When the credits rolled on The Enemy of the World, viewers got a glimpse of The Doctor, as played by Patrick Troughton, running through dark and creepy spaces. He spoke directly to the audience “Oh it’s you!” and promised more thrills next week with the return of a familiar enemy, The Yeti.
And so it was! Fifty years ago today, on 3 February, 1968 the first installment of The Web of Fear began on BBC1. These six episodes, the fifth serial of season five, were the first direct sequel attempted on Doctor Who and it set a few things in motion that would become staple features in the future.
Again, The Web of Fear was scripted by Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincon who had created The Great Intelligence and their robot servants, the Yeti, for The Abominable Snowmen. Apart from the return villain, Jack Watling was back as Professor Edward Travers. now sporting a beard to emphasise the passing decades since the Tibetan adventure. Cue lots of amazement when he finds The Doctor, Jamie and Victoria have not changed in the intervening years.
A thick fog and spread of a deadly web-like fungus around the London Underground has prompted an evacuation of the city. A group of soldiers remain to investigate and if possible neutralise the cause of this problem. Travers and his daughter are advising as scientists.
Within a few episodes, we are introduced to the Royal Engineers finest, Colonel Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart as played by Nicholas Courtney. He had originally been cast as another character, Captain Knight, while David Langton had been scheduled to appear as Lethbridge-Stewart. When Langton was unable to fill the role, Courtney got a quick promotion that would lay the foundation for a little bit of Doctor Who history. Don’t forget that face.
Legend has it the BBC applied to film on the London Underground but found the fees too exorbitant, Having built their own sets they were accused of filming illegally on the tube network.