Doctor Who
The Web Planet

Starring: William Hartnell

RRP: 19.99
Certificate: PG
Available 03 October 2005

There's something not quite right about Vortis. The planet looks dead but its ashen surface hides a sinister secret that threatens to trap the Doctor and his companions in the middle of a war between the ant-like Zarbi and the Menoptra, a race of flying moth creatures...

The Web Planet is the one first Doctor story that's guaranteed to divide fans. On the one side there's the 'slow and cheap-looking' camp, on the other the 'daring and different' campaigners. In truth, both views are valid. The story is deathly slow at times and boasts some pantomime costumes - step forward the Optera grub people. It sometimes seems pompous and there are moments of truly dire acting. However, it's an ambitious production, it's often extremely atmospheric and there are also moments of real humour and pathos.

Perhaps the one thing that everyone will agree on is the quality of the DVD transfer - both the picture and sound quality are excellent. The package is rounded off with an informative commentary, great production notes (the seaweed and condoms story is a real highlight!) and a fine photo gallery.

The Zarbi slides from the 1960s Doctor Who Give-a-Show Projector are also included - oddly scanned in with some very dodgy-looking, home made cardboard surrounds - and then there's the documentary...

This consists of talking heads interspersed with clips and photos (interestingly, two are in colour) and as such is always competent, but sadly never more than that. More disappointing is the fact that if you watch the documentary first you'd think you were about to sit through a classic story - albeit flawed - that set new standards in TV production back in 1965. The truth is you're not about to unearth a hidden gem - The Web Planet is more curate's egg than mother lode.

However, I can't be too cruel as I clearly remember watching and enjoying The Web Planet when it was first transmitted. Sadly, the Junior Points of View segment on the show has long since been lost but the sight of the Zarbi checking into their dressing rooms at TV centre will live with me for a very long time.

Verdict: one for fans of a certain age. Younger viewers will find it tough going

Anthony Clark

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