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The Web Of Fear
In modern-day London, the Doctor, Jamie and Victoria discover that the city has been evacuated, and is now covered in mist and a weird, cobweb-like substance. In the Underground, they encounter the military and Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart, and discover that the Great Intelligence and its Yeti are active once again. Although the soldiers are being assisted by their old friend, Professor Travers, and his daughter, Anne, they have been unable to prevent the relentless advance of the Yeti. To make matters worse, the Doctor begins to suspect that one of their allies is secretly in league with the Great Intelligence...
Doctor Who story editor Peter Bryant was impressed with The Abominable Snowmen, a serial written by Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln which was made first in the programme's fifth recording block. Bryant would shortly be promoted to the post of producer, and he felt that Haisman and Lincoln's adventure was a perfect fit with his vision for Doctor Who, particularly with regards to its Earthbound setting. Bryant was eager to bring back the story's monsters, the Yeti, for a rematch with the Doctor. As a result, Haisman and Lincoln were commissioned to write a new Yeti serial, entitled The Web Of Fear, on September 27th, 1967 -- three days before part one of The Abominable Snowmen was broadcast.
Haisman and Lincoln decided to set The Web Of Fear several decades after the events of The Abominable Snowmen, but still wanted to feature Professor Travers, who had been played by Jack Watling. Watling was approached about returning to Doctor Who and indicated his interest; although he would have to be made up as an elderly man, it would provide another opportunity to act alongside his daughter, Deborah, who played companion Victoria Waterfield. Of the new characters introduced in The Web Of Fear, Harold Chorley was originally a Member of Parliament who was accompanying Colonel Lethbridge on a fact-finding mission. Colonel Pemberton was named after former Doctor Who story editor Victor Pemberton. At one stage, Arnold survived the adventure's climax and it was revealed that he was actually a museum commissionaire who had been attacked by the first of the revived Yeti and then dominated by the Great Intelligence.
The Web Of Fear was originally intended to close out Season Five. However, when the planned fifth serial, Fury From The Deep, was found to be in need of extra rewrites, it was pushed back one slot, with The Web Of Fear brought forward to replace it. The director assigned to The Web Of Fear was Douglas Camfield, marking his return to Doctor Who after a two-year hiatus since The Daleks' Master Plan.
Aiming for the utmost authenticity, Camfield hoped to carry out some location filming in the London Underground itself -- specifically, the Aldwych platform on December 15th, and the entrance to Covent Garden on the 17th. Production assistant Gareth Gwenlan duly wrote to London Transport on November 7th seeking the appropriate permissions. Unfortunately, London Transport demanded an exorbitant fee, and indicated that filming would be restricted to just a handful of overnight hours. Instead, the decision was made to replicate the Underground in the studio, on sets designed by David Myerscough-Jones.
One character that Camfield thought had a lot of potential was Colonel Lethbridge. The director felt that Lethbridge was akin to Lieutenant Colonel Colin Campbell Mitchell, whose leadership of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders during a 1967 uprising at Aden (now part of Yemen) had earned him the nickname “Mad Mitch”. Camfield duly revised the character's surname to Lethbridge-Stewart, indicating a Scottish heritage. Originally cast in the role was David Langton, who backed out in late November when he was offered other work. After unsuccessfully pursuing Nicholas Selby, Camfield instead awarded the part to Nicholas Courtney, who was to have played Captain Knight; Knight, in turn, would now be portrayed by Ralph Watson. Camfield had previously cast Courtney as Bret Vyon in the opening installments of The Daleks' Master Plan.
Camfield was unimpressed with the design of the Yeti devised for The Abominable Snowmen, which he felt lacked menace. The production team agreed that changes should be made, especially since the original costumes had deteriorated significantly. The updated Yeti sported long claws and large glowing eyes, and were more compact than their predecessors. Brian Hodgson of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop also developed a scary “Yeti roar” sound effect for the creatures, who had previously been silent.
Production on The Web Of Fear got underway on December 15th with some of the material on the Underground platforms, which had been erected at the BBC Television Film Studios in Ealing, London. December 17th was a location day, with the Episode Four battle between the military and the Yeti recorded in a yard owned by TJ Poupart in Covent Garden, London. Unfortunately, the limited number of daylight hours meant that Camfield was not able to complete everything he had planned before twilight fell. Amongst the actors playing the Yeti was John Levene, who had already been uncredited as a Cyberman on the previous year's The Moonbase, and would soon be cast in the recurring role of Sergeant Benton. Work then moved back to Ealing on December 18th and 20th for sequences in the Underground tunnels; model filming was scheduled to take place there on the 19th, but did not proceed.
December 21st was originally planned to be another location day, with the serial's opening scene intended to be recorded at London's Natural History Museum. For unknown reasons, however, this did not take place. The next day, both Deborah Watling and Frazer Hines were issued new contracts covering both The Web Of Fear and Fury From The Deep. By this point, Watling had informed Bryant that she would be leaving Doctor Who after these two adventures. Bryant wanted Watling to remain on the show for at least six more stories, but the actress felt that one year on Doctor Who was enough.
Following a break for Christmas, work on The Web Of Fear resumed at Ealing on January 3rd, 1968, to film the material which had been planned for the Natural History Museum. This had been reworked to take place in Julius Silverstein's private museum. It marked the only appearance of an original Yeti costume in the serial; once inhabited by the control sphere, it “transformed” into one of the new-style monsters. The delayed model filming finally went ahead at the BBC Television Centre Puppet Theatre in White City, London on January 8th.
As was the norm for Doctor Who, each installment of The Web Of Fear was recorded at Lime Grove Studio D in Shepherd's Bush, London on consecutive Saturdays. Episode One was taped on January 13th alongside a special trailer for the serial, in which the Doctor warned young viewers that their parents might find The Web Of Fear scary and suggested that they watch the programme together. It was broadcast at the conclusion of The Enemy Of The World Episode Six on January 27th. Meanwhile, on January 14th, cast and crew returned to the premises of TJ Poupart to finish the work which had been cut short in December.
Troughton was on holiday during the recording of Episode Two on January 20th. Although Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart's feet appeared at the end of the installment, the character was played by Maurice Brooks on this occasion, to avoid having to hire Nicholas Courtney for an extra week. Courtney joined the cast in studio on January 27th, when Troughton also returned. Production on The Web Of Fear concluded on February 17th.
Meanwhile, the serial had started airing on February 3rd. Peter Bryant was now credited as the producer of Doctor Who, with Derrick Sherwin as his story editor. During the broadcast of The Web Of Fear, the only disruption to the BBC's Saturday schedule occurred on February 10th. That night's coverage of the Winter Olympics from Grenoble, France pushed Doctor Who ahead by ten minutes to 5.15pm. This meant that it came directly after Grandstand, without an intervening Tom And Jerry cartoon short. Doctor Who then led into a news update and Dee Time, with The Monkees -- which normally followed the news and weather -- having been preempted.
Midway through the broadcast of The Web Of Fear, the BBC received a complaint from London Transport. They accused Camfield of having somehow contrived to film in the Underground, without permission or payment. Eventually, London Transport was persuaded that what appeared on screen was, in fact, the result of Myerscough-Jones' convincing set design, rather than the fruits of any mischief on the part of the Doctor Who team.
|Updated 9th July 2020|
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