Doctor Who Big Finish- Return to the Web Planet
Posted by dailypop on August 24, 2011
Return to the Web Planet
A sequel of sorts to one of the highest rated classic Doctor Who stories ever, the Web Planet, this audio adventure is lots of fun. On screen, director Richard Martin struggled with commendable zeal against impossible odds to create a stunning alien vision of a planet populated by human-sized sentient bugs. The result is mixed (more on that in my forthcoming Doctor Who and The Web Planet review), due to numerous constraints ranging from time to money to the confines of the set itself. Even with today’s computer generated ‘magic,’ a modern mounting of the Web Planet would face the same problems as in 1965. Big Finish had none of these limitations, however, and it shows… in your ears anyway.
Although the Doctor has returned to the Web Planet of Vortis in comic strips, novels and ‘give-a-show’ slides, it remains one of the more obscure alien worlds in the classic Doctor Who mythology. Combining faerie tale sentiment and fantasy with pulp science fiction elements, Bill Strutton’s original story grabbed viewers young and old back when it was first shown, but it has not had as much luck with a modern audience. There are many reasons for this, but almost all of them are circumvented when a similar story is attempted in an audio format.
The Doctor and Nyssa arrive on Vortis by accident, though the Doctor tries his best to make it seem like he made the trip on purpose. They are soon assaulted by a swarm of Zarbi, massive ant creatures as tall as a man and far more dangerous. Caught up in their migration, the pair of travelers get separated, Nyssa falls into a network of tunnels and the Doctor is hoisted into the air by a Menoptera, a majestic butterfly-like being. The Doctor’s rescuer, the aged scientist Acheron, explains that he is living in a massive tower in exile from his people, studying the Zarbi. His wingless daughter Hedyla rescues Nyssa from her plight, but not before the young woman meets a stranger who, like the TARDIS crew, is alien to Vortis. The stranger is scarred and frightened, departing before Hedyla can see him.
After being reunited with Nyssa, the Doctor is determined to discover what has changed the Zarbi’s behavior in such a destructive manner. The answer lies in a vast scarred plain called ‘the Desolation.’ Mounting a tame Zarbi named Arbara (presumably after the First Doctor’s traveling companion), the Doctor and Acheron depart for the Zarbi hive where they find a woman claiming to be the voice of Mother Life. The Speaker is in search of something called a lode-seed and cannot seem to communicate about anything else. Using a firecracker (a lovely nod to the Second Doctor), the Doctor and Acheron escape with the Speaker.
The stranger manages to get enough courage up to force his way into the tower. Named Yanesh, he is covered in vegetation that is growing on and into him and is anxious to find Xanthe, a being that he mistook Nyssa for on first site. The Speaker is clearly Xanthe, but has been altered by her time in the Zarbi hive so much so that she is no longer the same person. Distraught, Yanesh abducts Nyssa and Arbara and charges straight toward the marauding Zarbi, seeking oblivion rather than live alone. The Doctor has deduced what Xanthe and Yanesh really are and, using a pair of gliding wings made by Hedyla, swoops in at just the right moment to unite the pair. A strange process of biological fusion begins, life starts anew in the desolation.
Return to the Web Planet was released as a special ‘bonus’ for subscribers and is a portion of the standard running time of other Big Finish audio stories. A marvelous and bizarre tale, Return to the Web Planet pays homage to the early 1960′s Doctor Who era when the program was intelligent, unique and fearless in its exploration of new concepts.
Doctor Who- Return to the Web Planet can be ordered directly online from Big Finish Productions.