Doctor Who - The Web of Fear [03/02-09/03/68 BBC1]

In this six-episode 1968 sequel to the previous year's The Abominable Snowmen, the modestly-named "Great Intelligence" is attempting to take over contemporary London with its web-spraying robot Yeti via the London Underground (whoever said everyone in the Sixties was on drugs...?!). Inevitably, the Doctor (Patrick Troughton) and his young companions Jamie (Frazer Emmerdale Farm Hines) and Victoria (Deborah Watling) land the TARDIS in a deserted "Covent Garden" station. Assuming it is night-time, they walk up to the surface (!), only to find it is broad daylight. Seeing a newspaper seller on the other side of the closed gate, Jamie nudges him, only for the web-covered corpse to fall over, revealing a predictably alarmist Evening Standard placard...!

Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln's script for the story called for much of the action to take place in the Underground, but when approached for permission, London Transport demanded not only an impossibly high fee, but also stipulated that filming could only be done between the hours of 02:00 and 05:00. Apart from several scenes shot in the Greenwich Foot Tunnel, all the Underground scenes were therefore recorded in the studio on mock-up sections of tunnel and platform that were constantly re-dressed and shot from an imaginative variety of angles to represent different lines and stations, including "Covent Garden," "Charing Cross" (now "Embankment"), "South Kensington," "Piccadilly Circus," and the "Bank"-"Monument" escalator link. The wartime Deep Level Shelter adjacent to "Goodge Street" was also represented. It is a testament to the work of designer David Mysercough-Jones that when the episodes were transmitted, the sets were so convincing that they drew complaints from London Transport that the BBC must obviously have filmed in the real tunnels without permission!

"Shall we go out and have a look?"
"Is it safe?"
"Oh, I shouldn't think so for a moment...."
"Seems to be a large room... tiled walls... curved ceiling..."
"The wall seems to end here... Hey, there's some sort of... trench..." "Co-vent Gar-den.... Oh yes, of course! It's an Underground station - we're standing on the platform?"
"Underground station?"
"Mmm... Trains... Underground trains. A little after your time, Victoria..."
"Just let me get my breath... Oh, those stairs..."

Well, if you're going to land in a Tube station with the power off, Covent Garden is the last one you'd pick!

Deciding to walk along the track to, "the next station," the Doctor and his friends are startled when lights come on in the tunnel behind them. They hide in time to see a group of soldiers pass by, laying a cable.
A bit of a Scooby Doo-moment! The Doctor decides to follow the cable being laid by the soldiers, and sets Jame and Victoria to follow them in the opposite direction.
He traces the cable back to "Charing Cross" station (which - considering it's today's "Embankment" - means he must have changed at "Leicester Square"!)... ... but has to hide when the Scary Yeti appear!
Meanwhile, Victoria sneezing alerts the soldiers, who take the youngsters to their headquarters in the Deep Level Shelter beneath "Goodge Street" station. "This place has been here a long time. It were a transit camp in the Second World War..."

Hmmm... close...

"What's a girl like you doing in a job like this?"
"Well, when I was a little girl, I thought I'd like to be a scientist. So... I became a scientist."

You go, girl!

The map in the Operations Room shows the progress of the military in combatting the Yeti. Note the inevitable lack of the Victoria Line, and the separate stations ("Strand "and "Trafalgar Square") that became the current "Charing Cross."
Unfortunately, right up until the mid-1970s, the videotapes on which most BBC programmes were made were routinely wiped and used for new productions, so a large number of episodes from many series have been lost. Those series that could be sold abroad, however, were transferred to 16mm film, and many programmes have subsequently been recovered from these prints, but more than a hundred episodes of Doctor Who remain missing, amongst them all bar the first of The Web of Fear. Prior to its hostile takeover by Sky, British Satellite Broadcasting (BSB) had been repeating complete early Doctor Who stories, and as part of special Doctor Who Weekend showed both The Web of Fear part 1 and The Abominable Snowmen part 2, the only surviving episode from the earlier story. Due to problems with the rights to a certain piece of music used in episode 1, it has never been released on video, and so all the above screen-grabs come from the BSB screening.

Luckily, in 2002, New Zealand Doctor Who fan to Graham Howard for was helping to catalogue a private film collection, when he came across a number of short pieces of film from later episodes of The Web of Fear, and also another Doctor Who story, The Wheel in Space. They were segments removed by government censors as being too violent to be broadcast on the then-NZBC, amongst them the Yeti battling paratroopers in the Tube tunnels and invading the Goodge Street DLS, as well as a very short segment of Victoria and Professor Travers (Jack Watling - yes, Deborah's dad!) at "Piccadilly Circus." These sequences - along with others from this story and also The Wheel in Space - are now available on the DVD of the complete story, The Seeds of Death.

The London Underground in Films & TV

PAGE HISTORY:
15/03/04 First upload
16/03/04 Minor corrections
09/02/08 Minor corrections