Doctor Who/The Web Planet

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The Web Planet
Airdate February 13, 1965
Production Number N
Writer(s) Bill Strutton
Director(s) Richard Martin
← 012
The Romans
014 →
The Crusade
Doctor WhoSeason Two


The Web Planet is the fifth serial of the second season of Doctor Who, and the thirteenth serial overall.

Guest Stars: Hugh Lund (Zarbi operator), Roslyn de Winter (Vrestin), Arne Gordon (Hrostar), Arthur Blake (Hrhoonda), Jolyon Booth (Parpilius), Jocelyn Birdsall (Hlynia), Martin Jarvis (Hilio), Ian Thompson (Hetra), Barbara Joss (Nemini), Robert Jewell (Zarbi), Kevin Manser (Zarbi), Jack Pitt (Zarbi), Gerald Taylor (Zarbi), John Scott Martin (Zarbi), Catherine Fleming (voice of the Animus)

Plot Overview

The Web Planet

The TARDIS is slowly dragged down to the planet Vortis. Despite his best efforts, the Doctor cannot get the TARDIS to break free. They have so little power that the door switch doesn't even work. The Doctor is forced to use a backup method (passing his hands in front of a sensor of some sort) just to get the doors to open.

Ian and the Doctor go outside. Barbara stays behind to look after Vicki who is resting -- she has been hearing things and generally feeling bad. Barbara decides to clean up a bit. After Ian and the Doctor have been gone a while, she notices that her arm moves unbidden, as though it isn't a part of her, as though it had a mind of its own. Later, apparently under the same external influence, Barbara opens the door and goes outside.

The Doctor and Ian find a dilapidated pyramid, and Ian is caught in a web. Meanwhile Barbara has left the TARDIS and Vicki, awake again, is thrown against the central control console as the TARDIS itself lurches sideways. She presses every button, lever, and switch within reach.

The Zarbi

Both the Doctor and Ian remove their atmospheric density jackets -- they were only good for about an hour to start with. They return to where the TARDIS was, but it is gone. In the distance they can see it being dragged away. They follow as best they can in this thin atmosphere.

The Menoptra, a moth-like, bipedal species, remove Barbara's gold bracelett (the one she got from Nero in Rome) and throw it into a pool of acid. Barbara, who had been wandering around in a trace-like state, now becomes aware of where she is. As the Menoptra debate Barbara's fate, she makes a run for it. She does not get far before she is captured by the Zarbi (giant ants).

The doors of the TARDIS open and Vicki wanders outside where she is captured by the Zarbi. When a Zarbi tries to enter the TARDIS, it seems unable to go further, panics, and retreats to the outside again.

Through Barbara (using mind-control) the Zarbi discover the hideout of the Menoptra. The Doctor, Vicki, Ian, and Barbara are all prisoners of the Zarbi now.

The Doctor tries to communicate with the ant-like creatures using movements and gestures, but to no avail. Only when the Zarbi queen uses a cylindrical hood, lowered over the Doctor's head, are they able to communicate. She is firmly convinced that they are part of a Menoptra invasion force, and she has a little demonstration of force for any who would oppose her. A weapon extends from the wall and trains itself on them.

Escape to Danger

The weapon fires on the TARDIS, but it is undamaged. Miraculously, when Vicki pressed all those buttons, she somehow realingned the fluid link, restoring the TARDIS to working order. Unable to destroy the TARDIS, the Zarbi queen threatens to harm the Doctor and his companions instead.

Having promised to help the queen in order to save themselves, the Doctor and Ian enter the TARDIS to retrieve the astral map. Vicki stays behind as a hostage. The Doctor asks Ian to find Barbara at the Crater of Needles -- that is where the queen said Barabra was. He then gives Ian some pills to make breathing easier in the thin atmosphere.

Together, Ian and the Doctor roll the astral map out of the TARDIS. The astral map appears to be a computer a little over a meter tall, with several monitors displaying stars on top. The astral map remains plugged into the TARDIS by cable, after the Doctor sternly warns Ian he "must never break the time and relative dimension link." As they begin to work on the astral map to locate the Menoptran invasion fleet, the Doctor complains that the Queen's defenses are interfering with the equipment. When the Queen lowers her defenses, Ian manages to escape. The Doctor can hear the Menoptra invasion fleet's transmissions, but he does not inform the queen.

Meanwhile Ian is fighting and running from the Zarbi. Then he is caught by the Menoptra. He chats for a while with one of them (Vrestin) and is told that the Zarbi were once a natural part of the ecosystem on Vortis, but a "dark power" made them evil. They decide to work together and go to the Crater of Needles. There they will rescue Barbra and as many Menoptra captives as they can. On the way, Vrestin and Ian are ambushed. While retreating, they fall into a deep cravasse.

Crater of Needles

When the queen (known to the Menoptra as the Animus or the "dark power") learns that the Doctor has been withholding information, she threatens to harm Vicki. But due to limited time and resources, the queen must postpone her retribution until after the invasion has been repelled.

The Doctor and Vicki get a (gold) control collar and wire it into the astral map, hoping to reverse its effects. When the circuit is engaged, the astral map goes up in a puff of smoke. The queen notices and is quite angry. Vicki and the Doctor are soon wearing mind-control collars again.

Ian and Vrestin are captured by cave-dwelling Menoptra that have become accustomed to darkness and a life of flightlessness.

Elsewhere Barbara and the other Menoptra try to warn the invasion spearhead force that the queen knows of their plans, but they are too late. The Zarbi attack. Barbara and the last remnants of the spearhead force are surrounded, but at the last moment, escape into a secret passage in the cliff face.


Meanwhile Vicki has only been faking -- she is not being controlled by the mind-control collar at all. She is wearing the reversed collar that was altered by the Doctor. When it is safe, she removes the Doctor's collar, freeing his mind as well. Together they slip the modified collar onto a Zarbi guard, pacifying it immediately.

Barbara and the remnants of the invasion spearhead find their way into an ancient Menoptra temple. Their scientists have constructed a single weapon for use against the Animus: a cellular destructor.

When the Doctor and Vicki arrive at the temple and are reunited with Barbara, plans are made. Barbara and the Menoptra will conduct a mock attack on the surface, while the Doctor and Vicki will deliver the cellular destructor directly to the Zarbi queen (the Animus).

As a show of trust as well as out of necessity, the Doctor lends Hrostar, his ring that he uses to work the Zarbi control collar, thus allowing the Menoptrans to control a single Zarbi at a time. Before they can reach the centre however, the Doctor and Vicki are captured by the Zarbi and cocooned.

Elsewhere Ian and Vrestin are also headed for the centre, following the cave-dwelling Menoptra to where the Animus dwells.

The Centre

Vicki slips away as the Doctor is being interrogated by the Zarbi queen. She is able to hide the cellular destructor inside the astral map, before they are summoned to the centre. There they are slowly absorbed by the queen.

When the astral map fails to contact the invasion force, Barbara looks inside and finds the celluar weapon. The Menoptra give Barbara the weapon. They clear the way for her to get inside and kill the Animus, thus saving the Doctor, Vicki, and everyone else.

Water begins to flow on the surface again, instead of acid, and the Doctor gets his ring back.


Arc Advancement




  • The Doctor uses Ian's Coal Hill School tie to test a pool of acid. The tie is ruined. When Ian complains, the Doctor reminds him to be glad that there are only the remains of a Coal Hill School tie in the acid, and not the remains of a Coal Hill School teacher. Ian discards the remainder of the tie into the acid. Ian was a teacher at the Coal Hill School in 1963 London (in the episode An Unearthly Child).
  • Barbara finally tells Vicki that both her and Ian visited Rome and met Nero. She holds out her bracelet (a gift from Nero) as proof.


The Show

  • The atmosphere is so thin that the Doctor and Ian wear atmospheric density jackets with in-built respiratory compensators.
  • Early on, Ian's gold pen disappears. Gold plays an important role in the power of the Animus.
  • The Doctor gives Ian some pills to help with breathing in the thin, rarified atmosphere.
  • Vicki names the first Zarbi they control with the collar, "Zombo."
  • Ian's Coal Hill School tie was black with thin, emerald green stripes.
  • A larva gun is a roughly triangular, trilobite-like creature (approximately a metre on a side) with a gun for a nose.

Behind the Scenes

Allusions and References

Memorable Moments


The Doctor: History doesn't mean anything when you travel through space and time.


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