The importance of visuals also connects with telefantasy more generally. Academic Catherine Johnson argues that early television practitioners such as Nigel Kneale and Rudolph Cartier emphasised television’s potential as a visual medium with a closer relationship to cinema than to radio and that this is evident in their Quatermass serials. For example, The Quatermass Experiment (1953), Quatermass II(1955) and Quatermass and the Pit (1958-9) all culminate with an alien entity being spectacularly revealed to the audience. Usually the connection between the 1970s Jon Pertwee era of Doctor Whowith its predominantly Earth-bound setting and the Quatermass serials is made (Chapman, 2013) and visuals remain important to Who. However, like many 1960s Doctor Who episodes, the last four episodes of The Quatermass Experiment are missing from the BBC Archives. Relying on a camera script, Johnson points to characters dialogue which emphasises the importance of characters looking: ‘Look!’ exclaims a character viewing a monitor while an engineer states ‘Up above Poet’s Corner - there’s something moving’. This, therefore, bears similarities with the battle scene in episode four of ‘The Web of Fear’, which was likewise missing until recently, and underlines the importance of efforts to recover missing television episodes. We want to see what characters are looking at and the camera techniques used to convey this.

While John Ellis (1982) was correct when he argued that television was unsuited to visual spectacle and that the characteristic mode of television was with the glance as opposed to the gaze, Johnson’s book and my analysis here, plus interviews that I conducted with fans of Doctor Who (O’Day, 2013) show that this was not always the case. Indeed, Ellis did point out that science fiction programmes could be an exception. For example, one fan told me of how he ‘valued the viewing experience more’ in the days before VCR’s and ‘Just like the cinema’ he ‘wouldn’t have looked from the screen’. Another fan noted that he ‘hated anyone’ so much as ‘making a noise…when the show was on’ while yet another fan remarked that he ‘had to absorb every frame as there was never any chance of a repeat unless the BBC were kind‘.

This leads nicely into the final part of this article which is a qualitative survey about the battle-scene in ‘Web of Fear’ 4. Some respondents revealed they had not yet watched the recovered episodes with one describing himself as a ‘laid-back fan’. Fan responses indicate the importance which some fans place on visuals. One fan who had seen ‘Web’ on first transmission and had listened to the audio commented that

‘In pure audio, it was incomprehensible, with telesnaps, it was comprehensible just about, with narration it was good but I did not think the reality would be anything like the audio version’

This fan writes that in audio-visual form

‘it is magnificent especially for an early evening show on BBC1 in the 60s. Douglas Camfield always gives the impression that he’s working in a different industry to most other 60s directors and he isn’t afraid to push the limits - the burnt out corpse in episode 6 is astonishing for the period. It looked straight out of a Hammer movie!…I really enjoyed it especially the battle sequence which was streets ahead of anything doctor who had tried up to that point. In fact the whole production is like that - for goodness sake, never mind the Underground station set; the fortress set has a ceiling!’

This fan, therefore, places the battle scene production values in the context of the story as a whole. Another fan who had seen the story on original transmission says however

‘I have very vivid memories of it. One of the many stories that I haven’t forgotten…I loved the audio version as it was the only way to reconnect with those memories at the time and I also had some inkling of visually what the rest of Web would look like from watching reconstructed episodes…the fight in Episode 4 was never really going to live up to the soundtrack, the pictures created in the mind’s eye’

This fan’s response is echoed by another old-timer:

‘Perhaps not un-surprisingly I have a strong visual memory of this story, so key moments - Yeti cutting off troops’ exit roads, breaking into yard, soldiers scrambling around crates for cover, the hand-to-claw fighting, the final massacre with web guns - are strongly etched in my mind and as such make for an easy accompaniment to the soundtrack’

One fan who had not previously seen ‘The Web of Fear’ but had listened to it on audio described the long battle scene from ‘Web’ 4 as having been

‘all bullets, roars and screams. Like listening to a football match without commentary’

but has reassessed the scene in audio-visual form as being

‘Fantastic. Probably one of the very finest Doctor Who action set pieces ever’ 

Again, a fan who does not have any memories of watching that particular story on original transmission writes of the audio version:

‘Borrrrrrring! It’s just a bunch of noise, and my mind wandered. Same with the reconstruction: I watched existing part 1 and reconstructed episodes 2 to 4 in 2013 prior to the episodes turning up. Part 4 used a clip or two and a still or two to represent the battle. Episode 4 was the last episode I watched of the reconstruction because I’d been bored…’

This fan reassessed the scene in audio-visual form noting

‘It’s likely the best battle scene to have taken place in Dr Who. Compare it to the War at Canary Wharf in ‘Doomsday’ and the battle in Web 4 is clearly the superior. It beats the battle in ‘The Invasion’ and any other UNIT story. It’s longer than the Raston Robot massacre of the Cybermen in ‘The Five Doctors’ so it’s superior to that too. It will never be as horrifying as Kate O’Mara impersonating Bonnie Langford’s Mel in ‘Time and the Rani’ but it’s a very close second’

Therefore, as this fan concludes:

‘It beat my expectations as I wasn’t expecting much at all. I’d assumed it would consist of soldiers firing guns from behind crates and failing to hit their targets. I’d assumed that the Yeti would stand around waving their claws around until the director decided he had all he needed to pad the episode out’.

Another fan who had never seen the story before commented that

‘The visual storytelling is strong, not just in the use of zooms but in the way Camfield follows each character to their fate, whether they meet it on film or on video’

What these comments reveal is that such narratives were not supposed to be experienced solely as soundtracks. One fan who had seen the story in the 1960s notes, as I did earlier in this article

‘The…major revelation I recall from when I first acquired a sound cassette recording of the episode in 1976...was that the entire battle scene was played to the incidental music I associated with the Cybermen. I don’t think use of that incidental track had made much of an impression on me in 1968’

This fan is more interested in ‘the direction and the tight, rapid editing’ and now at ‘the slickly cinematic and technical proficiency of the scenes’ which are ‘more thrilling and less ponderous’ than ‘a similar battle scene in ‘The War Machines’’.

One fan who had seen the story on first transmission notes of the battle scene from ‘Web of Fear’ 4:

‘It’s very well directed and manages to make the most of the Yeti. The visuals enhance the audio (or the other way around)’

Interestingly, this fan points to the interchangeability of monsters in this era of the programme, not by reference to the identical musical score being used for Cybermen and Yeti but by making a connection between ‘Web’ and ‘The Invasion’ as I did earlier in this piece:

‘It’s very similar in fact to the battle scenes in THE INVASION…different monster but same Director…’

Another fan who was too young to have seen the story on first transmission but had heard ‘a very poor quality “raw” off air recording and then the commercial narrated release’ commented that he supposed the battle sequence

‘must be good, given the director, and probably similar to battle scenes in The Invasion’

and found that the scene in audio-visual form

‘is better than…anticipated, which is nice’

Another fan  who had only previously listened to the audio of ‘Web’, comments that

‘it was just music on the audio’

but that having seen it he uncharacteristically remarks that

‘It is well done given the resources available but nothing exceptional’


This article has therefore shown that in 1960s Doctor Who the same music was used for the Cybermen and in one instance for the Yeti. This is akin to the way music defined an era, such as in the early John Nathan-Turner years when music from ‘Warriors’ Gate’ (1981) recurred in ‘Kinda’ (1982) and when music from ‘Four to Doomsday’ (1982) recurred in ‘Black Orchid’ (1982), but differs from individual characters and monsters being given their own distinguishable theme (see also the Nathan-Turner era as well as new Who). The second part of this article, however, went on to illustrate that the visuals of the monsters accompanying the musical score were crucial to the drama, hence the importance of recovering ‘missing episodes’ which exist only in audio form. The final part, meanwhile, also highlighted this indicating the importance which some fans place on seeing as well as hearing the episodes.

in pure audio, it was incomprehensible, with telesnaps, it was comprehensible just about, with narration it was good but in audio-visual form it is magnificent 

Chapman, J. (2013), Inside the TARDIS: The Worlds of Doctor Who, 2nd ed., London, I.B. Tauris.

Ellis, J. (1982), Visible Fictions: Cinema, Television, Video, London, Routledge and Kegan Paul.

 Hexel, V. (2014), ‘Silence Won’t Fall: Murray Gold’s Music in the Steven Moffat era’, in A. O’Day, ed, Doctor Who: The Eleventh Hour, London, I.B. Tauris, 159-77.

 Johnson, C. (2005), Telefantasy, London, BFI.

 O’Day, A. (2013), ’Event TV: Fan Consumption of Televised Doctor Who in Britain (1963-Present), in G.I. Leitch, ed, Doctor Who In Time and Space, Jefferson, McFarland, 7-24.

 Tulloch, J. and M. Alvarado (1983), Doctor Who: The Unfolding Text, Basingstoke, Macmillan.

Andrew ODay has a PhD in Television Studies from Royal Holloway, University of London. He is co-author of the book Terry Nation, editor of the collection Doctor Who: The Eleventh Hour, and has contributed to a range of volumes on both classic and new Doctor Who, including chapters on fandom in Doctor Who In Time and Space (McFarland, 2013)