Friday, 2 December 2011

41: The Web Of Fear - Pre-Unit Alien Invasion Romp Set In The London Underground.

Written by: Mervyn Haisman & Henry Lincoln
Companions: The Doctor, Jamie Mccrimmon. Victoria Waterfield
Monsters/Villains: Yeti, The Great Intelligence.
Brief Synopsis: Reactivated by the Great Intelligence, the Yeti are at large in the London Underground.
Rating: 10/10.

I have really been looking forward to this one. It's a brilliant story and as the whole thing is set in the environs of London Underground I decided to listen to the story on the tube whilst on my commute to work, which coincidently is at Covent Garden where the TARDIS initially lands. This really is archetypal Who a small group of people fighting for their lives in claustrophobic and eerily familiar surroundings against fearsome alien invaders. We've seen this done before, and we'll see it done again, but never as slickly as this!

The Web Of Fear picks up right where The Enemy Of The World left off. Salamander has been sucked out of the TARDIS, but Jamie bravely manages to close the open doors, and for a moment the Doctor and his two companions are safe.

In a museum run by a man named Julius Silverstein, the familiar face of Professor Edward Travers is transfixed by the inactive Yeti robot he brought back from Tibet. This time he is joined by his daughter Anne Travers, whom he has called upon to help him investigate the now missing control sphere that he managed to reactivate. 

 A slightly older Professor Edward Travers played once
again by Deborah Watling's father Jack Watling.
Travers sold the robot to Mr. Silverstein who is now displaying it in his museum. Travers tries to warn him but Silverstein thinks he is trying to con him in order to get the Yeti back. Travers and Anne leave, but as they do, the reactivated control sphere smashes through a window, reactivates and regenerates the Yeti which kills Silverstein. This whole sequence is exquisitely executed and the music is excellent. I don't normally have videos but you just have to watch this bit!!

Voice of London Underground: (Bing-bong) Ladies and Gentlemen, due to an unforeseen alien invasion we ask that all passengers evacuate London Underground in a calm and pleasant manner, thank you for your cooperation and we apologise for any inconvenience this may have caused you.

In an underground army HQ, Captain Knight is talking to a reporter, Mr Chorley about their lost commander, Colonel Pemberton. Travers and his daughter Anne appear to be to helping the army with the current situation.

I go to this station every day!
Jamie and Victoria try to tell the Doctor that a light on the console is flashing, but the Doctor keeps missing it. The instruments say they're landing but they aren't; they're suspended in space and the TARDIS is completely obscured by web. The Doctor manages to get the TARDIS free, the scanner clears and the TARDIS materialises in Covent Garden Underground Station. The Doctor comically expresses "funny how we keep on landing on your Earth." The station is dark and totally quiet, the trio try to speak to a man sleeping by the locked tube entrance, Jamie pokes him, but the dead man falls down covered with cobwebs revealing a newspaper headline: 'LONDONERS FLEE! MENACE SPREADS.' The electricity in the tracks is off and the band head into the tunnels to try and find a way out at the next station. The sets for this story were just brilliant. So good, that apparently the BBC received a letter of complaint from London Underground, claiming filming had taken place on their property without permission.

Three soldiers pass them running some sort of cable. Jamie and Victoria follow the soldiers while the Doctor goes to see where the cable leads. The soldiers hear them and bring Jamie and Victoria back to HQ. The Doctor finds the line leading to some explosives boxes at Charing Cross station, he hides as a Yeti enters the station and covers the explosives with a sort of web gun.

Captain Knight you old Sexist!
Back at Goodge Street HQ Corporal Lane cannot raise communications with a truck at Holborn. Captain Knight tries his charms on Anne by asking, "What's a girl like you doing in a job like this?" Wilfully Anne tells him, "When I was a little girl, I thought I'd like to be a scientist, so I became a scientist." Staff Sergeant Arnold brings Jamie and Victoria to the HQ and reports to Captain Knight, Anne points out that there may be more people in the tunnels, before they explode it. When questioned and trying to protect the Doctor, Jamie lies and says they were alone. Knight orders Craftsman Weams to blow the tunnel. Back at Charing Cross, the Doctor gets a glimpse of two Yeti as they leave. They blow the crates, and the Doctor is thrown from the Platform.

As the Soldiers go to investigate, Weams notes that there was no blast or noise. As Jamie and Victoria are questioned, Weams reports contact with Holborn, but all they can hear is firing. Knight takes some men to investigate and Chorley cowardly elects to stay behind. Meanwhile at Charing Cross, Arnold and Blake discover the explosives smashed and no Doctor in sight, and that would be because Troughton is on holiday for the filming of episode two, although the action is so good in this installment you hardly notice.

Cowardly Mr. Chorley.
Back at Goodge Street Fortress, Travers is examining a Sphere when Anne tells him about Jamie and Victoria. Travers rushes to them and is shocked to see that they haven't aged in 40 years and suddenly he realises that everything the Doctor said about a time machine was all true. They discuss the likelihood that the Great Intelligence is behind this once again. Chorley says he intends to tell everything when/if they escape. Jamie persuades Arnold to take him to look for the Doctor. 

The lovely Staff Sergent Arnold.
The Great Intelligence is a great idea for an enemy, it has no exact form, it can possess any human and it has some monstrous minions in the form of the Yeti. It's a very scary concept and also works with the lack of budget that often faced Doctor Who at this point in it's still relatively early life.

Knight and his men are attacked by Yeti at Holborn and bullets seem to have no effect. Two soldiers are killed and the Yeti fire their web guns at the ammo crates. Arnold and Jamie meet up with Knight who shoots the ammo crates, but the web absorbs the explosion. Yeti surround them and hold them prisoner, but mysteriously the Yeti are recalled leaving them free.

Weams and Blake watch via an illuminated map at HQ as the fungus advances through the tunnels for the first time in three weeks. The white lines shows the train routes, and the black the progression of the Yeti's fungus stuff. Euston Square is engulfed and the black line moves toward Kings Cross.

Voice of London Underground: (Bing-bong) The Circle line is closed today between Kings Cross and Embankment due to planned fungus engineering works. Please use alternative routes. Other station closures include Euston Square and Liverpool Street stations. Holborn is also closed due to unplanned Yeti activity. Thank you.

Victoria goes off on her own to look for Jamie and the Doctor. While Knight, Arnold, Jamie and the others are returning to Goodge Street they hear a man singing, in Welsh. It's Evans who was the driver on the ammo truck at Holborn. He reports having seen Yeti and a small pyramid. Jamie excitedly announces that if they destroy the pyramid they will stop the Great Intelligence. Evans offers to go with him, while the rest continue back to HQ. Jamie thanks Evans, but Evans says he only came with him to try and escape.

Driver Evans.
Anne expresses her concern that Captain Knight has been gone for ages, a soldier replies with something we've all worried, "Let's just hope he's not on the circle line."

Voice of London Underground: (Bing-bong) Ladies and Gentlemen, we apologise for today's closures on the Circle line, which also now include Charing Cross and Temple. We hope to reopen these stations as soon as possible, but TFL can offer no guarantees. Thank you.

Travers tells Knight that he knows if they could find the Doctor he would be able to help them, but the Doctor, Jamie and Victoria are all still missing. A soldier knowingly states, "If any of those three are on the circle line they've had it." Jamie and Evans arrive at Cannon Street and quickly head onwards towards Monument.

The Dreaded Circle Line Of Doom!!
Voice of London Underground: (Bing-bong) Ladies and Gentlemen, London Underground would like to apologise for the continued Circle Line closures of both Cannon Street and Tower Hill Stations. We assure you that everything possible is being done to reopen these Stations as soon as possible. The prayers of the London Underground are with you if you currently find yourself at Monument Station. We apologise for any delays to your life. Thank you and, uhh, good luck.

Jamie and Evans arrive at Monument and flee as they see the fungus toward them, but they are trapped from both sides as web has obscured their entrance.

A Yeti emerges from the platform entrance carrying a small pyramid. Jamie gets Evans to shoot it, which immobilises the Yeti, but the web continues to advance. They manage to escape through an archway. Meanwhile Victoria, who is still wandering the tunnels finds the Doctor with a certain Colonel, Lethbridge Stewart.

Doctor, meet Colonel Lethbridge Stewart.
Now, it's very strange not to see the Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart that will one day come to be as synonymous with Doctor Who as the blue police box, but a stranger, a mysterious 'Colonel' who at first points his gun at the Doctor. Having seen all the wonders that this character would go on to do, I thought I would find it difficult to doubt him, but with the clever mystery of a traitor element about to be introduced, I found myself even doubting the surely undoubtable "Brig," urrr I mean Colonel. The most interesting thing about this first-encounter is that no one making The Web Of Fear knows how important this scene will one day be considered to be. No one, not the writer, the director, the producer, the other actors, or indeed Nicholas Courtney himself know that the Brigadier will grow to be one of the Doctor's closest and most stalwart companions. 

David Langton, the man who would have been the Brigadier.
The other massive cosmic tipping point here is that originally Nick Courtney was cast as Captain Knight, but when David Langton, who was originally cast as the character of Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart, gave up the role to accept an offer of work elsewhere, director Douglas Camfield recast Ralph Watson in the role of Knight and gave the Colonel's part to Courtney instead.

Nicholas Courtney as Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart.
Voice of London Underground: (Bing-bong) Ladies and Gentlemen the whole Circle line is now closed until further notice. Thank you.

The Colonel claims to be taking over from Pemberton and together with the Doctor and Victoria returns to Goodge Street Fortress where Travers and the Doctor are finally reunited. Jamie and Evans emerge at St. Paul's Station (they obviously went via Bank, the brave souls. If there's one thing I've learnt it's: avoid Bank station like the plague!) and Evans spots an on station vending machine, he puts his money in and actually gets a bar of chocolate! (as if! those things never worked) Evans wants to escape through Chancery Lane but Jamie wants to go back for his friends. Evans tries to ditch Jamie but quickly returns when he can't find a way out.

Back at HQ, Chorley is fretting and wants to get out through an exit Arnold has told him about. Captain Knight calls everyone together for a briefing, and explains to the Doctor that all the trouble started when a fog or mist surrounded the Natural History Museum and then expanded to contain South Ken Station. The Doctor notes the change in the Yeti appearance, "sort of a Yeti Mark ii." Knight continues to explain that the mist now covers the whole area of the circle line, blocking any possible escape at ground level. Anyone who enters the mist doesn't come out again.

Yeti: Mark ii.
Voice of London Underground: (Bing-bong) This is the controller at Goodge Street Station I am happy to report that there is currently a good service running on the Northern Line. I am sorry to announce six more unforeseen station closures at Knightsbridge, Regents Park, St Paul's, Queens Way, the Strand and Chancery Lane. London Underground apologises for the continued interruption to the service.

The Doctor wants to blow a tunnel above Goodge Street to block them off and buy them more time. It appears that there is a traitor at large in the base, as we see someone leave the main door open. Also a model Yeti is missing, the traitor has it and sends a signal calling a Yeti towards Goodge Street Fortress. The Yeti enters the base and stops outside the room marked danger explosives and breaks the lock. The model Yeti is discovered and the crew enter the explosive store to find everything covered with web.

The Colonel decides to take a group of men to Holborn to see if any explosives are still usable. The Doctor announces that someone inside the base is in league with the Yeti, citing the evidence of this latest precision attack. Victoria foolishly tells Chorley about the TARDIS and the plans to blow up the tunnel, and as the Doctor comes in, Chorley leaves surreptitiously locking them in the common room.

Jamie and Evans return to HQ, free the Doctor and Victoria and all four head off after Chorley believing he may be after the TARDIS. Meanwhile Travers and Anne hear a scream and find Craftsman Weams dead with a model Yeti next to him. Anne is pushed aside as a Yeti roars toward Travers.

The Yeti leaves with what it came for: Travers. While the Doctor and co are trying to get to Covent Garden to find Chorley, the Colonel and Arnold are moving cautiously toward Holborn, enroute they meet Knight, who reports that they ran into web fungus blocking their way to Holborn. Arnold notes that it is as if the Intelligence knew what they were up to. Knight suggests they try an alterative route via the Piccadilly line and the Colonel leads them on a planned route to Tottenham Court Road, down to Leicester square and down past Covent Garden.

Voice of London Underground: (Bing-bong) There is currently no service on the Central line due to reports of Web-fungus, we recommend using the Piccadilly line instead. Thank you.

The Doctor and Co have reached Covent Garden but the way is block by fungus.  The Doctor wants a bit of fungus for analysis and they put some in Evans tobacco tin, but the fungus emits a loud sound and the party scatter only to run in to the Colonel's group. Everyone returns to HQ to find the dead bodies of several soldiers and Anne fortunately unharmed. It's pretty grim the way Arnold reports, "Weams and the four devils outside have had it." Only Weams has been named previously so the other four who have died don't even have their names remembered. Never to be mouned, I guess it comes with the territory of playing a nameless soldier is a TV drama.

Voice of London Underground: (Bing-bong) Due to continued web-fungus action the following stations are now closed: Oxford circus, Green Park, Trafalgar Square and the Strand. I'm not sure if there's actually anyone still down here, but I hope that if you are you're appreciating these announcements.

Who is the traitor? The plot thickens. Could it be Travers or Chorley controlling the Yeti? As the fungus begins to move toward Goodge Street Fortress the Doctor explains that the Great Intelligence is a formless shapeless thing, floating around in space with a mind and will. It brought the TARDIS here. The Doctor also explains about the TARDIS. The Colonel seems to believe him that it could get them out. Captain Knight is sceptical, but the Colonel orders them to retrieve the TARDIS.

Anne has recovered and explains to the Doctor that she and her father were working on trying to control a sphere with a control unit when the Yeti took Travers. Arnold brings the Doctor a model Yeti he found, but it is a homing device. The Doctor quickly begins to deactivate the model, and goes to examine the fungus from Evan's tin, but there is nothing there; casting suspicion on to Evans.

The Colonel goes off to recover the TARDIS through the streets of London, via Neal street, to Convent Garden while Arnold, Lane and Evans will go through a tunnel on a trolley. Evans runs off but Arnold and Lane enter the tunnel on the trolley toward Covent Garden. Moments later the trolley reemerges with Lane's dead body and Arnold no where to be seen.

The Colonel and his men arrive at Covent Garden to find three Yeti waiting for them. There is a pitch battle, as they throw bullets, grenades, more bullets and even a bazooka at the Yeti, but all to no avail. The Colonel orders a retreat and the soldiers all make for a warehouse. Meanwhile the Doctor and Knight are harvesting electrical supplies on the streets, when two Yeti arrive and strike down Knight, killing him. The Yeti see the Doctor but leave him alone. Once the Yeti have gone the Doctor looks in Knight's pocket and produces a Yeti model, which had been placed on him.

It's behind you.
The Yeti are closing in on the soldiers at Covent Garden. One by one each soldier is caught and killed, and only the Colonel escapes and returns to the base. At this point I really don't know who is behind it all! The Doctor hears the sound of the homing device, and pulls from the pocket of the Colonel another Yeti model. Two Yeti arrive and behind them is Travers, his mind controlled by the Great Intelligence.

The possessed Travers announces: "the time has come for you to understand my purpose," as he reveals that all of this has been a trap to catch the Doctor. The Great Intelligence has observed the Doctor through time and space, and says that his mind surpasses that of all other creatures, which presumably, although we haven't even heard of them yet includes the Doctor's own race, the Time Lords. Through Travers, the Great Intelligence explains that it has created a machine that will drain all passed knowledge and experience from the Doctor's mind; presumably making it the 'Even Greater Intelligence.' The Doctor would survive this process, but with a mind like that of a child. The Intelligence threatens to use many other minds if the Doctor does not willingly submit and promises that all the others will go free if he freely relinquishes his mind. The (not that) Great Intelligence grabs Victoria as a hostage and then in a somewhat surprising and uncharacteristically civilised manner offers the Doctor twenty minutes to think about it. After spending all that time and effort to trap and capture the Doctor, when the Great intelligence has him in it's grasp, it gives the Doctor twenty minutes to mull it over and lets him go? Bonkers!

Real life father and daughter, Jack and Deborah Watling.
Voice of London Underground: (Bing-b... oh you know how it goes) Ladies and Gentlemen, Services will now somewhat randomly recommence, but only for twenty minutes. Alright?!

In the lab the Doctor and Anne have mastered control of the sphere and therefore the Yeti but only at very short range. At Piccadilly Circus, Travers awakes from his control and with Victoria sees Arnold, who we last saw entering the web. Arnold escapes and heads toward HQ having remained unseen. Meanwhile Anne and the Doctor, who have grasped voice control of the sphere head off to find a Yeti.

Arnold is still alive!
The Colonel and Jamie find a shaken Arnold and help him back to the base. The Doctor stops a Yeti just inches away from him, removes it's sphere, replaces it with his own and the Yeti becomes under his control. Back at HQ, Evans sees to Arnold's wounds but runs in fear as he sees the wall of the HQ bulge inwards as fungus spills into the room.

Fungus bursts into the HQ at Goodge Street Station.
Voice of London Underground: I was only joking there is currently, and to be honest for the foreseeable future, no service on any of the London Underground lines, and yes that includes the bloody Overground and DLR. Wait, I guess they weren't built yet in 1968. Oh well screw it.

Meanwhile the Doctor orders his Yeti to stay still for 90 seconds and then follow the Intelligence's orders until told otherwise. The Colonel and Jamie find the Doctor and Anne. They start back for the HQ but run into Arnold who reports that Goodge Street is totally overcome by fungus. Suddenly three Yeti appear and take the group prisoner. Evans is moving through the darkness when two Yeti corner him and carry him away too.

Voice of London Underground: Is anybody still alive down here? I feel a bit surplus to requirements now all the lines are down. I'd really like to know who is working with the Intelligence. Does anyone know?

The Yeti escort the Doctor, the Colonel, Jamie, Anne and Arnold to the Piccadilly Circus platform, but Arnold manages to escape. Victoria and Travers enter the ticket hall at Piccadilly where they see a throne like machine that the Intelligence plans to use on the Doctor. They also see a figure in the shadows, but they quite can't see who it is.

Arnold and Chorley, is it one of them?
Chorley is cowering in a corner when Arnold comes upon him. He says he was trying to escape or get back but couldn't. Arnold wonders how Chorley managed to evade the Yeti, but the two leave together.

Two Yeti arrive at the the platform at Piccadilly carrying Evans. The Doctor tells everyone not to resist the Yeti. The Doctor uses the jamming device and stops two Yeti. He takes a headset they are carrying, makes some changes, returns it to them and switches them back on.

The Doctor, the Colonel, Jamie, Anne, Evans, are reunited with Travers and Victoria. nearly everyone is back together, when Chorley approaches, everyone thinks he's the Intelligence agent but its actually (and here's the moment you've all been waiting for) ... Staff Sergeant Arnold! 

So, it was old Staff Sargent Arnold all along!
He has a different voice and a blank face. A Yeti grabs Jamie and threatens to break his neck, so the Doctor agrees to do what he's told if Jamie is freed. He willingly enters the machine and sits on the throne. Arnold connects the Doctor up and warns, "Submission is essential."

Everything seems lost, when suddenly the reprogrammed Yeti attacks at Jamie's command and goes for Arnold. Jamie hurls the headset into the heart of the pyramid and all the Yeti collapse. Surprisingly the Doctor is angry. He had reprogrammed the headset to drain the Intelligence which would have destroyed it; all Jamie achieved was cutting off the Great Intelligence's connection with Earth. It is still out there somewhere. A grateful Chorley wants to make the Doctor and Jamie heroes in his account of the disaster, suffering much protest for leaving, along with Victoria the trio head off for Covent Garden and the TARDIS. They soon realise that they don't actually know the way and that they'd better get a move on as the trains may start again any moment.

Voice of London Underground: (Bing-bong) I am pleased to announce the continuation of normal service. We apologise for any deaths, or delays to your journey and thank you for using London Underground.

We'll that was long. This blog that is, not the episode which actually bounced along nicely. So I shall keep this conclusion brief; very brief. The Web of Fear = really good.

Join me next time for Fury From The Deep, and don't worry I won't be listening to the whole story under water or anything.

1 comment:

Caitlín Matthews said...

Oh, if only you could meet a Yeti on the tube. I've just watched the b&w Abominable Snowman during one of my early morning get ups, between naps. A fun blog, thanks!