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6 March 2013
 Day Sixty-Five: The Zarbi (The Web Planet, Episode Two)

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

Day Sixty-Five: The Zarbi (The Web Planet, Episode Two)

Dear Diary,

I hate litter. Genuinely, I can't stand it when people wilfully drop litter. I've been known to get quite shirty with people when I see them dropping litter out and about. If I can't find a bin, then I'll hold on to whatever litter I've got until I can find a bin. It's the obvious thing to do!

Imagine, then, how it irked me yesterday when Ian has witnessed his Coal Hill School tie being dissolved in the acid, and then throws it away on the ground as he walks away from the pool! I mean, yes, I know the tie is useless to him now (even as a belt!), but still! And then today, having removed his oxygen jacket, and carried it for a bit, he throws that away behind him, too! Vortis may not be the prettiest world he's visited in the TARDIS, but there's no need to leave half his wardrobe scattered about its surface!

Actually, I say Vortis isn't the prettiest world, but as I said yesterday, I really like the design. There's something about the jagged rocks that really works for me, and always has. I've often praised in this marathon the use of the backcloths to give a sense of depth to a set - most prominently in The Aztecs, but in a few other places too. The ones in The Web Planet have always looked quite good to me, and it's always been easy enough to suspend my belief enough for them to really work.

For this reason it's a shame that a few scenes in this episode are spent stood only a couple of feet away from the backcloth, which don't help the illusion much. Nor does the massive great join running up the middle of it!

Yesterday, I complained that as much as I was liking the story, it was a fairly good example of that common conception of 1960s TV - creaky, wobbly, and all together a bit naff. There's plenty in this episode which helps to uphold that, I'm sorry to say. That aforementioned join is one of them, but also the way the Zarbi hobble about (I'd never noticed before how one of them trips over a pair of wings from a recently deceased Menoptera!).

Then we've got the shot of the TARDIS being dragged away across the surface of the planet. In some of the shots it really works, and it looks somewhat unnerving. The TARDIS has always been the 'safe' place - it's usually the place that our regulars spend four-to-six episodes trying to get back to. Here, though, from the spinning console in yesterday's episode to the way that it's being dragged away by some sinister unseen force, it's lost all pretense of being a 'safe' place to be.

It's a shame, then, that some of the 'dragging' shots really don't work as well as the others, and the cuts to Maureen O'Brien playing what appears to be a game of 'Stuck in the Mud' in the console room by herself aren't particularly great. She's been flawless until now, but this isn't her finest moment.

I was also very impressed to see a Zarbi attempting to enter the TARDIS. Having taken away the element of safety that we've always had with it, the ultimate final blow is to show one of the 'evil' monsters inside the ship. It doesn't make it past the doorway, though, and the whole thing is over and done with very quickly. It's a pity, as that could have been a really striking image.

I think that's quite a good theme for the story as a whole, actually; 'could have been'. There's a lot of potential here, but it's not really hitting it.

Next Episode: Escape to Danger

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