It had to happen sooner or later.
An early Doctor Who story that I really didn’t care for…
Airing from 13 February to 20 March, 1965, the story is undoubtedly ambitious, but for the first time, the men in alien costumes thing just didn’t work for me (no doubt now, the story could work with CG augmented characters and the like but at the time, it was enough to oust me from the story completely).
Written by Bill Strutton, the TARDIS is pulled down to the planet Vortis and the travelers find themselves caught up in a war, as an insect like species that look like men in bumble bee/butterfly outfits, the Menoptra, and put me in mind of the Monarch and his henchmen from The Venture Brothers.
They are at war with the Animus, who are using the ant-like Zarbi (men encased in ant costumes, with spinldy arms, but regular legs), and the Doctor (Hartnell), Vicki (Maureen O’Brien), Barbara (Jacqueline Hill) and Ian (William Russell) find themselves caught up in the middle of it all, until they ally with the Menoptra (who occasionally fly, and it looks surprisingly good for the time) to confront the evil that threatens their world.
Over the six episodes, The Web Planet, The Zarbi, Escape to Danger, Crater of Needles, Invasion, and The Centre, our heroes tumble from danger to danger, try to figure out what is going on, and then lend their aid to those that need them, all while the threat of the Animus keeps them trapped on the planet.
Besides the costumes, I’m not quite sure what else ejected me from the story, but for some reason, I just couldn’t find a way into it, and consequently, this is really the first Doctor Who story that I didn’t enjoy at least on some level. I kept wishing for the story to be done so that we could move on to the next adventure, The Crusade.
I think the thing that bothers me most is that the previous story was just so much fun, and I was starting to see sides of The Doctor, as well as storytelling that would become hallmarks of the series, and then, boom, what feels like a huge misstep. I could be wrong, and I may even revisit the story some day, but for now, I can’t wait to put this one behind me, and continue my travels in the TARDIS.