RRR 40 Doctor Who: The Romans, Doctor Who: The Web Planet

By Roy Mathur, on 2014-05-11, at 18:59:00 to 19:22:49 BST, for Roy's Rocket Radio

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Doctor Who: The Romans

(1st Doctor, Series 2, 4 The Romans 1-4, 1965)

Broadcast: 16 January - 6 February 1965
Writer: Dennis Spooner
Director: Christoper Barry
Producer: Verity Lambert
Cast: William Hartnell as the Doctor, Jacqueline Hill as Barbara Wright, William Russell as Ian Chesterton and Maureen O'Brien as Vicki (companions).

Synopsis: the team crash in the TARDIS sideways, there's an abrupt cut in the film and, the next thing we know, the team are dressed as Romans and luxuriating in a Roman Villa. No idea who's, but it's fully equipped (including grapes and wine).

The Doctor decides he wants to visit Rome with Vicki, but not the others, presumably because Vicki reminds him so much of Susan, and sets off on his journey. Later, when he comes across a dead musician, he is mistaken for the same; a famous Greek lyre player. They are then escorted to Nero's Imperial Palace in Rome.

Meanwhile back at the villa, Barbara and Ian are sold into slavery; Barbara a chamber-slave for Nero's wife and Ian ends up as a galley slave.

The team, as usual, inadvertently inveigle themselves into the usual convoluted machinations; Vicki getting involved with the Official Poisoner of Rome, Barbara fending off Nero's amorous advances, and then Ian, who escapes the galleys, but is re-captured and goes all Gladiator (Russell Crow-style).

Finally, after setting fire to Nero's plan for a new Rome, the Doctor narrowly escapes being executed, but inspires Nero to burn the city of Rome to the ground. As Rome burns, both the Doctor and Nero giggle.

By this time, Ian and Barbara have returned to the villa. Now the Doctor and Vicki do the same. They all finally re-unite at villa for a bit of last-minute R and R and then return to the TARDIS to continue their increasingly chaotic adventures.

My View: the tone of this adventure was a slightly uneasy mixture of Gladiator and Up Pompei/A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (though it pre-dates those by a good many years), but at least it was not overly long and it was entertaining.

There are some great quotes. My favourite (that I Tweeted earlier) is a line that could have come right out of Frankie Howerd's Up Pompeii, when Nero says to Barbara, "Close your eyes and Nero will give you a big surprise". (Actually he gives her a nice bracelet).

We also get a glimpse the Doctor's formidable combat skills---what presumably will later become Pertwee's Venusian Ju-Jitsu---when the Doctor enthusiastically trounces a would-be assassin.

There is another highly comedic scene towards the end when the Doctor "plays" a completely silent piece on the lyre for the court of Nero, which apparently can be appreciated by only the most refined of musical connoisseurs. Predictably no one cops to not hearing a thing. The Doctor tells Vicki it was a variation of the tale he told "Hans Anderson" (Hans Christian Anderson's Fairy Tale: The Emperor's New Clothes).

When re-united at the end of the adventure, the Doctor doesn't seem to believe a word of Barbara and Ian's adventures and puts it down to too much wine. How unbelievably annoying!

Doctor Who: The Web Planet

(1st Doctor, Series 2, 5 The Web Planet 1-6, 1965)

Broadcast: 13 February - 20 March 1965
Writer: Bill Strutton
Director: Richard Martin
Producer: Verity Lambert
Cast: William Hartnell as the Doctor, Jacqueline Hill as Barbara Wright, William Russell as Ian Chesterton and Maureen O'Brien as Vicki (companions).

Synopsis: our team land on a misty, cold and hostile looking world called Vorbis.

The team then become involved in a sort of sentient insect civil war between the good guys, led by the bumble bee-like winged Menoptra; a group of high-tech exiles returning home with a fleet to free their planet and the big, scary ant-like Zarbi; controlled by the evil arachnid Animus.

And, of course, with the Doctor's help, Animus is defeated and the planet begins it's journey back to peace. The team leave their friends celebrating their freedom.

My View: there is a lot going on in the story and I wish I paid closer attention (I watched this over a very busy week).

It is definitely something I'd like to come back to at some stage because the dialogue is, in places, beautifully poetic. There are, in fact, a smattering of lovely soliloquies spoken throughout the adventure by the graceful Menoptra.

Admittedly, there are also many occasions when you will laugh yourself silly at the pantomime-like costumes of the insectoid creatures. The Zarbi occasionally look a little ridiculous with their dragging abdomens bumping uncomfortably on the studio floor. There are also some insects who move by hopping. All I can say is don't be drinking something like a huge bucket of pop while watching this because you'll choke with laughter.

If you can get past the costumes and lose yourself in the drama, it is good and continues with the theme of looking beyond the skin of a truly alien, but fascinating culture. Fans of Alan Dean Foster's Humanx Commonwealth series of books will love this one.

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