For a series that’s entering its 32nd season, Doctor Who has had some ups and its had some downs. Every era has its classics and then every era has those stories you’d just rather forget about it.
When I first began collecting the full run of Doctor Who years ago, I knew there’d be some stories I’d add to the collection simply to be a complete-ist and not because I necessarily wanted to revisit them on a regular basis. But at the top of that list was a six-part story from the first Doctor era, “The Web Planet.”
Set on the plant Vortis, this six-part story from the William Harntell era finds the TARDIS landing on a web planet where several races of giant insects are in conflict. Called an “experimental” story at the time, it’s one of many such attempts by the show over its run to push the boundaries of sci-fi television. And, unfortunately, it fails in just about every aspect. There’s a legend among fans of the show that if you watch carefully, you can see the exact moment when series star William Russell decides it’s time to leave the series. I’m not sure this is necessarily the case, but it’s easy to see why Russell might believe the show is running out of steam.
The various insects are brought to life by a variety of techniques. Some are paper mache ants, others are people dressed up butterfly and bumblebee suits. It might be easier to forgive if not for the fact that the voices for the various insects can be a bit grating and that large chunks of this story are filmed with Vaseline smeared on the lenses. It’s supposed to make Vortis look unearthly and alien. Instead it makes it appear fuzzy and like you should adjust the focus on your set.
On top of all that, the story isn’t really that interesting or exciting. It’s slow moving and it has a tendency to bore me to tears. Sure there are a lot of other stories that get a lot of things wrong, but at least they’re not dull. This one is and that’s why it’s my least favorite Doctor Who story.