Doctor Who - The Web of Fear
Doctor Who – The Web of Fear (c) BBC

The Web of Fear : Episode 3

Broadcast on February 17th, 1968 @ 5.25pm (7 million viewers)

Doctor Who - The Web of Fear
Doctor Who – The Web of Fear (c) BBC

It is no underestimation that ‘The Web of Fear’ shaped the future of Doctor Who. Set on Earth, it featured an alien menace stalking an instantly recognisable environment and was heavily inspired by ‘Quatermass and the Pit’ nearly a decade earlier. It’s success would result in a loose sequel, ‘The Invasion’ later that same year and shape the early development of the Third Doctor’s tenure. Much is also made of the spectacular Underground sets used for ‘The Web of Fear’, which were so convincing that London Transport thought the production team had snuck in without permission to film and complained to the BBC. Those sets also benefit from the skillful handling of legendary director Douglas Camfield, resulting in a claustrophobic adventure, full of atmosphere.

Doctor Who - The Web of Fear
Doctor Who – The Web of Fear (c) BBC

Great ecstasy was triggered from fans when the news broke in October 2013 of the return of episodes 2, 4, 5 and 6 to the BBC archive, reunited with the already held first episode. Sadly, when those episodes were released onto iTunes and to DVD this part, episode 3, had to be reconstructed with audio recordings and telesnaps. It is believed however that the episode is still out there, having gone missing after its initial discovery, but hopefully it will turn up one day and we can watch Nicholas Courtney’s first scenes as Lethbridge-Stewart properly.

Memorable Moment (Spoiler Warning)

Doctor Who - The Web of Fear
Doctor Who – The Web of Fear (c) BBC

The Colonel’s first appearance actually happens in Episode 2, with only his right boot seen and worn by uncredited extra Maurice Brooks. Similarly, the Doctor’s first meeting with Lethbridge-Stewart occurs off-screen during the previous episode when Patrick Troughton had a week off and as a result the rest of the cast spent the duration postulating about the Doctor’s whereabouts. At this point during the story’s narrative, faced with the prospect of being unable to combat the mysterious web-like fungus or the Yeti’s, the characters are all suspecting each other as working with the Great Intelligence. As a result Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart, as the newcomer into the situation, becomes suspect number one. Frankly, the irritating journalist Harold Chorley would be a more appropriate suspect. Lethbridge-Stewart immediately takes charge of the situation. Nicholas Courtney exudes authority but equally has an approachable manner and his confident briefing sums up his ‘military intelligence’. Originally cast to play Captain Knight, fate would intervene and when David Langton dropped out from playing Lethbridge-Stewart, Courtney was promoted and would make the part his own, going on to be as familiar an element in the show as Bessie or the sonic screwdriver.

As the web closes in, trapping the cast in their fortress, all hope rests on them holding this position. Sadly, the conclusion of the episode proves that even in this base of operations they are not safe as Weams is killed and the Yeti attack. Most excitingly of all we can now all watch the next episode to find out what happens next!

Cast:

Doctor Who – Patrick Troughton
Jamie – Frazer Hines
Victoria – Deborah Watling
Captain Knight – Ralph Watson
Col. Lethbridge-Stewart – Nicholas Courtney
Professor Travers – Jack Watling
Anne Travers – Tina Packer

Crew:

Director – Douglas Camfield
Producer – Peter Bryant
Writer – Mervyn Haisman
Writer – Henry Lincoln

Also first aired On This Day…

  • Carnival of Monsters : Episode 4
  • The Armageddon Factor : Part 5
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Bedwyr Gullidge
Assistant Director (uncredited) on Doctor Who episodes ‘Dark Water/Death in Heaven’, ‘Last Christmas’, 'The Return of Doctor Mysterio' and ‘Thin Ice’. A fan and collector since 6 years of age having watched Doctor Who repeats on BBC2. Equally enthusiastic about Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures. Lucky enough to own original costumes worn by Freema Agyeman, John Barrowman and Elisabeth Sladen. Author of a book chronicling the history of Doctor Who exhibitions coming soon from Telos Publishing.

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