Number : Season 2, Serial 5 of 9.
Which One : Space butterflies versus space-ants.
Cast : The Doctor : William Hartnell
Ian : William Russell
Barbara : Jacqueline Hill
Vicki : Maureen O’ Brien
Animus : Catherine Fleming
Vrestin : Roslyn de Winter
Hrostar : Arne Gordon
Hrhoonda : Arthur Blake
Prapillus : Jolyon Booth
Hlynia : Jocelyn Birdsall
Hilo : Martin Jarvis
Hetra : Ian Thompson
Nemini : Barbara Joss
Written By : Bill Strutton
Produced By : Verity Lamb
First UK Broadcast : 23 February – 20 March 1965.
Length : 6 x 25 minute episodes.
1) “The Web Planet”
2) “The Zarbi”
3) “Escape to Danger”
4) “Crater of Needles”
6) “The Centre”
Plot : The Doctor pilots the Tardis to planet Vortis and becomes stuck in a civil war between the Zarbi and the Menoptra.
Whats good : Stylish and bold. Different to other serials. Some of the visuals are strikingly memorable.
Whats bad : Weird. The costumes look laughable. Execution is lacking. Some of the visuals are ridiculous. Thin line between inspired and ridiculous.
Review With Spoilers : The Web Planet is the third serial of season 2, and is generally remembered – as the one, with the butterflies and ants – at war, with each other.
The Tardis is drawn to the barren planet Vortis, by a powerful gravity phenomena. Here, the Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Vicki meet the ant-like Zarbi; who are at war with the graceful butterfly people; the Menoptra.
The Doctor is captured by the Animus; a parasitic alien plant-like organism; which has brainwashed the Zarbi to fight the Menoptra spearhead (invasion force), massing on the nearby moon; Pictos.
The Web Planet is the kind of story, which splits opinion – right down the centre. On one hand, it could be thought of; as a memorable and bold serial; a risk-taking piece – with striking visuals.
On the other hand – it could be also be classed as an embarrassingly executed OTT pantomime; with terrible performances and special effects – to boot. The truth is, probably – somewhere in the middle.
“Well, to use the term of Earth, I suppose we should call them insects… ….Size is only relative. In this rarified atmosphere, it appears that evolution has chosen that particular form of life on this planet!” The Doctor
The Web Planet boasts some of the most ambitious special effects, costume and set-designs, featured on Doctor Who.
The Vortis planet has an eerie light-glare sheen, which gives it a clever dream-like quality. At the same token, the attention to detail of how the Menoptra sound and move. Gives this race, a memorably unique quality. But then they are also ridiculous in the same token, with their wasp-ish voices and weird ‘directing traffic’ hand movements.
The Zarbi (ants) don’t get off lightly either; scampering around on their huge legs, with useless spindly arms, banging into things awkwardly. Neither do the ‘Optra’ either – wingless cousins of the Menoptra; as they bizarrely hop around – like Mexican jumping beans.
The Animus however, is a decent conceived villain and comes across with real sinister intent, especially with its hushed low female voice. The room with the tentacle spider/brain has a vile creeping quality to it. Especially the image of it, harvesting the unconcious duo of Vicki and the Doctor.
Ian and Barbara get the biggest slice of action here. Helping the remnants of the Menoptra spearhead, regroup and attack the Animus. The Doctor has a good turn aswell, cleverly playing the Zarbi off against the Animus. Vicki unfortunately, occupies the lesser role vacated by Susan and basically just accompanies the Doctor.
Bottom line, you can’t help but marvel at The Web Planet – a vividly unique invasion tale. As it tows the line of credibility (very tightly at times) between inspired and pantomine but always with a large slice of that 1960’s British charm – that encapsulates Classic Doctor Who.
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