2 out of 3 found this review helpful.
Tangled Web is perhaps one of the most irritating Doctor Who stories of all time. For two-thirds of the runtime, the story seems to be building some great ideas and plot into it's mix. But then, along comes one twist which just seems to feel not only totally predictable, but also one that ruins any great work that was done in the first two-thirds. Suffice to say, listening to Tangled Web is a rather frustrating experience. To start with, it does seem as if it's going to follow it's predecessor Fugitives, by jumping all through time. However, after a huge info-dump at the beginning of the story, things finally settle down into a more relaxed pace, and the middle sections of the story definitely do show off why Dark Eyes is highly regarded by some. The conversation between the Doctor and Molly after the time-clamping of the TARDIS about hope is probably one of the box set's strongest moments. The character of Molly is really developed here, and, despite some irritatingly crabby moments in other parts of the story, she feels much more like a companion of the Doctor here: someone that can definitely be related too, rather than the cold, detached cypher in Fugitives (although some of her habits like calling the TARDIS 'Tardy Box' are still really irritating). The lovely way she sees that maybe she is a burden to the Doctor is really touching, and I really liked how she seemed quite reflective about the idea of her maybe going home. The Doctor also goes through a really good journey here too. This story really does pick up upon the idea that the Doctor has hardened himself more after the death of Lucie Miller, and his reluctance to accept that the Daleks have changed is a really nice plot idea that is developed across the episode. Unlike the characterisation in the last episode, which just seemed thrown in at random points where it was convenient, this was consistently developed. The plot I did think was a little slight in this section, but I thought the characterisation and ideas certainly made up for it. And what powerful ideas they are: after a devastating war with the Time Lords, the Daleks turned good and decided to establish Skaro as a planet of peace. Now, if that's not an enticing concept full of rich potential, then I don't know what is. And this is where the story sings: because it's got a great idea and some fantastic work is being done with it's characters. Sure, we have Straxus interrupting events, but overall our attention is focused upon what's going on with the Doctor and Molly. But then comes the twist, and I'm sorry to say that this is where the story starts to unravel. It just ends up coming across as an attempt to do something brave and then just chicken out at the last minute. In many ways, the twist is like the reveal of the Master in UNIT Dominion: shocking. But, while that twist allowed that story to shift up a gear, this actually restricted this story, and it just ended up feeling badly misjudged and mishandled. It's a shame, because up till that point, this was a very enjoyable episode. We also get some really badly handled foreshadowing in the last third, and a poor cliff-hanger, which just seems like an attempt to throw them into danger for the next part of the box set. As said, the characterisation of the Doctor and Molly was fantastic, but the rest of the characters never really got the time they needed to breath properly. Straxus and Kotris are definitely remaining interesting, although most of that is through Moffat-style mystery and intriguing words, rather than anything actually puzzling. The acting in this part though once more continues to be superb, with Paul McGann and Ruth Bradley now really well bonded. The pair bounce off each other really well, and I think the dynamic they have together is superb. I'd also like to single out Toby Jones for praise, as a lot of what makes Kotris such a cool villain is due to him. He really brings a lot of much needed menace to the part. The rest of the cast were similarly excellent, as was Nicholas Briggs' constantly strong direction. I really loved the way that he brought out subtle nuances in the script throughout, and I thought he did a really great job with the Dalek voices too. Andy Hardwick's music and sound design was similarly fantatstic, as seems to be a recurring feature with this box set. However, Tangled Web is a major let-down. After the amazing initial promise, Tangled Web gets lost in the maze of plot elements that this box set is made up of, and a reluctance from Briggs to take a real risk with the Daleks. And that's probably why this story will never be remembered, despite the fact that, for three quarters of it, it deserves to be.