‘The Enemy of the World’
Written by David Whitaker, Directed by Barry Letts
Transmitted: 23 December 1967 – 27 January 1968
“People spend all their time making nice things and then other people come along and break them.”
The Doctor lands the TARDIS on the beach in a nondescript time and place. Exalting in his good fortune, he takes to the surf in his long underwear, much to the confusion of his companions Jamie and Victoria. Shortly thereafter they are shot at from a hovercraft bearing three men armed with high powered rifles. They have landed in a hostile world where one man is either the savior of the world or its greatest foe, the man named Salamander… who shockingly looks exactly like the Doctor.
Written by one of the best authors and script editors of the programs history, David Whitaker, The Enemy of the World is a cynical adventure story with a stress on espionage. The Doctor spends most of the story in the company of Giles Kent who is determined to convince the Doctor of Salamander’s evil schemes and hidden agenda while Jamie and Victoria try to uncover the truth by infiltrating the world leader’s lair. Salamander is a man so dangerous that anyone who gets close to him soon ends up dead and he seems to have the ability to cause natural disasters at his slightest whim. Giving so much screen time to the companions is an unusual choice to make (and one that Whitaker also made in Evil of the Daleks) but since Troughton is playing both the villain Salamander and the hero, it grants him a number of prime opportunities to show off his acting chops.
A gifted character actor, Patrick Troughton was already known to audiences for his roles as the title character in Robin Hood, The Scarlet Pimpernel and several Shakespearean productions. After Doctor Who he continued to develop his career, a trick that few actors who had played Doctor Who have managed to pull off. I have only watched Troughton in a few of his other roles (Jason and the Argonauts, Adam Adamant Lives! and the Omen) so it was a real treat to see him spread his wings here with the part of Salamander. It was also nice to see Frazer Hines and Deborah Watling get some more time on screen not asking the Doctor what was going on.
This leaves the ‘what is going on’ job to the viewer at home who, after several months of essentially the same base under siege story, must delve into the web of lies that surrounds each part of this adventure. The addition of the double act of the Doctor as Salamander adds to the drama and when the evil mastermind suddenly activates a hidden switch to access a subterranean lair… The Enemy of the World takes a sharp turn and things start to get crazy (in a good way).
It’s important to note that The Enemy of the World is of its time and spread out over six parts, the action can get sparse. Like any Doctor Who beyond four parts, I highly recommend not watching it in one sitting. The script and the direction are in fine form, with Whitaker’s usual blend of taut tension and sharp humor. Making his directorial debut, future producer Barry Letts brings a pacey touch to the production that fits perfectly. In the hands of another director, this story would have been dreadful but with Letts at the helm it is quite good. The supporting cast is very strong with Mary Peach a stand out performance as Astrid Ferrier, a strong female character *without a love interest* (I’m looking at you, Russel T Davies and Steven Moffat).
Four of the six episodes have been missing from the archives until they were found by Phil Morris earlier this year. Finally the story can be watched in its entirety for the first time since it was originally shown. There are so many episodes still missing from the BBC archives that are landmark stories such as Power of the Daleks, but The Enemy of the World has traditionally not held high esteem among fans. An unusual story that stands out in the ‘monster season’ that also featured Ice Warriors, Cybermen and Yeti, The Enemy of the World is a thrilling cloak and dagger tale with not a single monster to be seen.
Released on DVD this month, The Enemy of the World is a great gift for the Doctor Who fan who has everything, but in the rush to the shelves, the DVD has no extras, not even the usually exhaustive subtitles detailing the production of the episodes, the reception at the time and much more. I highly suspect that a box set is on the way next year of this story and The Web of Fear, only with all of the extras and commentary noticeably absent the first time around. Speaking as someone who paid ‘good money’ for VHS tapes of Doctor Who, this was an unwelcome step back in time, but… it’s still a chance to watch a long lost story, so I cannot fault it.