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16 December 2013

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

Day 350: The Web of Fear, Episode Four (Revisited)

Dear diary,

The last time I did this episode, I complained that they were using the Cybermen’s theme - Space Adventure - as the background music for the Yeti attack in Covent Garden, but having not heard it for a few months it is great to hear it again. Curiously, I didn’t make much of a mention of the attack in my first write up for this episode;

”Today’s Yeti attack in Covent Garden is lost somewhat by appearing only on audio - the telesnaps for the scene, coupled with knowledge of Dougie Camfield’s direction, make it look fab - the new style Yeti even look imposing when outside. Last year, the Mirror newspaper published online a load of photos from this scene, with the Yeti menacing a man and his dog - they do look great!”

But seeing it on screen does serve to highlight why audio isn’t the best form for this sequence because Camfield is such an action director. Right from the first shot of the Colonel and his men out on the surface and on film, you know what’s about to happen. Is it perfect? Well, no. There’s a few moments when you can see the rather large zips snaking up the backs of the Yeti costumes (Although, all right, you could make the argument that since these creatures are robots, the furry suits are simply added on after and zipped up…).

It’s also a shame that after such a good job is done of making it look like there’s lots of Yeti (and it does! It’s simply the same four outfits being shot from different angles down the street, but it multiplies them brilliantly) we don’t see any laying dead on the floor. I’m thinking in particular of one shot, late in the battle, where the floor behind an advancing Yeti is littered with dead soldiers… and nothing else. Having just watched a grenade attack that seems to take out several of the creatures, it just looks a bit odd.

It’s not a huge complaint, though, because the battle is fantastic. The Yeti really do manage to look scary even when out in the open, and as for the moment when the Colonel and another soldier hide up high in the warehouse and a yeti reaches up to grab the soldier’s foot… well it’s no wonder that this story had a specially made trailer to warn children that the Yeti were scarier than the last time.

They’re not the only things in this story to come across as unnerving, either. Even I was quite put off by the sight of a soldier in a gas mask being pulled back out of the tunnel coated in a layer of web. I was somewhat surprised – when the mask came off – to find that his face was perfectly plain. I think I’d half expected it to be made up somehow.

All the sequences down in the tunnels today have a real air of menace about them, and I think that’s the thing I’m most pleased to see from the recovery of this tale. I’ve always half-doubted the story that the London Underground thought Doctor Who had filmed in their stations without permission, but when you see how good these sets really are, it’s not hard to believe. I had worried that it might be like The Celestial Toymaker, where everyone who’d previously rushed to talk about how good it was suddenly has to back-track pretty sharpish…

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