The Web Planet

The Web Planet
The Web Planet.jpg
Season: 2
Episode: 5
Vital statistics
Air date 13 February - 20 March 1965
Written by Bill Strutton
Directed by Richard Martin
Episode guide
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The Web Planet (working title: Let's Get Silly) is the fifth serial of Season 2 of the television programme Doctor Ehwot, which means it may appear exceedingly primitive in the eyes of today’s whinging princes and princesses of privilege.  The story involves the TARDIS crew (The Doctor, Ian, Barbara, Rick and Vickie) landing on the desolate planet Vortis, and allying themselves with its insect-like former inhabitants, the Menoptra, as they struggle to win back their planet from the malignant Animus.  Lines are flubbed and awkward silences nonchalantly unfurl around Willy Harmell, the first episode’s a bit slow and there could be a little less running about and daring escapes, but it is anything but dull or monotonous to watch.  Some fans hold this story in low regard, a deplorable scoring addressed below.

Oh, here's something to chew on: The first episode of the serial was watched by 13.5 million viewers, the highest number for any Doctor Who episode in the 1960s.


The story features no humans or even “look a hell of a lot like human” aliens beyond the usual Tardis peeps, just races of bugs that look a hell of a lot like humans in bug costumes.  

The first bugs encountered by The Doctor and friends are the worst: the Zarbi who are controlled by an evil alien thingy called The Animus (only seen later).  They’re also clanky, rivet-shelled ant-looking guys played by silent actors walking around with an upside-down turd-shaped canoe on their backs, the hollow clunks and bumps of the fiberglass shells cluttering the nearly Foley-free staging common to this era of the stage-programme.  Being the first-appearing monsters in the slow first episode, the Zarbi can easily predispose one to mistake this whole story for being less than mofo-bustin, but that’s completely goddamn wrong.  Don’t judge an ant by its carapace, ha ha.   But the Zarbi are admittedly pretty awful overall.The crew meet the Menoptera next, played by actors wearing black-and-white banded costumes with cellophane wings, patterned helmets with long antennae, and grease-painted lower faces to make them resemble moths.  They speak in silly voices like the early Cybermen did, depending on which actor gets a line or two.  Roslyn De Winter, who also appears as a Menoptera, is credited on-screen for “Insect Movement,” so it appears that insects in Britain move pretty fucking weirdly, or she was tripping serious balls when she planned this out.  Still, it’s more interesting to list “insect movement” on your IMDB page than “choreographer.”

The next bug-aliens they discover on Vortis are the Optera, whose name sounds a lot like the Menoptera’s because they’re contrived humanoid underground-dwelling insects, “C.H.U.D.I” you might say.  The C.H.U.D.I. costumes are a rather fetching balance of blacks whites and greys compared to the Zarbi (mostly black) or the Menoptra (black and white only), although to be truthful they do look a bit silly hopping around like they do  Their leader apparently is a Spaniard who’s been smoking heavily since hitting puberty many years ago.   

Ian Chatterston learns some "insect movement."

Although spoken to off and on across the story, no one actually meets the real villain/monster, the Animus, until episode six.  In Carl Jung's school of analytical psychology, The Anime and the Animus are the two primary anthropomorphic archetypes of the unconscious mind, as well as the abstract symbol sets that formulate the archetype of the Self. The anime and animus are described by Jung as elements of his theory of the collective unconscious, a domain of the unconscious that transcends the personal psyche. In the unconscious of the male, this archetype finds expression as a feminine inner personality: anima; equivalently, in the unconscious of the female it is expressed as a masculine inner personality: animus. In The Web Planet, the Animus has no corresponding Anime, but it is voiced by a woman, so there’s that.  It’s also either some swirling lights or a sort of jelly-fish/spider built on a large round frame from from lengths of foam rubber, with no actor actually inside it.  It’s not much of thing but it looks about like anything else from this era of the show and is a bit creepy when they finally reach it.

Oh, almost forgot the Larvae Guns!  These are portrayed by guys crawling about on their hands and knees with a shell bit on their backs, hidden from view by a fringe of striped fabric.  Except one time one goes zooming across the set on a tea trolley like a slapstick punchline, WHOOOSH! You can totally hear the loud rumble of the castors on the studio’s wooden flooring and my sides nearly went into to orbit.

Stop watching all that Animu crap.

Having Trouble With The Costumes M8y?

Based on the above, you might understand how some people would drop this story into the “Giant Rat Problem” dustbin, but this is only true if you’re a foolish late-teenager posting online anonymously somewhere, instead of any sort of reasoning adult.  The obtuse dullards who would disparage this story under such foolishly thin complaints would presumably also ruin the Muppets with repeated autistic complaints about naturalism and the minutia of fauna: “Frogs don’t play banjos!  Bears don’t drive Studebakers!  Come down from space, pigs, you can’t pilot rocket-ships at all!!  If he’s a monster then why does he only eat cookies instead of people?!”  

Not to sound too harsh, but the costumes in "The Web Planet" only drive away the low-water-mark “fans” with mournfully limited understanding of production.  "The Web Planet" costumes were a coup de théâtre for the early show and remain a delight to this very day like the Muppets for any viewers unaffiliated by the “edgy as fuck”iness of today's misguided age; to attack these costumes is akin to the gormless attacking of Gonzo for being insufficiently alien.  Hell, the televisual programme FarScape used real Muppets and I’ve never heard anyone bitch about that - I’ve heard people bitch about Farscape’s nonsensical writing, regrettable direction, stilted dialogue, deeply unconvincing sets, unlikable characters, bland acting, and being difficult to sit through unless you’re profoundly bored, sure; but “Muppets for aliens” a complaint?  Never.  You’re on flimsy ground here, buddy, so why not just drop Doctor Who and go find something more your speed like 24 or Big Bang Theory or whatever.  These costumes and the sets are god-tier cool in ways little else in Doctor Who ever has been. Complaining about the special effects  or costumes of classic Who is as redundant as complaining whenever a bear shits in the woods, it's seriosuly mind boggling that this serial stands out as the one with quality effects when fans give hourly blowjobs to Robot   despite featuring the worlds greatest tank battle scene. 

Memorable Moments

  • The Doctor giggles like Yoda a lot; you might even say he chortles - yes, chortles, dear chap! Eh-hee-hee-hee!  Ah dear me…  Hatnelli’s clearly in top form here and having fun and you will too.
  • The above-mentioned tea-trolley Larvae Gun.
  • The Doctor tells Ian straight up “History doesn’t mean anything when you travel through space and time!” so FUCK CANON. Seriously, I may have to repost that on the "Canon" page.
  • The first moment a Menoptera takes flight actually works as an unexpectedsurprise, but now I’ve spoiled this for you by mentioning it.  Best to approach this episode long after you’ve forgotten this article but for a hazy memory of “didn’t the wiki say this one was good?”
  • One of the funniest bits is when an actor in an ant costume, fleeing an attacking Menoptra, bumps right into into the fucking camera because he can’t see shit inside his fiberglass turd-shell.  You can just imagine the director yelling “no second takes, I don’t give a flying fuck!  Move on to the next scene!”
  • Ian tells the Doctor he’s seen a colony of ants eat through a house, which leads me to suspect that Britain must be more exciting than I thought!  Maybe Ian was thinking of chavs, not ants.
  • “The Crater of Needles” is what I’m calling my next drug den.
  • The code word is “electron” and everyone pronounces “isotope” with a second P in it (“isop-tope”) because this is in the Isop galaxy I guess? The Face Of Bo comes from the Isop Galaxy by the way, down on route 7 near the IHOP.
  • The Doctor and Vicki are being controlled by the Animus to basically sleep standing up in episode six.  After his lively performance in previous episodes, when the Doctor wakes up here, you can really see Hartnell’s health was going downhill, he looks genuinely tired and disoriented.  It’s rather sad that he really doesn’t do much in six, maybe he was ill that week. Poor Bill!  ;_; Seriously underrated motherfucker, he is.


This is claimed to be the Doctor's fourth known visit to Vortis, but that’s bullshit of course.  Although he literally tells Ian on screen he has never been to Vortis before, he was said to have previously visited in two stupid books and one apocryphal comic story.  Additionally, the Second Doctor supposedly returned in another insulting book, the Fourth Doctor returned in another dumb comic and the Fifth Doctor in a fucking audio drama of course.  Christ, can’t you fanboys leave a decent enough idea alone without getting your sodding footprints all over it and ruining everything?!  The 'Tarded Dildo Corps wiki fussily informs us that the Doctor makes a total of seven known visits to Vortis, to which we tell them to fuck off because none of that shit is canon, only this one.

The music was created by a group called 'Les Structures Sonorés' ("The Structure Of Snoring" in French) who produced music on glass tubes, and it's pretty cool. This music was later reused in "Galaxy 4" (of which only one episode still exists).It’s a commonly repeated myth (even on the DVD release of the story in 2005) that the misty effect over the planet's surface was created by applying Vaseline to the camera lens.  The truth of how this camera effect was actually achieved is however much more disturbing and lead to a police inquiry shortly after the first part of the story aired.  The BBC has never directly addressed the repellent allegations nor the resulting controversy (except by denial, promulgating the “vaseline” story) and Verity Lambert was never brought up on charges.  This may perhaps be directly linked to her exit as producer of the show some months later.  

Most Pointless Trivia About This Story On Tardis Data Core

“Robert Jewell, Jack Pitt, Gerald Taylor, Hugh Lund, and Kevin Manser were credited as 'Zarbi Operators' for 'The Web Planet' and 'The Zarbi', then 'The Zarbi' for 'Escape to Danger' to 'The Centre'. They were billed as 'The Zarbi' in the fucking Radio Times for every episode from 'The Zarbi' to 'The Centre'.“  

Who the hell would give a damn about something like that? I bet Robert Jewell, Jack Pitt, Gerald Taylor, Hugh Lund, and Kevin Manser didn't. Fucking 'Tarded Data Corn.

The swirly-lights of the Animus! Pointless screen-cap I know, but I like these sorts of so-cheap-they're-brilliant special effects choices, so we're stuck with it.