Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,

Frontier in Space; The Web Planet

Two six-part Doctor Who stories from the distant past to review.

I mentioned a while back that I had bought the video of Frontier in Space, a Third Doctor story with Jo and the Master from 1973, about ten years ago. I think it is actually the first Doctor Who I can remember seeing at the time of original broadcast; the scene where the Master introduces his allies to the Doctor and Jo very much lingeres in the memory. I caught up with it over the last couple of weekends, and was reasonably impressed, though I'm not sure that the Master's overall plan actually Makes Sense. Funnily enough, what strikes me now is the unrealistically flat bureaucracy surrounding both the Draconian Emperor and the President of Earth, where both of them have easy access to prisoners, and seem to have nothing better to do than discuss the ways of the world with their closest advisers. I guess I have had more to do with real presidents - though not lizardoid emperors, at least not as far as I know - in recent years. I've written elsewhere about lizard creatures which are actually the Japanese in disguise, so no need to develop that point at length. Depressing, though, that the cold war between Earth and Draconia has delivered a political system on Earth that is only weakly democratic, with the military having the main call on declaring war, and the main opposition forces more hard-line than the president. But thanks to the Doctor, we know it was all based on a simple misunderstanding between gentlemen, so that's all right then.

I got the DVD of The Web Planet, a First Doctor story from 1965 with Ian, Barbara and Vicki, back in January; and then, after I had read Wood and Miles' excoriating description of it, the disc was in my laptop when it got stolen. But I caught up with this one over the weekend as well.

Oh dear.

It's very brave to try and produce an entire six-part story with no humanoid characters other than the regular cast, and the production teeters on the edge of greatness but, ultimately, falls off and hurtles to its doom. I mean, the Zarbi, with their unearthly whistling, are actually pretty good, so good that you can nearly forget that they are blokes in giant ant costumes. And the disembodied Animus is pretty sinister. But the Venom Grubs are, frankly, pathetic. And the Menoptra, with their bizarre dance movements, and their pitiful Optera relatives, are just ludicrous. I can't quite believe that this is the only story from the original Season Two (apart from the glorious Dalek Invasion of Earth) available on DVD. Almost any other would make more sense and be a better advertisement for Who as a whole. (I have reservations about The Chase, though it does at least have Daleks and a variety of settings, and I've only seen the first episode of The Space Museum so can't speak to the whole of it, though I must say it really grabbed me.)

Maureen O'Brien is good as Vicki though, perhaps the best I remember her in any of her stories. The others are fine too, especially (as ever) Hartnell.
Tags: doctor who, doctor who: 01, doctor who: 03

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