Doctor Who: The Web of Fear (1968)
Many years ago, after Jackie Gleason passed away several videotaped episodes of the Honeymooners were discovered and released through Gleason’s estate. I’ve seen some of the lost shows, and having watched the syndicated classics over and over (Norton: “Helloooooo ball….”) the newly discovered episodes were disappointing. Ralph wasn’t Ralph and the vide wasn’t the same. I can’t say the same about The Web of Fear (1968), one of nine lost Doctor Who programmes recently discovered in a tape archive at the television station in Nigeria. The good doctor’s second incarnation from 1966-1969 was played by London-borne actor Patrick Troughton (The Omen, 1976; Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, 1977; Hamlet, 1948). In The Web of Fear (1968, six parts), the Doctor and his companions Jamie McCrimmon (Frazer Hines) and Victoria Waterfield (Deborah Watling) battle robotic “Yetis” dwelling in a London subway.
The Web of Fear is more or less a sequel to an earlier Doctor Who programme The Abominable Snowmen (1967), where the Doctor and friends encounter Professor Travers, mysterious silver orbs, an ancient sword, monks, gurus, yetis and an ancient relic the “Holy Ghanta” in a monastery in the Himalayan Mountains. In The Web of Fear, an inanimate Yeti is archived away as a museum piece by Professor Travers’ colleague Silverstein. Travers warns Silverstein about the danger of the Yeti, but the curator will have none of that. We soon learn that a silver orb controls the beast and Silverstein comes face to face with a Yeti.
I like the design of the Yetis, which are shaggy and rotund, with owl-like luminescent eyes, featureless faces, with stocky claws and bi-pedal stance. They look more a kin to something fabricated in a Jim Henson studio or the Rankin/Bass Bumble from Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer (1964) than the popular perception of a hairy, lean, muscular and ferocious anthroponoid. The Yetis also carry sidearms which spit out a silk-like substance, hence “Web of Fear,” that immobilizes both the TARDIS, people and mechanical devices. The script refers to the Yeti webbing as a fungi, which draws attention to the Martian weed in H.G. Wells War of the Worlds.
Patrick Troughton was well cast as Doctor Who. I like the forced Beatle mop top on a 40-something year old man. It was obvious that the BBC was going for a more youthful and hip approach after William Hartnell, who was in his mid to late 50’s as the Doctor. Troughton’s doctor seems technically adept fiddling with apparatus and improving the efficiency of the TARDIS. Here are a few screen captures.
The Web of Fear is currently available as a down-load fron iTunes ($10). Episode 3 is still lost, but the episode was restored using several stills and audio tracks. I think most Doctor Who fans would have been happy just with reconstructed episodes, but seeing these classic programmes for the first time is really special. Doctor Who: The Web of Fear is not just for fans of the long showing series. I think all sci-fi genre enthusiasts will celebrate this find. The Web of Fear garners my vote for essential viewing and one of the significant finds in the last few years.
D. Coleman, 2012. The Bigfoot Filmography, McFarland. Pages 112-115 devoted to the Doctor Who Yeti episodes.