After missing 45 years, the missing Troughton era tale, The Web of Fear, has been found and returned to the archives. Released earlier this year on iTunes, this story finally sees its DVD release in North America. While it’s always fantastic news when a previously lost story or episode is found, I can’t help but feel a tad bit guilty in saying, that like the also recently discovered Enemy of the World, I wouldn’t have been terribly upset if this story had not been discovered. I know as a Doctor Who fan this is a terrible thing to say, but the reputation that The Web of Fear and other lost stories have built up over the years since they were first aired on television hasn’t been a good thing. Sadly what has happened is that these stories have built up such a mythical reputation as being examples of Doctor Who at its most outstanding that when they are finally discovered and fans see them once again they are sadly disappointed and disillusioned. What we’ve been lead to believe over the years that the these stories are classics turns out to be the exact opposite. The stories turn out to be rather substandard, dull, runarounds; and sadly, this is what I found The Web of Fear to be.
The Web of Fear takes what really should have been a four episode story and stretches it to the point of six episodes of plodding boredom. While the basic storyline of the Yeti invading the London Underground could have made for exciting television, what you end up getting is a lot of wasted screen time. Time and time again we get scenes of characters being captured, escaping capture and then being captured again. I mean how many times can one be captured by the baddies and escaping them before it becomes extremely boring and uninteresting. Sadly this is the case with The Web of Fear. After about the third time I found myself not really caring. This is a bad thing for any television script. I can’t see viewers staying tuned in to this round around even a 1960s audience. God forbid what nuWho fans will make of this story.
Having found the story to be disappointing, I do have to point out that Patrick Troughton is brilliant despite a poor script. Every story I’ve ever seen him in, time and time again, he proves that he was a great Doctor. There are several moments throughout the story where he is a joy to watch. Fraser Hines also turns in another great performance as Jamie McKrimmon. However, the more I see of Deborah Watling as Victoria Waterfield, the more I dislike her and her character. I don’t know if it’s her, or the way her character was written but she can’t act. Her portrayal of Victoria comes across as stiff and amateurish. She doesn’t put much emotion into her lines and pitches them continually at the same whiney level. I don’t why fans of 60s Who think the character is so great cause she isn’t. Victoria is nothing but a silly whiney little girl and after about five minutes of her continual whining all I want to do is push her down a flight of stairs. She has got to be one of the all time worse Doctor Who companions.
As for the supporting cast and characters, Jack Watling’s portrayal of Professor Travers is inconsistent. One moment he pitches his performance at the right level coming across believable and eccentric and then the next he’s over-the-top and veering into the level of bad acting. Case in point when he’s supposed to be possessed by the Great Intelligence. Instead of coming across as a man being used by an alien intelligence, he comes across as strange mental patient with a speech impediment. It was a joy to see Nicholas Courtney as Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart, but can someone please explain to me what was the purpose of the character of Driver Evans? Was he suppose to be comic relief or just a silly annoying goof? Whatever it was, I found the character, and the actor portraying the part, damn annoying. I hated every scene he was in.
Overall, despite my criticisms of the story and acting, I enjoyed The Web of Fear. Not so much so for the fact that it was a great story, which it wasn’t; but more so for the fact that it was great to see another example of the brilliant Patrick Troughton as the second Doctor. Unfortunately like the recently returned Enemy of the World, I found The Web of Fear disappointing. I’m going to be generous and only reward the story a 7 out of 10.
Reviewed by Bob Furnell