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The Web Planet is the fifth serial of the second season of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in six weekly parts from 13 February 1965 to 20 March 1965. The serial involves the time traveller the First Doctor (William Hartnell) and his travelling companions Ian Chesterton (William Russell), Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill), and Vicki (Maureen O'Brien) allying themselves with the former inhabitants of the planet Vortis, the Menoptra, as they struggle to win back Vortis from the malignant Animus.

013 – The Web Planet
Doctor Who serial
Captured by the Animus.jpg
The Doctor and Vicki are captured in a web by the Animus.
  • Catherine Fleming — Animus voice
  • Roslyn de Winter — Vrestin
  • Arne Gordon — Hrostar
  • Arthur Blake — Hrhoonda
  • Jolyon Booth — Prapillus
  • Jocelyn Birdsall — Hlynia
  • Martin Jarvis — Hilio
  • Ian Thompson — Hetra
  • Barbara Joss — Nemini
  • Robert Jewell, Jack Pitt, Gerald Taylor, Hugh Lund, Kevin Manser, John Scott Martin — The Zarbi
Directed byRichard Martin
Written byBill Strutton
Script editorDennis Spooner
Produced byVerity Lambert
Executive producer(s)None
Incidental music composerStock music by Les Structures Sonores
Production codeN[1]
SeriesSeason 2
Length6 episodes, 25 minutes each
First broadcast13 February 1965 (1965-02-13)
Last broadcast20 March 1965 (1965-03-20)
← Preceded by
The Romans
Followed by →
The Crusade
Doctor Who episodes (1963–1989)


An unknown force pulls the TARDIS off course and forces it to land on an unknown planet. Whilst exploring with Ian, the First Doctor recognises the planet as Vortis; however, the presence of several moons in the sky of the normally moonless planet puzzles him.

Inside the ship, an unknown force acting through Barbara's gold bracelet draws her outside, leaving Vicki alone. The TARDIS is then pulled by an unseen force across the planet's surface.

In her trance, Barbara walks into a trio of the butterfly-like Menoptra. They remove her bracelet, freeing her of the trance, then debate what to do with her. She escapes, but the Zarbi immediately capture her. Brainwashed through the use of a gold collar, the Zarbi use Barbara to find the Menoptra. The Zarbi take Barbara and the Menoptra called Hrostar to the Crater of Needles, where the Zarbi force them to gather vegetation and drop it into rivers of acid which feed the Animus.

The Zarbi capture the Doctor and Ian and take them to the Carsinome. There they find Vicki and the TARDIS. They also meet the Animus who forces the Doctor to help it track down the Menoptra invasion force. Ian escapes, whilst the Doctor and Vicki try to bide their time.

A Menoptra, on display at the Doctor Who Experience.

Ian meets with a Menoptra called Vrestin. He learns that the Menoptra were native to the planet Vortis along with the Zarbi, until a great evil force, the Animus, slowly and gradually took control of the planet through the Zarbi. By the time the Menoptra noticed the danger it was too late, and they had to flee the planet to one of the moons the Animus pulled into orbit around Vortis.

Back in the Carsinome, the Doctor accidentally reveals that the Menoptra spearhead plans to land at a place near the Crater of Needles. The Animus uses this information to ambush them.

The Zarbi soon locate Ian and Vrestin, but they escape when they fall into a tunnel. Inside they meet the Optera, descendants of the Menoptra who fled the Animus underground. Ian and Vrestin convince the Optera to join them in fighting the Animus.

At the Crater of Needles, Barbara and Hrostar escape and try to meet up with the spearhead to warn them, but the spearhead is massacred.

At the Carsinome, the Doctor works out that the Animus uses gold as a conductor to channel its mesmerising force. He counteracts this force to control one of the Zarbi. The Doctor and Vicki escape. They meet up with Barbara and the Menoptra and devise a plan to attack the Carsinome.

The Doctor and Vicki return to the Carsinome, where the Zarbi take them to the Animus, a great spider-like creature, which mesmerises them. Meanwhile, Barbara and the Menoptra launch their attack on the Carsinome from outside whilst Ian and Vrestin with the Optera reach the Animus from below. They eventually defeat the Animus with a bomb.


The story had the working title of The Webbed Planet. Episode six was initially titled "Centre of Terror". The novelisation restores this title for the sixth chapter.

Jacqueline Hill was written out of "Escape to Danger" in order to give her a week's holiday and was uncredited on-screen, though she was still credited in Radio Times. She requested that her credit be reinstated when the story was made available for overseas sales, but this was not acted upon.[2]

Daphne Dare created the unique costumes for the varied alien species.[3]

Cast notesEdit

Noted choreographer Roslyn de Winter was hired to create the distinctive movements and stilted speech of the Menoptra. She was so successful that the production team asked her to take on the role of the Menoptra Vrestin (which she accepted). A special credit for de Winter, "Insect Movement by..." was included on the closing credits of "The Zarbi" to "The Centre".

This serial marked the television debut of Martin Jarvis.[4] He later appeared as Butler in Invasion of the Dinosaurs (1974)[5] and as the Governor of Varos in Vengeance on Varos (1985).[6]

Broadcast and receptionEdit

EpisodeTitleRun timeOriginal air dateUK viewers
(millions) [7]
Archive [8]
1"The Web Planet"23:5713 February 1965 (1965-02-13)13.516mm t/r
2"The Zarbi"23:2020 February 1965 (1965-02-20)12.516mm t/r
3"Escape to Danger"22:5227 February 1965 (1965-02-27)12.516mm t/r
4"Crater of Needles"25:506 March 1965 (1965-03-06)13.016mm t/r
5"Invasion"26:0413 March 1965 (1965-03-13)12.016mm t/r
6"The Centre"24:2820 March 1965 (1965-03-20)11.516mm t/r

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 serial was believed lost in the BBC's early 1970s purge until negative film prints of all six episodes were recovered from BBC Enterprises in the late 1970s. Unedited prints of all six episodes were also discovered in Nigeria in 1984. The BBC holds two different versions of episode six; one in which the "Next Episode" caption referred to "The Lion" and the other with the caption naming "The Space Museum", which was the only story still available for sale by the BBC in 1974. (The different caption is not due to The Crusade being withheld from sale to Arab countries as is commonly thought, since the package of serials sold to Arabic countries did not extend beyond The Rescue.)[9]

In 2008, Mark Braxton of Radio Times acknowledged the effort put into the costumes and "superbly atmospheric" sets, despite the fact they did not hold up well. He felt that the story had an "almost total absence of excitement" and might not even work as a four-parter, but it did have ambition and a deeper meaning about good versus evil.[10] Neela Debnath of The Independent stated that The Web Planet was "enjoyable" with ambitious writing that "lacks impact given the poor quality of the visuals".[11] Den of Geek named The Web Planet as one of the ten most underrated classic Doctor Who serials, noting that it "is a joy for being so different" even if "the ambition might outstrip the execution".[12] Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping said the story was "Imaginative, ambitious, and, by modern standards, slow and silly looking. It's hard to judge a story that, at the time, was astonishing but has aged so badly." They nevertheless said "You've got to appreciate lofty ambitions."[13]

Commercial ReleasesEdit

In printEdit

Doctor Who and the Zarbi
AuthorBill Strutton
Cover artistChris Achilleos
SeriesDoctor Who book:
Target novelisations
Release number
PublisherTarget Books
Publication date
2 May 1973

The serial was the second to be novelised by the publisher Frederick Muller. It was written by Bill Strutton under the title Doctor Who and the Zarbi in 1965. In 1973 Target Books acquired the rights to the novelisation and reprinted it as one of the first in their long-running series of Doctor Who novelisations, although when the imprint began numbering the books in the series, The Zarbi was listed as Number 73 in the series. A Dutch translation was published in the Netherlands in 1974, and a Portuguese one in 1983.

In 2005 the novel was also issued by BBC Audio as part of the Doctor Who: Travels in Time and Space audio book collectors' tin, read by William Russell.

Home mediaEdit

The Web Planet was released on a double VHS in 1990. In North America it was released as a single VHS. It was released on DVD on 3 October 2005 in the United Kingdom (Region 2), 3 November 2005 in Region 4, and 5 September 2006 in Region 1.


  1. ^ Bentham, Jeremy (1986). Doctor Who: The Early Years. London: W.H. Allen. p. 221. ISBN 0-491-03612-4.
  2. ^ Howe, David J.; Stammers, Mark; Walker, Stephen James (1994). Doctor Who The Handbook – The First Doctor. London: Doctor Who Books. p. 92. ISBN 0-426-20430-1.
  3. ^ "The Web Planet ★★★". Radio Times.
  4. ^ "BBC - Drama - Shakespeare - Much Ado About Nothing - Martin Jarvis as Leonard".
  5. ^ "BBC - Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide - Invasion of the Dinosaurs - Details".
  6. ^ "BBC - Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide - Vengeance on Varos - Details".
  7. ^ "Ratings Guide". Doctor Who News. Retrieved 28 May 2017.
  8. ^ Shaun Lyon; et al. (31 March 2007). "The Web Planet". Outpost Gallifrey. Archived from the original on 18 June 2008. Retrieved 30 August 2008.
  9. ^ Molesworth, Richard (2010). Wiped! Doctor Who's Missing Episodes. Telos Publishing Ltd. pp. 316, 419. ISBN 978-1-84583-037-3.
  10. ^ Braxton, Mark (21 December 2008). "Doctor Who: The Web Planet". Radio Times. Retrieved 20 December 2012.
  11. ^ Debnath, Neela (28 February 2012). "Review of Doctor Who 'The Web Planet' (Series 2)". The Independent. Retrieved 20 January 2013.
  12. ^ "Ten Under-rated Classic Doctor Who Stories". Den of Geek. 6 July 2009. Retrieved 20 December 2012.
  13. ^ "BBC – Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide – The Web Planet – Details".

External linksEdit