Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...
Day Sixty-Eight: Invasion (The Web Planet, Episode Five)
A wise man once said of this story “This is the kind of Doctor Who episode that I wouldn't want to get caught watching. I remember the first time I dared to show a non-fan friend an episode of The Tomb of the Cybermen, and they thought it looked awful! Imagine sitting them down to watch this!”. Ok, it wasn't a wise man - it was me. Yesterday.
The Web Planet has become something of a guilty pleasure. I know that I shouldn't like it. Trust me, I know that it's a bit rubbish. But you know what? I'm still really enjoying it! But then… I hit a stumbling block. You see, the problem with the six-parters is that unless they do something new and different in each episode to give me plenty to focus on, I very quickly run out of things to say!
You've just read four days of me praising the designs, keeping track of how much vaseline is being smeared on the camera lenses (we're still on a high use in this instalment), and commenting on the creepy Animus voice. You'd all be bored if I just rambled on about it again today.
So I decided to do something different. I decided to take my comments from yesterday, and put them to the test.
My better-half hasn't had the best week. She's not felt very well, and the car has been playing up. Tonight I was out of work earlier than usual, so she decided to come see me and get out of the house. As the boyfriend, it's my job to make her feel better during a week like this. So what's the right thing for a caring boyfriend to do? That's right! It's getting her to sit down and watch an episode of The Web Planet with me. Obviously. Men, I hope you're taking notes.
I think my friend Tom summed it up best: “Probably not the best episode to show from the last two months…”. But maybe he'd be wrong! Maybe I was wrong yesterday? Maybe I'm not the only one who can see the charm in The Web Planet?
I started by briefing Ellie on the story so far. I summed it up as simply as I could (The TARDIS has been dragged to a barren world. There's something evil at the heart of it that's controlling an army of giant ants. The butterfly people who used to live on this planet are coming to take it back. It's remarkable how easily the four episodes boil down.), and tentatively hit play.
The first thing she asked was wether the Menoptera are actually meant to be butterflies at all. Now she's brought it up, I'm not sure if they are. I've always assumed they're butterflies, but actually they're also a bit like bees in their colouring, aren't they? No stings, though, so I'm guessing more butterfly than bee. I won't even go in to the look on her face when a Zarbi appeared. I think she was assessing how easily she could make an excuse to leave.
She couldn't even look at the screen while we were on the planet's surface, because the vaseline-smeared camera lens was actually making her eyes ache. I'm still not sure she believed me when I told her how they'd achieved the look. Unfortunately, she wasn't much keen on the design of the Animus' lair, either. She just thought it looked like a studio set. And not a particularly great one, either.
Only one moment raised a smile from her, and that's when the Doctor goes back to his ring-controlled Zarbi and tells him that he had 'nearly ended up as lost property!'. I have to admit I'm glad she liked that bit at least, as it's the kind of fun I've been enjoying from the Doctor more and more this series.
At the end of the twenty-five minutes, Ellie only had one thing to say when summing it up. She thought it was long-winded, and I don't think she could quite believe I was sitting through six days of it. Unfortunately, I think Tom was right - perhaps not the best example of a sixties Who episode for a non-fan (Incidentally, Ellie's rather fond of the new series, but she's never really gotten into the classic stuff. Ah well!).
Something I did notice, though, is that I spent more time this episode keeping an eye on El's reaction than I did watching the story - but I don't feel like I've really missed anything. Menoptera are planning a slightly different attack. Hartnell and Vicki have been webbed. Etc. Etc. I'm still looking forward to the climax of the tale, though.
(Ellie gave it a 4/10 - it could have been worse!)
Next Episode: The Centre