Probic Vent Ood For Thought

23Sep/150

Doctor Who Classic Series Primer

I wrote this list of ten stories from the classic series that new-series fans should watch. They're are not necessarily the best, but all have something to say about the series during its original run - and more in common with the 2005 show that you might expect.

From time to time people ask me which classic Whos they should be watching - often as they've come to the series since the arrival of the show back on TV since 2005. Or more frequently since Tennant or Smith arrived. Even more often, I feel an obligation to instruct people in the ways of the show, whether they ask or not.

Frankly Doctor Who is too important to leave to random chance, or one of these ghastly lists constructed by people who are clearly idiots. So, with very little thought and a lot of instinct, a dash of nostalgia and a hefty wedge of 35 years’ experience, here is my Doctor Who watch list for noobs, the inexperienced or insufficiently tasteful.

These are the classic Doctor Who stories you have to watch - not because they're (necessarily) the best ones, but because they’re important, because you can see a thread that runs through the show’s 52 years on television screens or because they’re simply bloody brilliant. Don’t thank me - just do yourself a favour and watch these must-see Doctor Who stories.

The First Doctor - The Tenth Planet

Doctor Who Tenth Planet

There's a lingering question here: what are they?

The arrival of the Cybermen in the series sees the departure of William Hartnell and debut of Patrick Troughton as the Second Doctor - a phenomenon that was daring as it was unusual in television's early days.

The Doctor regenerates, exhausted by his long life and adventuring, in an adventure that sees the cyborgs at their most human. Rather than succumb to infirmity and death, they choose to augment themselves with plastic and metal - to circumvent their biological limits by turning themselves into something utterly ghastly. We get horrible hints with glimpsed features and their human hands, yet there's a lingering question here: what are they?

The Cybermen are powerful, ruthless - but they also show a quality they rarely do again in the series. There's an ingenuousness that makes them all the more tragic - and horrible. Their trademark vow - you will be like us - is not a threat. They honestly think they are helping humanity by robotising them

The purity of the Cyberman concept is never explored so explicitly as it is here - the template for the 'base under siege’ story and the programme’s first, and most important, rebirth.

The Second Doctor - The Web Of Fear

Doctor Who Web Of Fear

London cast into a hellish demimonde

Nothing defines the Second Doctor - and his era - so well as The Web Of Fear, a story only recently discovered after being lost in television archives for over 40 years.

This is perhaps an Aristotelian Doctor Who - the kind that people envisage in fond remembrance of Saturday tea-time snuggled around fires - a folk-memory of the programme, charged by the fact that no-one saw this story for over 40 years.

The first episode is one of the best ever; the story's ingredients are irresistible: A dissonant, nightmarish monster roaming the London Underground; the eeriness of possession and the Lovecraftian Great Intelligence; the de facto debut of UNIT and The Brigadier. London cast into a hellish demimonde.

People may also remember Patrick Troughton's Second Doctor as impish, mischievous, clownish. But there’s much more to The Doctor in The Web Of Fear - a cunning streak is rarely remarked-upon, even a foretaste of the Timelord Victorious.

Watch closely - and ponder just how much of a clown this mysterious time-traveller really is. It's impossible not to see the influence of Doctor Who's first Raggedy Man on Matt Smith here.

The Third Doctor - Spearhead From Space

Doctor Who Spearhead From Space


An uncanny valley where Doctor Who thrives

Jon Pertwee's debut as the Doctor is phenomenally kinetic - a breakneck story directed with real flair by Derek Martinus and heralding the arrival of Doctor Who’s best writer.

Robert Holmes crafts a story in which plastic has a murderous life of its own and shop window dummies slaughter Sunday morning shoppers on Ealing Broadway - surely one of the series' most enduring nightmares. The theme of plastic equalling violent death is later mined to similar effect in the follow-up Terror Of The Autons.

Spearhead From Space mines the same rich seam as Web Of Fear in taking something familiar and fashioning something disturbing from it - in its way a forerunner of the new series and a spiritual forefather to Rose.

All the Pertwee tropes are here - science, action and horror in equal measure - that it's all so assured is incredible given that the series start again with a bank slate: a new Doctor, new companions, the Earth-bound setting and in full colour. It does the story no harm at all that it is all shot on film - the reason that Spearhead From Space is the only classic series story available on BluRay.

It’s as confident a reboot for the series as The Eleventh Hour or Deep Breath - but rarely is Doctor Who this dynamic.

The Third Doctor - The Green Death

Doctor Who Green Death

This story is all about endings...

There's more than a little of Doctor Who folklore in The Green Death - a story where Welsh miners turn green and die, people are menaced by giant maggots and there's a Wagner-loving computer as the baddie.

There's six episodes of very watchable fun - a perfect example of the Pertwee era's proclivity for environmental parables, silly accents, explosions, conspiracy and teatime-friendly action. That it's all done so well is a testament to a production team totally at ease with the demands of the show: it's the UNIT family in all its glory. But just around the corner were tragedy and changes.

The Green Death sees the departure of companion Jo Grant and the next season saw the slow dispersal of the actors and production members, including the sad death of Roger Delgado, who first played The Master. This story is all about endings - more than anyone could have known at the time - and at its heart is a beautiful tale about families growing up and moving on.

There's nothing of the tears and funks of The Parting Of The Ways or The Angels Take Manhattan - but the Third Doctor quietly leaving Jo's engagement party and driving into the sunset alone is just as affecting.

The Fourth Doctor - The Ark In Space

Doctor Who Ark In Space

Doctor Who is all about Tom in this era

The Ark In Space is not, perhaps, the finest story of Tom Baker's era - nor is it especially typical of the The Fourth's Doctor's lengthy run. But it is a good primer for one of the strongest runs in the series' history: grisly and gripping, Tom's second every adventure is an overlooked classic.

There are distinct dashes of Quatermass in this story of an insidious invasion by wasp-like creatures - and a foreshadowing of Alien in tone and style. But fundamentally this is Doctor Who embarking on a completely new idiom from what has gone before. It has several things in its favour - sharp direction, a production team who have a confident take on the show and, best of all, Tom Baker.

This is a de facto debut for the Fourth Doctor that we will come to know and love. A Doctor for whom you could forget and forgive everything; an impossible - and slightly dangerous - Uncle. A definite mad man in a box. Tom is at the height of his powers here and, thrillingly, we have many more years to go. Doctor Who and the audience - both caught up in this brilliant man's gravity.

The Ark In Space is cracking in its own right - marking a time of body horror and behind-the-sofa thrills. But Doctor Who is all about Tom in this era. And that's absolutely right.

The Fourth Doctor - City Of Death

Doctor Who City of Death

Like electrons orbiting the nucleus of an atom

People are inclined to misremember things - and it seems that this is the chief reason why modern Doctor Who goes out of its way to be so whacky - because people think the show used to be a comedy. Well it wasn't. Well, it wasn't very often. It sincerely is, however, in City Of Death - perhaps the most sublime nonsense in the show's history.

Douglas Adams' parting gift to the show is a riot. It's explicitly a comedy - but it's also the clearest example of a trope much-seen in Steven Moffat's Doctor Who: dicking about with time. That the story also involves a fake Mona Lisa or ten, a French aristocrat who is also an alien splintered through time and time-travelling chickens should leave little room for much doubt. And that's before we even get to the John Cleese cameo...

Tom is pretty much off-the-leash by this point and it doesn't always do Doctor Who any favours. However, in City Of Death anything is forgiveable. In its intricate plotting, overt humour and zinging one-liners it's very clearly a spiritual fore-father to much of the Tennant and Smith eras.

We've clearly moved on a long way from The Ark In Space, but this is still Tom's show and without him it would all come crashing down. In City Of Death's madcap energy everything hurtles around The Fourth Doctor, like perfectly-aligned electrons orbiting the nucleus of an atom.

The Fifth Doctor - Enlightenment

Doctor Who Enlightenment

Allow this ethereal story to get under your skin.

There is, perhaps, no better exploration of 80s weirdness in Doctor Who than Enlightenment. The Fifth Doctor, nearing the end of a three-story battle against The Black Guardian, finds himself in a clipper race that is much more than it appears.

Add in traitorous companion Turlough, perhaps the most interesting character to travel in the TARDIS in the classic era, and the darkly curious Eternals, competing for the titular prize and there's a story operating on a number of levels.

Davison’s pleasingly detached performance and a creepy sub-plot involving long-running companion Tegan add further intrigue. It can’t be a coincidence that this thoughtful, seductive story is written and directed by women - rarely are characters afforded so much agency in the series during any of its classic run.

Doctor Who never ventures so far into SF Fantasy - in Enlightenment it pulls it off with rare style. Enjoy it as a straight adventure or allow this ethereal, sensual story to get under your skin.

The Fifth Doctor - The Caves Of Androzani

Doctor Who Caves of Androzani

A world gone mad - immune to the Doctor

Every now and then you get a sense that Doctor Who was important television - too good to miss and so good that it eclipsed the many limitations the classic series struggled against. When Peter Davison's reluctant Fifth Doctor faces off against corrupt politicians, gun-runners and psychopaths in The Caves Of Androzani you get a thrilling view of how good the series could be when it pulled out the stops.

You can read a lot into Androzani if you want - and there's much to reward the attentive viewer: a nasty-minded and unflinching look at the baser drives we might recognise in ourselves; a star turn from the wonderful Christopher Gable as unstable anti-hero Sharaz Jek and a production that simply fires on all cylinders, from cast to direction to incidental music.

But fundamentally this is Peter Davison’s show - a fitting swan song for the diffident Five that stands as a statement of what the character stands for. It's shocking to see a trademark quip rewarded with a vicious slap to the neck here - our hero emasculated. Amongst a world gone mad - immune and oblivious to the Doctor’s charm, wit and ingenuity - there is only heroism, resolve and loyalty.

No epic battles, no end of the universe, just the Time Lord trying to save a companion he barely knows in the midst of machine-gun battles, drug-dealing and scalding hot mud. The Doctor can't win this time against the impossible odds, but he can still do the right thing.

When the end comes you realise just how much you will miss Davison and his Doctor. Robert Holmes’ true swansong is as good as Doctor Who gets.

The Sixth Doctor - Revelation of the Daleks

Doctor Who Revelation of Daleks

A brilliantly sick landmark in Doctor Who

If you watch one Colin Baker story, make it this one. Colin finally seems to relax into the role and, as a result, the Sixth Doctor finally mellows and becomes the character we recognise. A different, sometimes difficult Doctor, but The Doctor nonetheless.

It's a Doctor who’s almost out of his depth, but fighting for a sliver of humanity amid the horrors of Tranquil Repose, a funereal grave planet that really does conceal a fate worse than death, lurking behind its polished veneer.

Revelation Of The Daleks boasts a colourful variety of villains, ambiguous heroes and grotesques along the way - plus Daleks that are more interesting than ever before, thanks to Graeme Harper's innovative direction. Davros is made all the more hideous by his humanisation, his vulnerability - more recently spotted in The Magician's Apprentice - and there is death as gruesome as the humour is black.

It’s a brilliantly sick landmark in Doctor Who’s history; a twisted landscape for the show, in which the complicated Sixth Doctor finally makes sense.

The Seventh Doctor - Remembrance of the Daleks

Doctor Who Remembrance of Daleks

Doctor Who is fast, thrilling and fun again.

It's hard to explain just how much of a surge in quality Remembrance Of The Daleks represented at the time of its broadcast. There had always been flickers of quality, even in the dying days, but Ben Aaronovitch's script gives the show a huge jolt of adrenaline. Suddenly Doctor Who is fast, thrilling and fun again - it's no surprise that Steven Moffat is such a huge fan of the Seventh Doctor story.

Sylvester McCoy finally feels settled in the role - avuncular yet sometimes distant. A player of games, this Doctor, but importantly someone the viewer can believe 'has secrets' - Tom Baker's favourite description of the odd magnetism The Doctor has in all his incarnations' best moments.

As the show and the Doctor are reborn, so too are the Daleks. Again they are manipulative and fascistic - their openly xenophobic origins to the fore. With the battle in Totter's Yard, Sophie Aldred's Ace finally coming-of-age and a stunning evocation of Sixties London, the show is rattling along as if it had never been away. It's the perfect launch pad for the show's strongest run of stories for a long time.

Doctor Who wasn't long for the world in 1988 but Remembrance Of The Daleks showed how the show could prosper as the end of the decade approached. Together with Season 26 its influence can be seen much further down the line too...

14Jan/150

The 50 Best Doctor Who Stories – 3: The Web of Fear

The Web of Fear

"Prepare for a great darkness to cloud your mind."

In the 80s there were certain Doctor Who books I could read again and again. Inferno, Fury From The Deep, The Celestial Toymaker, The Deadly Assassin. Chief among them was The Web Of Fear - there was a dark magic about it, particularly in the way that it invaded the real world unlike any other Doctor Who story that I'd noticed, in the way it invades London and the Tube. I wasn't aware of the fact that it was missing, presumed wiped, and I'm not sure it would have bothered me too much at the time. I had constructed the perfectly in my own head anyway. Imagine my astonishment and delight when, for the first time ever, the real thing matched my imagination when I watched it for the first time, perhaps 30 years later.

There's still a sense that the return of The Web Of Fear isn't real somehow. When the serial was released on iTunes I couldn't quite believe it - even as I downloaded it and subsequently watched the first two episodes I couldn't take it in. It was just too unreal to me. It strikes me that The Web Of Fear's cast and crew might as well have made the thing, then sealed it in a vault for 45 years - a gift to the future. It's a time capsule sent to us from the past; an incredible, unsurpassable gift in the anniversary year.

The Web of Fear Travers

I've never watched a recon but have listened to the audios of both Web and The Abominable Snowmen many, many times. They are, perhaps, the best representation of what Troughton was about for me; atmospheric, frightening, iconic. A lot of what exists of the Second Doctor is, frankly, not very good and the shortcomings of the era were laid bare by Tomb of the Cybermen; a decent story with lovely moments but with much to criticise. It was perhaps Tomb that confirmed to me what I'd feared - the televised episodes were never going to match my expectations.

But frequently in the Second Doctor era there's an undeniable thrill: Troughton sparkling in his more considered moments; the sets and weird stock incidental music build an image of something mysterious, forgotten and thrilling. Despite its closeness to the Pertwee era in terms of time, it is quite different. Monochrome and film certainly play a huge part in this but it's worth remembering that this stuff comes from a time when television, relatively speaking, was in its infancy. It is alien to us and enthralling because of it, in the moments where it becomes something magically scary.

The Web of Fear soldiers

It's not an especially popular view, but I'm not a fan of much of Troughton's work in Doctor Who - too often it seems like he's sending the whole thing up and I simply can't suspend my disbelief. Doctor Who's leading men flirt with excesses of silliness from time to time - Tom in later years and Sylv before he's got a handle on what he's doing most obviously - but Patrick Troughton gets away with it for some reason.

Certainly The Web Of Fear is the best representation of Patrick Troughton's era that we currently have available. And barring some early nonsense in the TARDIS the cast - this TARDIS trio particularly had an irritating habit of shouting over one another and hugging each other in fear - play this with utter conviction. Web is simply the best I've ever seen the mighty Trout in Who. The Second Doctor is still impish, slightly bumbling and inclined towards jokiness, but it's balanced here by intelligence, awareness and a slight otherness that's hard to explain. Tom perhaps put it best in describing the Doctor has 'having secrets'.

Perhaps my Doctorish favourite moment in Web comes when the Time Lord explains to Lethbridge-Stewart that the Yeti got what they came for, following a raid on the Goodge Street headquarters: Professor Travers, played here even more gruffly than in The Abominable Snowmen by Jack Watling. It's a moment that's heavy with significance and judged perfectly by Troughton; a little suggestion that he is a few steps ahead of everyone else and troubled by that knowledge.

the brig

That Web amounts to a game of chess between The Doctor and Intelligence, with the network of the Underground as the backdrop, is implied on a few occasions and this moment perhaps the most explicit reference. That the Second Doctor has misled everyone, including his companions, in laying a trap for his foe is another indication of this Doctor's cunning streak, in direct opposition of his apparent impishness.

What's significant - and rather overlooked - is that the Doctor, in apparently walking into a trap set by the Great Intelligence, has in fact outmaneuvered the entity. Had Jamie not intervened at the climax of the adventure, the Doctor would have drained its knowledge, rather than the other way around. This raises some interesting questions about how long the Doctor had this course of action in mind - and exactly what would have been the end result. The Doctor is keen to rebuff offers of power and ultimate knowledge throughout his regenerations, yet here he's all set for a form of Godhood before his faithful companion spoils it for everyone. He's so annoyed he issues a furious racial epithet at the blameless Driver Evans.

Sadly we don't get to see all of Troughton's moments in the recovered film, not least his first meetings with The Brig, but Haisman and Lincoln's second script offers us a Doctor who appears much more rounded a figure. By the time the TARDIS crew are leaving, he's back to his throat-clearing bluster, but the ramifications of the Doctor's behaviour here leave an intriguing after-image.

The Web of Fear Anne

This leads me to Nick Courtney, a man much-loved in Who for good reason. But perhaps not given appropriate credit for his ability - which he rarely gets the chance to show off after season 7. In his debut story Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart is a serious, pragmatic and thoroughly capable soldier: the scene where he plans the recovery of the TARDIS from Covent Garden shows his calculating nature. You can even see the germ of the Brigade-Leader here: this Lethbridge-Stewart is humourless and even cold.

In the face of a subterranean invasion by robotised Yeti the Colonel simply takes the Doctor at his word: he has a magical box that can save everyone's life. Lethbridge-Stewart's reaction to Evans' initial greeting is similarly believable - he barely registers it, having lost most of his men at Covent Garden. Not only that but the climax of the story, certainly from the point of view of Lethbridge-Stewart, ends in a de facto appeasement; a concession - we'll hand over The Doctor if you leave us alone. The Brig would rarely this professional, this believable again and Web is his - and perhaps Courtney's - strongest story.

This conviction with which everyone sells what, on the face of it, could be a total farce, drags the show into unusual territory for the time. Perhaps the tone of The Web Of Fear, dead straight and filled with terror, anguish and death, is what convinced the BBC to record a trail after the previous week's episode, warning children to be prepared for a rather more disturbing tale than usual. Certainly there are no weak links in the cast; no comedic accents or overacting villains to capsize the whole thing. That's no surprise with Douglas Camfield directing, but one need only look to Robots of Death, Enlightenment or Revelation of the Daleks to find see how an out-of-focus performance can impact on a story.

travers

Jack Watling's performance sails close to the wind when Travers is under the influence of the Intelligence, yet his possession is undeniably creepy, particularly his awkward gait and sharply-whispered "YOU!" in answer to the Doctor's question as to what he wants. He also shares some of the best moments of the story with Silverstein in his desperate attempts to reclaim the Yeti in episode one. The combination of performances, lighting, incidental music from Bartok, control-sphere bleeps and Camfield's direction in The Web Of Fear is straight out of the best of Hammer's playbook. It's perhaps the most atmospheric scene in all of Doctor Who.

Of the rest of the cast Chorley a rather archetypal middle-class social climber. There's a suggestion that Chorley is acting somewhat above his station, either that or the actor playing him accidentally drops his accent a little in moments of peril. He's set-up as a fairly obvious traitor early on - obviously revelling in the deaths of the good guys in pursuit of his story. As a journalist among scientists and soldiers - fundamentally decent men all - Chorley's class and occupation mark him out as someone to be distrusted.

Evans, as a cowardly Welshman, is another red herring. His is perhaps the most interesting character of the lot, despite the crudenesses of his cowardice and dialect. Evans simply doesn't want to be there: he wants out of the story from his introduction and there's something of the everyman - a Yossarian pointing out the absurdity of the events and reactions he sees around him - to him. While we're intended to dislike his lack of bravery, he's probably the most relatable character here; Evans is frightened out of his wits, not afraid to save his skin and quite prepared to sacrifice others it means he can go home, presumably to eat some lava bread and sit in a bath of coal.

evans

Either way, while rather crass, The Web Of Fear's portrayal of class - and how people react to it - is fairly unusual in Doctor Who, as is the fact that bravery, nobility and honour inevitably lead to an untimely demise, while Evans and Chorley make it to the end unscathed.

Perhaps the best performance is that of Jack Woolgar as Arnold. As the dependable, no-nonsense 'staff' - a rank he would clearly never move beyond in the British army - he's another familiar archetype. Arnold is beautifully comforting of Chorley in the last episode, gruff towards Evans, yet with some warmth, and solidly deferential to the officers. But there's much more going on here.

Staff Arnold - who at every point on-screen is a reanimated cadaver controlled by the Great Intelligence - gets a series of subtle, disturbing asides, portrayed eerily by Woolgar, that reveal the identity of the true traitor. The fact that we've invested so much in him - no-bullshit, northern, brave and loyal - means his unmasking as the Intelligence's agent is so much more disturbing than if it were Chorley, Evans or even Travers.

arnold

That Woolgar is so unthreatening as the embodied Intelligence is the story's one true misstep. The Target conveyed the horror of this wonderfully - Victoria's lament that it is 'too horrible' to contemplate sells it completely: how can our faithful Staff be a traitor? But on screen it's a damp squib, though Arnold's blackened, screaming death mask is another genuinely horrible moment.

Perhaps the true hero of The Web Of Fear is Douglas Camfield, if not an auteur then certainly Who's most consistently interesting director of the 60s and 70s. Joe Ahearne is the best comparison in the new series - a director who clearly thinks about angles, composition and reaction shots in conveying the emotional heart of the story.

Moreover Camfield's command of action marks him out as a talent beyond most studio-bound contemporaries. The scenes of the proto-UNIT's attempt to recover the TARDIS at Covent Garden - the lumbering Yeti, shot in broad daylight, closing in on Lethbridge-Stewart's men - should, by most metrics, be an embarrassment.

Yet everyone in The Web Of Fear sells it with utter conviction: the action is frantic, frightening and so very fast - from the desperation of the Brig and Corporal Blake and the shooting of the Yeti from low angles to the death screams of the soldiers blasted by web guns or crushed by the beasts. Elsewhere in the series we will see lumbering beasts killing people by barely touching them - in Camfield's hands the Yeti are murderous, the fury and power of the creatures conveyed totally.

The Web of Fear Arnold

That all of this happens in a ten-minute window that sees Arnold, Knight and Lane also apparently dispatched ramps up the tension unbearably in episode four. Courtney sells it wonderfully upon his devastated return to headquarters: the peculiarly baroque Yeti are unkillable, unknowable. "Hopeless. Can't fight them. It seems indestructible. Can't fight them!". They should be absurd, but they're not.

Rather than appearing cumbersome or cuddly there's a horrible, unknowable remorselessness to the creatures. A reaction shot of Courtney observing the Yeti advancing on all sides at Covent Garden suggests this hopelessness. And the sheer oddity of the spectacle is not apologetic or embarrassed: it's wildly dissonant, unbelievable. This is where Doctor Who is at its best and, in the furry creatures overrunning London, reaches its apotheosis.

They're wonderfully complemented by the inexplicable Web - at once a fungus, foam or web. What does it do? How does it work? Why does it kill people? What does it want? As it spreads though the London Underground it's hard not to imagine it as a disease slowly infesting a body. Only through the faceless Autons in Spearhead is Who ever so weirdly frightening - or frighteningly weird - as The Web Of Fear.

The Web of Fear yeti

Through a combination of this imagery, atmosphere and execution The Web of Fear is an almost complete success. And it has no right to be. By modern standards of storytelling it's utter gibberish: a shapeless malign entity sets a trap for its greatest adversary by filling the London Underground with foam and robot abominable snowmen? Why? Clearly the question bothered Stephen Moffat as he goes to the trouble of retconning the entire affair 45 years later in The Snowmen.

The answer here seems not quite to be 'why not?'. Rather 'because it's scary'. And scary it is. It's scary for the heck of it, regardless of context or rationality. The pulsing, killing web encroaching on all sides; the reinvented, remorseless Yeti; the possession of familiar characters and infestation of familiar places; the TARDIS seized in space as web parasitises it; the rhythmic bleeping of control spheres and voodoo-like statuettes that serve to make the Tube and its cast of characters a giant chess board and disposable pieces - they are all visually, audibly, conceptually unsettling creations.

lane

The names and places are burned onto my memory: Goodge Street and Holborn have a nostalgic resonance that speak to me on a level I can't fully comprehend or rationalise; the unfortunate Lane, Blake and Knight, tragic Arnold and luckless Weames; the iconography of it all disturbing in the way that only something that frightens a young mind can be.

The Web of Fear pitches them all into some demimonde; a London cast into some Hellish parallel universe like Silent Hill or a Gaiman construct. Pertwee had immortalised this as the Yeti on a toilet on Tooting Bec and Doctor Who has returned to this trope again and again over the years, never as successfully.

Only the Doctor has the vaguest idea of what is happening in Web; everyone else, including the audience, is just along for the ride. The Great Intelligence is, perhaps, the most disturbing creation in Doctor Who because it's utterly insane by our standards. Nothing it does really makes the slightest sense. Robot yeti - why? A trap for the Doctor - how? Maintaining the pretence of Arnold for so long and in such detail - to what effect? Daleks, Cybermen, Nestenes, Silurians, Sontarans, Angels, The Master - they all have arguably-logical modi operandi. And even if their goals are alien to us they are, on some level, understandable.

doc yeti

But The Intelligence is Lovecraftian: it is ancient; it operates on a totally different plane of existence. Evil by our standards, yet unknowable at the same time - truly uncanny. The Web Of Fear radiates with this unsettling sense of something gone horribly wrong for reasons we can't quite comprehend. Knight, Lane, Blake, Weames, Arnold and the others meet their ends knowing only that a killing web and ferocious Yeti have infected the London Underground and may yet take over the Earth. Why? They do not know - and neither do we.

The sheer giddy, unfathomable nature of The Web of Fear is its great power. It's like a side-step in Doctor Who where even its own fantastic rules are suspended for an exercise in pure terror. In such baroque surroundings it's on an axis that speaks to us on a level we understand instinctively: a heady mix of night terrors, disturbing juxtaposition, creepy incidental detail and horrible revelation. A Yeti on your loo in Tooting Bec is, indeed, frightening - amid the abandoned tunnels and stations of London it's something darkly, disturbingly magical.

Hush child stop addlepating me!

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