The Enemy of the World

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The Doctor, Jamie and Victoria arrive in Australia in 2018 and quickly become embroiled in an attempt to prove that the apparently altruistic Salamander is actually trying to take over the world.

It still seems fantastically unlikely that these episodes are available to watch. I didn’t believe the rumours until a few days before the announcement, when BBC News starting running the story. Needless to say, I’m more than happy to eat my words. Fortunately I had the next day off work, so I could stay up until after 2am battling with iTunes to download the nine episodes. To this day The Enemy of the World episode two will not download onto my iPhone. All the others did, and it’s on my PC, but my phone inexplicably refuses. Getting and watching the episodes in this way only seems to heighten the sense of unreality.

On Friday morning a lady called Becky from BBC Radio Leeds phoned and asked me to go on to (I assumed) talk about Phil Morris’ discovery. I think I must be on a local radio database after being on Radio Cumbria a couple of times. As it turns out once I was on air it was to act as advocate for Doctor Who in general. I’m sure I would have done a lot better (and tried to be funny) with any time to think about it, but the section is below for your listening pleasure (or otherwise):

Like many others I rationed myself to one episode a day, in order to savour the experience, and watched in broadcast order, so Enemy then The Web of Fear.

The James Bond franchise made the mid-Sixties very lucrative for spy movies. In 1966 over sixty spy films were released, and 1967 saw both the fifth EON-produced 007 movie, You Only Live Twice and rival Casino Royale unleashed. At the very of 1967 comes The Enemy of the World. Doctor Who can exist in any genre, so this was a logical choice for the time, although it is an oddity in the so-called ‘Monster Season’ of the series.

Where this story tops the Bond formula is in having two villains in competition with each other for world domination. It’s unclear when the Doctor realises that Giles Kent is a bad guy. In their final confrontation he says he knew because he was so quick to resort to murder. The Doctor is out of the room earlier when Bruce reveals that the Aussie hovercraft jockeys worked for Kent, and asks if Jamie and Victoria are not a bit too young to be killers. I’d venture that if the Doctor has seen a Bond movie alarms bells would be ringing about the machinations of an independently wealthy guy with a private army and a glamorous henchwoman.

The story’s opening, with the Doctor delightedly splashing around in the surf, before suddenly throwing himself into the waves, is sharply undercut moments later when the friends are running for their lives. The Australian hovercraft dudes are more than happy to shoot at Astrid – their colleague/line manager. Astrid is equally relaxed about sacrificing them if it means recruiting the Doctor. The message comes over that life is cheap in the world of 2018.

In The Doctor’s Wife we learn that the TARDIS takes the Doctor ‘where he needs to go’, but in sometimes the capricious time machine likes to deliver him to the proximity of an exact double of one of the crew. This is the second occasion that this this has occurred, after the First Doctor met the Abbot of Amboise in The Massacre of St Barthomelow’s Eve. Other examples occur in The Androids of Tara and Black Orchid. Here the would-be ruler of the world looks like a swarthier Second Doctor.

It’s very interesting when the Doctor faces an evil human rather than an alien menace. It raises the stakes, as the audience is immediately aware that people are multi-faceted, not exclusively warlike and pitiless like the Daleks or Cybermen. It’s what gives the audience a stronger reaction in stories like The Reign of Terror or Dinosaurs on a Spaceship. There are a couple of moments that really bring this home in The Enemy of the World. When Benik is interrogating Jamie and Victoria, threatening to shoot them in the legs, and pulling Victoria’s hair. Later, when Salamander shoots Kent, then follows him to shoot him again.

Patrick Troughton is mesmerising as Salamander. He’s shorn of the bumbling, apparently uncertain tics he affects as the Doctor, and portrays a steely presence under a veneer of charm. I love Doctor Who stories with accents; Taltalian in The Ambassadors of Death, Kerensky in City of Death etc, and this feels like the mother-lode. There are Aussies everywhere, and Troughton’s Mexican Salamander is a joy.

It makes perfect sense that the Doctor demands proof of his double’s nefarious exploits in this situation, it’s far more nuanced than an alien invasion stomping around with a foam machine. The whole issue of the Doctor wanting evidence, while not something he usually worries about, makes the story feel quite relevant. With a war in Iraq based on ‘sexed-up’ proof and the more recent question as to whether the Syrian government carried out the chemical weapon attack in Damascus.

I had enjoyed the audio of this story on CD, and it’s not been a story anybody talked about much. But I expect a huge re-evaluation now that we can finally watch the thing. Benik becomes far more memorable, his mannerisms and hair adding to his creepiness. And Jamie arriving at Salamander’s place in Hungary is completely unexpected. There are no scenes of him getting past the guard or creeping up on the veranda.

One of the most famous lines is from the third episode, the only episode we could previously watch, when the Doctor says, “People spend all their time making nice things and then other people come along and break them.” But there are a couple of other lines of note from Salamander. His “One chance, my friend. One chance” is echoed decades later in the Tenth Doctor’s “No second chances; I’m that kind of man.” His observation that “Ingenuity requires a constant stream of new ideas” could apply to Doctor Who itself, something that it has rarely found itself short of in fifty years of change and innovation.

Order The Enemy of the World on DVD from Amazon:

Doctor Who – The Enemy of the World [DVD]

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