The Web of Fear
|041 – The Web of Fear|
|Doctor Who serial|
A dormant Yeti awakens.
|Directed by||Douglas Camfield|
|Written by||Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln|
|Script editor||Derrick Sherwin|
|Produced by||Peter Bryant|
|Incidental music composer||Stock music|
|Length||6 episodes, 25 minutes each|
|Episode(s) missing||1 episode (3)|
|Date started||3 February 1968|
|Date ended||9 March 1968|
The Web of Fear is the partly missing fifth serial of the fifth season of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in six weekly parts from 3 February to 9 March 1968. This serial—which marks the return of the Yeti, the Great Intelligence, and Professor Edward Travers—is the sequel to The Abominable Snowmen. It marks the first appearance of Colonel Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart, subsequently better known as the Brigadier, and acts as a precursor to the numerous later serials involving the UNIT organisation.
Currently, five of the six episodes are held in the BBC archives. For four decades only episode 1 of the story survived in the BBC archives, the others being presumed lost. Episodes 2, 4, 5, and 6 were recovered from Nigeria in 2013, however, leaving only episode 3 missing.
Approximately 40 years after his Tibetan expedition in The Abominable Snowmen, an elderly Professor Travers reactivates a control sphere during his studies. The sphere inserts into an intact robot yeti from Tibet at a private collection in London and escapes. In the following days, London is beset by thick fog and a deadly web-like fungus begins to infest the London Underground. Professor Travers is brought to the Second World War deep-level shelter under Goodge Street tube station, where his daughter Anne has asked for his help to defeat the menace affecting the tube system. Also present are Captain Knight, the current leader of the military manning HQ, Staff-Sergeant Arnold, who acts as Knight’s deputy and Harold Chorley, the only journalist allowed to report on the crisis.
Following events at the end of The Enemy of the World, Jamie manages to close the TARDIS’ doors, stabilising its flight. The TARDIS materialises in deep space; an unseen entity enshrouds the ship in a web-like substance. As the web clears, the Doctor operates a device to land the TARDIS away from its original flight course, bringing it to Covent Garden tube station. The station is in darkness and deserted, with the city outside appearing completely abandoned.
Moving through the underground train tunnels, the Doctor and his companions soon encounter the military, who are trying to stem the spread of the fungus by demolishing tunnels with explosives. Explosives laid at Charing Cross tube station[note 1] are neutralised by the robot yeti by smothering the explosion with the fungus using web-spraying guns. The reappearance of the yeti signifies to the Doctor that the Great Intelligence has returned and redirected the TARDIS’ flight in order to bring him to the Underground as part of its plans to conquer the Earth. Knight, Arnold and Chorley are initially suspicious of the Doctor, Jamie and Victoria, believing them to be responsible from sabotaging the explosion. Professor Travers, recognising them from their encounter in Tibet, convinces Knight that the Doctor will be key to defeating the yeti.
The group are soon joined by Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart and Private Evans, who are the sole survivors of an ammunition detail which was attacked by yeti at Holborn tube station. Lethbridge-Stewart assumes command of HQ from Knight. Meanwhile, the web expands enormously, engulfing the whole of the Circle Line. Further attempts to use explosives to halt the web are blocked by yeti attacks, with the military’s explosives store being consumed by the fungus. The Doctor discovers a yeti-attracting beacon at the scene, convincing him that one of the people at HQ must be in league with the Intelligence and doing its bidding. Meanwhile, Chorley, who intends to desert and flee the underground, is told of the TARDIS by Victoria and he rushes off to Covent Garden to find it; The Doctor, Jamie, Victoria and Evans rush to intercept him. When they reach Covent Garden the Doctor’s party discover it to be barred off by fungus. While they are gone, the base is attacked by Yeti, killing several of the soldiers and knocking out Anne and Professor Travers. The Yeti then leave with Professor Travers’ unconscious body.
On returning, the group find Anne unconscious and Travers gone. The Doctor informs Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart and Captain Knight about the intelligence and the TARDIS; the Colonel decides to recover the TARDIS from Covent Garden station, hoping that it will allow them to escape. The Colonel leads the remaining troops overground to Covent Garden, while Arnold, Evans and a third soldier, Corporal Lane, take a baggage trolley through the underground at the same time to transport TARDIS on. The Doctor and Anne attempt to build a control box to block the signal between the Intelligence and the control spheres, though the Doctor finds that they are low on components and is escorted above ground by Knight to find more.
Arnold and Lane put on gas masks and attempt to go through the fungus blocking Covent Garden with the baggage trolley, but when they enter the web Evans hears piercing screams. On pulling the trolley out on a rope, Evans finds Lane dead and Arnold gone. On the surface, the yeti ambush the soldiers at Covent Garden. Despite downing several robots in the ensuing battle, all except Lethbridge-Stewart perish. While at an electronics store on the surface, Knight is killed in a yeti attack, though the robots leave the Doctor alone. He discovers a Yeti beacon in Knight’s pocket, which brought them to the shop. Later, the Colonel returns to HQ alone where the Doctor finds a model Yeti in his pocket. The Doctor deduces that the traitor in HQ slipped the beacon onto the Colonel and Knight. At that moment, two yeti break in with Professor Travers, who is possessed by the Great Intelligence.
Through the controlled Professor Travers, the Great Intelligence explains that it brought the Doctor to London in order to drain his mind of all his knowledge of time and space. Unless he submits to the Intelligence, it will drain the minds of Jamie and Victoria instead. The Intelligence gives the Doctor 20 minutes to submit. Travers is released from the Intelligence’s control and is taken as a hostage by the Yeti along with Victoria at Piccadilly Circus tube station. The Doctor and Anne work on the control box further and successfully reprogram a control sphere, which they load into a disabled yeti to make a covert, voice-controlled ally within the Intelligence’s tanks.
Staff-Sergeant Arnold, who turns up dishevelled and bleeding, having somehow survived the web and links up with the Colonel and Jamie, who are searching in the tunnels. All three agree to return to HQ to support the Doctor, though they find that he and Anne have left while searching for a yeti to reprogram. At that moment, the fungus bursts through the walls of HQ, swamping Goodge Street shelter. Lethbridge-Stewart, Jamie, Arnold and Evans meet up with the Doctor and Anne, before the group is ambushed by the yeti, who herd them to Piccadilly tube station. Arnold manages to slip away and meets Chorley, who has been wandering the tube network and has become hysterical with fright.
At the ticket hall of Piccadilly station, the group rejoins with Travers and Victoria. Chorley and Arnold appear and Arnold is revealed to be the traitor, having been killed and his corpse reanimated as a vessel from the Intelligence. The Doctor appears to submit to the Intelligence and places himself inside a pyramid-shaped machine that the Intelligence intends to use to drain his mind. Just as the Doctor appears to be about to have his mind drained, Jamie calls out to the servile Yeti to attack Arnold; Jamie, Anne and Professor Travers try to drag the Doctor from the machine against his wishes. After Jamie rips its wiring out, the pyramid explodes and the yeti and Arnold fall to the floor, lifeless without the influence of the Great Intelligence, which has now been dispersed back into space. Everyone is happy except for the Doctor. He explains that he had sabotaged the conversion headset and would have drained the Intelligence had the device been used – but now the Intelligence is free once more. After saying some hasty goodbyes, The Doctor, Jamie and Victoria slip away and head back to the TARDIS.
The future Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart makes his first appearance in this story, with the rank of Colonel. His next appearance is in The Invasion, and from that serial onwards, he serves as the central figure of the UNIT organisation. He mentions the Yeti in “The Invasion” and in the tenth-anniversary story The Three Doctors, and again in the twentieth-anniversary story The Five Doctors.
The design of the Yeti is significantly different from those in this story’s predecessor, The Abominable Snowmen. In the first episode, a dormant “Mark I” Yeti – a prop from the earlier story – is reactivated, and a transformation takes place. The Doctor describes the subsequent Yeti as “Mark II”.
A Mark II Yeti costume from this story was reused in The Five Doctors. The costume had not fared well in storage (and reportedly had acquired a foul odour), which limited its use to a single brief and darkly lit scene.
The novel The Face of the Enemy by David A. McIntee features a brief look at an alternate version of the Great Intelligence’s invasion, this version taking place in the alternate reality visited by the Third Doctor in Inferno, with Britain being aided by the alternate version of the Master.
In the 2012 Christmas special “The Snowmen“, set in 1892, the Doctor gives a lunch box with a map of the 1967 London Underground on it to the Great Intelligence during the course of his plans to prevent the Great Intelligence from destroying mankind by the means of mutant telepathic snow. Doctor Simeon’s card, which is seen in the Christmas special, refers to the Great Intelligence with GI in a Victorian font as his logo.
|Episode||Broadcast date||Run time||Viewers
|“Episode 1“||3 February 1968||24:53||7.2||16mm t/r|
|“Episode 2“||10 February 1968||24:38||6.8||16mm t/r|
|“Episode 3“||17 February 1968||24:34||7.0||Only stills and/or fragments exist|
|“Episode 4“||24 February 1968||24:50||8.4||16mm t/r|
|“Episode 5“||2 March 1968||24:19||8.0||16mm t/r|
|“Episode 6“||9 March 1968||24:41||8.3||16mm t/r|
Patrick Troughton took a week’s holiday during the rehearsals and recording of Episode 2. Consequently, the Doctor appears only in the reprise from Episode 1, and the Doctor’s first meeting with Lethbridge-Stewart takes place off screen.
The Tube sets were reportedly so accurate that the BBC was accused of illegally filming on London Underground property. According to the director permission was sought from London Transport to film in the Underground but the fees they would have charged to do so were overly expensive. Several props were reused from the previous Yeti serial, including control spheres and model Yeti.
David Langton was originally cast as Lethbridge-Stewart, but he pulled out before rehearsals and Nicholas Courtney (originally cast as Captain Knight) was given the part instead. However, it is an extra named Maurice Brooks who is first seen in the role, his booted feet appearing briefly late in Episode Two. Actor Nicholas Courtney previously appeared in a different role, that of Bret Vyon, in The Daleks’ Master Plan.
For many years only episode 1 of this story and a few clips of the other episodes existed in the BBC Archives. The clips are those that were censored and physically cut from the film by the New Zealand authorities when they purchased the rights to broadcast the story. In October 2013, the BBC announced that copies of episodes 2, 4, 5 and 6 had been found in Nigeria by Television International Enterprises Archive/Philip Morris, and returned to the BBC Archives. Episode 3 of The Web of Fear was originally among the discovered episodes, but went missing in the months between the discovery of the films and their return to the BBC.
A week before Episode 1 was shown, BBC1 broadcast a special trailer following Episode 6 of The Enemy of the World, featuring the Doctor (Patrick Troughton) warning viewers about the new, more frightening versions of the Yeti.
|Cover artist||Chris Achilleos|
|Series||Doctor Who book:
|19 August 1976|
The audio soundtrack, along with additional linking narration by Frazer Hines, has been released on MP3 CD.
In 2003, Episode 1 of this story & episodes 1 & 3 of The Faceless Ones were the final episodes of Doctor Who to be released on VHS by BBC Worldwide. Episode 1 and the surviving clips were released on DVD in the United Kingdom in November 2004 in the three-disc Lost in Time set.
On 11 October 2013, the newly recovered episodes were released on iTunes along with the original episode 1 and a reconstruction of episode 3 from telephotos and the original soundtrack. This version was also made available on Virgin Media‘s on demand service, together with numerous other stories, as part of the show’s 50th anniversary commemoration.
A DVD of the story was released on 24 February 2014.
- Howe, David J.; Walker, Stephen James (1998). “The War Games: Things to watch out for…”. Doctor Who: The Television Companion. London: BBC Worldwide. p. 173. ISBN 0-563-40588-0. Retrieved 21 October 2010.
- Shaun Lyon; et al. (2007-03-31). “The Web of Fear”. Outpost Gallifrey. Archived from the original on 18 June 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-30.
- “The Web of Fear”. Doctor Who Reference Guide. Retrieved 2008-08-30.
- Sullivan, Shannon (2007-07-05). “The Web of Fear”. A Brief History of Time Travel. Retrieved 2008-08-30.
- Howe, David J.; Walker, Stephen James (1998). “The Web of Fear: Analysis”. Doctor Who: The Television Companion. London: BBC Worldwide. p. 144. ISBN 0-563-40588-0. Retrieved 20 September 2010.
- Anonymous, “The UNIT Story, Part One,” Doctor Who Magazine Special, Winter 1991, Marvel Comics, Ltd., p. 9.
- Jefferies, Mark (11 October 2013). “Doctor Who ‘lost episodes’ found with The Enemy of the World and The Web of Fear available on iTunes”. The Mirror. Retrieved 11 October 2013.
- Jefferies, Mark (July 22, 2014). “Doctor Who missing episodes: Recovery expert hints more lost episodes set to be returned”. Mirror. Retrieved 24 April 2015.
- “The Enemy of the World & The Web of Fear – Found!!”. Doctor Who Magazine. October 11, 2013. Retrieved 24 April 2015.
- “Whatever Happened to Web of Fear 3 ?”. Doctor Who News. Retrieved 27 September 2015.
- “Doctor Who: the Abominable Snowman / The Web of Fear (BBC MP3 CD Audio): Books: Original Soundtrack”. Amazon.co.uk. Retrieved 2010-09-15.
- “BBC Confirms 9 Lost Troughton Episodes Recovered!”. Doctor Who TV. 11 October 2013. Retrieved 11 October 2013.
- The Web of Fear at BBC Online
- Photonovel of The Web of Fear on the BBC website
- The Web of Fear at Doctor Who: A Brief History of Time (Travel)
- The Web of Fear at the Doctor Who Reference Guide
- Doctor Who Locations – The Web of Fear
- Doctor Who and the Web of Fear reviews at The Doctor Who Ratings Guide
- Doctor Who and the Web of Fear title listing at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
- On Target — Doctor Who and the Web of Fear
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