DOCTOR WHO: Peter Capaldi and The Web Planet

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Christopher Morley considers a return to Vortis for our current Doctor.


If you were keeping an eye on everything Peter Capaldi said during his run-up to his big d├ębut as the Twelfth Doctor, you'll know that in the many interviews, and World Tour appearances, he's been going back down memory lane with regards to classic Who. His earliest memory seems to be a trip to The Web Planet- in case you haven't heard, we'll let the man himself tell the tale...are you sitting comfortably?
“I was five when the show started. I don’t remember Doctor Who not being part of my life, and it became a part of growing up, along with The Beatles, National Health spectacles, and fog. And it runs deep. It’s in my DNA. People look at them now and, understandably, mock the bargain-basement monsters, and the accidents and collisions that came from having virtually no time in the studio to shoot fantastically ambitious stories. But those old shows were only made to be watched once, on a flickering monochrome telly that smelled of valves and furniture polish. In that context, they succeeded immeasurably. They were triumphs of imagination. It may surprise you now, but something like The Web Planet [a story from 1965] lived powerfully and expansively in my head for decades… until the DVDs came along and spoiled the party. But I’m glad to say that the Menoptra eventually flitted back into my dreams, where they belong.”
You might begin to see exactly where this is going.

Could we be about to see Vortis return from exile in Capaldi's head? After all, it does seem Series 8 is looking to the 1963 vintage for inspiration! Coal Hill School? Check. Teachers as companions? Check. An older, more irascible Doctor? You'd have to say ' check' on the evidence we've been presented so far. But there's more...


Signet ring? Could be. Now then, lets take a look at what might have caused young Peter to be drawn into its web ( no pun intended).........onwards & upwards to the fifth story from Doctor Who's second season.


Praised by some as among the most inventive stories of the First Doctor's era & derided by others as an over-ambitious folly, The Web Planet found the Doctor, Ian, Barbara & Vicki battling the Animus ( imagine what would happen if an octopus & a spider attempted to mate, not to be confused with this lot), which would later be given a greater back-story as one of the Lovecraftian Great Old Ones ( All-Consuming Fire & a quick leaf through the Necronomicon anthology of H.P's collected Cthulhu Mythos works will explain more) & its giant ant servants the Zarbi.

They've been oppressing the Menoptra of Capaldi's dreams, humanoid bee/wasp-like creatures. The TARDIS, which the Doctor won't dream of calling 'sexy' for a while yet, is dragged into the conflict following a sudden drain on its power ( though somehow the scanner & nothing else works..oh, the vagaries of Time Lord mechanics). This should give you a taster...



While the First is fiddling with the console ( check this out for a clever demonstration/closer look around) , Vicki hears an odd noise....but only she, for she, being younger, has a higher range of hearing than her three senior colleagues! But what's the source of the din?

Its a Zarbi, & the noise is its means of communication. An attack by more of them armed with the mind-boggling living weapon that is the 'larvae gun' ( yes really) convinces the Doctor that he & Chesterton should nip out & explore their surroundings while Barbara looks after Vicki.


That handy old signet ring acts as a power source, explaining how they're able to get out through the doors in the first place! Ian knows something's up once they've been looking around awhile, telling the Doctor that he feels as if they're being watched. Now might be an excellent time to point out that any similarity to The Empire Strikes Back is purely coincidental. Even if the two do feature senior heroes, both of whom happen to be fond of saying ' hmm' a lot. And if you listen closely they could be said to have vaguely similar laughs!

If you're wondering what webs have to do with anything here, Ian soon gets caught in one as he & the Doctor peg it back to the TARDIS in an effort to help their lady friends out of some troubles of their own. But by the time the First makes it, he finds that his police box has done a runner! If that weren't enough to contend with, Barbara's possessed. Vicki does at least manage to work out how 'Sexy' is being moved- the mental powers of the Zarbi.

Amazingly its not until he manages to get a good analysis of the landscape that the First twigs where they are. He'd heard of it & the Isop Galaxy before, but this is his first proper look around the place! Its not long before he's caught up in the conflict between the Menoptra & the Zarbi, either. It all kicks off when one of the hostile ants tries to have a look around his ship. Enraged, he has a jolly cross word & tells them that on no account are they allowed to try that sort of thing again, or there'll be trouble.


The Menoptera are more sensibly attempting to send a signal to the rest of their kind telling them the Animus are still on Vortis, & it might be a good idea to watch out! So begins a quest to stop the fighting, the Doctor resolving that he's gotta get out of this place if its the last thing he ever does, well before the literal last thing he ever does- a maiden battle with the Cybermen in The Tenth Planet. Turns out the root of all this fighting is the Animus's possession of the Zarbi ( beforehand they'd lived in peace with the Menoptra).

The member of the bee/wasp-thingy species who tells Ian all of this, Vrestin, is played by Roslyn De Winter- a noted choreographer who gave the Menoptra both their distinctive style of movement & that unique voice. You might also be amused by the means the Animus & The Doctor use to talk to each other. It appears to be no less than a hairdryer, & a glimpse at a reel of William Hartnell's famous 'Billy-fluffs' would seem to confirm it...



But its as much about what we hear as what we see. The incidental soundtrack features stock music by the late French duo Les Structures Sonores, or ' Sonorous Sculptures' ( brothers Bernard & Francois Baschet), who were famed for creating 'sound sculptures' as well as inventing their own instruments. Here's just one example of their unique approach to the creation of sound...



Little wonder the newest of the Doctors remembers it so well- but will we see him return? Maybe in Series 9, or possibly even sooner. After all we know the Twelfth will be 'returning to the scene of an old adventure'- could it be Vortis? The chin-stroking starts here.....
Warped Factor
Words in the key of geek!