3 years, 11 months ago
The Enemy of the World
This is from Patrick Troughton's second season, and aired over December 1967/January 1968. Troughton's second season is known as the "monster" season, as six of its seven stories featured similar plots featuring various classic Doctor Who monsters. The Enemy of the World
is the exception - nestled in the middle of the season, it has no monsters at all. Troughton is accompanied by two companions - Jamie, a Scotsman from 1746, and Victoria, from, appropriately enough, the Victorian era. In this era the companion roles were pretty well defined - Jamie was there to handle the action scenes (which Troughton's Doctor rarely got involved in), and Victoria was there to put in grave peril.
It's by David Whitaker, who was the script editor for the very beginning of Doctor Who, and who shaped the early direction of the show. In the Troughton era he turned in several scripts, including a pair of Dalek stories widely regarded as among the best things the series ever did. His later work focused admirably on prominent female characters - The Enemy of the World
has two memorable ones that are well ahead of what the rest of the era does in terms of quality characters.Premise:
Instead of being a monster story like everything around it, The Enemy of the World
is a James Bond pastiche. But the thing that really jumps out about it is that it features Patrick Troughton in two roles, both as the Doctor and as the villainous Salamander, who, by pure coincidence, looks exactly like the Doctor.
The premise is silly, but made worth it by Patrick Troughton, who is an absolutely amazing actor. (Legend has it that Matt Smith called Steven Moffat in the middle of the night upon first seeing a Troughton story, and proceeded to rave about how brilliant he was. Smith's bow tie is an explicit homage to Troughton.) This was an opportunity to let Troughton cut loose and really show how good he was.
The story goes from being, in its initial setup, a fairly straightforward James Bond pastiche to becoming something steadily weirder. There's an absolutely bonkers twist around the 2/3 mark, and it's only one of many reversals.What To Watch For:
Troughton's performance is going to be the big appeal here. Troughton was capable of incredible variety, and there should be lots to admire as he plays not only his two roles, but, at various points, each of his two roles impersonating the other. Expect lots of subtle nuances that separate the Doctor pretending to be Salamander from Salamander himself.
One thing, sadly, not to look out for is too much of Troughton on screen with himself. The Doctor and Salamander get one final confrontation, but the limits of 1960s television made staging more split screen scenes unfeasible. Despite that, keep an eye on the visuals - Barry Letts was an excellent director with a knack for action sequences (he went on to produce the Jon Pertwee era). The opening of the story has a bunch of them that will probably look quite good. But even later sequences are well directed. This is a very character-focused story, and Letts makes good use of close-ups. The cliffhangers are particularly interesting - they're rarely moments in which characters are in any danger. Instead they're moments when characters find out things that the audience already knew, but that subtly shift the balance of power in the story.
The third episode also has Griffin the Chef, one of the funniest supporting characters in Doctor Who.Will It Be Any Good?:
This is an unheralded classic - the chunk of Doctor Who fans more interested in memorizing the names of all the Cybermen stories overlooked it for years. But if you actually look at it, it seems like it'll be an absolute stunner. It has a great writer, a great director, and one of the best actors ever to work on Doctor Who getting the chance to really stretch his wings. This should be a real pleasure even for people who haven't seen any 60s Doctor Who.The Web of Fear
: The story immediately after The Enemy of the World
- its first few minutes actually wrap up the plot points that couldn't quite fit in the final episode. This is a big story for fans. It's one of two stories to feature the Great Intelligence, who was brought back by Steven Moffat in The Snowmen
. It also features the Intelligence's traditional henchmen, the Yeti, who are big, hairy robots. It's a sequel to The Abominable Snowmen
, a story from earlier in the same season, and features a returning character in Professor Travers, played by Jack Watling (the father of Deborah Watling, who plays Victoria).
The story also features the first appearance of Nicholas Courtney as Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, more commonly known as the Brigadier, but here a mere Colonel. Courtney played the part opposite every Doctor in the classic series save for Colin Baker, and reprised it in The Sarah Jane Adventures
. The idea of a military team that responds to alien threats became the cornerstone of the Jon Pertwee era, which is where Courtney made the bulk of his appearances.Premise
: A dormant Yeti wakes up in then-contemporary London, and before long an army of them is stalking the London Underground, slowly taking it over. The Yeti are newly armed with guns that shoot deadly webs, which now line the Underground. London has been evacuated, and the Doctor finds himself helping a small military unit fight back. But there's clearly a traitor in their midst.
This last point is key, because it reflects a problem that anyone viewing this after 1968 has. Far from being the beloved Brigadier, typically described as the Doctor's best friend, Nicholas Courtney's character is intended to be one of the main suspects. For anyone who's seen a lot of Doctor Who, it's going to be impossible to divorce the character from what we all know he becomes. If you've not seen him in anything else, you're lucky, as you get to experience the story fresh. Well, except that you've read this and now you're spoiled. Oh well.What To Watch For
: If you've seen Nicholas Courtney in other stories, watching the ways his character here is different will be interesting. There's some bits towards the end where the character is pushed to far darker places than would ever be allowed later, when the character became defined by an almost preternatural unflappability.
But the real star here should be the mood. This is hailed as a classic scary episode of Doctor Who, full of creepy and darkened tunnels and roaring monsters. When it first aired in 1968, there was a trailer of Troughton addressing the audience in character, warning them that this was an especially terrifying story and that children should be ready to reassure their parents if they got too frightened.
You should probably be aware that Patrick Troughton is not in the second episode - the intense shooting schedule of 60s Doctor Who meant that actors occasionally got weeks off, and this was one of Troughton's. The third episode, on the other hand, is still missing. This will frustrate some fans, as it's the first appearance of Nicholas Courtney. It's been recreated with existing stills and the audio track, so you can still get the plot. If you find that unwatchable (some people really hate watching reconstructions), the gist of it is this: the Doctor is found in the Underground by Colonel Lethbridge Stewart, and both return to the base, where the Colonel takes charge. The Doctor works out the plot and explains it to everybody, and then the Yeti attack the base itself, leading into the cliffhanger.
Oh, and if the idea of robotic Yeti sounded ridiculous and slightly silly to you... you're not wrong. But by all accounts, they worked in spite of themselves.Will It Be Any Good?
The people who saw it forty-five years ago certainly remember it vividly. Much of how this one works is going to be down to how well the mood is captured. This isn't a story that's long on subtlety. It's a spooky action movie, and how good it is will depend heavily on the visuals, which, in 60s Doctor Who, ranged from the ridiculous to the sublime.
The good news is that it's directed by Douglas Camfield, one of the best directors the classic series ever had, and the episode that we had before today looked great, so the odds that they got away with it are pretty good. Certainly the Underground sets are convincing - so much so that the authorities accused the series of illegally filming on the Underground itself. Normally a bit of 1960s Doctor Who that needs the effects and production to be top notch is going to be a let down. But this is the rare one that could turn out to be genuinely spectacular.
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