DVD review: Doctor Who – The Web of Fear

DVD review: Doctor Who – The Web of Fear
DVD review: Doctor Who – The Web of Fear

DVD review: Doctor Who - The Web of Fear

(BBC/Roadshow Entertainment, PG)

Reviewed by Chris Gardner

Classic Doctor Who is often mocked for wobbly sets.

But the BBC's reconstruction of the London Underground, in this long lost but recently recovered 1968 story, was so good that London Transport complained to the broadcaster because it thought the crew had used real locations without permission.

The story goes that the BBC asked London Underground if it could film in some of its stations and was declined. So set builders got to work and so good was their reconstruction that London Transport thought it had been defied by the BBC. The underground operator thought the Doctor Who crew had snuck in and filmed nearly three hours of broadcastable material without being noticed.

Five of the six parts of this story were recently found in Nigeria, having not seen the light of day for 45 years, along with the previous story Enemy of the World. One episode, the one that marks the first appearance of Nicholas Courtney as Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart before he becomes a brigadier, remains lost. His much beloved character appeared many times over the decades and was last referenced in the 50th anniversary special The Day of the Doctor.

The audio, however, remains and is punctuated with photos from that missing 25 minute segment.

Both stories star Patrick Troughton as the second Doctor, the actor who at least partly inspired Matt Smith's portrayal of the Time Lord.

The Web of Fear also marks the second appearance of robots disguised as yeti under the control of the Great Intelligence . . . The same menace who plagued Smith's Doctor in the 2012 Christmas special The Snowmen as Richard E Grant and returned for The Name of the Doctor in the Series 7 finale.

So this story is a bit special to Doctor Who fans for many reasons. But is it any good?

Well the black and white picture quality is a little bit ropey in parts and looks even worse when compared to the technicolour Star Trek of the time. Considering it was left languishing it's no surprise.

But its sets, compared to 1968 Trek, are far superior . . . but then Web of Fear is set on Earth and Trek in the final frontier.

The pacing of The Web of Fear is a little slow for 2014, but just about right for 1968.

The acting is great. Troughton, once again, proves that he was a worthy successor to Hartnell and his scenes with Frazer Hines as Jamie McCrimmon are a televisual feast. Troughton and Hines are one of the great television double acts, they should be as well known as Morecombe and Wise.

The yeti look like men in suits, but since they are supposed to be robots in suits this is forgivable.

The great shame about this release is that it lacks any value added material whatsoever. It's crying out for a documentary on how these lost episodes were found, which indeed may be being worked on for some future release.