Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...
Day Sixty-Nine: The Centre (The Web Planet, Episode Six)
Oh, my patience had to run out sometime, I guess. There's a few elements of this episode that I've still quite liked, but I think the goodwill that I'd been building up over the last few episodes was just dissipated. In short: I think I got tired of forgiving The Web Planet.
The thing is, on the whole, I've rather liked it. It's been a good seven or eight years since the last time I saw it, and I could't really remember my thoughts on it. Over those years, though, I've seen it slagged off so many times that I was dreading reaching this point. Added to the fact that I just didn't enjoy The Romans, I thought I was in for a rough week.
And there's plenty of reasons to not like this story, it's true. It was always going to be a bold choice to have a tale with no other recognisably human faces for six full weeks, and to begin with it pulls it off quite well. In the end though, it just pushes its luck a bit too far.
On the whole, I've really liked the design of the story - I think Vortis itself is quite well done (even if the vaseline is a bit too heavy from time to time: it's still very strong in this episode, for those of you keeping track), and the effort that has gone into designing the Zarbi and the Menoptera is evident, even if it doesn't quite work all the time. The Optera, on the other hand, I'll refrain from saying too much about!
I can't help but feel that this story might be much better regarded had it been made as a four parter. Keep Episode One much as it is, and then just have three instalments of the bug people waging war on each other. After building up to it for six weeks, the fight between the Menoptera and their ant enemies in this episode is a woeful let down. Zaaaaaarrrrbiiiiiii!
The same is true of the Animus itself. For several episodes, it's been no more than a creepy disembodied voice, but here it's revealed to be an odd thing hung from the ceiling. Upon first glance I thought it looked quite passable, but the more you see of it, the less keen I was. I recall the first time that I saw this story: there's a point when Vicki describes it as a 'dirty great spider'. I was dreading it. I hate spiders at the best of times, so I didn't really want to see one.
This, though, poses no threat to me whatsoever. Doesn't seem to pose much of a threat to its enemies, either. A few minutes in the Centre with it, and they've gone and destroyed it. Everyone is happy, off we go.
The one thing that I do like about this story episode is that we stay behind on Vortis for a bit after the TARDIS leaves. It's happened a few times in the series, but this is by far the longest example we've had off seeing people get on with their lives once the Doctor and his friends have left. I'd quite like to see a return to Vortis, made on a modern budget. I think the prosthetics and CGI that could be used to realise the world and its inhabitants these days would be rather spectacular.
As it is though, and for all I've enjoyed bits of the tale, I'm not too sorry to be leaving The Web Planet behind.
Next Episode: The Lion