“Oh, all so strange, so unnatural. I’ve never experienced anything in my life before like this.” The Doctor
13th February – 20th March 1965
The Memory Cheats
It is clearly your fault how this became one of the serials I have watched more than any other. I think I watched it first on VHS. When did we get so obsessed with it? We must have watched together at least twice. I wonder how many groups of friends have elected to show this story to their non-Doctor Who fan friends. It is legendary! But my first brush with this story this story was through a totally different medium.
I was about 8 or 9 and was given a Disney ‘Give a Show’ projector. It was a fabulous toy and I played with it endlessly. It came with about 20 strips of card on which there were 5 or 6 slides that told a story involving Mickey Mouse and his jolly friends in comic strip form. Some longer stories were told over 3 or 4 cards. It genuinely gave me hours of fun.
One day mum and dad brought back about 50 further sets of slides. They must have got them from a jumble sale I guess, but contained in them were two (I think) Doctor Who cards. This was actually my first experience of the first doctor so it must have been pre Three Doctors. I had no idea who the old chap on the slides was whom they called the Doctor. I also think that John and Gillian were his companions. Anyway, the story involved the Doctor in an exciting adventure with the Zarbi. I must have a look at these slides again as they are on the DVD as an extra.
The Time Space Visualiser
The TARDIS materialises. Inside, Vicki is back in her Master costume, There is a large collection of devices just dumped by the door. Maybe one of them will come in useful later. Barbara walks in and bizarrely announces, ‘Crags and pools.’ It takes 3 minutes and 23 seconds before a Zarbi bumps into a rock. The Zarbi are large alien ants that have two human legs and four stick like ant legs that just seem to flap about. The scene with Ian and the Doctor looking at the pyramid is impressive.
Interesting that Vicky should have knowledge of leeches and yet not have heard of Aspirin. Also that she studied so much at the age of 10 yet now seems as thick as shit. Barbara’s bracelet pulls her out from the safety of the TARDIS and towards the deadly acid pool. How relieved must the audience of 1965 been the following week when an on looking Zarbi manages to just in time flick a flappy leg and move Barbara away from danger.
The ADJs are a bit rubbish if they only last for an hour. The Menoptra rescue Barbara from certain death by removing the bracelet. Then Barbara swings into action by killing one of them to enable an escape. She is becoming more of a mass murderer than Heron! The Doctor has heard of Vortis. It is now becoming an established thread that he has an encyclopaedic knowledge of worlds and races.
The Menoptra and Barbara are enslaved by menacing Zarbi flapping of legs but they are not moving rocks, they appear to be playing pass the parcel with lumps of seaweed. Just over four minutes into episode 4 as Barbara walks through the crater of needles with a Menoptra and there are couple of extras who don’t seem to have read the script. Instead of flapping legs and seaweed moving they appear to be having a dance. How cute.
Anyway, after several episodes of moving backwards and forwards between various sections of the planet, and, of course getting captured and escaping a couple of times, the Menoptra realise that all you have to do to defeat the Zarbi is run around shouting ‘Zarbi’ in increasingly silly ways. Barbara manages to get the isotope to the Aminus and all is well again. The Doctor spends post of the last episode asleep in the Aminus. Though when he is told the Animus is defeated, he manages a little grunt.
It is difficult to sum up my feelings for this story in a fresh way. I found it a struggle to get through this time, probably as I have seen it so many times and the last time was quite recent, when I enjoyed it more. The voice of the Animus is genuinely creepy. You have to hand it to the production team though for having the guts to go for something so ambitiously alien. Apart from the frankly rubbish Larva Guns, the bumping into scenery and cameras of the Zarbi and the occasional shadow on the sky the story is quite an achievement.
Barbara trips and falls whilst running from the Menoptra.
First of three televised appearances in Doctor Who by Martin Jarvis. There is no way of writing this avoiding innuendo, but we first discover the Doctor’s ring has special powers. Here he uses it to open the doors.
The first and only story to feature a completely non humanoid supporting cast. All characters in the story, apart from the TARDIS crew are in costume.
‘To control him you will have to use my ring.’ The Doctor in episode 5, 22 minutes in.
Episode 1 of The Web Planet was the most watched episode from the 1960s with 13.5 million viewers.
The 500 Year Diary
3rd August 20012 am
Despite problems with the TARDIS, got to wear my space anorak! Also found out today that Ian is wearing his tie as a belt. Must stock up next time I’m passing River Island.
The TARDIS just won’t move despite there being energy! Had a bit of a faffy moment whilst I came to terms with this. Also Vicki’s taken a turn – I hope this isn’t a sign of things to come. She claims to hear ultrasonic noise – these youngsters! Manage to open the doors with my ring.
So we go outside… Ian proceeds to lose his gold pen… didn’t realise he was going to take notes! Our voices seem to echo too. Chesterfield feels we are being watched. He’s so paranoid! We find a huge unnatural stone pyramid and another pool of acid. My companions always seem to be very trustworthy regarding random pools –Ian was nearly right in there! And now no tie… hope his trousers don’t fall down!
As we head back to the ship, we hear Vicki calling for Barbara. Now where’s she gone? Ian then gets trapped in a net made of webs. What is this place? Must be the web planet! I rush on only to find that my TARDIS has gone!
3rd August 20012 pm
Happily, Ian was able to free himself so we go off hunting for the TARDIS following tracks on the ground. Ian steps on a chrysalis which I deduce to be a Menoptra. Combined with the rock formations, I work out that the web planet is Vortis, many light earths… er, years from Earth.
Then we’re accosted by these huge ant creatures accompanied by these big woodlice things. The ants make a right racket! Ian tries to fight back, but advise him not to. They lead us to their HQ where Vicki and the TARDIS happen to be. As soon as she leaves the TARDIS, she is hassled by these ants. I am furious because one of them enters the ship, although it goes a bit funny and leaves. In my anger attempt a game of charades with the ants…. are they the Zarbi, I seem to recall them? Next thing, an alarm – no-one seems to know what the hell is going on – and then this hairdryer thing comes down asking, “Why do you come now?”
3rd August 20012 eve
Turns out this creature thinks we’re working with the Menoptra. It tries to prove its power by firing at the ship, but happily Vicki accidentally realigned the fluid link so the ship defended itself. Hope she didn’t disturb it too much and release the mercury! The creature- or what I call the Queen Ant – asks us if we can monitor the stars to check on the Menoptra – I reply I can. So they let us in the ship, minus Vicki, to get the astral map that’s just been hanging around. I come up with an ingenious plan to get Ian to rescue Barbara who is in the Crater Of Needles if he gets the opportunity.
Happily that opportunity came sooner than we think as the astral map won’t work unless they restore power to the TARDIS. As they power down, Ian escapes – escape to danger. Luckily they don’t kill us as threatened, but are rather distrustful from this point on rather unsurprisingly.
Find out the Menoptran forces are gathering over the Crater Of Needles, but don’t tell them that. Send Vicki to get some equipment from the ship – she comes out with some random tiny spider specimen. This inexplicably frightens the massive Zarbi… we have a weapon!
4th August 20012 am
I don’t get five minutes to concoct a plan… that Animus keeps wanting a word! Had to tell them that the Menoptra were gathering on Pictos as they put Vicki in some wishbone mind control device that turns her into a zombie. Next thing, the alarm sounds and Zarbi are scuttling all over the place. It seems the Menoptra are on the offensive! I wonder what’s happening at the Crater of Needles….
Work out that the mind control device is made of actual gold. Again once I start to work it out, I’m interrupted by the Animus. Give us a break! To be fair, I was actually trying to sabotage the device by using the TARDIS’ instruments. For that, apparently, we must die. Now it’s my turn to be put in a harness….
4th August 20012 pm
The next thing I remember is being awoken by Vicki. My sabotage worked! We then use the working device to escape by putting it on a Zarbi which I am able to control without the need for charades.
We find Barbara and the Menoptra – strange looking things, big fat camp bumble bees. The invasion has failed! I’m told about the Animus controlling the planet from the centre, drawing its power from the magnetic poles of the planet. It was this that bought the ship here! I decide to return to the Carsinome and destroy the Animus there. We do a bit of a swap; I take the isotope and they take my ring which they can use over and over again to control the Zarbi for their attack.
Anyway, we return to the Carsinome and we get sprayed. Vicki made a very strange noise!
4th August eve
We’re released from the sticky stuff…. So what was it for? Anyway, the Animus has no more use for us and we’re to be killed. But not there. We’ve got to be taken to the centre. Unfortunately, I leave the isotope behind.
We enter the centre and immediately we are blinded by the light. I collapse. Vicki goes on for a bit longer before she too is enveloped in the tendrils. Happily Barbara saves the day when she arrives, although I think the isotope wasn’t working properly, perhaps she got lucky!
And so we’re free. After watching a bit of running and jumping from all the various creatures including the French resistance like Optera, we go, happy that water is running, the Animus has gone and the Zarbi are still enslaved cattle. A good day’s work (apart from Ian banging on about his tie)!
The Five Word Lords
Weird and wonderful, ages badly.