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15 December 2013

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start... 

Day 349: The Web of Fear, Episode Three (Revisited)

Dear diary,

I thought I was clear of the era in which recons were an option! I really debated over how to best tackle today’s episode, because as long-time readers of The 50 Year Diary will be aware, I’m not the world’s biggest fan of recons. I find that I just can’t get caught up in them, and they actively reduce my enjoyment of an episode, more than they help it. I wondered about simply re-listening to the soundtrack of today’s instalment in an attempt to enjoy it more, but since the recon came as part of the complete serial on iTunes it felt silly not to watch it…

Sadly, I still find myself less than impressed by the experience. Several people have commented that this recon isn’t as polished as the one from Loose Cannon, so that may be where I’m going wrong, but the telesnaps really are no substitute for either the original episodes, or the visuals my mind fills in via the soundtrack release. I think coming from eight moving Troughton episodes in a row has spoilt me.

The episode is still quite interesting because it’s the first appearance of the would-be Brigadier. I said of the character last time; ”Interestingly, he's played as something of a 'grey' character here, and we're not entirely sure that we're supposed to trust him. Certainly, if you pointed him out to a viewer watching in 1968 and told them that this man would become the Doctor's best friend through several incarnations, they'd think you were mad,” and it’s even more interesting to watch having just emerged from the latter-half of the Pertwee years, in which he’s very firmly established himself as a part of the Doctor’s life.

What’s surprising to me, though, is that he’s not as different as a character as I’d expected. As I’ve said in the past, I always think of the Doctor and the Brigadier as being the best of friends, but even up to The Three Doctors, there’s a slightly uneasy relationship between the pair. It’s great to go back and see how much of a through-line there is between the Colonel that we meet down here in the tunnels and the one I’ve grown used to since September. Sadly, I can also feel myself enjoying the character (and Nick Courtney’s performance) more here than I do by the time Season Ten rolls around. I think it’s in the next episode that he takes the Doctor’s explanation of a time machine at face value, which will feels like such a relief after the blatant disbelief of anything he displayed during our multi-Doctor team up.

The other thing I drew attention to first time round: ”To put it bluntly, I'm not sure who is working with the Intelligence - and I like that! It's keeping me guessing (and second guessing) at every turn.” I’m still not sure who’s moving around the little Yeti statues at this point, and this surprises me a little. I was chatting to a friend about this story the other day and mused that I couldn’t remember who was behind everything at this stage. I know Travers gets possessed before long (end of tomorrow’s episode?) but I genuinely have no clue for right now.

‘Oh, that’s easy!’ he told me. ‘It’s Staff Sergeant Arnold. He gets taken over when he goes into the web…’ Darn, that’s ruined it for me a bit – a spoiler for a story I’ve already heard! Every time Arnold heads into the tunnels, I expect him to walk into the web and get possessed… but it’s not happened yet! It’s not the Staff Sergeant at this point in the story, so I’m completely lost. Am I just missing something really obvious? Is there some big neon light flashing over the culprit’s head?

But you know what? I kind of like that I still don’t have a clue. It means that the menace is still there, lurking in the darkness of the tunnels, and I’m just as lost as our heroes are at this point!

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