Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...
Day Sixty-Seven: Crater of Needles (The Web Planet, Episode Four)
Here's the thing: I don't know what to make of The Web Planet. I'm really enjoying it… but it's rubbish!
I mean, if I'm being perfectly honest, 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!
And yet, as I say, I'm enjoying it! I can't quite put my finger on what it is about the story, but I'm just caught up in it. I think that when I suspended my belief back at the start of Episode One, I might have suspended a bit too much of it - because I'm watching this and I'm still finding it quite impressive visually. I'm fairly sure that's not a commonly-held view.
The effects of the Menoptera flying in to land are good enough, if you ask me, especially some of the more impressive ones. I'll admit that there's more than a few instances where wires are pretty visible, but again - I'm watching this with a cleaned up picture on a big screen! The biggest downside to that scene, for me, is that they re-use shots several times - and in quick succession. That takes away somewhat from the impressiveness of it all.
Though, it has to be said, all the creatures look pretty interesting on film! There's a few shots close up of the Zarbi that have been shot on film and they look quite good! The Menoptera are less impressive in this style, but they do have to look of a real 1950s sci-fi.
Actually - that's it! Yes! That's what this reminds me of! It looks like an early sci-fi film, with effects and styles on about the same level. It's not as visually impressive as The Dalek Invasion of Earth, or Planet of Giants, but it's still pretty solid. The effect of it looking like early sci-fi extends to the - frankly just plain odd - scenes with the Optera down inside the planet. It's just all a bit amateur dramatics, isn't it.
On the plus side, a friend and colleague recently watched this story before Christmas (it's ok, he's a Doctor Who fan, and was watching the series through as a marathon - it's safe for him to watch!), and we spent much of January communicating only in the styles of the various inhabitants of Vortis. If we weren't jumping about and snarling like an Optera, then we were making sure to do plenty of hand gestures and copy Roslyn De Winter's insect movements.
Something that does stick out in this episode is that again they've smeared a bit too much vaseline on the lans… but only on some shots! We cut from the Menoptera invasion force (with vaseline) to a reaction shot of Barbara (sans vaseline!). Once you've noticed it, it becomes a bit distracting. Did they forget? Had they just used up most of the supply in yesterday's episode?
Oh - and I notice there's a shot early on in the Crater, where a Zarbi starts heading to camera before we abruptly cut away. Trying to avoid another collision?
Next Episode: Invasion