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Doctor Who and the Zarbi by Bill Strutton
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This is the second Doctor Who novelization ever published and is of the second season serial commonly known as The Web Planet, a First Doctor story. This novel was written by Bill Strutton, who wrote the screenplay for the televised serial, and this novelization was originally published in 1965 (and subsequently reprinted by Target in 1973). This is not one of the 12 novels that BBC Books has currently reprinted, although it was listed in an online poll where fans voted on which books to reprint first.

The Doctor, Ian, Barbara, and Vicki crash-land on a strange barren planet (much like the Earth's moon) when they lose control of the TARDIS. On it, they find the butterfly-like Menoptra and the ant-like Zarbi. The Zarbi, normally peaceful cattle-like creatures, have become hostile and organized while the Menoptra are attempting to re-claim their planet from the Zarbi and the strange web that is spreading over its surface. The TARDIS crew gets mixed up in this battle and ultimately get to the bottom of what's going on, as you'd expect.

I watched The Web Planet a few years ago on DVD, and it was not one of my favorite stories: not that it was bad, but it just didn't stand out in my mind. The Menoptra were reasonably believable (although the furry body and striping of their costume reminded me more of a bee than a butterfly), but the Zarbi costumes were a bit ridiculous: as bad as the old two part horse costumes where one person is the head and front legs of the horse and the other person is the horse's behind. ;) It just seemed very unwieldy and unbelievable, even for the special effects of the time it was made. Reading this book made me re-evaluate the story and I feel like I want to go back and give the serial a second chance. The book consists of six very long chapters which probably corresponds to the episodes as they aired since it was a six part story. I haven't compared the book to the televised episode, so I can't say how faithful it was, but I will have to do that at some point now that I have a desire to rewatch the televised serial. :) ( )
  hwlester | Sep 15, 2012 |
Doctor Who and the Zarbi was based on the story now generally called The Web Planet, which crashes and burns spectacularly awfully on screen because today's viewers cannot take the production values seriously. The book is a bit better, because the printed page and the reader's imagination, rather than the unforgiving camera, supplies the details of the various non-human races in conflict on the planet Vortis. In principle it makes a good sf story, perhaps the best sf story, in terms of the norms of the genre, from the whole Hartnell era.

The book does suffer from a couple of weaknesses. Most bizarrely, and uniquely, the central character is referred to as 'Doctor Who' rather than 'the Doctor' throughout, and the Tardis loses the definite article, as if Tardis was just the name of the vessel. Also, in places the book feels uncomfortably like what it is, a TV script cast in different format, and one feels that Strutton is just writing what appeared to the viewer on the screen. Having said that, though, the book is still better than the original TV story. ( )
  nwhyte | Apr 4, 2008 |
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