Written by Bill Strutton
Directed by Richard Martin
The disparate characters begin their own plans to finally rid Vortis of The Animus, The Doctor through infiltration, Barbara leading the invasion survivors, and Ian leading the Optera from below.
“Zombo. It’s his name. I gave it to him.”
This episode is fairly straight forward. All the pieces are being moved into place for the finale where we will finally see The Animus and its destruction. So much mystery has been given to this creature. Truly it is a fascinating idea, even without the cancer analogy. In some ways, The Animus is weak because it cannot see the opposing forces if they are not moving. It could not track The Menoptra forces, for example (as an aside, I realized I was spelling Menoptra wrong for the last few reviews). Yet, The Animus consumes the life from the planet. It seems it has been feeding on the magnetic pole of Vortis. The change in balance is what drug moons to Vortis’ orbit and also has trapped The TARDIS. If The Animus is destroyed, presumably this field will fail. As to the exact nature of The Animus, this is still unknown. Perhaps it is a creature from deep space. The Menoptra almost imply that The Animus thought itself into existence on Vortis. To people with cancer, this must sometimes seem how it appears. Sometimes we can trace our lifestyles and see what caused it. Other times, it may seem to appear spontaneously. The result is the same, a vile, destructive force.
The Doctor and Vicki are able to modify one of The Zarbi devices that is used to enslave people (as it is made of gold) using The Doctor’s ring. They enslave a Zarbi and escape. They meet up with Barbara and the survivors of the invasion force, who are trying to plan a new attack. Barbara suggests a fake attack on one quarter of The Carcinome while another force sneaks in elsewhere. The Doctor and Vicki decide to take The Isoptope, the weapon The Menoptra have created to destroy The Animus, and return to The Carcinome. Barbara seems to have taken command of the invasion force. She is the moral support at the very least. Finally, we have Ian, Vrestin, and The Optera moving underground to where The Carcinome is so they can get inside to The Animus from below. We’re all moving along quite well now.
First thought on this story: what, exactly, is The Doctor’s ring? He was very reluctant to part with it in The Reign of Terror when he was bartering for new clothes. At the time, this could have been nothing more than reluctance to let go of a valuable possession. Earlier in this story, he gave a bit of emphasis to it, but here he claims it has some sort of power, some type of secret. Sadly, I know in a later story, the ring is quickly forgotten. Skipping ahead a bit, in Power of The Daleks after The Doctor regenerates, the ring no longer fits, and The Doctor no longer seems to care about it. For an object with such special meaning to The First Doctor, it is surprising that, to the best of my knowledge, it is never brought up again. I’m sure it appears in one of the novels, though. That’s the kind of thing they would refer back to.
Second thought: I love the way The Optera describe things. They don’t speak in names, they have descriptions. Stalactites become teeth of stone. Dust or gas becomes “tunnel breathes vapor”. When they talk of breaking holes to the surface, they call it “making mouths in the wall to speak light.” This is such a small detail, odd to modern ears, yet very effective at giving a race their own patterns of speech. I like this detail. Yes, everyone seems to speak English (or The TARDIS translates or whatever) on other planets, but they always speak in easy-to-understand terms. Apparently The TARDIS also translates metaphors and colloquialisms. Not on The Web Planet, though. It would be tedious if this happened in every story, but it is nice to see the acknowledgment and the attempt here.
And my final, parting thought. If things had gone very differently, we could have had a Zarbi as a companion. Wouldn’t that have been fun?