April 7: The Web of Fear Episodes 1 & 2

Episode 1 of The Web of Fear (which picks up almost exactly where The Enemy of the World episode 6 left off, with Jamie struggling to close the TARDIS doors while the other two hold on to the console for dear life) has more or less always existed, at least as far as fandom goes, so we've become familiar with the set-up and the look of things.  (The recently recovered Nigeria print is of a higher quality, however, and was used on the DVD release.  And yes, my copies of both this and The Enemy of the World are region 2; neither has been released in the United States yet.)  And so some of the lingering questions regarding the story in this episode are perhaps more noticeable because we're so familiar with it.  Why, for instance, is the TARDIS stopped in deep space by a strange web?  Is this the closest the TARDIS is going to get to roughly contemporary Earth, and so the Intelligence has to snag it while it can?  Why do the Yeti change shape right before our eyes, given they're just robots with nothing supernatural about their construction, just their controller?  And who thought it was a good idea to give them big glowing eyes anyway?  (Sorry, I guess I'm just partial to the original design.)

But what's also clear from episode 1 is both the striking direction by Douglas Camfield (returning for his first story since The Daleks' Master Plan) and the moody sense of tension generated by the proceedings.  London is an eerie place, even though we're only given hints based on the silence and the apparently abandoned Underground, but the desperation evoked by the army people situated in an old World War II bunker also helps sell the situation.  Even if the implication seems to be that Professor Travers reactivated a sphere, giving the Great Intelligence a foothold onto Earth again, and then left his daughter to deal with the resulting crisis (admittedly, the dialogue is a bit confused here, as Travers demands to know why he's been brought to the Goodge Street base, learns it was on Anne Travers' orders, and then seems to imply that he sent for Anne to help him in the first place).  And man but they do a good job of making us dislike journalist Harold Chorley, don't they?  He's slimy and dripping with the wrong sort of charm as he oozes his way around the base, looking for quotes for his own career's sake rather than because he's interested in the events happening.  (It's been suggested that he's a deliberate parody of David Frost, but as I haven't seen much of Frost I can't really comment on that -- but I thought I'd mention it for those who have.)  It's a taut episode, and it leaves us wanting more.

Now episode 2 is a Nigerian recovery, so this is brand new for a lot of people, myself included.  Yet I had to remind myself while watching it the first time that I hadn't actually seen it before, so familiar did it feel in places.  That's partly because we're still in the same sets as episode 1 -- the Goodge Street base and the London Underground tunnels, and partly because we're getting a sort of "best of base-under-siege" episode, as we watch these characters run through the same sorts of arguments we've already seen in stories like The Moonbase or the story this is a direct sequel to, The Abominable Snowmen (with only two stories intervening -- the smallest gap between recurring monster appearances yet).  But at least in this case we're getting a version which seems to have taken the best character bits from those earlier stories and condensed them down into what we see here.

But there are still some nice moments that weren't apparent from the audio: Chorley gleefully recording the dying moments of men over the phone as they're attacked by Yeti, and Anne Travers' heated attack on Chorley, as she makes it plain how much she detests him; the Yeti's attack on the troops in the tunnels, with their web-shooting guns making quick work of the explosives the soldiers had placed; and the cliffhanger, as Jamie and Private Evans, the Cowardly Welsh Army Driver™, are trapped in the Monument underground platform, with the Intelligence's fungus (looking suspiciously like the BBC foam machine at work) filling up both of the other tunnels.  Victoria has also left the base -- thanks to both Anne Travers voicing her suspicions about Victoria's story of time travel and Chorley being determined to pin blame on the newcomers, despite Professor Travers vouching for them -- in search of either Jamie (looking for the Doctor with the army troops) or the Doctor (last seen at the end of episode 1 -- it's Troughton's week off, having spent the last six playing both the Doctor and the main villain).  So the episode ends with all three of them separated from each other, wandering the tunnels.  And meanwhile, the Intelligence is on the move again, taking over more and more tunnels with its web...