Remember that brilliant fan film they made for the fiftieth anniversary? “Dr Who And The Omnirumour”? You know, the one where a diabolical shapeless, faceless entity, like a sort of mist only with a mind and a will, known as The Great Lack Of Intelligence from the planet BaBaSee attempted to take over the minds of every Dr Who fan on Planet Earth by convincing them that 90 missing episodes had been found in a biscuit tin in Bradford? And that The Lack Of Intelligence’s human ally, the evil Flip Maurice, had all of those 90 episodes held captive in a secret underground vault in the tunnels underneath Liverpool Lime Street station? Remember how we knew it was true? Because one brave soul had managed to escape from the underground bunker and she told us it was so. Only she, Dame Een Latrine, knew the truth of what the evil Flip Maurice was up to and we had to believe her!
No I don’t remember that one either. But something touched me deep inside the day the omnirumour died, when 90 recovered missing episodes turned out to be 9. And three of them turned out to be from a classic Dr Who story, only not the one we were expecting. Yes it was nice that The Enemy of The World was complete but no, come on, you can’t be telling me that they’ve found all of The Web of Fear apart from part three! Seriously? Part three? That’s the one where the Brig makes his first appearance! Really? ffs…
I was just as delighted and disappointed in equal measure as everyone else when news of The Web of Fear’s recovery was finally released and the omnirumour omnishambles that fandom had got itself into was finally laid to rest. But then the Beeb put the eps out on a vanilla disc with no extras, which really pissed me off as I refuse point blank to pay the same for a vanilla as a DVD with VAM. Not so much as a commentary track from Frazer and Debbie.
So I didn’t get to see the eps until a year after they first came out, thanks to a fellow fan who has a lot more disposable income than I do. And once a copy of the eps was safely on my hard drive I had to figure out a way to do a Fan Edit of the story and work around the missing episode three. That wasn’t going to be easy but I wanted to avoid the telesnap recon if I possibly could as I find the transition from full motion video to telesnaps much more jarring then video to animation. But first things first, how to do episode one?
The start of part one is the climax of the previous – complete! – story, The Enemy of The World. I always intended that this opening scene would close the edit of that story with Pat’s last line “Yes, I wonder?” leading us into the end credits. That meant I had two options for starting the Fan Edit of Web – I could either start with the next Tardis scene with all that bollocks about flashing lights and sandwiches or open with the creepy, spooky museum bit where the Yeti comes to life. I think you can guess which one I went with and for good measure I made it a pre-titles sequence, which leads us into a slightly different set of opening titles.
I’ve always thought that the Pertwee End Scream would be great on the intro theme when you have a pre-titles like we have here but it’s a bugger of a job to get them to match up so I just went for it and used the closing theme music with the opening titles, adjusting both slightly to make them fit with each other. I think it works and hey, it’s something a bit different for a rather special story, and the whole point of Fan Editing is to do something new with the material. After that we’re straight into the Dr, Jamie and Victoria exploring the Underground tunnels and finding the old cobwebbed bloke. All of which takes just over 7 minutes.
Then it was time to start thinking seriously about how to edit round part three. Take a moment and put yourself in my position, and imagine, as I did, that part three didn’t exist at all. How would you edit around the Doctor arriving at the Underground HQ for the first time with the Colonel? Of course, if they’d animated the missing episode all that stuff would have stayed in but since they didn’t how do we work around its loss? The more I thought about it, the more the obvious answer seemed to me to be to re-order the material so it looks like the Colonel is already there when the Dr, Vic and Jamie arrive. So I had a possible solution, but could I make it work?
The first thing to do was to collate together all the material from part one that I hadn’t used along with everything from parts two and four. I then split that file up into all the individual scenes so I could see exactly what I had to work with. Then it was a case of shuffling things around to see if they made sense in their new order. But before we get into that, let’s turn our attention to the story itself.
For years the only version of this story that we knew was the Target novelisation, and as a result, that formed the majority view of the story since that was all we had to go on. There are plenty of instances that I can think of where the Target book made a story seem a bit disappointing when you finally got to see it. But Web, when I got round to actually watching it, was every bit as good as I hoped it would be and almost as good as that Target book made it out to be. Of course, the whole thing is completely bonkers and now we have to look at the story in the light of subsequent events in The Snowmen.
Quite why the story should live so vividly in the memory so long after it’s one and only transmission is probably down to more than the incongruous juxtaposition of robot Yeti in the London Underground. Even typing that phrase reminds you of just how bonkers an idea it is but it works because the central idea at play here is the one that Doctor Who would return to again and again, the one that often gets cited as one of the main ingredients of the series’ “indefinable magic”. It all starts here.
Yes, we had a dummy run last time out with Wotan and The War Machines but here the idea gets refined to the point of genius. Since Wotan and The Post Office Tower, a familiar London landmark that millions of Doctor Who’s audience were not only familiar with but had seen in real life, what had the series given us before we went Underground? [and why has nobody yet done a YouTube music video for this with either David Bowie or The Jam? ]
Historical – Smugglers in Cornwall. Some of the kids in the audience may have been to Cornwall on holiday but there weren’t any real pirates as such so the urchins probably didn’t find this one too exciting, even if they had read Moonfleet or the Dr Syn books.
Futuristic – Cybermen at the North Pole. Okay so the original Metal Men From Mandos, I mean Mondas, are a bit creepy but how many of the urchins have been to the North Pole on holiday? Oh, and the Doctor “dies”. Sad. Base Under Siege #1.
Alien Planet – Daleks. On the planet Vulcan. Which is made up. Oh, and a new Doctor. Wow.
Historical – Scottish Highlanders in Scotland, just after Culloden, back in nineteen canteen, whenever that was. All a bit Walter Scott, Rob Roy, Kidnapped, etc but Jamie joins the Tardis at the end so that’s good.
Futuristic – Fish people under the sea. In Atlantis. And our first real mad scientist. Sounds exciting but it isn’t, it’s all a bit bleh.
Futuristic – Cybermen. On the moon. Wow. Base Under Siege #2.
Alien Planet – Giant Crabs brainwashing people into thinking they don’t exist, which might make the urchins think twice next time they find a normal sized one on the beach on holiday.
Present Day – Aliens kidnapping humans who think they’re going on holiday. Bet that made the urchins think the next time Dad said they were going abroad for their summer hols!
Time Travel – Daleks in the present day, and in the past, and on their home planet Skaro! And they all get done in at the end! Wow.
Alien Planet – the Cybermen’s tomb, all very like that Egyptian Pharoah bloke the urchins had learned about at school. Only in space. With Cybermen. Cool. Base Under Siege #3.
Historical – The Yeti. In Tibet. We’ll come back to them in a minute. Base Under Siege #4.
Futuristic – Ice Warriors. In an Ice Age in the future, a sort of permanent winter. Bet the urchins liked the idea of that. Base Under Siege #5.
You get the picture.
So that gives us four Futuristic, three Alien Planet, three Historical, one Time Travel and one other Present Day story before we get to this, Base Under Siege #6. But aside from the prospect of being kidnapped by aliens if you go abroad on holiday, this was the first real time the show had made the threat of an alien menace seem real by having it take place somewhere that the bulk of the audience were familiar with and probably used every day, unlike flying which they would probably have done once a year, if at all. By setting the story in the London Underground, Doctor Who made its first foray into making the familiar scary. Things aren’t what they seem. That’s a simple yet brilliant idea with which to scare children, the thing that they think is nice and looks nice is actually something horrible in disguise that wants to eat you all up. Or at least take over your body and possess your mind. It’s the contemporary televisual equivalent of literature’s witch in Hansel and Gretel, or cinema’s Child Catcher in Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang.
The Underground isn’t a helpful, useful way to get around London quickly, it’s actually a scary series of dark and gloomy tunnels, like Shelob’s lair, full of cobwebs and god knows what else. The Yeti looked like big, cuddly giant teddy bears last time out, but here they’re a lot less cuddly and have big, glowing eyes and guns that shoot cobwebs at you, yuck. You see? That’s why The Web of Fear was so well remembered and the reason why it was so well remembered is that this is where Doctor Who as we know it really started.
Which is all very well but that still leaves me with the problem of how to edit around episode three. In essence I had a big jigsaw puzzle of different scenes from different episodes that I had to shuffle around into some sort of new order that would still make sense, but avoid me having to include the part three recon. In the end, the simplest solution was to have Victoria find the Doctor first and for the reunion to take place off-screen, using the audio from part three. Jamie then had to meet up with Evans and again, the reunion with the Doctor and Victoria happens off-screen before we then cut to the scene of all four of them – The Doctor, Jamie, Victoria and Evans – getting a sample of web before heading back to HQ to find that the Yeti have paid a visit while we were all buggering about in the tunnels. It’s not ideal but it’s the simplest solution and much better than the telesnap alternative!
With that problem solved I was able to push on to the last two eps and the first thing to do was to join them to the edit of parts one to four. Going from five to six was fairly straightforward but going from four to five was a bit tricky. As usual this was because of the slightly different re-enactment of part four’s cliffhanger ending at the start of part five. The only way to get from one to the other was to insert a cutaway of the Dr reacting to the Yeti’s arrival before Travers shows his face. That meant repeating a shot but there was no other way to do it, and at least it was justifiable in that Pat’s face would presumably still be reacting the same way later in the scene! Adding the last two eps to the already edited first four gave us a total running time of under one hour and forty minutes. That would come down even further when I started editing the last two eps.
Part five is blatant padding, with Travers even signalling it as such early on. If The Lack Of Intelligence had any sense at all it would just grab the Doctor and stick him in the mind-draining machine straightaway. But no. Now ordinarily I’d cut straight from the “What do you want?” “You!” exchange to The Doctor in the machine but the Yeti he gets control of plays too big a role in the rescue for it to be cut which means the ep has to stay in the edit, just cut right back to the bare minimum.
By the time we get to part six all that’s left to do is a new set of closing credits and then to go back and add in a few extra cues for a bit more atmosphere. We close this Fan Edit, one that I only ever expected to happen on audio, with a Next Time trailer for Fury From The Deep, sadly still missing from the archive. I liked the idea of including as much as I could from the story as a trailer and I took the opportunity to get rid of the worst of the blemishes on the surviving clips as time would allow.