Doctor Who: The Web of Fear (s05e05, pts. 1 – 6)

1 out of 5

Directed by: Douglas Camfield

Completely setting aside how silly the monsters in this look – the yeti, returning from episode #2 of this season – as they’re just nattily knitted together woolen masses with button eyes, their are quite a few of them on screen at a time at various points, which adds to the higher-level praise I can offer for this serial: director Douglas Camfield and his crew wrangled a large cast, a large setting (the underground subway of London), and a fairly hefty amount of effects (all those yetis and their web blasters) rather effectively.  Camfield elicits good performances from almost everyone, especially Victoria (Deborah Watling), Anne Travers (Tina Packer), and an amusing comedic foil bit from a soldier named Evans (Derek Pollitt), and the sets were notably convincing at the time, as per some wiki trivia stating that the BBC was accused of illegally shooting the actual underground.

However, the performances might be happenstance, as the returning Professor Travers (Jack Watling) is 110% mugging at the camera and completely incapable of rendering his already dumb dialogue – thanks, writers Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln – into something moderately convincing, even with the general Doctor Who cheekiness, and the sets are inevitably wasted thanks to runtime-extending nonsense that has us traipsing back and forth through the tunnels chasing random stragglers.  And when it seems like we might finally be getting down to business, the ‘explanation’ for why the yetis controller, The Great Intelligence, has “arranged” for the TARDIS to arrive in the besieged tunnels is… completely senseless.

What’s unfortunate about how uninteresting the story is is that the first appearance of long-running-thereafter character the Brigadier (Nicholas Courtney) is written with a pleasing taciturness – yes, yes, time and space machine, get on with it – that cuts out a lot of the usual “explain it all” prevaricating required to convince everyone about Who’s provenance.  But that time saved is then used for running around the tunnels.

To be extra fair with my rating, I initially watched this in the reconstructed version, and was bored out of my gourd with the non-moving (and occasionally dumb) story.  I rewatched it again via the recovered episodes, and while I was able to note more about  the performances and sets, whoof, it still didn’t help things overall.