Doctor Doctor Who Guide

It is often pointed out that ‘The Enemy of the World’ is something of an oddity, possessing an entirely different feel to the other stories in Season Five, and this is certainly true. This is by no means a bad thing however, in a season that some fans consider to be repetitive and formulaic. ‘The Enemy of the World’ makes for a refreshing change from the “monster” stories surrounding it, and carries off its James Bond style storyline with considerable panache.

Firstly, ‘The Enemy of the World’ is interesting for its sense of scale; whereas most Doctor Who stories set on Earth take place in England, this story takes place elsewhere in Europe and in Australia. Exactly how effectively the English location work doubles for Australia is questionable; the only visual record of these scenes is the telesnaps (and thus also the Loose Cannon recon), from which it is hard to tell. Consequently, in this regard is entirely possible that the story benefits from finding a new audience as an audio story, since the scope of the story is perhaps over ambitious. The surviving episode three takes place in the European Zone, and is entirely studio bound, although the occasionally mentioned fact that Denes is kept prisoner in a corridor because “it’s easier to guard him” doesn’t inspire confidence in the production teams ability to fully realize the demands on the script on the budget available. Nonetheless, the studio sets seem decent enough; Denes’ headquarters look convincing enough, and based on the recon so does Salamander’s research station and the underground bunker. The costumes too look reasonable enough, although the helmets worn by the guards look horribly dated. Enough speculation about how the overall production however: what about the story?

‘The Enemy of the World’ is an atypical Doctor Who story in that it is largely a political thriller, with a huge dose of James Bond style world-domination plot thrown in for good measure. During the first three episodes, we see a world of the near future divided into Zones, each with its own controller under the overall control of the World Zones Organisation, which has its own security commanded by Donald Bruce, and which is increasingly coming under the influence of the seemingly benevolent Salamander. Whitaker manages to convey this near future society very well via throwaway lines of dialogue referring to two-hour rocket trips from Australia to Europe, and wheat fields in Siberia (courtesy of Salamander’s technology). Later, the emphasis changes to Salamander’s plan to conquer the world, and although he is engineering natural disasters in order to “predict” them and thus gain political leverage by discrediting those who doubt his scientific abilities, he is essentially a James Bond-esque super villain, with a super weapon that can cause earthquakes, volcanoes, and widespread flooding. In lesser hands, this plot could easily become absurd, and descend into moustache-twirling farce akin to Zaroff’s scheme in ‘The Underwater Menace’, but it doesn’t because Whitaker handles it carefully. The true horror of exactly what Salamander is doing is well conveyed through the plight of Swann’s people, and in addition to this, Troughton manages to play Salamander with admirable restraint. 

As the principle villain, Salamander is crucial to the success or failure of ‘The Enemy of the World’. I must inevitably point out that Troughton adopts a cod Mexican accent, which is not even consistent throughout the story, but whilst this is initially rather distracting, it soon dwindles into unimportance in light of the rest of his performance. In addition, although he’s a villain, at least Whitaker is demonstrating that in this future society, someone who isn’t either British or American can rise to a position of considerable power, which is a rare event in Doctor Who in the sixties (due largely of course to the ethnic backgrounds of most of the actors working in Britain at the time). My main appreciation of Troughton’s performance as Salamander is the character’s restraint. Salamander has a silly accent, wears a costume that makes him seem just as eccentric as the Doctor, and is a megalomaniac psychopath; despite this, he never seems fatuous. From the start, he is clearly ruthless and manipulative, organizing the deaths of anyone who threatens his position, including Denes. He is also very clever, having developed the sun-store and revolutionized farming across the entire world. I mentioned Professor Zaroff earlier, and he serves as a useful comparison, since Salamander could easily have been as much a parody as he was, ranting and raving at every opportunity; yet he does not. One of the most notable things about Salamander, other than the obvious fact that he is a doppelganger of the Doctor, is that he always maintains his calm. Many villains in Doctor Who, from the aforementioned Zaroff to Mavic Chen, are prone to outbursts of rage when their plans go astray; not so Salamander. When he discovers that Jamie and Victoria are working for his enemies, he coolly reprimands them in a stern tone; later, when Fedorin fails to poison Denes, he genially beams at him and tells him “You try, you fail, the moon doesn’t fall out of the sky” – and then kills him. This is an effective technique, as it makes him seem all the more unflappable and therefore secure in his power, but never detracts from the air of quiet menace that he exudes. Most impressively of all, he always clearly remains a distinct character from the Doctor, which is tantamount to Troughton’s acting skills. Which compensates for his inability to adopt a convincing Mexican accent…

Salamander’s cool and collected persona contributes even further to making him a memorable villain when the true extent of his evil becomes clear in episode four. He is not merely a ruthless and murderous politician; he is a monster on a far greater scale. It is hinted in episode two that he is responsible for the eruption of the Eperjet Tokyar Mountains, but it is only confirmed when we discover that he has been keeping a group of people prisoner in an underground bunker beneath his research station. The true of horror of this is palpable; for five years, they have endured a nightmarish existence trapped in their subterranean base, believing that the world above is in the midst of a nuclear war, whilst a man that they trust implicitly manipulates them into wiping out large numbers of the population of the world (who also trust him implicitly) in order to increase his personal power. Tragically, whilst Swann’s group are effectively prisoners, they are kept imprisoned by their trust in Salamander and their belief in his lies, rather than any physically barrier that prevents them from leaving the bunker. The bunker scenes are chillingly effective, thanks partly to the excellent incidental score (courtesy of Bartok), and the plight of its occupants is well conveyed by Colin, who is desperate to see the surface once more, and Swann, whose final betrayal and murder by Salamander is truly pitiful. The sheer anguish in Christopher Burgess’ voice as Swann sees the surface for the first time in five years and realises the extent of Salamander’s betrayal is palpable. 

‘The Enemy of the World’ being a David Whitaker script, the characterisation is excellent from the major characters to the minor ones. The most memorable minor character is Griffin, the garrulous chef at Denes headquarters, whose gloomy utterances provide light relief. Of the major characters, Astrid and Fariah are both effective, as are Denes and the nervous, paranoid Fedorin. Arguably the two best supporting characters however are Donald Bruce and Giles Kent. Both of these are examples of Whitaker’s skill at story telling, as both the viewer’s attitudes to both are first steered in one direction and later confounded. Initially, Colin Douglas’ Donald Bruce is suggested to be a villain; he barges arrogantly into Kent’s offices and is seemingly loyal to Salamander. It gradually becomes clear however that this is not the case; in episode three his orders that Denes be treated with respect whilst under arrest hint that he is both fair and honest, and this is finally confirmed in episode five as the Doctor gains his trust and he proves willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and help to investigate Salamander. His seeming loyalty to Salamander early on is misleading; he is simply determined to do his job properly and to the best of his abilities, and his job is to protect Salamander in the absence of evidence that he has committed a crime. Giles Kent on the other hand, excellently portrayed by Bill Kerr, is the reverse of Bruce in that for most of the story he seems to be on the side of the heroes by virtue of opposing Salamander, until the final episode, where the Doctor tricks him into revealing his part in Salamander’s past schemes by, ironically, employing the very trick that Kent has been trying to persuade him to for most of the story; impersonating Salamander. Kent’s true nature is signposted; early on he arranges for Bruce to call in on him, forcing the Doctor to impersonate Salamander on the spot, which is a risky gambit considering the importance Kent places on the opportunity presented by the Doctor. This suggests that Kent will take desperate measures to achieve his ends. Later, he tries to blackmail the Doctor into executing Salamander in exchange for help saving Jamie and Victoria, a ruthless streak that proves to be his undoing, as it alerts the Doctor to his true nature. This is underplayed however, so that the revelation about Kent’s part in setting up the bunker and his knowledge that Salamander is causing natural disasters is still an effective twist, and this is helped by Benik’s earlier persecution of Kent. 

Benik really deserves a mention. Milton Johns’ portrayal is ludicrously camp, but somehow works. It is perhaps slightly over the top, but Benik is such an unpleasant character that he gets away with it, especially when he threatens to shoot either Jamie or Victoria, to main but not to wound. He so obviously means it that he doesn’t seem remotely amusing, and the same is true when he reacts with obvious frustration to the discovery that someone else has killed Fariah before he could. As Bruce says with disgust at the end, he really is “a nasty little man”. 

The regulars are ever reliable; ironically, Troughton’s dual performance sidelines the Doctor for much of the story, but his staunch refusal to act against Salamander without evidence of a crime contrasts nicely with his ruthless doppelganger. Crucially, he is instrumental in exposing Kent, although he doesn’t actually interfere with Salamander’s plans significantly; it is Swann’s discovery of the newspaper and Astrid’s discovery of Swann that cause his undoing, although Kent’s accidental confession to the Doctor does convince Bruce of Salamander’s crimes. It is fitting that the Doctor and Salamander do get a confrontation, albeit one that is brief and somewhat contrived, tacked on as it is at the very end and in the TARDIS. It does provide a nice cliffhanger into ‘The Web of Fear’ though. Having been terrified by Varga for most of the previous story, Victoria gets something of respite, although being threatened by Benik is undoubtedly unpleasant. Jamie on the other hand gets to play the man of action as he pretends to save Salamander’s life, and the scenes in which he confidentially bluffs his way into Salamander’s employ is a reminder of how useful a companion he is. Overall, ‘The Enemy of the World’ is an oddity, but not an unwelcome one, and Season Five is more than strong enough to cope with an atypical story, especially one as entertaining as this.

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