Doc & Co team up with butterflies and Rastafarian centipedes to battle man-sized ants, laser-nosed DustBusters and a giant wig from outer space
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The TARDIS is pulled down to the planet Vortis, where Doc determines that his time machine is broken and the troupe is swiftly separated. Vicki stays in the TARDIS, pressing buttons for no particular reason; Doc and Ian are apprehended by giant bipedal ants (aka Zarbi) and their henchmen (aka Larvae Guns) that look like DustBusters and fire laser beams from their noses; and Barbara is at first zombified but then rescued by man-sized possibly-bees-possibly-butterflies (aka Menoptra).
It transpires the planet, once a harmonious garden ruled by the Menoptra, was taken over by a dark force from outer space (aka The Animus), that enslaved the Zarbi and used them to steal the planet out from under the Menoptra’s shower-curtain wings. But now, an undefined amount of years later, the Menoptra are about to attempt to retake the planet.
Fast-forward a tiny little bit: Doc and Vicky are now being interrogated by The Animus about the whereabouts of the Menoptra invasion force (which he gives up immediately); Ian has teamed up with a female Menoptra and some snot-centipedes to rescue Barb and some other bee-or-butterfly people (which they then actually don’t even attempt); and Barb is weeding the planet in a prison camp and about to die because she can’t breathe in the Vortis atmosphere (which doesn’t last for long, because moments later she’s leading a revolution and waging all-out war without a hassle).
This episode is freaking bonkers, in the most awful way imaginable.
Many thanks to Gina, Davis, Kyle and JD, whose mini-reviews are included in this podcast and available here below.
The Ratings and Reviews section of this podcast episode starts at 1h31min.
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Wow – I was waaaayyy to generous….
So I wasn’t able to force myself to finish The Web Planet before today, but I have seen enough to write a decent review for a less than decent story arc.
What I have seen so far seems like a mix random qualities of previous stories. From the Daleks (the larvae guns), and the Edge of Descrusion (Vicki got trapped in the TARDIS), to the Planet of the Giants (Take a guess). Squishing all of this together made for an awful story arc.
However, other qualities made it awful as well. For example, Vicki’s acting was horrendous. Except when the Zarbi put the gold on her, she was really good at acting expressionless. And I can’t forget the wonderful ear piercing screams of the Zarbi. Finally, the blurriness of the atmosphere actually gave me a headache.
Overall, I would rate this story a 0.2, only because Vicki seemed to live in the Matrix previously, and that was a good movie. In case you are wondering, I am referring to when she tells Barbara that she can learn anything in about an hour in Episode 1.
Doctor Who Season 2 Episode 5: The Web Planet Review
This was a stupid episode. Let me explain.
The Menoptera are a bee-like race, one of three indigenous species from the planet Vortice. The other two are their younger descendents, the Optera, and the ant-like Zarbi, who come in both a larval and adult developed carapace model.
Up until a certain point, the three races lived in relative harmony with the planet.
Then came the Animus, a ruthless, power-mad spider like creature that is bent on ultimate control of all life and resources on Vortice.
The Animus enslaves the Zarbi, and turns them against the others, forcing the older, more advanced Menoptera to flee the planet. The Optera are forced underground to hide. The Animus then spoils the once-lush planet, turning it into a web covered wasteland.
Ages later, the Menoptera prepare to launch a final campaign to win back their home planet.
Seems simple enough right?
About this time, the TARDIS shows up, and generally effs things up for everybody involved.
Through one convoluted disaster after another, The Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Vicki manage to stumble, trip, oopsee-daisy and whoopsie their way into the middle of a class warfare fight of planet sized ethnocentric proportions.
This was a really, really stupid episode.
I kind of have to break down my issues with this one in point form. I also have to pick and choose the worst offenders, as there are a lot of offenders.
What I didn’t like:
1) Useless props:
It seemed like there was a bunch of left over gadget ideas all tossed into this episode. The Atmospheric Density Jackets (ADJ’s) that only work for an hour, and have strange metal breast cups on them that do what exactly? The wavy-handy remote door opener that requires no power, aka – The “Swiss Army” ring. The “Time and Relative Dimension Link” that is ok to get damaged or overloaded but must NEVER BE UNPLUGGED FROM THE SOCKET. I’m shaking my head.
2) “Alien” looking Aliens:
Sometimes less is more. In the beginning I had a hard time trying to figure out why there were so many different types of insects on this planet. Bees. Ants. Creatures that looked like you’d buff your car with them after a wax. It was confusing, and seriously detracted from the story.
On a related note – The Zarbi should never be allowed to talk again. It reminded me of toy laser guns with 18 sound settings from the 1980’s. Having them silent would have been more menacing.
And WTF is a “larvae gun”. I’m a parent. If my kid shot bazookoids out of it’s nose I’d be seriously going to the ER. Just saying.
3) Show don’t Tell:
It is an easy thing for us to sit here and criticize now, but a problem that is as much in evidence now as it was then is forgetting your audience aren’t all dumb as soup. A lot of time was wasted running around meeting the different groups, waiting to get to the point.
At one point, The Doctor appeared to have knowledge, passing at best, of the planet and civilization. Why not start with that!?? A place he knows, or has been to before, and is dismayed to find it in ruins!
Six episodes of limping to the next “crisis” was hard to sit through. Especially, when in the meantime, a lot of things happened that either didn’t make a lot of sense (leopard print anti-TARDIS tractor beams/ghillie suit traps/random sink holes) or showed various “plans” that failed miserably.
Oh yeah: EVERY PLAN THEY MADE FAILED. Even as Ian (or ERRON, or however we are pronouncing it this week) cut through the floor “like treacle”, Barb struggled to get “the destructor” (which I still don’t know what it is) close enough to the Animus. And it died.
So I’m not really sure how they won, but they did. Which is good, because it brought the end that much closer.
What I liked:
1) The Doctor and the TARDIS:
There was a very sad, beautiful moment at the end of episode One, “The Web Planet”, when Vicki appears to have whisked off in the TARDIS. The look on The Doctors face, and the emotion upon realizing the loss of his beloved TARDIS was amazing. For the first time, we got a real sense of just how important that old Blue Box is to him. I’m just sad it didn’t get carried over to when he finds it.
2) The story behind the story:
I think there was merit to the background of this tale. An idyllic world, shared in harmony turned on it’s end and fouled by evil, discovered by The Doctor and his Companions, who charge in and save the day is a story I can get behind. Tremendous character building opportunity. Great backsplash for socio-political commentary on class structure, environmental and long term resource dependence. Great story!
Unfortunately that is not this story.
3) The opening shot:
The first episode opened with an interesting mix of establishing shots, pans, zooms, rack focus and pull backs of sound stage sets and model miniatures. It was creative, subtle, and unique enough to pique the interest of my inner cinematographer. That must have been where the budget went.
Upon reflection, there were a lot of things wrong with this serial. The actors never seemed at home in the story, no one ever seemed to have a definitive role to play. Everyone was generally reacting to everyone else. It was sloppy, irritating, and kind of haphazardly executed.
After the emotional roller coaster of “Dalek Invasion of Earth”, and the humorous highlights of “The Romans”, this serial sunk back towards the level of “The Rescue”.
Which is too bad, because the effort expended on costumes and social dynamic woven into the backstory suggested the potential for a far deeper and more compelling adventure.
Some things to ponder: A few of the notes I made while watching this serial, as a clue to how it made me feel:
Young people and young animals hear extra sonic sounds. Nice that The Doctor didn’t specify which category applied to Vicki.
Ian and Doc discover some ruins, and an acid pool. And then there is this;
“What have we got. Echos. Interference. Gold. Now, Acid”. Why did he say gold? Is it Barbs bracelet thats moving her arm? How does the Doctor know that FROM 100FT OUTSIDE THE TARDIS!!!
Alas, poor Zombie Barb (Zarbi?), wandering the desolate sands.
The Zarbi have the Phonebox.
The Bees first reaction to Barbs story – Kill Her. Strangers are not to be trusted.
Logically, Barb decides the path to diplomacy is through blunt force trauma.
The Doctor: “History doesn’t mean anything when you travel through Space and Time”. WOW.
Vicki “accidentally” re-aligned the fluid link? BS
The Doctor: “Come along, drop this hairdryer or whatever it is”.
So The Zarbinet doesn’t trust the Doc, and Ian meets Veristen. Then they get lost in an unexplained avalanche. This is the “Escape to Danger” – a whole episode title for a silly plot device.
Barb and the Bees are busting boulders.
Vicki – WTF?? How come the golden dowsing rods of hypnosis are suddenly not working?
What ring? The wavy-handy ring from the beginning? WTF is going on? Is this a different episode all of a sudden? I’m so confused.
They beat the Zarbi by playing “Monkey in the Middle”. Brilliant. Easy to do when your enemy HAS NO HANDS!!!
The TARDIS windows are cranked open again. Details, BBC, details. (see opening TARDIS shot in “Dalek Invasion of Earth”)
The web planet is the first and I think one of the only serials with an entirely non-human/humanoid cast, excluding the doctors crew. Unfortunately, one species talks like slam poets and walks like interpretive dancers while the other are constantly accompanied by never-ending ringing. But it’s okay because the doc and crew have the tools to ward them off, like their respiratory comparator, atmospheric density jackets, the doctors magic mind control ring, larvae guns and the tardis’s astral map (just don’t unplug it, you must never break the time and relative dimension link!). The odd visual effects, painfully annoying sound effects, and less than affective costuming all culminates in a serial the viewer has to slowly trudge through, presumably like the difficulty Hartnell had in filming this serial, as evident by his great hair dryer quip. Othe! r detractors of this story include the Vaseline camera, the Zarbi running into the camera, Vicky’s overall presence, and just about anything else not mentioned in this short review. This serial gets a 0.4 only for the opening chemistry of Ian and Barb, Hartnell’s obvious displeasure, and the few irritated laughs at the wholly wtf nature of this story.
1) Fuck Bill Strutton!
2)This was one batshit crazy story.
I had the hardest of times keeping up with the story due to disinterest and bleeding ears. The story tried really hard to be creative and innovative but, lost the plot in the process. I confess that I had to read Wikipedia to get a better understanding of the plot after I watched it. The Davis Principle was fully represented with the Tardis being trapped on the planet Vortis. The Zarbi were just giant ants, butterflies and cybermat-looking aliens with little purpose. The Tardis crew seemed bored with the story and Hartnell irritation shined through his performance. Vicki was annoying and lackluster as usual. The lack of music was so apparent due to the incessant bleeping noise made by the Zarbi that permeated every episode. The Vaseline on the camera lens during the exterior ! shots were just annoying. The Menoptra speech patterns and weird arm movements were confusing. What made me more annoyed was when I read the hired a choreographer to come up with both, what a waste. The animus and it’s cone of silence communicator proved to be pretty pointless and not that scary. So overall, this was a miserable story to sit through. However I did appreciate the costumes and sets and the fact that it was a Sci-fi story (barely).
My rating is 0.6 for effort. Je vous aime mes amis!!!
The Doctor, Ian, Barbara and the Pointless one land on the planet of Lens Flare where the worst collection of monsters in the universe try to kidnap and abuse them. And It’s Six Episodes Long… Oh God… We’ve Reached the Web Planet
Erm…. Erm… Erm…. Erm…. Nope, nothing here. Move along..
This episode contains possibly the most irritating, pointless, ridiculous, annoying, stupid thing in the thirteen episodes that have gone so far – and the 207 that come after. The start of Episode 6 contains the following dialogue… ZARRRBI!!!! ZAAAAAAAAARBBBBBBBBBI!!!!
The planet itself looks awful, it looks like the print is damaged everytime they go outside, but the fact that they smeared Vaseline on the lens to get this effect just makes it awful to watch.
Hartnell gets in on the hatred himself. “Drop this hairdryer or whatever it is.” when the stupid mind control device that looks EXACTLY like a hairdyrer is in shot.
The Zarbi runs into a camera and the whole picture shakes. It’s like even the monsters have stopped caring by this point.
The Optera sacrifices itself by sticking it’s head into a hole in the wall.. it’s meant to be emotional, it just makes me laugh… not the emotion they were going for.
ZAAAAAAAAAARBBBBBBBBBBBBBBIIIIIIIIIIII! Oh I had to mention it again… it’s stupid.
Vicki Emotion in this episode is “Giggling” and “Bland” and her Irritation Index is a 3.9, except in Episode 1 where it hits a 4.8
Zarbi Sound Effects – My Ears are Bleeding… Really.. After Six Episodes of this, I’m amazed I have any ear drums left.
0.1 for the Doctor destroying the Cole Hill Tie
0.1 for Barbara mentioning cleaning the TARDIS
0.1 for Hartnell obviously hating the episode as well as me.
0.1 for Mentioning Nero’s Bracelet again.
0.1 for the oddest end credit in Doctor Who History – ” ‘Insect Movement by Roslyn De Winter’ ”
Never.. Watch … It…
I just realized….The Menoptera “corralling” The Zarbi, I half expected them to start chewing hay and waving their hands with a distinctive Southern drawl…..
Funny thing is is that in Region 1, “The Web Planet” is out of print. I recently found a copy of the R1 version on eBay, and it was $500! In comparison, “The War Games”, which is also out of print in America, can cost up to $300. “The War Games” is much longer, but infinitely better than “The Web Planet”. My question is, who would pay $500 for that garbage?
The lowest you can get “The War Games” at in R1 Format is $169. Still quite ridiculous for a DVD.
Funny that this story also has the most listener comments of any classic story on the website.
So pretty much everyone dislikes this story (many angrily so), and I’m not going to break the trend. I will however talk about a few thinhs not previously mentioned.
The first time I watched it, I found it unwatchable and incomprehensible. I don’t like it when baddies whisper with an echo. You’ve got to get the mix just right or the entire dialog will be inaudible on some devices. One might argue that 60’s television productions are by no means accountable for such a thing, except mono televisions with cheap speakers (ie. Almost every television made prior to 1996) are top of the “doesn’t play well” list.
Of all classic stories this one is really a sign of it’s time, and I think that is a sticking point here even when trying not to judge that part of it.
At the heart is a great concept let down by some writing choices (everyone always blames the writer for this one) but more by directing IMO. To be fair, this one was epic in scale, nearly too big for the budget they must have had, even for the BBC geniuses that regularly made wonder out of paper and garbage. They made an entire world with many unique locations that is totally alien on a budget. Unfortunately all the sets are thus bland and uninteresting even if unique. The aliens are so incredibly alien. Unfortunately they’re so alien in the wrong ways that they are pantomime Yo Gabba Gabba silly and/or annoying in their portrayal. There were some amazingly creative ideas to show such an alien environment (the vasoline on the lens, the star filters), unfortunately they were used too much or in the wrong way that the shots became muddy in many parts. There were also so many characters that in the end we cared for none of them.
A remake (and rewrite) of this today, or a [revised] book version of this would actually be one heck of a story, but this one as it stands is an adult story made with Barney-aged kids in mind. It’s performance art on an elementary school budget. The interesting parts of the script are glanced over, and the filler scenes are drawn out. Finally, the story drags on and is repetitive, and yet the ending is rushed and convoluted. Overall it had grand plans but just doesn’t ever get off the ground. Really with different production and direction it could have been an epic story to remwmber. Instead it’s an epic flop people will find it hard to ever forget. It’s a shame as I truly believe. There was something good here at it’s heart.
I can’t say I dispise it as much as some others do, and there are a few good moments, and interesting (perhaps daring) ideas, but it is in my bottom three Dr who episodes of all time. 1.1
I finally had the displeasure of watching this serial. And here is my listener mini for it:
IT SUCKED!!! You already know why it sucked, I don’t need to repeat the reasons. If you want my advice, take this one an episode at a time (I was foolish enough to watch it all at once). And only watch it once, just to say you did. There is no reason to subject people to this sort of torture. The rating this one gets is a 0.25/5. It was just full of annoying sounds and just plain stupid overall. Watch it once to say you did, then never ever touch this serial again.
I’ll end this with a quote from Mervyn Haisman (Of Abominable Snowmen/Web of Fear fame): “There are so many [Doctor Who serials] missing, and with this one we have the whole damn lot!”
The TARDIS gets sucked up by some sort of forcefield, which pulls it down and traps it on the barren planet of Vortis. As the Doctor and Ian head outside to find the source of the forcefield, Barbara is hypnotised by her bracelet and Vicki accidentally dematerialises the ship.
As the dust settles, it appears the planet is a battleground between several insectile races: the Zarbi, giant ants who make electronic beeping noises and keep bumping into the furniture; the Menoptra, who are some sort of hybrid of moths and wasps; the Optera, who look like giant foamy woodlice; some other thing that I didn’t catch the name of but that has a very long nose; and the Animus, that is supposed to be a spider but looks more like a jellyfish.
I have to applaud the intentions here. From the famous trick of smearing vaseline on the camera lens, to the ambitious idea of a story without humanoid characters, there is a definite attempt to create something alien. And in the earlier episodes, the exterior sets and model work looks really good, and I grudgingly admit that they managed to pull it off fairly well in these aspects.
I also will grant that the cliffhanger to episode one is actually rather good. Ian is covered with a web of tentacles, Barbara is hypnotised and about to walk into an acid bath, Vicki has gone mad and the Doctor realises that the TARDIS has disappeared, leaving them marooned. If only the resolution in episode two lived up to the suspense. (Ian nonchalantly takes off the tentacles, Barbara turns, Vicki wakes up, and the Doctor realises the TARDIS has been dragged over a hill…)
Well actually pretty much everything else. The interior sections are very obviously filmed in a studio. The floor is visible at all times and the walls are either curtains or flat stage paintings. The costumes are also very silly – the Menoptera are supposed to be delicate, but they are wearing uber-fluffy striped pyjama trousers. Meanwhile the woodlice are the insectile equivalent of a herd of pantomime cows. The Zarbi, especially, are dumb: always in danger of knocking over the scenery, their method of attack appears to be based on the ‘coming-uncomfortably-close-and-nudging-you-with-my-head’ school of thought, and (oh my word!) do these electronic alarm sounds get annoying. Not only is the story utterly boring and ridiculous, but my ears are also bleeding as a result.
Nor is that all – we have the Doctor at his most annoying, with endless ‘Ha ha’ and ‘Ho Ho’, which was once quaint, but is now used in situations without any hint of humour. We have dumb science, such as the ‘Atmosphere Density Jackets’ which are supposed to help you breathe, but they don’t cover your face and in any case you can breathe better without them… And we wait till the final episode to even see the big bad ‘Animus’, and when we do we wish we hadn’t. And the whole climax is over in 20 seconds. (“I have the power! I have the power!” *dies*)
Some of these moments are magical only in the widest possible sense:
– Ian: “I have a feeling we’re being watched. Haven’t you?” – Doctor: “No… No, no, no, no I can’t see any spooks or anything, no, I… I don’t think so, no. Not particularly, no.” (You’re not telling me it was scripted that way…)
– Ian steps into the corpse of a huge bug. It cracks and he ends up ankle deep in goo. Lovely…
– Ian blatantly tries to help the Doctor remember his lines: “What galaxy’s that in Doctor?”
– The Doctor, on meeting the Zarbi: “Apart from rubbing our legs together like some sort of grasshopper, I doubt if we could speak to them.”
– The Doctor, to the Animus, and clearly not remotely attempting to take the story seriously: “Drop this hairdryer or whatever it is.”
– One of the Menoptera gets it’s wings cut off and laments that it will never fly again. It’s almost touching, in the middle of all this mess. Actually the scenes with the Menoptera flying are a pretty good visual effect, even if it is clearly done with wires.
– The first appearance of the giant woodlice in episode is the most ridiculous moment in a story crammed with them. They speak with a strange sort of Mexican accent, hesitate and jump on the spot to emphasise a word and have an incredibly long monologue to start with. I pity the actor that had to do this. At least he could wear a mask and preserve his dignity in anonymity.
– The Menoptera attract the attention of the Zarbi by leaving up and down waving their arms and shouting “Zaaaaar-bi!” repeatedly.
This is a shockingly awful story – easily the worst I’ve seen. Some bits of it fall into the so-bad-its-good category. The aliens, with their dumb costumes and bizarre choreography, certainly fall into this category. But it’s six episodes long: almost three hours, with endless talking, meandering plots and subplots, no real villain, a climax that’s over before it’s begun, and the Zarbi communicate by electronic alarms…
OVERALL: 0.9 (mainly for effort, and for the fact that it’s a surviving historical record of what took place in a particular studio over a particular period in 1965)
Obviously, I must stand up for this ridiculous story called The Web Planet. I utterly loved the absurdity of the plot, costumes, aliens, and acting. But then, I watched it at the end of 2019, when the semi-civilized world as we know it seems to be going down in a shitstorm of idiocy, so a good laugh every night after work was very welcome. I now startle the dogs by crying, “Zaaar-bi!” at random moments.
I’ll take a point off for the Zarbi sound effect which did grow old after about 2 seconds of hearing it. As our respected hosts watched all the episodes in a row, no wonder their patience was exhausted.
My score: 4.0
Everyone with a taste for total silliness should watch this serial. Menoptera forever! ZAAAR-BEEE!!
Hey Cassandra, I love your enthusiasm!
You know what? I agree with you, though 4.0 might be a little higher than I’d go now. Haven’t rewatched The Web Planet since our review, but 6+ years of this podcast have definitely led to a greater appreciation for this type of serial. At some point, perhaps when we’re caught up, I wouldn’t mind going back to re(re)view a handful of stories, and this one would be pretty high on that list.
ZAAAR-BEEE to you, too! :-)
Interesting perspectives. I think those who have ‘rubbished’ the story (and, frankly, been incredibly rude about a good deal of hard work) might have appreciated it more if they had watched it in 1965 – when it was designed to be watched. One day you may realise – context is everything.
You’re absolutely right. A fair bit has happened in the eight years since we watched and discussed this episode: for starters, we’ve had eight years of experience reviewing Doctor Who; we’ve seen a bunch more of this wonderful show; we’ve gotten proper mics to record with; and may even have matured a little as people. In summary, there’s been an addition context.
Every now and then, we note that there are episodes that we’d quite like to go back and re-review because we didn’t know enough to give them a fair shot at the time, and frankly this one is probably at the top of the list for me, partly because it’s still garnering a tremendous amount of traffic. (Planet of the Daleks is a close second on my list of potential re-reviews…)
I’m sorry if in any way we offended you, or anyone involved in making this serial. Please know that even though we — still to this day — continue to rip into Doctor Who at times, we do so from a very loving point of view.
In any case, thanks for listening.