Sunday, January 26, 2014

"The Enemy of the World"

Aired Dec 23, 1967 - Jan 27, 1968

6 Episodes

Story 40

Written by David Whitaker

Directed by Barry Letts


The travelers arrive in Australia in the near future and learn from a man named Giles Kent that the Doctor is the physical double of Salamander, a scientist and politician who has discovered a means of storing and distributing solar energy and thus ending starvation in a world ravaged by natural disasters.

Most people see Salamander as a hero, but Kent and others believe him to be establishing himself as a dictator. The Doctor uncovers the truth by impersonating Salamander and gaining access to his research station. Salamander and Kent were originally working together. Almost five years ago, they convinced a group of people undergoing an endurance test in a bunker beneath the station that a war had broken out on the surface.

It is these people, led by a man named Swann, who, deceived into thinking that they are striking back against an evil enemy, have been engineering the so-called natural disasters. Kent, now exposed as a traitor, blows up the station. Salamander meanwhile tries to escape in the TARDIS by impersonating the Doctor. He neglects to close the doors before dematerialization, however, and is sucked out into the vortex.


Prior to its miraculous rediscovery in 2013, The Enemy of the World was seen as a dull sub-par James Bond pastiche made on the cheap mainly to accommodate Patrick Troughton's growing desire to play roles other than the Doctor. A lot of this opinion was formed by the fact that the only episode we had for many years, Episode 3, is by far the most boring of the six. Listening to the story via audio only releases didn't do much to reverse the opinion.

Having now seen the story, though, popular opinion is beginning to reverse itself. The story is kind of bonkers, true, but it's far more enjoyable than Episode 3 seen without context would suggest. The first episode is particularly well done, loaded with action and a breakneck pace, along with a sense of scale that really opens the whole thing up. Troughton's dual performances as Salamander and the Doctor, variable accent aside, is astonishing to watch and the other regulars deliver as well. The guest cast are uniformally excellent, with special mention being given to Bill Kerr as Kent and Colin Douglas as Bruce. But the real standout, both as a character and in performance, is Astrid, played to perfection by Mary Peach. In an era where the series would often depict women in a less than full-rounded way, Astrid is a revelation. She's smart, principled, and absolutely capable of matching wits and blows with any man in the story.

As I said before, the story is kind of bonkers, but in a fun way. Whitaker has created a Bond-influenced science-fiction adventure that is thrilling and intriguing, and is also a welcome change of pace from all the monster-dominated stories of this season. Barry Letts, one of the giants in Doctor Who's production history, provides his first work for the series. His direction here is actually far better than his later work on the series, I believe. That first episode is truly amazing, with helicopter shots and quick cuts. The climatic scene where Salamander and the Doctor are together on screen may not have worked out the way envisioned due to a jammed camera, but they certainly make the most of the footage they got.

Finding the story is amazing enough, but that a major re-evaluation of the whole story is the result is fantastic. Even more so is how many fans who had only ever seen the series post-2005 dove into the Troughton era as a result of its discovery. On its way to becoming a favourite. 

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