "The Daleks' Master Plan") or composer Wendy Carlos had a liking for this particular track of stock music.
6. The Tardis food machine appears to have gone from nougat-like bars which taste like eggs and bacon, to producing proper sandwiches.
7. "Know where the Captain is?" "He's upstairs being chatted up by that TV bloke." In the Troughton era, even the army were kinky.
8. After the first scene with Harold Chorley, Alan Whicker was probably putting the writ straight in the post.
9. "Television? Never watch it. You an actor or something?" As the fourth-wall-breach humour piles higher and higher.
10. Though it's interesting that the only TV station mentioned is the fictitious London Television. Why not just make it the BBC and have done with it?
11. "Where are we?" "I really don't know, Victoria." As it's a tube station, it's a shame that it was, in fact, Covent Garden, rather than Victoria.
12. We'd make a joke about how the Great Intelligence conspicuously avoids the Victoria Line, except the line in question wouldn't open until September 1968.
13. It can't be said enough: the Underground tunnel and station really is a good set.
14. Though the Goodge Street laboratory set does slightly let the side down with a great big wobble in Episode 5.
15. It's all very effectively claustrophobic, though, with the shadows, tunnels and webs.
16. The Metropolitan Railway, the first line of the London Underground, opened in 1863, and, as one of the engineering wonders of its time, was heavily publicised. If Victoria, who met the Doctor in 1867, didn't know about it, she led a very sheltered life indeed.
17. "Funny, isn't it, how we keep landing on your Earth?" As the Doctor and companions start getting in on the fourth-wall-breaches.
18. Authoritative, scientific, intelligent, and rocking the Sixties fashions, Anne Travers is clearly the spiritual ancestor of Liz Shaw.
19. Ann's own spiritual ancestors, of course, are the less groovy but nonetheless cool trio of female scientists and investigators from the Quatermass trilogy: Judith Caroon, Paula Quatermass and Barbara Judd.
20. Professor Travers is a bit on the Quatermass spectrum himself, albeit recalling Andrew Keir and looking forward to the Sir John Mills version, rather than any of the 1950s portrayals.
21. Meanwhile, Harold Chorley is a complete media psychopath, delighted to hear about deaths and accidents.
22. Merchandising Missed Opportunities, part 94: the little Yeti figurines. Have Character Options ever considered doing a retro-prop-replica line?
23. Also, the web guns. Very cool indeed.
24. Jamie and Victoria last met Professor Travers in 1935, some forty years before the events of "The Web of Fear". It's now been over fifty years since the serial aired. Something to give the viewer pause.
25. And yes, that does imply "The Web of Fear" takes place in 1975. The fact the Eleventh Doctor hands the Great Intelligence a 1967 tube map in "The Snowmen" is thus another fourth-wall-breach.
26. Although the story actually aired from February to March 1968, so make of that what you will.
27. Episode 2 features a rare instance in Doctor Who where a female scientist asks the (female) companion to make the tea.
28. Fred Karno's Army, of course, "cannot fight and cannot fuck". According to a WWII-era military ditty, that is.
29. There are three Doctor Who stories where action takes place on the London Underground. These are "The Web of Fear", "Invasion of the Dinosaurs", and "The Mysterious Planet".
30. 30. The foam-like substance that oozes along the Underground tunnel and later breaks through the wall of the Goodge Street Fortress was created through pumping Fairy Liquid though a couple of miniature sets.
31. On his initial appearance, Lethbridge-Stewart comes across as a beautifully ambiguous figure, with the viewer never being quite certain if he's one of the good guys or not.
32.Lethbridge-Stewart's line, when challenged about his identity by Captain Knight, "Glad to see you don't take things at face value", almost seems like a hint that he's not who he appears to be.
33. He also looks to be playing a divide-and-conquer game, slyly suggesting to Knight that Travers is actually the one running the operation.
34. Mind you, the serial also regularly hints that Evans' thick act is just a persona.
35. "Those Yeti have changed in appearance.... I wonder how the Intelligence managed that?" Sometimes the best way to handle a continuity problem is just to roll with it.
36. The Great Intelligence's invasion appears to centre on London's West End. Perhaps, after stealing the Doctor's mind, he'll take in a show.
37. In the Doctor Who universe, to judge by the thunk-ing sound of the soldiers' footsteps, the London Underground has been paved in wood.
38. How likely is it that Chorley could break into the Tardis in the first place, let alone fly it?
39. The story draws a lot of parallels and, even, links between the Doctor and the Great Intelligence, with the Doctor describing it as "floating about in space", as he does himself; he is also able to take control of one of its spheres and a Yeti, and saying directly that it has brought him here. It's entirely possible, in a serial predating the Gallifrey backstory, to consider that the Doctor and the Great Intelligence might both be part of the same entity, which lends a different interpretation to the Great Intelligence wanting the Doctor's mind.
40. Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart is surprisingly OK with the idea of the Doctor owning a time-space craft, adding to the unease about the officer's identity and motivations.
41. The common-room dartboard features in so many scenes it's practically a character.
42. Blake's remark in Episode 2 that the only way to kill a Yeti is to shoot it between the eyes is clearly seen to be accurate in Episode 4.
43. "Over the top, all of you!" The Brigadier joins the fourth-wall-breachers and becomes a theatrical critic.
44. The Doctor needs electronic equipment, which has to be looted from a shop on the surface. This plan will later re-emerge during "Invasion of the Dinosaurs", with Professor Whitaker requiring a similar service of Butler.
45. "I may be stupid, but I'm not daft" is a line from Driver Evans which deserves unpacking on so many levels.
46. Jack Watling, when playing the Great Intelligence, somehow manages to convey the impression of an amorphous, floating being that's not sure how to move in a physical body.
47. The story is good at deploying the unexpected death of a guest character to strong effect (Weams and Knight), and even reversing it so we also get the unexpected survival of a guest character (Staff Sergeant Arnold) as well.
48. The movie poster advertising a film called "Block-Busters" in the background during Episode 6 is actually for the 1967 film In the Heat of the Night.
49. In that same scene, if you slow down the DVD as the Yeti turns around, you can see a bloody great zip up the back.
50. Great furry bearlike creatures wandering around the Underground covering people with webs, carrying pyramids and filling the tunnels with bubble bath. It's totally absurd, but played completely straight, it works magnificently.