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Doctor Who: The Web Planet (Story 13)

4.0 out of 5 stars 36 customer reviews

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(Sep 05, 2006)
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Product Description

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

Special Features

  • "Tales of Isop" 37-minute making-of featurette
  • "The Lair of Zarbi Supremo" - William Russell reads the short story from the very first Doctor Who Annual in a 56-minute audio
  • Spanish-language option on episode 6
  • Give-a-Show: 1960s Doctor Who film-strip show based on The Web Planet
  • Optional production notes
  • Photo gallery
  • PC-ROM: 1965 Doctor Who Annual

Product Details

  • Actors: William Hartnell, Jacqueline Hill, William Russell, Maureen O'Brien
  • Directors: Richard Martin
  • Writers: Bill Strutton
  • Producers: Verity Lambert
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Black & White, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: BBC Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: September 5, 2006
  • Run Time: 146 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000FQIRX6
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #119,042 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Doctor Who: The Web Planet (Story 13)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
To judge a story made 40 years ago using today's standards is absoluely unfair. Some people are clueless. Of course it's gonna look inferior. It was made in 1966. They didn't have the artsy effects that they currently have. DUH!!! The truth is that Web Planet was considered ground-breaking at the time. The effects used had never been tried before. Had it come out today, it would be labeled innovative and win many Sundance movie awards for independent film making, or whatever it is they call that festival. The preceding rant was brought to you by me. If you don't like it dial 5477-69-277 on your phone pad (or simply click on the "no" button). I've stated this in a previous review but here it is again. If the story is bad, that is one thing, but to knock a 1960s story for using the special effects of the 1960s is utterly ridiculous. The Web Planet will keep the viewer enthralled throughout.
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Well, depending on your taste, "The Web Planet" is either vintage wine or soured vinegar. Opinion is dramatically divided on this one, and while I guess I'm in the "vintage wine" camp let me just make clear that I see where the detractors are coming from. I'm not sure how the special effects appeared to viewers in 1965, but age has not been kind to them and they look pretty fake today. Yes, I have to admit, when I first saw the Zarbi on the screen, I laughed despite myself--and this was by no means the last occasion I did so during this DVD. And the pacing is slow as snails by today's post-MTV standards and is bound to make the contemporary viewer feel at least a bit antsy.

For me, the epic storyline and the ingenuous conceptualization of the insectoid inhabitants of the planet Vortis more than make up for these problems. Especially the latter. In the 1960's how revolutionary it must have been to have "bug-eyed monsters" as the good guys, but the writer (Bill Strutton) goes way beyond that, endowing the characters with plausibly alien mannerisms, thought patterns, and cultural traits in a way unmatched by much science fiction even today. This is especially so of the Menoptra with their poetically alien turns of phrase almost sung rather than spoken, their gracefully moth-like body language, and their religion of Light-worship along with the cocoon-like organic, weirdly expressionistic design of their temples. And then there's the unusual idiom of the grub-like Optra, which makes them seem convincingly non-human (even if the actors' costumes don't): for instance, coming to a barrier in an underground passage, their leader says "A silent wall. We must make mouths in it with our weapons, then it will speak more light.
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When I watch the old, classic "Doctor Who" show, I don't watch it for great special effects or costumes. Any "cheap-looking" effects & costumes found in the old "Who" I think adds to the charm of the show, really. I watch the original "Doctor Who" solely for the stories, the colorful characters, and just the wonderful imagination behind the whole thing. The William Hartnell serial "The Web Planet," in which the Doctor and his companions Ian, Barbara & Vicki get involved in a war between insectoid races on an alien planet, has a marvelous story, memorable characters, and plenty of imagination to spare. I love the whole look and feel to it, too, and I think the story is a very delightful one. This is also a great story for the principle cast of the show, as they all get to shine in their roles, including William Hartnell as the tetchy but still-loveable First Doctor, the grandfather we'd all love to have. If you want great special effects & costumes, you can watch the new "Doctor Who" show (which is also wonderful). "The Web Planet" is a classic, greatly entertaining "Doctor Who" story for all ages. I'm very grateful that it survived in the BBC vaults, and I highly recommend it for your "Doctor Who" DVD collection.
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This unfortunately is the worst Doctor Who story I have in my collection from the First through the Fifth Doctor (still need to add the the Sixth and Seventh). I have never given a 2 star rating to a Who ever before. While I am more than happy to have this classic Hartnell story added to my collection, the pathetic acting just kills it for me. Even the regular cast seemed to be struggling through this one.

Granted, it's hard to act as an insect but this was just bad and it was dragged out for six episodes. Normally these shows keep my attention but it was tough getting through this one.

It had a few decent things however. The use of a Vasiline smeared lens on "outside" shots on the planet was effective in making the alien landscape appear just a bit more alien. The story line itself wasn't bad. It also pushed the limits of production available at the time and they managed to pull it off decently but again, it all comes back to the pathetic acting of the various insects bringing it all down.

All in all however, it is still worth getting to add to your collection. Just don't expect a lot from it because it just isn't there.
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When his TARDIS is mysteriously drawn to a planet he doesn't initially recognize, the Doctor (William Hartnell) finds himself in the middle of a war between two insectoid races in "The Web Planet." Along for the ride are Ian (William Russell), Barbara (Jacqueline Hill) and Vicki (Maureen O'Brien). Soon after landing, the group is split up in a seemingly systematic way. The Doctor and Ian go out to determine exactly where they are. Barbara nurses Vicki, who's harmed by a bizarre noise after the initial landing, at first, but is soon drawn out into the barren lands they've arrived upon. Then Vicki and the TARDIS are whisked away to another location on the planet, with nobody knowing where they've gone. As the story unfolds, we meet the human-sized ants known as the Zarbi and their mortal enemies, the butterfly/bee-like Menoptra. The two races are at war for primacy over the planet which the viewer learns is called Vortis. The Doctor and his companions are split up even more, with Ian being isolated with one of the Menoptra and the Doctor eventually finding Vicki, the TARDIS and the Animus, a creature that controls the Zarbi and has them do its bidding. The Doctor must find out who rightfully deserves to call Vortis home, and he must also determine what the Animus is really up to. He must also figure a way for himself and his companions to get off of the planet before any harm befalls them.

William Hartnell's cranky incarnation of the Doctor is in top form here. He's mysterious, funny and blunt all rolled into one. It's almost as if his mind is so full of wisdom that his brain has trouble extracting it. William Russell and Jacqueline Hill hold their own as always. Maureen O'Brien does a solid job as well. Each person gets to shine on their own.
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