Well, depending on your taste, "The Web Planet" is either vintage wine or soured vinegar. Opinion is dramatically divided on this one, and while I guess I'm in the "vintage wine" camp let me just make clear that I see where the detractors are coming from. I'm not sure how the special effects appeared to viewers in 1965, but age has not been kind to them and they look pretty fake today. Yes, I have to admit, when I first saw the Zarbi on the screen, I laughed despite myself--and this was by no means the last occasion I did so during this DVD. And the pacing is slow as snails by today's post-MTV standards and is bound to make the contemporary viewer feel at least a bit antsy.
For me, the epic storyline and the ingenuous conceptualization of the insectoid inhabitants of the planet Vortis more than make up for these problems. Especially the latter. In the 1960's how revolutionary it must have been to have "bug-eyed monsters" as the good guys, but the writer (Bill Strutton) goes way beyond that, endowing the characters with plausibly alien mannerisms, thought patterns, and cultural traits in a way unmatched by much science fiction even today. This is especially so of the Menoptra with their poetically alien turns of phrase almost sung rather than spoken, their gracefully moth-like body language, and their religion of Light-worship along with the cocoon-like organic, weirdly expressionistic design of their temples. And then there's the unusual idiom of the grub-like Optra, which makes them seem convincingly non-human (even if the actors' costumes don't): for instance, coming to a barrier in an underground passage, their leader says "A silent wall. We must make mouths in it with our weapons, then it will speak more light." Fascinating, imaginative, and original--speculative in the best traditions of science fiction.
Oh, and of course there's the Doctor. As usual, William Hartnell's rendition of the character is classic, and his long, tense battle of wits with the Animus is a high point of the story. Much of the suspense of the story lies here, in fact: how long can the Doctor con the villain into keeping him and his companions alive while not completely giving away the attack plan of the Menoptra "cavalry" (as it were). Hartnell pulls this off brilliantly, projecting stern resolve and intense intellectual agility with just a sparkle of mischief in his eye.
For all of these reasons, "The Web Planet" transcends its limitations and succeeds as vintage TV sci-fi a la BBC. To help with the (now) slow pacing, I might suggest watching only one or two of the six episodes at a time instead of watching it all in one go. Like a fine wine, it must be savored slowly, not gulped down. As for the effects, sit down and watch this DVD in the right frame of mind, disbelief suitably suspended and with a willingness to see past to the great story and fascinating ideas beyond the surface. Doctor Who fans should be well used to doing this anyway--in this case they might just have to work a bit harder at it, that's all.