Less than 12 months ago I wrote an article comparing the likelihood that various missing Doctor Who adventures would be animated. I concluded that ‘The Web of Fear‘ was “a long shot but a special edition release would be popular.” Well, here is that very special edition release!
When discussing the likelihood of ‘The Web of Fear‘ Episode 3 being animated it seemed unlikely that the time and effort required would make it a financially enticing prospect for BBC Studios. Especially given that we know the episode does exist somewhere in the world! And yet here we are with an animated version which was achievable on an appropriate budget and timescale. It is that animation which will garner the most attention.
The Yeti in the room
As a part of the announcement of this release a clip from the animated episode was used to showcase how it would look. Unfortunately, the reaction was far from positive. Comparisons were made to blocky Nintendo 64 or first generation PlayStation graphics. They were impossible to ignore. In recent years Doctor Who fans have been frankly spoilt by the quality of animated stories. ‘Fury from the Deep‘ for instance was a superb piece of work. Let’s be honest, The Web of Fear is not up to those standards. It sounds harsh but the process is completely different so one shouldn’t expect the same results.
Motion capture and three-dimensional animation is clearly a developing field. The character movements aren’t quite as smooth but the possibilities are very exciting. Character likenesses are not brilliant but they are pretty good. Crucially, it does work. It is effective at telling the story and that’s the minimum requirement. The details will no doubt improve with time. An accompanying documentary explains this new system of animation. Tantalisingly it also offers up the possibility of completing bigger projects with large casts of characters, such as Marco Polo or The Daleks’ Master Plan. I for one will happily watch this system used for those stories.
Anyway, if you’re not a fan of the animation there’s an updated telesnap reconstruction, with some extra bits of animation, which is also rather excellent. We may have had The Web of Fear episodes to watch for a few years now but the thrill of being able to continue watching after Episode One hasn’t faded. Those episodes also look even better spruced up for high definition Blu Ray.
Also in that original article I highlighted that “on release in 2013 The Web of Fear DVD was sorely lacking a ‘making of’ documentary.” Those wishes have been answered with a brilliant new feature which includes some wonderful footage of Frazer Hines (Jamie) at a disused London Underground station. Other contributors include John Levene (Yeti), Tina Packer (Ann Travers), Derek Martin (Soldier), Sylvia James (Make Up) and Brian Hodgson (Special Sounds). Also featured in Going Underground is Ralph Watson (Capt. Knight) who sadly passed away recently, adding a tinge of sadness.
Of course the usual story of London Transport complaining to the BBC about the production team filming in the Underground, such was the quality of what was created in the studios, is trotted out once again. However, moments such as Brian Hodgson busting the long held myth that the Yeti’s roar was a flushing toilet was a fresh revelation. Sylvia James and Frazer Hines also offer up memories of The Abominable Snowmen which are a nice bonus.
In another lovely touch Tim Woolgar, son of Jack Woolgar (Staff Sgt. Arnold), reveals some audio recordings of his father practicing voices for the Great Intelligence. These are available on another feature The Many Voices of Jack Woolgar. This serves as a testament to the professionalism of an actor keen to get his performance right. It also makes for fascinating listening. Curiously, The Missing Years documentary from 2005 is also included, a great feature but which could’ve done with further updating.
Even if the style of the animated missing episode is not to your liking there is still much to enjoy in this Special Edition. From brilliant new bonus features to an absolutely gorgeous piece of cover artwork from Lee Binding. This is the release that The Web of Fear deserves. A brilliant story which now has an equally strong DVD release.
Here’s hoping one day we get a Super-Duper Special Edition with Episode 3 finally returned! For now however this may be the release that sets in motion the possibility of further stories being animated. For that reason alone it is worth supporting!