Oh dear, The Web Planet the one story from the First Doctor’s era that all fans agree on as being just an awful story. Being a story that’s script requires so many effects and elaborate costumes it was nearly impossible to create some semblance of a story. It’s a six part story which suffers from the problems of dragging on and on and on and on until you just want to turn it off and give up. It is one of those stories that derails many a marathon. Its effects are laughably bad and its director thought it would be a good idea to smear Vaseline over the camera lens. Yet with all that against it, I’m here forced to review it and now dear reader please stay calm. Hell has not frozen over. The world is not ending. The aliens have not taken over my brain. I have not gone totally insane. And this is not some April fool’s Day prank to try and get a laugh. I genuinely think The Web Planet does not deserve the complete hate it gets. Now, dear reader, before you get your torches and pitchforks and come find and horribly maim then kill me for daring to have a dissenting opinion, just hear me out. Yes all these things are problems and some of them are even story breaking problems, but everything else about the story is actually really quite good.
Let’s start with the acting from William Hartnell as the Doctor. The Web Planet is famous for having a lot of Hartnell fluffs, but there aren’t really that many especially compared to say The Sensorites or the original version of “An Unearthly Child” where there are a lot more. Yes he does stumble a bit over the technobabble, but considering how much he has to do in this story, it is easy to forgive the little flubs. Fans who haven’t seen his era always seem to think he was cold and heartless, but by this point he wasn’t. He was warm and caring towards his companions especially Vicki who he has an extremely interesting relationship with which I will get to a little further down. When he finds out Barbara is captured his first instinct is to figure out exactly where she is and how to get Ian to go and get her out. Now on his relationship with Vicki played by Maureen O’Brian. He treats Vicki, especially in this story as an equal which is much more interesting than being the grandfather to Susan. They are both brilliant people and the Doctor knows that Vicki has no one left to go back to like he does now that Susan’s off with David.
William Russell’s portrayal as Ian is good as always but after “Escape to Danger” he really doesn’t have much to do as during the first three episodes he becomes the strong man to help the Doctor through things as everything is out to get them. He is the one to go and save Barbara before he falls down a chasm for a little bit. Jacqueline Hill is great as she helps the butterfly Menoptera with their invasion and actually runs a war council. I don’t care if the scene is underdone and doesn’t look like a traditional war council, it is still extremely cool and shows just how great Barbara is as a character.
Now to the elephant in the room, the production design being awful and yes some of it is. The sets are really quite bad as they are blown out of proportion as the script and some may say the costumes are awful. I actually don’t hate the costumes. Yes the Zarbi and Menoptera are obviously men in suits but they look like ants and butterflies. They look quite good for the time actually and I find the design quite adorable as they are obviously trying. Except the Optera which just look so fake compared to the Zarbi and Menoptera. While the direction has several instances of being awful, some of the flying scenes for the Menoptera are really good on the whole.
To summarize, The Web Planet, to quote the brilliant and cynical Stuart Hardy is “a puppy in a teacup” that yes falls flat on several occasions and has a plot that drags with poor direction, and sets and costumes that are laughable, but it has some great characters and is just a feast for the eyes to look at. 55/100