London is under siege.
Abandoned by its inhabitants, a sinister force has set up shop in the London Underground using the tunnels to spread throughout the centre of the city. Primordial mists and deadly spider webs are choking the system, killing any who enter. With more than one monster on the loose, a new military task force has been set up to investigate. When the TARDIS is plucked from the sky, The Doctor along with companions Victoria and Jamie are left facing an old enemy.
Written by English author Terrance Dicks, Web of Fear is one of the many novelisations of the popular TV series Doctor Who that he has put to print. Dicks was prolific in the world of Doctor Who, working throughout all of the Third Doctor’s tenure. He also introduced the Fourth Doctor, became the Script Editor for the show in 1968 and was involved with the 20th anniversary special The Five Doctors (1983). The original televised story of the same name was written by Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln.
Released by Target Books in 1976 (aired 1968) Web of Fear follows on from the events of The Abominable Snowmen (1967). Returning character Professor Travers is in London forty years after his adventures with The Doctor in Tibet. The intervening years have been devoted to the study of advanced electronics, specifically regarding a strange alien sphere that he believes was used to control the Yeti creatures during their previous encounter in Tibet. His daughter Anne Travers is similarly talented and works as a scientific advisor to the British Military. Obsessed with uncovering the secrets of the sphere, Travers eventually makes a breakthrough.
Professor Edward Travers is about to learn the hard way that alien-controlled Yeti corpses do not make suitable souvenirs, especially if you sell them to unscrupulous private collectors in the heart of London. With the sphere re-activated, he visits the dormant Yeti kept in Julius’ museum, rows with the collector and once again makes an unsuccessful attempt to buy it back. When Julius refuses to sell, he is soon murdered by the awakened creature. The Yeti vanishes and London is quite literally caught up in the ensuing mayhem.
Meanwhile, the Tardis finds itself tangled in a web-like substance drifting in space. With a bit of creative flying, The Doctor in his second form, played by Patrick Troughton, lands in the midst of the takeover where they find themselves wandering through abandoned train tunnels infested with possessed Yeti. It is here that we are introduced to the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce (UNIT) set up to fight alien attacks on planet earth. Jamie and Victoria are taken to UNIT’s military base which is built inside a special fortress leftover from WWII. From here they co-ordinate the fight against the mindless Yeti creatures, inexplicable murderous webs and a disembodied Intelligence set on ruling the world.
The Great Intelligence, first introduced in Doctor Who and the Zarbi (1965) and returning in The Abominable Snowmen (1967) is back and taking control of Yeti and humans for its greater purpose. Described perfectly by Dicks, it is one of The Doctor’s greatest foes, impossible to bargain with and given its ancient existence, unlikely to ever be truly vanquished.
‘Exiled from some other dimension The Intelligence was a malignant disembodied entity, condemned to hover eternally between the stars, forever craving form and substance.’ -Terrance Dicks
Web of Fear is most famous for the arrival of fan favourite Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (seen here with the rank of Colonel) played by actor Nicholas Courtney. During this action-centric adventure, we witness the founding of a friendship that remains part of the Doctor Who universe today, kept alive through his daughter Kate Lethbridge-Stewart. He is one of UNIT’s founders and develops a lasting friendship with The Doctor, who is visibly moved upon learning of his passing during Eleventh’s era.
This is an action heavy story, especially for The Doctor who finds himself fighting Yeti, dodging explosions and confronting his old enemy. With mind control in play, there is enough suspicion to keep the audience guessing as to who is working for The Great Intelligence.
With the third episode of the televised version famously lost, this novelisation is a treasure for fans of the show as much as the books. Re-released as an e-book, it features the original sketches by preserved from the hardback edition.