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Serial QQ:
The Web Of Fear

Plot

The TARDIS materialises in modern-day London, where the Doctor, Jamie and Victoria discover the city deserted and covered in a weird web-like substance. Meeting up with the military and Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart in the London Underground, they learn that the Great Intelligence and its Yeti are active once again. And this time, the Intelligence's main goal is none other than the possession of the mind of the Doctor.

Production

Doctor Who story editor Peter Bryant was highly impressed with The Abominable Snowmen, a serial written by Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln which inaugurated the programme's fifth recording block. Bryant would shortly be promoted to the post of producer, and he felt that Haisman and Lincoln's adventure was exactly the sort that he wanted to make more of, particularly with regard to its Earthbound setting. Bryant was also eager to feature a rematch between the Doctor and the monsters of the tale, the Yeti. As a result, Haisman and Lincoln were commissioned to write a new Yeti story, entitled The Web Of Fear, on September 27th, 1967 -- three days before The Abominable Snowmen part one was broadcast.

The Web Of Fear was originally intended to enter production as Serial SS, meaning that it would close out Season Five. However, the original Serial QQ -- Fury From The Deep -- was found to be in need of extra rewrites, and so it was pushed back one slot, with The Web Of Fear brought forward to replace it. Meanwhile, Jack Watling had agreed to reprise his role as Professor Travers for the new story, giving him a second opportunity to act alongside his daughter, Deborah. Haisman and Lincoln had decided to set The Web Of Fear several decades after the events of The Abominable Snowmen, and so Watling would have to be made up as an elderly man.

The director assigned to The Web Of Fear was Douglas Camfield, marking his return to Doctor Who after a two-year hiatus since The Daleks' Master Plan. Camfield changed the name of Colonel Lethbridge to Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart, feeling it better suited the character. Originally cast in the role was David Langton, who backed out in late November after being offered other work. After unsuccessfully pursuing Nicholas Selby, Camfield instead awarded the part to Nicholas Courtney, who was to have played Captain Knight (Knight, in turn, would now be portrayed by Ralph Watson). Courtney had started acting during his National Service days, and had gone on to appear in programmes such as The Avengers and Softly, Softly: Task Force. Camfield had previously cast him as Bret Vyon in the opening installments of The Daleks' Master Plan. Another character, Colonel Pemberton, was named after former Doctor Who story editor Victor Pemberton.

The production team instructed that the Yeti be redesigned for The Web Of Fear, believing that the costumes used in The Abominable Snowmen were not sufficiently fearsome. The updated Yeti sported long claws and large glowing eyes, and were somewhat more compact than their predecessors. Brian Hodgson of the Radiophonic Workshop also developed a scary “Yeti roar” sound effect for the previously silent creatures.

Aiming for the utmost authenticity, Camfield hoped to carry out some location filming in the London Underground, specifically the Aldwych platform on December 15th and the entrance to Covent Garden on the 17th. Production assistant Gareth Gwenlan duly wrote to London Transport on November 7th seeking permission. Unfortunately, London Transport demanded an exorbitant fee, and restricted filming to just a handful of overnight hours. The decision was made to instead replicate the Underground in the studio on sets designed by David Myerscough-Jones. A November 8th request made by Gwenlan to film the opening scene of episode one in London's Natural History Museum on December 21st was also turned down.

Production on The Web Of Fear got under way on December 15th with work at the Ealing Television Film Studios. December 17th was a location day, with filming of the episode four battle between the military and the Yeti in a yard owned by TJ Poupart near Shelton Street in Old Covent Garden. Unfortunately, the extreme brevity of the day meant that Camfield was not able to complete all the necessary scenes before twilight fell. Work then moved back to Ealing on December 18th and 20th; model filming was scheduled for the 19th, but did not proceed.

On December 22nd, both Deborah Watling and Frazer Hines were issued new contracts covering both The Web Of Fear and Fury From The Deep. Watling had by this point informed Bryant -- who would take over as producer with Serial QQ, to be replaced as story editor by his former assistant, Derrick Sherwin -- that she would be leaving Doctor Who after these two adventures. Bryant wanted Watling to remain on the show for at least six more stories, but the actress felt that one year on Doctor Who was enough.

Following a break for Christmas, work on The Web Of Fear resumed at Ealing on January 3rd, 1968, to film the material which had been planned for the Natural History Museum. This had been reworked to take place in Julius Silverstein's private museum. It marked the only appearance of an original Yeti costume in the serial; once inhabited by the control sphere, this “transformed” into one of the new-style outfits. The delayed model filming finally went ahead at the BBC Television Centre Puppet Theatre on January 8th.

As was the norm for Doctor Who, each episode was recorded at Lime Grove Studio D on consecutive Saturdays, beginning with part one on January 13th. The same day, a trailer for the serial was taped, featuring Patrick Troughton in-character as the Doctor. This included a special warning advising young viewers that they might find The Web Of Fear scary and suggesting that they watch the programme with their parents. It was broadcast at the conclusion of The Enemy Of The World part six on January 27th. Meanwhile, on the 14th, cast and crew returned to Poupart's yard to finish the scenes which had had to be abandoned on the first attempt.

Troughton was absent from the recording of episode two on January 20th. All the scenes featuring the Doctor had been completed at Ealing, enabling the actor to take a week's holiday. Although the feet of Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart appeared at the end of this episode, the character was played by Maurice Brooks to avoid having to hire Courtney for an extra week. Courtney joined the cast in studio on the 27th, when Troughton also returned. Production on The Web Of Fear concluded on February 17th. Amusingly, at about this time -- midway through the serial's broadcast -- the BBC received a complaint from London Transport, who believed Camfield had gone ahead and somehow filmed in the Underground without permission or payment. They were eventually convinced that what they were seeing were in fact Myerscough-Jones' convincing sets.

Sources
  • Doctor Who: The Handbook: The Second Doctor by David J Howe, Mark Stammers and Stephen James Walker (1997), Virgin Publishing, ISBN 0 426 20516 2.
  • Doctor Who: The Sixties by David J Howe, Mark Stammers and Stephen James Walker (1992), Virgin Publishing, ISBN 1 85227 420 4.
  • Doctor Who Magazine #235, 14th February 1996, “Archive: The Web Of Fear” by Andrew Pixley, Marvel Comics UK Ltd.
  • Doctor Who Magazine Special Edition #4, 4th June 2003, “Heroes And Villains” by Andrew Pixley, Panini Publishing Ltd.

Original Transmission
Episode 1
Date 3rd Feb 1968
Time 5.25pm
Duration 24'53"
Viewers (more) 7.2m (82nd)
· BBC1 7.2m
Appreciation 54%
Episode 2
Date 10th Feb 1968
Time 5.15pm
Duration 24'38"
Viewers (more) 6.8m (80th)
· BBC1 6.8m
Appreciation 53%
Episode 3
Date 17th Feb 1968
Time 5.25pm
Duration 24'34"
Viewers (more) 7.0m (71st)
· BBC1 7.0m
Appreciation 51%
Episode 4
Date 24th Feb 1968
Time 5.25pm
Duration 24'50"
Viewers (more) 8.4m (52nd)
· BBC1 8.4m
Appreciation 53%
Episode 5
Date 2nd Mar 1968
Time 5.25pm
Duration 24'19"
Viewers (more) 8.0m (48th)
· BBC1 8.0m
Appreciation 55%
Episode 6
Date 9th Mar 1968
Time 5.25pm
Duration 24'41"
Viewers (more) 8.3m (36th)
· BBC1 8.3m
Appreciation 55%


Cast
Dr Who
Patrick Troughton
Jamie
Frazer Hines
Victoria
Deborah Watling
(more)
Professor Travers
Jack Watling
Staff Sergeant Arnold
Jack Woolgar
Col. Lethbridge-Stewart
Nicholas Courtney
Anne Travers
Tina Packer
Julius Silverstein
Frederick Schrecker
Corporal Lane
Rod Beacham
Corporal Blake
Richardson Morgan
Captain Knight
Ralph Watson
Harold Chorley
Jon Rollason
Craftsman Weams
Stephen Whittaker
Soldiers
Bernard G High
Joseph O'Connell
Yeti
John Levene
Gordon Stothard
Colin Warman
John Lord
Jeremy King
Roger Jacombs
Driver Evans
Derek Pollitt


Crew
Written by
Mervyn Haisman and
Henry Lincoln
Directed by
Douglas Camfield
Produced by
Peter Bryant
(more)

Fight arranged by
Derek Ware
Title Music by
Ron Grainer and
the BBC Radiophonic Workshop
Special Sound by
Brian Hodgson, BBC Radiophonic Workshop
Visual Effects designed by
Ron Oates
Costume
Martin Baugh
Make-up
Sylvia James
Lighting
Clive Leighton
Sound
Ray Angel
Film Cameramen
Alan Jonas
Jimmy Court
Film Editors
Philip Barnikel
Colin Hobson
Story Editor
Derrick Sherwin
Designer
David Myerscough-Jones


Archive Holdings
Episodes Missing
Episode 3
Telesnaps Surviving
Episode 3


Media
DVD Release
Doctor Who: The Web Of Fear (2014)
Buy: Canada · UK · USA
Doctor Who: Lost In Time (2004; boxed set; episode 1 only)
Buy: Canada · UK · USA
Doctor Who: Lost In Time: The Patrick Troughton Years (2004; two discs; episode 1 only)
Buy: Canada · USA
Audio Releases
Doctor Who: The Web Of Fear narrated by Frazer Hines (2000)
Buy: Canada · UK · USA
Doctor Who: Yeti Attack! narrated by Frazer Hines (2003; boxed set)
Buy: Canada · UK · USA
Doctor Who: The Lost TV Episode Collection Five: 1967-1969 narrated by Frazer Hines (2012; boxed set)
Buy: Canada · UK · USA
Doctor Who: The Abominable Snowmen/The Web Of Fear narrated by Frazer Hines (2003; MP3-CD)
Buy: Canada · UK · USA
Novelisation
Doctor Who and The Web Of Fear by Terrance Dicks (1976)

Updated 10th October 2013