We all love a good rumor, especially when it’s above something near and dear, like Doctor Who, and if you listened to our recent Missing (Now Found) Special episode, you’ll know that we can speculate (read: “pull stuff out of our… er… thin air”) with the best of them!
The fact that Enemy of the World and Web of Fear have been (mostly) returned to us is undeniable, but the question remains, why so damned much cloak and dagger on behalf of the BBC and BBC Worldwide? Is there a bigger picture with regards to future releases, difficult negotiations or strategic planning? If it’s happening, somebody must know. Equally, if it isn’t happening, I’m sure somebody has come up with a plausible, if made up out of whole cloth, theory.
Hit tip to Simon for bringing this latest rumor to my attention, which does go a long way towards answering why so much cloak and dagger: Restoration of episodes unable to be completed by the Anniversary, poor DVD performance of some Hartnell and Troughton episodes (Aztecs Special Edition, for example), negotiations that are predicated on the iTunes sales performance of EOTW and WOF (so, bastard pirates ripping this off from iTunes and selling it, “fuck you” if you screw this up for the rest of us), timing issues designed not to detract from Day of the Doctor (or perhaps DOTD DVD sales) and other completely plausible reasons that almost make sense of both the timing and the cloak and dagger release of the recent missing episodes.
What happens in a standard TV series when they introduce an awesome villain? They bring him back, of course! What happens in a crap show like the Starlost when they have a mediocre, bordering on incompetent, villain? They bring him back, of course!
The alien Oro, come on down! You’re the next contestant on “The Show Sucks!”
I honestly never thought I’d be reviewing Enemy of the World. If you’re reading this post then I probably don’t need to tell you about the Doctor Who Missing Episodes Saga and the dramatic announcement of the return of Enemy of the World and the nearly complete Web of Fear and the immediate release of the episodes on iTunes just yesterday.
Instead, let me just tell you about my reaction to Enemy of the World by David Whitaker.
Like many Americans, the first time I saw Patrick Troughton as the second Doctor was in either the 10th or 20th anniversary specials, the Three and Five Doctors, respectively. Later I would see him again in the Two Doctors. I was not a fan of his portrayal of the Doctor. Even when his stories were finally released in the US, there were only about 5 stories available – few were particularly strong ones. Since then, they have found Tomb of the Cybermen, a particularly good story, and reconstructed through animation of missing episodes The Invasion (also a Cybermen story and the first to feature UNIT) and the Ice Warriors (the first appearance of, you guessed it, the Ice Warriors)
With each “new” Second Doctor adventure becoming available to me, I find myself more and more impressed with his performance and feeling the loss of the remaining missing episodes even more.
The coincidence is almost beyond believing that the most recent animated reconstruction, released just last month, was the Ice Warriors, the story that immediately precedes Enemy, so we have a nice bit of continuity. In fact, in Enemy, the even allude to having just come from the glaciated world of the future. Similarly, Enemy ends with a cliffhanger that is only resolved in the first part of Web of Fear, the other newly released episode. (It’s so convenient, it’s like they picked them from a larger batch of available missing episodes.)
Perhaps I’ve drifted a bit off-topic.
Enemy of the Word opens with what seems to be a budget-busting, nearly all filmed sequence set near Cape Arid, Australasian Zone in the far distant year of 2018. After a bit of comical larking on the beach, the story launches into a running gun battle and chase that would seem right at home during the Pertwee era. So impressed with it was I that I intentionally checked to see who the director was. Astonishingly, it was Bary Letts, the producer throughout the Pertwee era. The first episode continues with some lovely characterization of the Doctor that leaves no one in the audience in doubt that, clownish though he may be, the Doctor’s mind is a force to be reckoned with. No future Doctor has ever come close to pulling off that balance so thoroughly.
The story quickly turns into a doppleganger story, that would have been easy resolved if only 45 years ago the writer had envisioned today’s mobile phones. It seems the Doctor is a dead ringer for Salamander, a would-be savior and dictator of the world. The Doctor comes to the attention of Giles Kent, Salamander’s sworn enemy and soon he, Jamie and Victoria are swept into the intrigue.
Salamander is slowly taking over the world, one zone at a time. He arranges for zone leaders unsympathetic to him to be killed or discredited and replaces them with puppets that he controls. He has invented devices that can increase world food production and has saved countless lives, but on the flipside, he causes natural disasters such as earthquakes and volcanos just to unsettle a zone and seize the opportunity to take control.
Enemy of the World is a six-part story and tends to slow down a bit, but they’ve wisely chosen to roll out a tertiary plot about underground dwellers that does break things up a bit, although as a whole, the story is a bit disjointed because of it.
Luckily, Salamander spends a lot of his time doing things that are so important that he commands no one must interrupt him. If it weren’t for that, the Doctor’s deception would have been rumbled by episode 2. During most episodes we barely see one or the other, with Troughton trading off playing either the Doctor or Salamander for most of an episode. Here we see a bit of the range that character actor Troughton was famed for, as Salamander is a nasty piece of work.
Jamie and Victoria are largely superfluous to the story, but they get most of one episode to themselves which makes up for the episode in which they are entirely missing, apparently the actors were on vacation.
Speaking of actors, the world of 2018 almost looks like a Gallifreyan Castellan reunion, with guest artists George Pravda as Zone Leader Denes and Milton Johns as the vile and villainous Benik. Pravda will return to Doctor Who in The Deadly Assassin as Castellan Spandrell and Milton Johns returning in Invasion of Time as Castellan Kelner.
All in all, the Enemy of the World is welcome re-addition to the Doctor Who archive.