Doctor Who episode 194: The Web of Fear – Episode 3 (17/2/1968)
Of the 97 missing episodes of Doctor Who, this is perhaps the most keenly felt because for a brief moment it wasn’t missing. It was found, but then lost again. At the time this made me unaccountably furious, to the extent that I’ve never actually seen The Web of Fear until now, stubbornly holding out until this one was handed over. But short of the winds blowing in another direction, it remains firmly in the clutches of some private collector, and me having a sulk about it won’t change that fact.
In a sense, it’s lucky this was the one that got away. Although it means we’ve got 25 minutes less of Troughton, it’s less pivotal than Episode 2. It’s comparatively static, with lots of discussion about the next move, and suspicious glances being cast towards the Doctor, Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart and Chorley. Yes, it’s the first episode to feature Nicholas Courtney in his signature role, but as he’s already run into the Doctor offscreen so there’s no great meeting between the two. They just turn up together, mutually wary. Courtney’s performance is perfectly proper: clipped, precise, as we’ve come to expect, but with none of the exasperated indulgence he’ll later show the Doctor.
It’s also quite ironic that a chunk of the episode features Lethbridge-Stewart giving a slide show briefing to the troops, filling in the story of the Yeti invasion – a Tele-snap Reconstruction of a tele-snap reconstruction if you like. The Doctor can’t resist providing a running commentary either, pointing out to Travers that the Mark Two Yeti look quite different from their Tibetan predecessors. The reminder of Tibet also allows for the reintroduction of the Yeti control statues, and helps explain, for anyone in the audience who might be bothered, why the statues don’t really look much like these new Yeti.
With the growing sense that someone is in league or controlling the Yeti, and the creeping realisation that the Intelligence has already spread its web into the Goodge Street fortress, this is a good, tense and intriguing 25-minutes: a necessary breather after the rushing about in tunnels last week, with the promise that things are soon going to get a lot worse. I still wish someone would give it back, though.
Next episode: The Web of Fear – Episode 4