Thursday, 7 March 2013

The Web Planet

The Doctor, Vicki, Ian and Barbara arrive on the mysterious planet Vortis. Here they meet all manner of strange creatures – Menoptera, Optera, Zarbi, Larvi Guns and the Animus in one of the strangest adventures yet.
Barbara meets the Menoptra

Intelligent bug creatures are much more frequent in the Universe than most people might realise. I have met some nasties in my time – the Leeches spring to mind, big slugs always hell bent on sucking the life out of worlds, but all of these were new to me. In fact they were all pretty friendly in this tale, especially the Menoptera who were based on butterflies but definitely in design bore more than a passing resemblance to bees.
I think that ‘The Web Planet’ is an amazing vision. I think most of the design was wonderful, and Bill Strutton, the writer, was certainly brave to write a story where the Doctor and his companions were the only ‘humans’ in the story. It left quite the challenge for the design and costume team, and indeed the director Richard Martin.

For the most part they succeeded. The Vortis set works very well for such a limited space, and they even managed to make the Menoptra fly by hoisting them up on wires, no mean feat at all. They spent time at Eeling studios getting the shots, and it made me wonder why they didn’t just shoot the whole thing there! The smaller Riverside studios and the others that they used were clearly far too small for the show – just watch this story you will see a camera hit a part of the set on more than one occasion! No doubt it was all about money.
It's a Zzzzzarbi!
For the Doctor Who community, this story seems to divide opinions as far as I can tell. It was explained to me early on that Doctor Who was a children’s programme, and this story certainly feels like it. One could even say it was aimed at younger children than usual. I think as far as imagery goes, it’s outstanding. They achieved a lot on the tiniest of budgets. Unfortunately you could see where the budget couldn’t stretch any further – the Optera were added after the script felt a bit thin, and design-wise they drew the short straw. It’s almost as if someone hollowed out a stuff toy and threw an actor in the shell.
The Zarbi, I think, look very good. I know the actors legs are very obvious, but apart from that they are a different sort of creature compared to what has previously been seen in Doctor Who. Bill Strutton has created an amazing world with different types of insects, and the viewer feels like he understands the intricacies of the world he has created.
However, it really does feel like it’s totally aimed at children. There’s not a lot for the adult viewer. The other real negative is the pacing, it’s really very slow after episode one. There is a distinct lack of background music as well, and parts of the story would have been carried better if there was some background music, especially in the final episode.
Ian, Vicki and the Doctor inside the Carsanome.

Ian’s story line seems quite superfluous to the rest of the plot, but someone had to spend time with the Optera I guess. The story was running very short. The work done with the Menoptera by Roslyn de Winter was fantastic though, coming up with an alien way of speaking and moving. Very clever choreography and a great effort to make alien creatures actually seem alien.
In summary it’s hard to know what to make of this story as a piece. It’s too long, slowly paced and let down by the Optera costumes. However it’s a wonderfully created and very unique alien world. 

Barbara prepares the Menoptra to fight!

The imagination put into the creatures is fantastic, the opening episode is wonderful as are the Menoptera. The Animus voice is very good too, a lilting deep female voice – certainly not your average evil creature.
The heart of the Carsanome - the Animus


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