Doctor Who – The Web of Fear. Episode Five

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After four episodes, the Great Intelligence – speaking through the voice of Travers – finally explains what his/her/its evil plan is.  Some might think that the Intelligence has been somewhat slow on this score, but with six episodes to fill it clearly couldn’t show its hand too soon.

TRAVERS: Through time and space, I have observed you, Doctor. Your mind surpasses that of all other creatures.
DOCTOR: What do you want?
TRAVERS: You! Your mind will be invaluable to me. Therefore I have invented a machine that will drain all past knowledge and experience from your mind.

And this is where the wheels of the story slightly come off. I think that one of the reasons why I enjoy 60’s Who so much is that much of the mythos which would later build up around the character of the Doctor is absent. He’s no god-like creature, known and feared throughout the universe, he’s simply a wanderer in space and time.

So stories where he’s targeted by the baddies are pretty rare (this one and The Chase spring to mind) meaning that it’s much more likely that wherever he appears nobody’s heard of him.

And anyway, if the Great Intelligence needs the Doctor’s intelligence than he/she/it can’t be that great anyway. The Almost Great Intelligence maybe?

We’ve previously seen that the Lethbridge-Stewart of this story is a pragmatist, happy to escape rather than fight to the last man.  So when Evans suggests that if they agree to the Intelligence’s plan (delivering up the Doctor) possibly everyone else will be allowed to go free. The stalwart Brigadier would never consider this of course, but as has been touched upon, the man here isn’t quite the man he’d become and there’s a palpable moment of ambiguity in the air.

The controlled Travers stomps off with Victoria as a hostage whilst the others debate what to do next. Given that the Yeti have decimated the soldiers, there has to be a good reason why the Intelligence simply didn’t take the Doctor. And there is – unless the Doctor submits willingly, the brain drain machine won’t work.  So the fact that the Doctor has been given a deadline to either give himself up or face the consequences provides him with a welcome spot of breathing time.

The Doctor once again teams up with Anne. I wonder if these scenes influenced the creation of Zoe? Zoe might have been younger and more frivolous, but the seed of partnering the Doctor with a scientifically-minded companion might have been sown here.

The scene where Evans deliberately disobeys Lethbridge-Stewart’s order is a fascinating one.  The Brig wouldn’t have stood for this sort of insubordination of course, but the Colonel – still somewhat shell-shocked by the events of the previous episode – accepts Evans’ flagrant disregard of his orders quite calmly.  For those who know Lethbridge-Stewart well, to see the character so out of control is quite disturbing.

Deborah Watling is a little out of the action, but she does get to share a few nice scenes with her father. And when Jamie, out in the tunnels with the Colonel, spots Victoria’s handkerchief it’s hard not to be reminded of one of Frazer’s most famous convention anecdotes.

The Web of Fear is one of those stories where characters tend to disappear suddenly and then reappear with the same lack of ceremony. Both Arnold and Chorley have been MIA for a while but then Arnold pops up out of nowhere, seemingly no worse for wear.

The Doctor and Anne’s lash-up (a device to control the Yeti) seems to work, but a mass of web seems to spell the end for the Goodge Street fortress ….

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