“The Web Planet” is the fifth story in the second season of Doctor Who, thirteenth overall. It still features William Hartnell as the Doctor, and his companions are Vicki, Barbara, and Ian.
The TARDIS is pulled off course to a mysterious planet where it lands and is left without power. The Doctor and Ian go out to try and figure out where they are and what they can do to restore power, while Barbara tends to Vicki who seems to be very sensitive to the sounds she is hearing (sounds that no one else on the TARDIS can hear). The Doctor and Ian are trying to piece together the fragments of information they are gathering: long lasting echoes, a disappearing gold pen, a pool of acid…but are having no success when they hear Vicki screaming Barbara’s name. Barbara was wearing a gold bracelet, given to her by Nero in the previous story, when she began to lose control of her arm. Eventually, she enters some kind of trance and is lead (by her arm) out of the TARDIS. Vicki awakens to find Barbara gone and the TARDIS moving, resulting in the cries that the Doctor and Ian heard.
Eventually, Barbara encounters the Menoptera, a butterfly-like species and the Doctor and Ian stumble across a chrysalis, which leads the Doctor to conclude that they are on the planet Vortis, home of the Menoptera. Eventually, all of the travelers are captured by the Zarbi who look like giant ants. They learn that they Zarbi were a relatively unintelligent and harmless species, but they are being controlled by the Animus, an alien species who landed on the planet and is now encircling it in a gigantic web. The Menoptera were forced to flee to a moon orbiting the planet, but they cannot survive there; they are in the midst of launching an attack to defeat the Animus and take control of their planet once again.
Overall, I didn’t particularly care for this story. It took me a while to sort out the different species of insect-like creatures and what was going on on the planet. I liked that Barbara became the leader of the Menoptera, after their invasion force seemed doomed to fail. She even creates their plan of attack, which showed nice character development from the more timid person who first began traveling with the Doctor. However, this episode felt like a step back in terms of the Doctor’s development. He is the reason that the Menoptera invasion force fails, because he told the Animus where the force would land in an attempt to save himself and his companions. It seemed as though most of the actions of the Doctor, Vicki, and Ian don’t particularly help anyone in this story.
However, the production values on this story seemed higher than on most Doctor Who episodes of this period. There were many different sets, some of which were a bit more elaborate than usual, and I was impressed with the insect-like costumes. You could still tell that it was clearly a person wearing a costume, but I enjoyed the costumes and they were quite elaborate. It was clear that a lot of effort was put into creating memorable alien creatures, as it was still hoped to create another alien race as popular as the Daleks. There are the Menoptera, the Zarbi, and the larvae guns. About halfway through the story, Ian and one of the Menoptera encounter a bizarre race of hopping (well, they hop when the actors portraying them remember to hop) insect creatures that are decedents of the Menoptera who fell and are living underground. I wasn’t exactly sure why they were necessary to the story, and they were the least convincing of the costumes in this story.
This story was definitely my least favorite first Doctor story so far. It felt very slow moving, and, as I said before, most of the actions of Ian, the Doctor, and Vicki seemed rather pointless. It was only Barbara’s story that helped bring the story to a climax. The scenes on the planet are also shot through a special kind of lens, which causes parts of the image to be a bit blurry. I found the effect a bit distracting from the story, as I often found myself feeling like my contacts had slid out of place, even though I knew it was a deliberate effect. I feel like the story would have worked better as a 4 episode story, instead of six. I felt like things that could have been resolved sooner were dragged out for too long. I enjoyed the costumes, but the story itself was not as strong.