Doctor Doctor Who Guide

Call me crazy if you like, but The Enemy of the World is the story for which I most want to see recovered episodes. The Web of Fear, Marco Polo... pshaw. They're good, yes, but we know what we're missing. We can hear the audios. We can make reconstructions. The Enemy of the World, on the other hand, has Troughton as Salamander. You have no idea how excited I was about this.

You see, I sometimes find Troughton sinister even when he's not trying to be. Everyone knows that he's adorable, but even when he was playing the Doctor I've occasionally shivered at an expression flitting across that craggy face. The idea of seeing him play a villain was simply delicious. I've just visited the Internet Movie Database to check his filmography and I've discovered that he played a bodysnatcher in Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974) and Christopher Lee's daytime protector Klove in Scars of Dracula (1970). They will get bought. From The Enemy of the World I expected greatness and I wasn't disappointed. He's playing the Godfather! Seriously. Apart from the silly South American accent, he's doing a note-perfect Corleone four years before Francis Ford Coppola could get in on the act. You could put this performance alongside Robert de Niro and Joe Pesci in a Martin Scorcese film and no one would blink an eyelid... okay, you'd flap your ears a few times, but I'm coming to that.

The accents. Oh my sainted aunt, the accents. The Enemy of the World is bad accent hell and if Doctor Who ever got worse than this then I don't want to know. I swear it took me a good couple of minutes to realise that the cook Griffin was meant to be Australian. It's no coincidence that most of the good performances come from actors who aren't trying to do a voice. Troughton gets away with it, but he's the exception. Even a decent actor labouring with an accent can become wooden and unconvincing, so it shouldn't be surprising that the results here are, um, mixed. The actor's performance for me ruined a lovely character in Griffin, for instance.

However in fairness I should mention Fariah, who manages to be a strong and convincing black character only three stories after Tomb of the Cybermen. I'm sure it helps that the character wasn't written as coloured. The actress is good, too. Her name's Carmen Munroe and apparently these days she's a grand theatrical dame who's played Mother Courage to great acclaim. (Thanks for the information to Jim Smith.)

In other respects this is also an interesting story. Obviously done on the cheap of course, but it's a monsterless thriller in Season Five that's somehow attracted the ridiculous tag of being like James Bond. Salamander would make a great Bond villain, but that's as far as it goes. The Enemy of the World isn't a string of action set-pieces, but a surprisingly mature tale of intrigue and double-dealing in the corridors of power. It's written by David Whitaker, remember? Basically it's a historical. The century is its only point of difference from any of Hartnell's period pieces, except that it has guns and helicopters instead of swords and horses.

Let me run through a list of ingredients. A rich and interesting cast, driven by more complex motivations than you'd get in (cough, hack) a Bond movie? Check. No monsters? Check. Power struggles between different factions? Check. Note that in all other sixties stories, the 21st century was a time of Star Trek- like global government and international harmony... but here David Whitaker's recreating the court of Richard the Lionheart or the Borgia popes, so suddenly for one story everything gets murky and sinister. The Doctor's companions suddenly having to infiltrate the enemy's camp in assumed roles? Gotcha.

The most interesting thing about this comparison is that people haven't twigged. It's a completely normal historical (and a good one), but being a 21st century Troughton story everyone expects monsters and ray guns. Even today, somehow that ludicrous James Bond label has stuck because people can't see past the trappings. It's interesting to note that unlike other SF stories which either have a definite date or don't worry about such things at all, David Whitaker intended The Enemy of the World to be set fifty years in the future. In 1968 it was set in 2018. When the Target novelisation came out in 1980 its date moved to 2030. Like Alan Moore's V For Vendetta, this story uses its near-future setting as an analogue for a historical one, close enough to our own time to feel familiar, but remote enough for us to accept jackbooted thugs in what's clearly becoming a fascist dystopia.

There were ten historicals in the show's first three seasons. Then Gerry Davis and Innes Lloyd arrived and after a couple of examples early in Season Four, the genre disappeared completely from Doctor Who... except for this one, smuggled into Season Five.

It's not easy to define the historical genre in Doctor Who. The distinction between a historical and a pseudo-historical is an odd one, but I think it's real and the crucial difference is no monsters. A pseudo-historical (e.g. The Visitation) uses its historical era as a backdrop for a straightforward tale of Doctor versus aliens, whereas a true historical finds all the drama it needs in the era and its characters. Thus we can say things like "The Caves of Androzani is a historical in SF clothes" and get an interesting insight into the story.

The Enemy of the World has the usual problems associated with being a six -parter, but it's terrific. Apart from anything else it's an excuse to watch Troughton in two roles, which will give you a fresh appreciation of his performance as the Doctor. Sorely underrated, if only because for forty years it seems that people have had a hard time recognising it for what it is.

Link 
Google+
Filters: Television Series 5 Second Doctor