I drop the first bombshell 30 seconds into the episode.
Sue: What do you mean, I’ve seen this before? What are you trying to do to me, Neil?
I offer to let her watch the first episode in silence, like we did when we re-watched The Enemy of the World Episode 3. She agrees. And then she doesn’t stop talking.
Sue: This is a bit random. What’s going on here?
The episode begins with the Doctor and Victoria rolling around on the TARDIS floor as Jamie struggles to regain control of the ship.
Me: This story picks up from the end of The Enemy of the World. Salamander has just been sucked off. We only saw it a few days ago.
Sue: So they found the story that follows the last one. That’s handy. It must have been sitting on the same shelf.
Once the TARDIS is back under his control, the Doctor prepares to take his companions on yet another adventure. And then Sue throws a cushion at me, just for the sheer hell of it.
Meanwhile, in a museum on Earth, Professor Travers and a man named Silverstein are arguing about a very special exhibit.
Sue: I like the Yeti. They’re a completely ridiculous monster, but there’s something appealing about them. I just want to cuddle them.
Sue is immediately seduced by the episode’s moody lighting and tight close-ups.
Sue: This is very spooky. We should have saved this for Halloween.
After Travers leaves the museum empty-handed, a silver sphere smashes through a window and reactivates the dormant Yeti. It advances on Silverstein with an unholy roar.
Sue: Why does this Yeti have gaffer tape stuck over its mouth? Are they trying to sex it up a bit? Actually, when you shoot the Yeti from a low angle like that, they’re pretty scary. You definitely wouldn’t want to cuddle this one. It’s a good start, this. I almost remember it.
Back on the TARDIS, Jamie and the Doctor are enjoying a nice plate of sandwiches.
Sue: Why hasn’t Vicki…
Sue: Why hasn’t Victoria got a sandwich? What is it with this show depriving women of sandwiches all the time? You should write a PhD about that, Neil.
The TARDIS is immobilised by a mysterious web floating in space.
Sue: Remind me – what do the Yeti have to do with the giant spiders again? And did I like The Web Planet the last time I saw it?
Me: No, you despised it. But this is The Web of Fear, so don’t worry about it.
Sue: The stuff on the TARDIS reminds me of Wonderweb hemming tape. You know, for your trousers. It never stayed stuck for long.
The Doctor rigs up a device that will extricate him from the web’s grip when it suddenly begins to disperse of its own accord.
Sue: Yep, that lasted about as long as Wonderweb.
Meanwhile, in the London Underground…
Sue: Is this the one where the people who run the tube got annoyed with the BBC for filming in a station without their permission?
Me: Yes. Even though this is a BBC set, and they never went anywhere near a real tube station.
Sue: That’s right! Oh yes. I remember this now. It looks amazing.
The Doctor says it’s funny how they keep landing on Earth all the time.
Sue: Yeah, it’s almost as if it’s cheaper or something.
Our heroes make their way to Covent Garden’s ticket hall.
Sue: I was at that station only the other day. The lifts weren’t working and I had to climb the stairs. 300 steps. With a bag. It was murder.
Meanwhile, in Goodge Street station, Professor Travers’ daughter, Anne, is fixing a blast recorder.
Sue: She wants to be the new Barbara. Either Barbara or Valerie Singleton.
Because Jamie and Victoria decide to keep the Doctor’s presence in the tunnels a secret, the daft old fool almost gets himself blown up.
Sue: And that’s why you should always tell the truth, boys and girls.
Fortunately for him, the explosives were encased in a protective web.
Sue: I thought it was supposed to be a web of fear, not a web of safety.
Sue: What did I say about that episode the first time?
Me: You enjoyed it. You thought the sets were amazing, and you loved Douglas Camfield’s direction.
Sue: Nothing’s changed, then. So that was a complete waste of time.
Jamie thinks he knows who’s controlling the Yeti in the Underground.
Sue: Yeah, it’s Richard E Grant. It’s as if Steven Moffat knew they were going to find this episode when he wrote his episodes with the Great Intelligence in them. He must be psychic or something.
Sue loves it when Travers recognises Jamie and Victoria. It’s been decades since he last saw them, whereas it’s only been a few weeks for them.
Sue: They should do that sort of thing in Doctor Who more often. That was really sweet.
But something is missing…
Sue: Oh no. Patrick’s on holiday this week. He is, isn’t he? You wait all this time for a Patrick Troughton story to turn up and then he isn’t even in the episode! Can we skip to the next one?
Me: Er, no.
Anne and Chorley have a very spiky argument about ethics.
Sue: For a minute there, I thought I was watching a kitchen sink drama. It’s good this, isn’t it?
The army prepare to engage the Yeti in the tunnels.
Sue: Er, hang on. Why would you use crates of explosives as a protective barrier? That’s just asking for trouble, surely?
The Yeti march into a hail of bullets.
Sue: They are lousy shots. You can see this is where they got the idea for UNIT from.
Me: They aren’t missing their targets. The bullets are bouncing off the Yeti.
Sue: If you say so, Neil. This is Doctor Who, remember.
The British Army struggle against the furry robots.
Sue: I can’t take my eyes off the giant map that’s swinging in and out of shot. I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be swinging in and out of shot like that, or if it’s a wobbly set. To be honest, I’m just killing time until the Doctor shows up again. Come on, get a bloody move on!
Captain Knight and Jamie encounter a Welsh soldier named Evans.
Sue: Oh yes, I definitely remember this. This is the story with the comedy Welshman in it.
Me: Well, that narrows it down a bit.
Sue: I remember liking it when I saw the recon. I think it’s because it’s set in a real location, so you believe it’s happening. I’m sorry, I can’t think of anything else to say. I’m enjoying it too much.
The episode concludes with Jamie and Evans confronting a torrent of white foam as it pours out of a tunnel.
Sue: The Great Intelligence has a serious problem with his washing machine.
Sue: That’s obviously harmless foam, but it still works. If I’d seen that at the time, I would have been terrified.
I drop my second bombshell a few seconds into the title sequence.
Sue: You must be ****ing joking! If there’s anything missing, we shouldn’t watch it. We should have waited until he’d found the missing bit. This is ridiculous!
Me: It’s only one recon. It’ll be just like old times.
Sue: **** off. I’m not doing it and that’s final.
Me: Oh, come on, Sue! This recon was number one on iTunes a few weeks ago. Just think about that for a moment. A recon was number one on iTunes!
Sue: So was Michael Bublé, but you don’t listen to him. Seriously, Neil. I don’t want to do it. That part of my life is behind me now.
So we compromised and I read out a synopsis of the episode instead.
Me: “Out of the web advances a Yeti carrying a pyramid. Jamie gets Evans to shoot the pyramid, causing the Yeti to become immobile, but the web continues to advance. They make a dash for an archway and escape. Meanwhile, Victoria finds the Doctor in the tunnels, accompanied by a Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart…”
Sue: So they still haven’t found the first episode with the Brig in it? How shit is that?
Sue finally gets to see Nicholas Courtney move in ways she’s never seen before.
Sue: The Brig!
Me: Colonel. We’ve been through this before. And before you start, no, UNIT aren’t in this one.
Sue: He was very handsome when he was young. And I can’t get over how nicely lit this is. It’s very film noir. In fact, this is a master class on how to light a studio set.
The Doctor and Evans find some fungus in a tunnel. The Doctor takes the soldier’s tobacco box from him so he can place a sample in it, pouring its contents into the soldier’s hand without a second thought.
Sue: He should have poured that tobacco on the floor. That would have sent a strong message to the kids about not smoking.
She says this as she lights her second cigarette of the episode. And then the web pulsates and screams as the Doctor slices some of it off.
Sue: That was vicious. The Doctor hacked at a living creature.
Me: Are you serious?
Sue: It was in pain. There was no need for that.
And there’s another problem.
Sue: I don’t understand why the Great Intelligence would use the Yeti here. I understand that they might scare people in Tibet, but they look a bit weird in the London Underground, spraying Wonderweb everywhere. I mean, what’s that all about? Why didn’t the Great Intelligence make some robots that looked like giant spiders? That would have been so much better.
Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart offers to recover the Doctor’s TARDIS.
Sue: He’s been in loads of episodes of Doctor Who, hasn’t he? Wasn’t he in more episodes than Colin Baker?
Me: He was in more episodes than Colin and Sylvester combined.
Sue: And yet he never got his own show. That doesn’t seem fair.
Sue still believes that Evans is basically the Welsh version of Frank Spencer.
Sue: (As Evans/Frank) “Hmmmm, Yeti!” Do you get it? “Hmmmmm, Yeti!” You know, instead of Betty.
Me: Yes, that’s even better than the Frank Spencer Yeti joke you came up with the last time we saw this. Well done, love.
Lethbridge-Stewart approaches Covent Garden via Neal Street.
Sue: I walked up Neal Street the other day to see if our book was in Waterstones.
When she couldn’t find it, she asked for help at the counter. “It’s called Adventures with the Wife in Space,” said Sue. “Do you know the author?” asked the assistant. “Yes,” said Sue. “I live with him”.
Sue: Camfield loves his close-ups. He’s practically shooting up this Welshman’s nostrils.
Staff Sergeant Arnold pushes a trolley through the web, with disastrous results.
Sue: Wow. That was a bit grim. At least it was quick.
And then we reach the most exciting part of the episode – the Yeti versus the British Army.
Sue: Oh dear. The Yeti don’t look great when you can see them in daylight. They look like the Honey Monster from the Sugar Puffs ads. I keep expecting a man to start chasing them in his pyjamas.
Sue: Oh look! It’s whatshisname from EastEnders!
The army’s weapons are completely useless against the Yeti.
Sue: Use your bloody grenades, you idiots!
The Brigadier hides on top of a truck, but this doesn’t fool the abominable robots.
Sue: A monster with fairly decent eyesight. Wow. That almost makes up for them being too cuddly.
The Yeti murder a solider as the Colonel slips away.
Sue: Oh no. I liked him. Hey! The Brig just legged it. He didn’t even try to save his friend. What the hell is going on?
The Great Intelligence uses Travers’ vocal chords to issue its demands.
Sue: Richard E Grant should have played the Great Intelligence like this. It would have been scarier. You know, I’m sure the Moff must have known this story was coming back. It’s too much of a coincidence.
Coincidence or not, Sue gives this episode the thumbs up.
Sue: I can’t fault this. I like the acting, I like the story, I like the direction, and, most of all, I love the sets. I’m really glad they found this one. Ian Levine deserves a medal.
Me: I think you mean Philip Morris.
Sue: Yes, him as well.
Anne Travers and the Doctor make a wonderful team.
Sue: I bet the Doctor secretly wants to adopt Anne as his new companion. She’s really enthusiastic and helpful. All he gets from Victoria is earache.
The fungus starts to take over the station.
Sue: That’s the biggest bubble wrap I’ve ever seen. I wouldn’t like to deliver a parcel wrapped in that.
Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart holds the door shut while Jamie makes his escape.
Sue: Finally! This is the Brigadier I know and love. He’s got bigger balls than the Great Intelligence.
Jamie chastises the Doctor for not doing enough to get them out of this mess.
Sue: Peter Capaldi wouldn’t stand for shit like this, especially not from a companion. He’d just twat him.
Me: I’m pretty sure Peter Capaldi won’t play the Doctor like that.
Sue: It’d be brilliant if he did, though.
Evans believes the Colonel is a traitor.
Sue: That takes the biscuit. It can’t be him! He’s the Brig!
Me: Yes, but when this first went out he was just another guest actor. No one knew he would become one of the most important characters in the show.
Sue: And that’s why watching these episodes in the wrong order is a complete waste of time, Neil.
The Great Intelligence releases Travers.
Sue: I knew Travers wasn’t dead because he returns in another story.
Me: No he doesn’t. They wanted him to return in The Invasion, but it didn’t happen in the end.
Sue: Oh yes he did. Victoria was in it too. She was really old.
Me: Oh God, you’re talking about Downtime.
Sue: Yes, that’s the one. How could you forget that? And you call yourself a fan?!
When the Doctor modifies a Yeti sphere so he can control it with his voice, Evans can’t believe his eyes.
Sue: He’ll have kittens when he sees Bernie the Bolt. Assuming he isn’t the traitor, of course, WHICH HE OBVIOUSLY IS!
Evans hides behind a giant Underground map.
Sue: This reminds me of the time a debt collector came to our house and my mam hid behind the clotheshorse. And the debt collector said…
Me: You’ve already told this story on the blog. (Please see The Mark of the Rani in Volume 6.)
Sue: So what? If I have to watch this story twice, you can listen to my story twice. And then the debt collector said, “The next time your mam goes out, tell her to take her feet with her!”
When the Doctor places the modified sphere in a Yeti, it responds to his voice commands.
Sue: It isn’t exactly Iron Man, but it’ll have to do.
The episode ends as a torrent of gushing white liquid threatens to flood Army HQ.
Sue: That reminds me, I must get some de-icer for the car.
The last time we finished this experiment, we did so with some ice-cold champagne and freshly baked cake. This time, we decide to make do with a tepid cup of tea and a plate of stale Jammie Dodgers.
Sue: What’s the point? They’ll only find some more episodes next week. I feel like I’m trapped in this experiment. There’s no escape. It will never end!
Sue doesn’t have a great deal to say about this episode until the Doctor pulls out his recorder.
Sue: Oh no. And it was going so well.
Me: I don’t understand what you’ve got against his recorder.
Sue: It reminds me of bad school concerts. And all those times Nicol made us listen to her practicing for those bad school concerts. Do you remember? It was pure torture. Sorry, Nic.
Chorley suddenly reappears out of the blue, and he seems to be losing the plot.
Sue: It’s a great performance, actually. I don’t think I would have picked up on the emotion in that scene in the reconstruction. The performances are really, really good. They’re believable.
Jamie finds himself in a tunnel with a microphone in his hand.
Sue: I hope he doesn’t start singing one of his B-sides. Then they really will have to evacuate London.
Jamie tussles with a Yeti.
Sue: I never used to rate Jamie all that much, but watching these stories again makes me appreciate him a lot more. He was harmless, and he definitely meant well. He was the Doctor’s faithful dog before K-9 came along.
Me: A Highland Terrier.
A mysterious mist descends over the Great Intelligence’s lair.
Sue: I think the studio is on fire. I should show this to my students as an example of bad health and safety.
Staff Sergeant Arnold was the Great Intelligence all along!
Sue: Eh? They managed to keep that quiet. How the hell were we supposed to guess that?
Me: I barely understood a single word he said.
Sue: You soft lad. You can tell that you’re not from the North. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve lived up here, you’ll never be a proper Northerner.
The Doctor surrenders to the Great Intelligence, who tells him to sit in a glass pyramid.
Sue: It’s a good job the Great Intelligence caught one of the smaller Doctors. Tom Baker’s head would have gone straight through that roof.
Just as the Intelligence is about to suck the Doctor’s brains out, Jamie makes the Yeti fight among themselves.
Sue: Good for you, Jamie!
This annoys the Doctor no end.
Sue: He was only trying to help, bless him.
When the Yeti fall down and explode, the Doctor still isn’t happy. He even calls Evans a blithering Welsh imbecile.
Sue: The Welsh don’t come out of this story very well. And neither do the Scots. You wouldn’t get away with crap like this in the new series.
Speaking of which…
Sue: So the Intelligence is still out there. And that’s why he comes back as Richard E Grant.
Me: Actually, I think this is a sequel to Matt Smith’s encounter with the Great Intelligence. At least I think it’s a sequel; I’ve lost the flow chart that explains it all.
The Doctor is thanked for his efforts, anyway.
Sue: He’s so loveable. Every time I see him, I love him a little bit more.
Sue: I really enjoyed that. Do you think Evans will get a dishonourable discharge? Because there’s no ****ing way the Brig will hire him when he starts UNIT. He was a bloody liability.
A caption appears: NEXT TIME – FURY FROM THE DEEP.
Sue: Have they found that one yet?
Me: Not yet. No.
Sue: Did they check the same shelf?
Sue: What score did I give it last time?
Me: I’m not telling you.
Sue: Well, it was very, very good. It sagged a little towards the end, and giant robotic spiders would have been much better than the Yeti, but it was really tense and quite frightening. The story was very simple, and it was all about the atmosphere, but I can’t fault it for that. And the sets were ****ing amazing.