Review: “Doctor Who: The Enemy Of The World” (Writer: David Whitaker)

Unless you’ve been either on a desert island or are a member of “Hermit’s Anonymous”, you’ll know that things have been a little busy in the world of “Doctor Who”.  Most recently, we have had hours of programming devoted to the fiftieth anniversary.

However, Whovians were treated last month to an announcement that we didn’t think would at all be possible.  Nine episodes, previously thought lost forever, had been found by Phil Morris – a man who has been hailed as a bit of an Indiana Jones for the television age.  Now, forty-five years after its original transmission, the BBC have released the six part story “The Enemy Of The World” on DVD.

 

The main plot of this story sees the TARDIS crew of the second Doctor, Jamie and Victoria landing in 2018 in Earth’s Australasian Zone.  Following an encounter with some armed men, the Doctor and his companions are drawn into a plot to overthrow a man by the name of Ramon Salamander, the so called “Shopkeeper Of The World” due to his work on feeding an ever expanding human population.  A man who has a darker side to his persona and who also happens to look like the Doctor.

 

The only experience that I have had of this story prior to its DVD release earlier this week was through the only episode that was held in the BBC archive, Part Three, when it was released on “The Troughton Years” and “Lost In Time” compilations.  Unfortunately, in its own right, this episode isn’t the most dynamic as it was one which delivered a lot of plot and little action.  However, to judge this whole story on its weakest episode doesn’t do this story justice as this six-parter is a pacy story with plenty of action and sophisticated writing by David Whitaker, especially given that “Doctor Who” was primarily a children’s programme at the time of transmission.

David Whitaker’s script for the story has been described as being in the James Bond mould and it’s easy to understand why.  You have a villain who, on the one hand  has the public face of a benevolent hero, whilst on the other hand has plans to take over the world through using technologically created earthquakes, plots and counterplots,  nasty underlings and weak men who are manipulated, and a plot that keeps moving throughout six episodes.  Plus, he delivers a story which could be relevant as a “Who” story today as the focus is upon a man who creates food for an overpopulated world, but seeks to keep the world under his thrall using natural disasters as his weapon.

Given that this was Barry Letts’s directorial debut, it’s easy to see with the benefit of hindsight why he was given the role of producer during Jon Pertwee’s time on “Who”.  He keeps the action moving along at a breakneck speed.  Granted, as I state above, Part Three is a bit on the slow side, but this doesn’t hinder the overall pace of the story which manages to tease information to the audience throughout the six episodes yet maintains the viewers’ interest.

As for the casting, well it’s note perfect. Frazer Hines and Deborah Watling give solid performances in their respective roles as companions Jamie and Victoria.  Hines gets the chance to portray Jamie more of a thinker in this episode, rather than as the impetuous hero than Jamie is traditionally known for, whilst Watling manages to take Victoria away from her “screamer” tag into a character who is as much involved in the action as Jamie.

The guest cast perfectly compliment each other, as well as the lead cast, most notably Bill Kerr in the role of Giles Kent, Mary Peach going into “Emma Peel” mode in the role of Kent’s assistant Astrid, Colin Douglas delivering a gruff performance as security chief Donald Bruce and Milton Johns delivering a note perfect performance as the slimy assistant to Salamander, Benik.  (A type of role he would return to in the story “The Invasion of Time” as the equally slimy Castellan Kelner).

But, it’s Patrick Troughton who is the real star performer of this story, and not just because he is the Doctor.  Troughton uses his background as a character actor to convincingly portray two roles.  His performance as the Doctor is very much as you see throughout his time in the role.  That being said, given the story’s more edgier focus, the Doctor’s clown persona is stripped down and whilst you get a man who could still be underestimated by his opponents, you also see a more determined and even steelier Doctor than what we’re used to in this incarnation.

On the flip side, his portrayal as Salamander is one of being two sides of one coin.  Like the Doctor, he has two personas, but whereas the Doctor’s is born of a need to have opponents underestimate him so that he can triumph through cunning and letting his opponents make mistakes, Salamander’s is born from a need to show the outward trappings of a benevolent leader, whilst once you scratch the surface you get a dictator who is cruel, duplicitous and represents everything that the Doctor is not, as where the Doctor uses his intelligence and technological resources to help people, Salamander uses them to subjugate.

“The Enemy Of The World” is a cracking story which, as I said, will probably come to be very underrated in the annals of “Doctor Who”‘s history, especially as it is placed in a season which has two Cybermen stories, two Yeti adventures, the first appearance of the Ice Warriors and Victoria’s departure after an encounter with parasitic seaweed.

If I have to have one niggle with this release, it is the lack of extras (or “Value Added Material”).  Since the BBC became aware of the full potential of the DVD, we have had documentaries, commentaries, comedic short stories, CGI enhanced effects and other material to surround the story itself.  Despite the picture quality being enhanced and improved using the VIDFire process and a trailer for the forthcoming story “The Web Of Fear”, there are no additional extras on this release. This is disappointing, not only from the perspective that people who have purchased it would have had to pay roughly the same price as other releases in this range, but because I think that there will be a few tales to tell about this story, both about its production and its recovery.

A case of a welcome return for a classic story, but the rest of the package could have been so much better

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