Doctor Who: The Web Planet

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One of the crucial widely-watched of all of the ’60s-era Doctor Who serials, The Web Planet (1965) puts the first Doctor (William Hartnell) and his companions in the course of a war between two alien races–the moth-like Menoptra and a hostile race of ant creatures referred to as Zarbi–for possession of the planet Vortis. With the help of a grub-esque people called the Optera, the Doctor discovers the Zarbi’s hidden weapon–the seductively voiced spider creature the Animus, which plans to ensnare the Time Lord and thwart his assistance to the Menoptra. An estimated 13.5 million viewers tuned in to watch all six episodes of The Web Planet, which manages to overcome its unfortunately awkward creature costumes (which are grim even by Doctor Who standards) to deliver a dramatic and suspenseful story with a subtle touch of social statement; Hartnell is at his flinty best as the Doctor, and gets solid strengthen from William Russell, Jacqueline Hill, and Maureen O’Brien as his fellow time travelers. The DVD includes the usual abundance of new and archival extras: along with statement by Russell, Martin Jarvis (who played Menoptra prince Hilio), producer Verity Lambert, and director Richard Martin, there is a 40-minute making-of featurette (with Hill, Lambert, and others a few of the many interviewees), and Russell provides the narration for “The Lair of the Zarbi Supremo,” a short story based on the serial that used to be taken from the first Doctor Who Annual (that periodical is also included on the disc in PC-ROM format). A crudely illustrated but historically interesting film strip version of the serial, in addition to the usual text-only production notes track and photo gallery, round out the supplemental features. –Paul Gaita

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