Doctor Who: Web Planet, The (Episode 13) (DVD)
"Somewhere, somehow we are being slowly dragged down!" When Doctor and his friends stray from their astral plane and the Tardis materializes in eerie alien surroundings, a mysterious force prevents them from leaving. Is it a natural phenomenon or some malevolent intelligence? Uncanny occurrences are followed by encounters with the deadly Zarbis and their unknown leader, to whom the travellers fall prey. With their allies, the Menoptra, the travellers must discover how to immobilize the Zarbis, save the Menoptra from massacre and rid the planet of this powerful and horrifying evil. As a growing web begins to envelop the planet, imprisoning the travellers in its mesh, the Doctor must consult all of his wisdom toescape its hypnotic power. But what is at the center of the web and from where does it draw its power?
One of the most widely-watched of all the '60s-era Doctor Who serials, The Web Planet (1965) puts the first Doctor (William Hartnell) and his companions in the middle of a war between two alien races--the moth-like Menoptra and a hostile race of ant creatures known as Zarbi--for possession of the planet Vortis. With the help of a grub-esque people called the Optera, the Doctor discovers the Zarbi's hidden weapon--the seductively voiced spider creature the Animus, which plans to ensnare the Time Lord and thwart his assistance to the Menoptra. An estimated 13.5 million viewers tuned in to watch all six episodes of The Web Planet, which manages to overcome its unfortunately awkward creature costumes (which are grim even by Doctor Who standards) to deliver a dramatic and suspenseful story with a subtle touch of social commentary; Hartnell is at his flinty best as the Doctor, and gets solid support from William Russell, Jacqueline Hill, and Maureen O'Brien as his fellow time travelers. The DVD includes the usual abundance of new and archival extras: in addition to commentary by Russell, Martin Jarvis (who played Menoptra prince Hilio), producer Verity Lambert, and director Richard Martin, there is a 40-minute making-of featurette (with Hill, Lambert, and others among the many interviewees), and Russell provides the narration for "The Lair of the Zarbi Supremo," a short story based on the serial that was taken from the first Doctor Who Annual (that periodical is also included on the disc in PC-ROM format). A crudely illustrated but historically interesting film strip version of the serial, as well as the usual text-only production notes track and photo gallery, round out the supplemental features. --Paul Gaita