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DVD Review: DOCTOR WHO – “The Enemy of the World”

When it was announced in October of last year that 9 missing episodes of Doctor Who had been recovered and were available for immediate iTunes purchase, I, like most other fans of the program, was in a state of elation rivaling that of winning the lottery or not getting a speeding ticket. Nine whole episodes! More than had been returned in the past 20 years. When it was also announced that these episodes comprised the five missing parts of “The Enemy of the World” and four of the five missing from “The Web of Fear,” people were equally jazzed; Patrick Troughton’s tenure as the Second Doctor was almost entirely lost to time so any “new” Troughton was a blessing. Last month saw the release of “Web” on DVD here in the U.S. with a reconstructed Episode 3, and this month, the story which most agreed was a revelation upon its return, “The Enemy of the World,” gets a DVD release as well. It’s a good time to be a Doctor Who fan; it always is.

“The Enemy of the World” is the one outlier in Season 5, Troughton’s sophomore year. That season has become known as “The Monster Season” with its predilection toward alien menaces attempting to invade and the like. It began with “The Tomb of the Cybermen,” a true classic, and was followed by “The Abominable Snowmen” and “The Ice Warriors,” both of which introduced new lumbering extraterrestrial threats. The season’s final three stories were “The Web of Fear” which saw the return of the Yeti already, “Fury from the Deep,” a very creepy story about an alien creature that takes people over, and “The Wheel in Space,” which again saw the Cybermen. While each story has its charm, they do all have a sameness about them.

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However, smack dab in the middle is the six-part “The Enemy of the World” written by former script editor David Whitaker and directed by future show producer Barry Letts. It’s one of the rare instances of Doctor Who attempting an espionage thriller with only minor sci-fi elements, though they become more prevalent toward the end. When only episode 3 existed, people considered the story a bit boring, since the existing footage was just of people sitting and talking in a hallway or a kitchen area for the most part. Letts himself (in an interview recorded years ago regarding his direction) mentioned that he was sad none of the other episodes existed and swore he did a better job than that single episode suggested. Upon watching the now full and complete serial, it’s proved he was absolutely right. If only he’d lived to see its return.

The story follows the Doctor and his companions, Jamie (Frazer Hines) and Victoria (Deborah Watling), as they arrive on a sandy beach in Australia in 2018. The Doctor giddily runs into the water for a swim when the trio are suddenly set upon by a helicopter which tries to kill our hero. The people in the helicopter report that they’ve discovered Salamander, which seems to confuse all the higher-ups. It turns out, once the Doctor and his friends are captured/saved, that he is nearly the spitting image of Salamander, a dictator who rules over the United Zones Organization. This man appeals to a wide swath of the world’s population who might well allow him to rule everything, while he is also the target of assassination by those who are afraid of his power and what he plans to do with it. Because of the Doctor’s resemblance to this man, members of those resisting Salamander plan to use the Doctor to infiltrate and obtain information.

The real Salamander, meanwhile, is in Central Europe giving speeches on his belief that long-dormant volcanoes in Hungary are poised to erupt and kill thousands if not millions. Jamie, Victoria, and Astrid (a woman working with Salamander’s rival, Kent) go there to stall the dictator and perhaps learn what they can from that side. They stage a fake assassination attempt so that Jamie can foil it and get in Salamander’s good graces, which works.

The real trick is, even though Salamander seems to be doing things not on the up-and-up, they aren’t so bad that public opinion wouldn’t still be on his side. That’s when the story takes a definite turn, and we discover that Salamander is even more nefarious than anyone imagined, having kept a group of people underground for YEARS, making them believe that the entire surface of the Earth had been ravaged by nuclear fallout and only he could venture above ground for supplies.

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“The Enemy of the World” is, as I said, a very different type of Doctor Who story, especially for the time, but even now. The story involves people and political intrigue and deception and power, and features no alien activity at all. It feels much more like an episode of The Avengers or some show by Gerry Anderson. Writer David Whitaker had already penned arguably the two best Dalek stories ever, “The Power of the Daleks” and “The Evil of the Daleks” and this seems like a “one for me” situation. That the series allowed a story like this to get made is testament to the faith producer Innes Lloyd had in Whitaker, or perhaps just his desire to leave the show. Either way, “Enemy” probably could not have been made at any other time.

Troughton plays dual roles in this serial, but he actually plays villain Salamander for longer, and half of when he’s the Doctor is in disguise. This was to limit costume changes during studio recording (which was done with very minimal breaks, as close to “live” as possible), but the result is a story where your lead actor is in every episode but not your lead character, a rarity. Salamander’s portrayal is a bit touchy nowadays, with Troughton wearing darker makeup and speaking with a faux-Mexican accent, but he makes it work more than he doesn’t.

As for Barry Letts’ direction, I think it’s truly magnificent. He’s doing some really innovating and engaging things. At one point, two characters are sitting on a park bench and there is a rear-screen projection of the idyllic field behind them. As they talk, Jamie walks up to them on the rear-projection screen before a cut allows him to appear in studio. It’s a pretty amazing use of the technology at hand, getting essentially a location seen in studio. This tactic is a lead-up to Letts’ love of Colour-Separation Overlay during his time as producer. The first episode, which was mostly shot on-location, is gorgeous and the helicopter shots and quick cutting lead to some phenomenal action.

All in all, “The Enemy of the World” is slowly climbing up my list of not only favorite Troughton stories (it’s already on that list) but favorite stories full stop. It’s really something special and I’m so very glad it has returned to us. And to think, it wasn’t very highly regarded before. Imagine what we might say about some of the other derided or downplayed missing episodes.

The DVD itself is entirely bare-bones but does feature a cleaned-up and VidFired transfer of the serial, which looks a lot cleaner than the downloadable iTunes one. Perhaps one day we’ll get a DVD with special features, but if we don’t having the story at all is a win. Plus, the spine fits right in the collection so it’s like it’s always been there.

Enemy DVD

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