Doctor Who-The Web Planet (1965)

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Released 2-Nov-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction Main Menu Introduction
Menu Animation & Audio
Audio Commentary-Director, Producer And Actor
Alternate Audio-Spanish Sound Track On Episode 6
Informational Subtitles
Audio-Only Track-The Lair Of Zarbi Supremo, Read By William Russell
DVD-ROM Extras-Dr Who Annual (PDF)
Gallery-Give-A -Show Slides
Featurette-Tales Of Isop
Gallery-Photo
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1965
Running Time 146:30
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Richard Martin
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring William Hartnell
William Russell
Jacqueline Hill
Maureen O'Brien
Martin Jarvis
Case ?
RPI $34.95 Music Ron Grainer (theme)


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.29:1
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
English Information
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

One of the more ambitious Doctor Who serials from the 1960s, The Web Planet stars William Hartnell as the original Doctor, along with William Russell as Ian, Jacqueline Hill as Barbara and Maureen O’Brien as Vicki. These four travellers make a forced landing on Vortis to find the planet under the control of the mysterious Animus and its ‘web’. The Animus is using as slave labour the giant ant-like Zarbi and is also engaging in repelling an ‘invasion’ (actually a reclamation of their world) by the Menoptera, who look like human bumblebees.

The Web Planet strove to create an alien world on a very tight budget, and while one can admire the resourcefulness of the designers, watched today this program is extremely dated. It was never going to be possible to convincingly portray giant ants, and the Zarbi, with their very obviously human legs, are laughable by modern standards, while the Menoptera at least look elegant (mainly due to their fluid movements), though they tend to evoke memories of Mister Doo-bee. In fact, a friend of mine once popped over while I was watching The Web Planet and said, “What’s this, Romper Room?”

As a child I had a copy of the book Doctor Who and the Zarbi, the novelisation of this serial by the original author Bill Strutton. It was beautifully written and evoked images of an amazingly creative Doctor Who serial. Unfortunately, watching the program was a letdown! That said, The Web Planet will be of great interest to diehard DW fans, and the prints used for the DVD have been subjected to considerable restoration work, so it is a big improvement over the old VHS release and the prints shown on Foxtel and the ABC.

Budget allocations required that this serial run to six episodes so as to get the most out of the expensive sets and costumes; this results in a lot of padding and an extremely slow storytelling pace. While this seemed to work well in book form, on television it is yawn-inducing for modern audiences. There are also numerous instances of bad blocking of actors and monsters, and the direction is generally uninspired. The performances of most of the regular cast are good (Maureen O’Brien excepted, who is never the least convincing) and it’s nice to see stalwart actor Martin Jarvis in an early television role.

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Transfer Quality

Video

The six episodes of this serial are presented in the original format of black and white, 1.29:1 video, obviously not 16x9 enhanced.

The video has been subjected to comprehensive restoration work. It was sourced from 16mm film prints made from ‘telerecording’ the original videotape master (the original videotapes are long gone from the BBC archives). As part of the restoration, the film prints have been cleaned up of as much grain and artefacts as possible, and a process called ‘VidFire’ has been applied which restores the more fluid ‘video look’ by interpolating extra frames into the image. The idea behind this is to make the images look like the original video as broadcast in the UK – rather ironic for Australian viewers, as we would only ever have seen The Web Planet from the film prints here, as this was the format in which the episodes were supplied to the ABC.

While the restoration work is certainly impressive (a comparison of the DVD to the 1990s VHS release shows a remarkable improvement in image clarity, contrast and black levels), that doesn’t mean the video is perfect nor anything like the standard of a modern television recording.

The images are extremely soft and there are variable amounts of grain, which at times detract from the illusion that one is watching a transfer of a video (as opposed to film) master.

However, as you would expect with the amount of care which has gone into the restoration, black levels are very good as is contrast, and there are no MPEG artefacts.

There is the odd occurrence of film artefacts, though most of these have been digitally removed.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

The audio has also been restored and is far better than the old VHS release which was extremely hissy. Nevertheless it betrays the age of the original recording and the limitations of the technology of the time. Dialogue is always audible but some of the incidental music is rather muddy. There are also noticeable instances of extraneous studio noise, which some effort has been made to tone down, but it’s still distracting. We hear occasional muffled thuds and bumps (and even muffled speech) which may be coming from the studio staff, and this is particularly noticeable during the quieter passages.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Introduction

The standard menu for Doctor Who DVDs featuring the TARDIS and 1980s arrangement of the theme music.

Menu Animation & Audio

Again the standard standard menu format for Doctor Who DVDs featuring clips and dialogue extracts from the serial.

Audio Commentary

An informative commentary track featuring actors William Russell and Martin Jarvis, producer Verity Lambert and director Richard Martin spanning all six episodes.

Alternate Audio

Episode six gives you the option of Spanish sound sourced from a Spanish dub of the episode.

Informational Subtitles

Comprehensive background notes which can be displayed during the program and which provide everything a Doctor Who fan could possibly want to know about The Web Planet, and then some.

The Lair of the Zarbi Supremo audio only track 56:45

This is a short story from the 1965 Doctor Who Annual, read by William Russell who played Ian in the series. Probably of interest to children and diehard fans only.

DVD-ROM Extras

The entire 1965 Doctor Who Annual is accessible on the DVD as a PDF file.

Photo Gallery 6:46

Some nice on-set stills, which of course are much better quality images than the video of the program!

Tales of Isop 37:51

This is a ‘making of’ featurette which includes interviews with producer Verity Lambert, director Richard Martin, make-up designer Sonia Markham, designer John Wood and actors William Russell, Martin Jarvis and Maureen O’Brien. It is a quite interesting and insightful retrospective piece which gives some idea of the scope and ambition of the original production.

Give-a-show Slides

A slideshow comprising children’s picture cards which were sold in the 1960s and which more or less tell the story of The Web Planet. Of interest only to diehard fans and folks interested in this sort of esoterica.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

Not yet available in Region 1, but the Region 1 releases are usually identical to the R2 and R4.

Summary

A good example of British 1960s children’s television (and despite the fact that Doctor Who was made by the drama department, it’s impossible to see this as anything other than a children’s show when watching it in 2005), The Web Planet is imaginative, very slowly paced sixties-style Doctor Who let down unfortunately by its budget but nevertheless of great interest to the program’s fans. (The episodes have been extensively restored).

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Alex Paige (read my bio)
Saturday, December 03, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-2200 (NTSC/PAL Progessive), using Component output
DisplayPanasonic TX-76PW60. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to Amplifier.
AmplificationSony STR-DB940
SpeakersFronts: B&W DM309; Rears: B&W DM303; Centre: B&W LCR3; Subwoofer: B&W ASW300.

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