Monday, September 12, 2005

'The Web Planet'

6 episodes

Ten episodes in a day. Boo-yah. Only 12 behind schedule now...

Very, very weird one, this. The picture quality is the worst I've experienced yet: very 'over-exposed', with pale colours such as faces and the survival jackets worn by the Doctor and Ian glowing white, and since the early segments involve wandering around a kind of desert the effect is to render one almost snowblind such is the glare. The 'glowing' patches also streak and smudge (lens filters, I gather) and everything echoes, which didn't help my equilibrium much either. The companions are drawn to a strange (and I use the word advisedly) planet, explore, get separated, and run into the indigenous fauna - Zarbi, which are man-size ants, and Menoptra, which are man-size butterflies. Although the costumes are inherently laughable, after a short while you get so used to the whole look you just accept it totally and don't notice this. Funny. As an experiment in presenting a very alien environment it is brave and works quite well, particularly as the Zarbi offer no concessions to 'human' behaviour patterns and are entirely insectile, communicating in bleeps like a child's impersonation of a ray gun. This does start to hurt the ears after a few episodes, though. The Menoptra are more humanoid and have a habit of lapsing into flowery philosophical dialogue, though they constantly maintain a bee-like swaying, jigging dance-type movement - this, coupled with their furred stripy bodies, regrettably creates an effect like watching the Fimbles on acid. Apparently the Zarbi are the servants/guards of an unknown evil entity known only as the Animus, which had invaded the planet some time earlier, and now sits at the centre of its dark web spreading chaos and decay. Or something. It's all very surreal indeed. The Zarbi use bizarre 'larval guns' - essentially, a woodlouse crossed with a tank - against the Menoptra, and when the different species confront each other they skirmish in a big insecty dance and then hit each other with sticks. Ian falls down a big hole. The Doctor and Vicky are captured and placated by having a sort of gold stethoscope placed on their shoulders that renders them catatonic while it is on. The latter suffers this approximately every five minutes for the rest of the story, every time she looks like getting a little frisky. Barbara is off somewhere else with some friendly Menoptra, who are trying to contact their reinforcement force to launch an invasion agaunst the Animus. As they have no decent weapons, their strategy appears to be launch a mass suicidal charge and hope. The Animus talks to the Doctor every time he is released from the stethoscope, by lowering a large plastic cylinder above his head, which makes him look like he is having his hair dried in a hairdresser's. He buys time by sort of helping her plans, inadvertently putting said Menoptra backups in danger. To do this he brings out a cool 'astral map' machine from the TARDIS to locate the reinforcements. After he has finished using it as a map, he uses it later as a power source to reverse the effect of the stethoscope and hijack a Zarbi. Then it gets used as something else, but I can't remember what any more. Then a plot device to destroy the Animus (some kind of isotope) gets hidden inside it. Then it is used as a coffee maker. Okay, I lied about the last one.

Anyway, I make it to halfway a littled frazzled but relatively unscathed, then go out with old friend (mentioned before) and her boyfriend and play pool for a bit. I return eager to get through the second video tape of this story. Unfortunately things go downhill badly from there. The Menoptera, sorry, Menoptra, plus some backup, have a rumble with the Zarbi mostly involving shouting at them loudly, and get trounced. Ian, plus Menoptra accompaniment, encounters underground a bunch of mutant woodlice worm things. They bounce instead of walking. Apparently they are the Optra (Optera?), degenerate descendants of the Menoptra. Their leader sounds just like Trade Federation leader Nute Gunray from the Star Wars prequels. They agree to ally with Ian's gang and head off towards the Centre (the Crater of Needles, I believe), where the evil Animus is. Then part five happens and I nearly fall asleep three times. It is the most ennui-inducing episode I have seen yet - every character stands around talking, then wanders along for a bit and talks some more. Even the Zarbi manage to look bored. One of the Optra commits suicide on the way - I can see its point of view. At least the aforementioned borrowing of a Zarbi via stethoscope occurs, and Vicki adopts it and gives it a nickname. The Doctor controls it mentally using the power of the One Ring upon his finger... hang on, I didn't mean it quite like that... The final part starts, and the whole shebang has blurred (literally) into a freakish hallucinatory ballet, with various huge insect creatures bobbing and weaving around each other mostly in interminable discussion. The Doctor and Vicki arrive at the Centre, and find the Animus. It is a giant tentacly jellyfish spider thing. It glows brightly and makes them go all funny again. They fall over, Vicki realising she has forgotten the plot device. The Animus rants (very calmly) something about galactic conquest, I think. Barbara and co. find the plot device in the astral map and turn up. The jellyfish rants at them in a civil fashion too, then they go all funny as well. Then it collapses and dies for no obvious reason. Ian and his party struggle in, and haven't achieved anything. The four travellers say goodbye and return to the TARDIS, which leaves. The insects get together in a sort of happy arthropod jamboree and pontificate some more for a full minute afterwards, before the programme ends. For the first time, there is no link into the next adventure. The most interesting thing is that the end credits pop up instead of scrolling. Aaaaargh. Undoubtedly ambitious, but just wall-to-wall bananas.


Episodes watched: 54
Episodes still to watch: 668


Anonymous said...

Fimbles on acid... I just love your blog - funny AND insightful all at once. Excellent!

Anonymous said...

You know, it might just be me, but I actually liked the Animus. It may be because, once you manage to get past all the surreal atmosphere and dialogue, it's oddly reminiscent of another of my favorite sci-fi television villains, the Borg Queen - I've half a mind that whoever came up with her must have seen this serial.

"Approach... approach, Earth-people. Your struggles... are futile."