Saturday Waffling (October 12th, 2013)

(69 comments)

Right, then. Since we've all had some time to watch them... what did you all think of Enemy of the World and Web of Fear?

Enemy, for me, was as much of a treat as I'd hoped. The ending is a bit more rushed than I'd realized from the reconstruction, but it is on the whole a piece of wonderful subtlety and nuance, and it keeps the plot moving well. Troughton is better than I'd imagined - the little tip-offs when he's playing the Doctor impersonating Salamander are fantastic. In particular, the start of Episode Two is just so wonderful - all the little flicks of the eyes and small Doctor-like gestures that bubble up under the improvised and hurried impersonation.

And the plot is, in fact, really good. The underground bunker twist is very smooth - smoother than I'd thought, really. There are enough tip-offs that Salamander has some secret way of controlling volcanos. When you actually see the extended volcano sequence in Episode Two, the bunker ends up feeling much fairer. And the elaborate visual sequence of getting down there, in which the rules of the records room are set up, calls much more attention to it.

I hadn't really appreciated how consistently suspicious Giles Kent was through the whole story. Benik is even more unnervingly sadistic than I'd imagined. Barry Letts's direction is fantastic, balancing action shots with intimate close-ups. Really, virtually everything about this story came out at the high end of what I'd imagined, with Troughton absolutely blowing me away. Absolutely wonderful - such an complete joy. It's really an incredible experience to have hyped the story this much for myself and then to have it absolutely nail and surpass my expectations. I don't really have much to say beyond what I already have said; this really is an absolutely amazing piece of work.

The Web of Fear, on the other hand... I was never one of the major boosters of The Web of Fear, although I did always assume that it was the most competently done of the Season Five bases under siege. I'm less confident of that now. Indeed, I think that's actively wrong - The Ice Warriors beats the pants off this.

In The Enemy of the World, everything left ambiguous from the audio broke in the story's favor. The action sequences in the first episode really were quite good. Most things that looked like plot holes were filled. With The Web of Fear some things break in the story's favor... but others decidedly don't.

Episode Three still being missing hurts it a lot. The first two episodes are very padded, and Episode Three is the point where the story actually picks up decently. With that as a reconstruction, it's not until Episode Four that the story gathers any sort of momentum, and that's squandered in a time-wasting Episode Five in which the Doctor plays with screwdrivers for the entire episode.

The Arnold revelation is worse than expected, which is unfortunate. Arnold is apparently meant to be the traitor from the start, but there's zero evidence of it whatsoever. Episode Three would be a terribly big help here, since that's where he does most of his sabotage, but unless that one's loaded with clues then Arnold's a giant cheat - the traitor is the one person there's not even a shred of evidence about. And so much of the scheme makes no sense if Arnold is the traitor. How did Arnold manage to get the fungus out of Evans's tobacco case? What the heck was the point of diving into the fungus and then resurfacing an episode later?

In short, there are three episodes too many, which is padded well beyond the usual scope of a six-parter. Evans is insufferable and offensive to boot. Chorley is at least inoffensive and absent for much of the latter part of the story. The Yeti usually look absolutely ridiculous. The plot is full of holes. Why is it such a classic?

I believe it was Alex Wilcock who pointed out that there were two ways, before VHS, to experience an old Doctor Who story: Target novels, and nightmares. This was a story that excelled as both. The Terrance Dicks novelization is one of the all-time classics. And it has some truly great nightmare fodder. Much of the latter comes down to the fact that this is sublimely well-directed. Whatever the problems with the Yeti and the script, Camfield papers over almost all of them. Scenes that would have been insufferable in the hands of other directors at worst move with a reasonable clip, and regularly shine. And in amidst the "quite good" there are moments of absolute genius. We'd already seen the cobwebbed newspaper man in Episode One, but the shots of the Doctor through the webbing are fantastic. The trolley sequence is gripping. The Covent Garden battle has an obvious problem - Camfield can't light the Yeti in shadow like he usually does, and we're forced to face the fact that they really are just waddling teddy bears. And yet it's gorgeously structured and shot - the entire Pertwee era never manages a fight scene this good.

The other thing to point out is Nicholas Courtney. Given a character who's not designed to be comically unflappable, he turns in the best performance until at least Mawdryn Undead, if not of his entire Doctor Who career. Instead of playing the Brigadier he plays a soldier so scared that he risks his entire squad on an absurd story about a magic police box told by a man he doesn't even trust. It's a nuanced, human character, not the loveable cartoon of the Brigadier, and it's one it's easy to lose under the historical weight of this story.

In other eras we're aware that stories that stuck in people's minds often did so because of a handful of moments. The Daleks is a classic because of two shots in its first two episodes, and we forgive and ignore everything after. The Green Death is remembered for the astonishingly good maggot scenes - the less visually flashy BOSS bits are only beloved by afficianados, and everyone politely forgets the fly and the crappy maggot scenes. The Android Invasion has that one memorable moment of Sarah Jane's face falling off. The Web of Fear has four or five moments where you go "OK, I see why children had nightmares about this." Its reputation as the holy grail was based on these moments and on the fact that the rest was mercifully forgotten.

None of which is to say that I didn't have a blast watching it. I loved it. It was glued to the screen. It's wonderful to see it. It's moments of genius peeking out among general adequacy. If Fury From the Deep or The Wheel in Space came back and was this good this consistently we'd be over the moon. The only reason to complain is that this is heralded as an all-time classic and straight-up one of the best Troughton stories, nay, one of the best Doctor Who stories ever. It's not, and saying it's not takes up a lot of words, which makes the overall impression feel harsher than it is. I think I gave it a 5/10. It should probably be a 6/10. Maybe even a 7.

In any case, the real point is, holy crap. We have nine new episodes of Troughton, and essentially two complete stories we never had before. All of them are really, really good. This has been an astonishing, wonderful week.

Finally, because it's been asked of me bunches of times, am I going to revise the Troughton volume? To which the answer is that there isn't an answer yet. There are so many rumors flying around about more finds, and I'm not going to make any decisions until things settle down a bit. I have four books to get out over the remainder of the year, and when that's done... I have more than enough things to worry about, including another four volumes of TARDIS Eruditorum that are drafted and ready for revision and expansion. I don't think, on the basis of Web and Enemy, that either of my existing essays are wrong, as such. Incomplete, sure, but not inaccurate. And so I don't feel like there's a rush or like the Troughton volume is fatally flawed at the moment. So I may get around to it, but it's not a priority, and I'm not going to make any decisions until it's clearer what's going on.

Comments

Eric Gimlin 3 years, 9 months ago

Enemy: Any chance we can get THIS to be the go-to Troughton story from here on out, instead of Tomb? Absolutely amazing on every level, and years ahead of its time. Troughton was a complete revelation as Salamander; even knowing it was the same actor it never felt like it was somebody playing two roles. He was already my favorite Doctor, but I never knew he was quite that good. And like you said in your earlier write-up, this is a story that actually needs the 6 episodes. Although given how they saved part of the resolution for the start of Web 1, I was surprised episode 6 was fairly short.

Web: despite living in Seattle, I had a co-worker last year who watched Troughton and Pertwee growing up in England. Small world. I can see the problems you mention in the storytelling, and it will never be my favorite either. But this is the base under siege where the base is home. I could hear the wonder in my friend's voice telling me about the Yeti in the underground, 44 years later. It hasn't aged as well and doesn't travel nearly as well as Enemy. For me it's only a very good (7/10 sounds about right) serial mostly saved by some extraordinary direction and acting. I can't for one second disagree with those who say that on first showing it was the best; though. I wasn't there, but I've heard the wonder from people who were. And even if it doesn't hit me the same way I can see enough that I know why for them it's still the best.

Here's hoping rumors of more on the way are true; given how accurate some of the earlier sources have been so far and what the episode hunters have and haven't said about the search still going on I would bet this isn't the end. But if these are the last episodes of missing Who ever found, what a heck of a way for the search to end. I never expected even this much.

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Reinder Dijkhuis 3 years, 9 months ago

"Right, then. Since we've all had some time to watch them... what did you all think of Enemy of the World and Web of Fear?"

Good one. I for one have not had time to put my tricorner hat, peg leg and eyepatch on, and iTunes NL continues to disappoint. It'll be a while.

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elvwood 3 years, 9 months ago

I thought of you, Philip, when I heard that we now had the complete Enemy of the World - I guessed that this would have been your top hope for a completed serial from season 5. Glad it didn't disappoint!

I don't like watching things on my laptop and I loathe iTunes, so I am waiting for the DVD - heck, given finances I'm probably waiting for Christmas - but even if I had downloaded it I would have watched only two or three episodes by now. The news of the recovery made me yell loudly enough that my wife came upstairs to see what was going on, but I don't need to gorge - and you've taught me that the best way to experience these stories is spaced out.

I am lucky enough to have seen both these serials on original broadcast. I was three, and remember nothing at all about TEotW and only some of the nightmare bits from TWoF. Consequently, I have a warm fuzzy feeling regarding the Yeti (though I'm still not sure if I saw their first appearance or not). This is an exciting piece of my childhood back; may there be many more.

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Monicker 3 years, 9 months ago

The scene where Donald Bruce first meets the Doctor, where he's pretending to be Salamander, is quite a demanding one for the actor playing the latter of those. That's because he is required to effectively play a character imitating another character, and to convey on the one hand the nervousness of someone who is attempting this particular impersonation for the first time, while being convincing enough for Bruce to believe that it's really him. As stated, it's quite a subtle balancing act to achieve, a performance within a performance.

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Matt Sharp 3 years, 9 months ago

Still can't quite believe it - any one of these episodes turning up would have been unbelievably exciting, but NINE turning up is absolutely astonishing. And it's these episodes - I've been looking around at a few of the 'going-through-things-in-order' blogs (here, Wife in Space and Running Through Corridors) and ALL of them name 'Enemy of the World' episode six as one that it's particularly infuriating that they couldn't actually see it.

We can sit and watch a whole Troughton six parter for series five. How did that happen?

I tell you, if this turns out to be a particularly elaborate dream, I'm going to be very cross indeed when I wake up. My subconscious has never allowed me to imagine more than one episode turning up at a time, though...

Isn't Patrick Troughton astonishing, though? We knew that anyway, but isn't he?

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Froborr 3 years, 9 months ago

Right, then. Since we've all had some time to watch them...

At least those of us who aren't on furlough, and have therefore eliminated their entertainment budgets for the duration...

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SpaceSquid 3 years, 9 months ago

"and you've taught me that the best way to experience these stories is spaced out."

Ha! I did think this as I was reading the post, actually. "Always leave breaks between Who meals, always leave breaks between Who meals, always leave OH MY GODS YOU GUYS I ATE THEM ALL AND THEY WERE SO TASTY!". ;)

I haven't gotten around to watching any of these episodes yet - there are disadvantages to living with someone with little patience for classic Who - but I'm not sure when I'll get round to Web.... I love the Target novelisation so utterly I'm not sure how keen I am to have the magic perfect image of it I have in my head besmirched.

Enemy..., though. The instant I have the house to myself that's getting a whirl.

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Spacewarp 3 years, 9 months ago

I think that how you approach Web depends on two major things - do you remember it as a child? And do you like the Pertwee era?

If the answer to both of those is yes, it's almost impossible to be objectively critical about it.

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Triturus 3 years, 9 months ago

If the answer to both of those is yes, it's almost impossible to be objectively critical about it.

That's why I can't bring myself to dislike Underworld, despite the overwhelming consensus that it's rubbish. It was the first complete Who story I watched, on a black and white telly (which, together with being six years old, probably helped), so I'll always have fond memories of it.

Web of Fear I know only from reading the novel as a kid; never watched the recons, so I'm looking forward to seeing it, even if it isn't quite the classic it was thought to be.

(lastly, an off topic webpage erratum note for Dr Sandifer - for some reason the Eruditorum index page is missing lots of the Hartnells; it starts at Toymaker.)

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Josiah Rowe 3 years, 9 months ago

Indeed. I've been rationing the episodes to make the enjoyment of having "new" Troughton last longer, so I've only seen through part 4 of "Enemy", but so far Troughton playing the Doctor playing Salamander is the highlight. My wife and I are also watching "Orphan Black" on its current BBC America rebroadcast, and it's interesting to compare the two: the most impressive elements of that show are when Tatiana Maslany is playing one of the clones impersonating another one. It's enjoyable on multiple levels: on a performance level, you see an actor working with levels of subtlety (how good an actor is the character I'm playing?), and on a plot level it's a great suspense engine, because you don't know whether the "impersonator" will be discovered. I'm looking forward to more impersonations in episodes 5 and 6.

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jane 3 years, 9 months ago

Asking Who fans to be objectively critical is a bridge too far. Most don't even exercise the self-awareness to be subjectively critical!

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jane 3 years, 9 months ago

Enemy of the World: Everything I hoped it would be.
Web of Fear: Everything I expected it would be.

I still think this will make a great case study for understanding Who fans. Maybe not in the sense of "Which did you watch first?" but which will be pointed to as a superior work of television, and what that says about those fans. One is a more-or-less intelligent character-driven drama that plays with the subversion of genre expectations; the other is a spectacle-driven action-adventure, its nostalgic set pieces loosely held together by sticky filaments. One is concerned with material social progress. The other is not.

I'm surprised there hasn't been more criticism of Enemy over the fact that Salamander is cast in the shades of the generically foreign "other." Does the show get a free pass because it's Troughton playing with stereotypes rather than Michael Gough? I can see how it's mitigated with the strong characters of Fariah and Astrid, but still, there's a part of me that's rather unsettled with this particular aspect of the story. (Of course, both people of color die.) Even though Salamander is very smart and has his own mercurial streak, it's as if the story is suggesting that a foreign power taking over the world is obviously wrong, and that it will be because the British intelligentsia have buried their heads in the sand.

On the other other hand, I like how the story corners scientism; the salvation of the world will not come from the collective efforts of scientists, who've exercised gentle lobotomies on themselves in devotion to their specialty. No, it will come from a keen understanding of people -- of how individuals tick, of the dynamics of small groups, and of how easy it is to fool people into believing the wrong reality -- especially one steeped in apocalypse. Piercing that last veil is particularly key.

The conversation around WoF will never be so nuanced. It will be a critique of spectacle itself -- the lighting of moody tunnels, the special effects of a creeping fungus, the menace of gigantic vicious teddy bears. It's about music, and recurring characters, and gunplay. This isn't a story that aims high -- rather, it aims for the gut, for a spike of adrenaline.

There isn't anything wrong with that in of itself, but it begs the question of the intentions that are served. In this particular case, I think we get a mixed bag. Making the ordinary and mundane -- London's Underground, and teddy bears -- into a source of fear and dread, I'm all for it. The Doctor casting his lot with the military, not so much, but at least the story does resolve against military tactics. The army is all but wiped out, the traitor is an army man, and Jamie's violent intervention at the climax is ultimately tragic. There's a nice bit of ambiguity here -- the Doctor's plan would have supposedly worked, but his own lack of tactics work against him. The disembodied Intelligence makes for a nice critical metaphor against theism; again, however, it lacks nuance.

I can't think of another pair of missing stories that would so superbly demonstrate the fault lines in the show and its fandom.

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Eric Gimlin 3 years, 9 months ago

"and you've taught me that the best way to experience these stories is spaced out."

I did make sure to do something else between episodes; it would be watch one, go websurf or eat or something for 30 minutes, watch next episode.

But I figure this qualifies as a special case, since I wasn't paying attention when Tomb was found this is my first chance to experience a rediscovered serial (rather than episode) along with everybody else. In this context, since it's being released at once, watching it rapidly to involve myself in the dialogue on the episodes outweighed the normal "one a day" rule I normally follow. Normally if I want to watch more than one episode I'll alternate between serials from different Doctors.

I also had done the "one a day" rule on both of these in audio in the past two years, and will do so again fairly soon when I start my "one a day from the beginning" viewing of everything. So, exception made in this case. Although I may need to move my start date for the watching of everything. I had been planning for well over a year on starting that on November 23; partly for obvious reasons and partly because that was the date I figured everything would be on DVD. It sounds like this may not be the case any more...

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Seeing_I 3 years, 9 months ago

Troughton's performance was a thing of genius. The Doctor, Salamander, the Doctor impersonating Salamander first poorly, then well, and Salamander impersonationg the Doctor quite poorly indeed. It's a master class!

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Seeing_I 3 years, 9 months ago

Haven't seen Web yet, but as for Enemy, wow - a 6 episode Doctor Who that actually had 6 episodes worth of plot! Not too many of those. Really a shame the only episode we had till now mostly centered on George Pravda having lunch. It sags just a bit in the middle and the Doctor himself is sidelined somewhat in favor of Salamander, but given the limitations of filming the double-act one can't complain too much. It's action packed, full of interesting characters with some depth and motivation, and it's got two Patrick Troughtons for the price of one. How did we live without it all these years?

Plus, Doctor Who in his longjohns. Words fail.

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Ross 3 years, 9 months ago

A few months ago, my wife, hitherto a new series-only fan, decided that I should show her all of (existing televised) Doctor Who in order from the beginning. One advantage of watching classic Who while being the parents of a toddler is that it is unlikely you'll ever do anything for more than half an hour without having to stop and do something else for a while.

(We've been at it since not long after The Name of the Doctor aired, and are currently halfway through The Dalek Invasion of Earth. We did the recon of Marco Polo, which was tough, but watchable, and I did not force her to sit through the "reconstructed" four-parter version of Planet of Giants, because what the hell were they thinking.)

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Bennett 3 years, 9 months ago

Guess it's time to bring up DWM's "Mighty 200" (it's like the Who equivalent of Godwin's Law).

The Web of Fear is 23rd, between Army of Ghosts and Silence in the Library.

The Enemy of the World is 139th, between The Idiots' Lantern and The Doctor's Daughter.

So that's one more piece of evidence showing how far this poll diverges from reality. I wonder how it would change if a "Mighty 240" poll came later this year.

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Spacewarp 3 years, 9 months ago

I think we have to realise that what any poll actually means in respect of a missing episode is not how good it is, but how much people would like to see it returned.

Imagine both Blink and Victory of the Daleks were missing and all we had were teleshots. I think we can guess which would get higher placing in a poll!

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Roderick Thompson 3 years, 9 months ago

Random thoughts:

I was surprised to discover how much I had forgotten from the first transmission of the stories. The image I remembered most vividly for many years from The Enemy of the World was that of Salamander being drawn into the time vortex (not called that then) with the points of light like particles shooting through the void. So it was a delight to find what a marvellous character study it was, establishing clearly the Doctor's dislike of violence as a first resort.

I'm surprised that no one has commented on the marvellous performance of Tina Packer as Anne Travers in The Web of Fear, especially since, as far as I understand, she went on to have a distinguished career in the United States. The character's working relationship with the Doctor strikes me as very much a prototype for Liz Shaw in Jon Pertwee's first series. And I very much appreciated the marvellous moment when she is quizzed on how a woman like her could end up in a position like hers, and she responds by saying (not sure of the exact words) -- when I was I child, I wanted to be a scientist, so when I grew up, I became a scientist -- direct, unapologetic, and marvellous.

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Roderick Thompson 3 years, 9 months ago

Hmm -- "marvellous" three times is perhaps a bit much, but I suppose you can tell I liked her character.

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elvwood 3 years, 9 months ago

"To be honest, if they found Blink I don't think it would make that much difference. We get the mood from the soundtrack, and the angels don't move anyway! In fact, since they apparently used actors rather than props, we would probably see them shifting slightly. That sort of thing works better in our imagination, so it would most likely just show the flaws in the production (I see the director didn't do any other stories). And Tennant's barely in it! Was he ill? Or just taking a holiday?

"Victory, on the other hand, is full of scenes that it would be wonderful to see - Daleks shooting down enemy planes! Spitfires in space! The reveal of the new Daleks!

"Plus from what we've seen of Smith in other stories, his performance is likely to be unexpected, and you can't get that from a soundtrack. The more we see of him the more it seems a shame that so much of his era is missing."

Yup. Reckon you're right.

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Elliot R 3 years, 9 months ago

Given the (deserved) flak Web is receiving I just thought I'd point something out in it's defense: if I want to watch a spy thriller/political intrigue/farce there are plenty of films and tv shows better than Enemy of the World. If I want to watch the Blitz meets H.P. Lovecraft I can't really think of anything outside of Web and Quatermass. My point is, for all it's faults, the fact that people remember Web fondly isn't trivial: if Doctor Who only told brilliant stories like Enemy of the World, the Aztecs etc. it would be mostly forgotten by now.

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Spacewarp 3 years, 9 months ago

"Plus from what we've seen of Smith in other stories, his performance is likely to be unexpected, and you can't get that from a soundtrack. The more we see of him the more it seems a shame that so much of his era is missing."

I don't think the loss of "The Eleventh Hour" is anything to mourn though. From what we can see from telesnaps it's little more than a generic runaround heavy on dialog. The first 10 minutes seems to be spent in a kitchen frying food!

It's definitely a monster-lite episode too. The Atraxi are a poorly-realised CGI creation, being little more than a giant eyeball, while Prisoner Zero is probably on-screen for 30 seconds at most and is quite obviously modelled on the Mara. Mercifully we're also spared Caitlin Blackwood's probably embarrassing acting (never work with children and animals!)

The new TARDIS interior looks good though, and thankfully what few episodes we still have do show it off well.

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peeeeeeet 3 years, 9 months ago

Can't really argue about Web. Enemy though. Not sure what I make of it. I loved the sequence where the Doctor watches Salamander giving his speech. It made it look like the serial was going to deal with a globe-straddling colossus, charismatic and complex. Is he good? Is he bad? Is he just misunderstood? Instead, we get a story in which he mainly has to manipulate the half-dozen or so people nearest to him, and usually in fairly well-trodden ways. It's like we were promised Citizen Kane and then given Yes, Minister. Troughton's great but as villains go Sally's pretty ordinary at the script level. If they're only to have him meet the Doctor at the very end I don't know why they thought he deserved six episodes. Four sounds about right.

The setting, too, feels rather odd. We seem to hop around the world like it hardly matters and people think nothing of working thousands of miles from where they were born, which at the time must have seemed exotically futuristic - and yet we spend more time watching people go up and down a lift to the room with the Make Volcanoes Lol button than being given a sense of how they get from place to place (presumably, not always in tiny helicopters). The pace is a bit unfocussed. It seems too abrupt and too pedestrian at the same time. I don't know, man. I just don't know.

Still, worth the recovery for episode one alone. Imagine the story's reputation if that had been the only one we'd had until now!

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peeeeeeet 3 years, 9 months ago

And I very much appreciated the marvellous moment when she is quizzed on how a woman like her could end up in a position like hers

That was a good bit, yeah. Overall though, rather like Liz Shaw, she's not given that much to do. I was hoping she would turn out to be the traitor since she was a reasonable candidate and was just about the only person no one bothered to suspect!

Still, she got more to do than Watling. You could swap this and Fury round and you'd barely have to rewrite the script to accomodate the change...

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peeeeeeet 3 years, 9 months ago

Er, Debbie Watling I mean, of course. Watling senior had a meaty part.

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David Anderson 3 years, 9 months ago

Sue Perryman from Wife In Space preferred Web of Fear to Enemy of the World. She was looking at reconstructions, of course, but I shouldn't think that makes a big difference.
Not that I think Sue is always right; but I think her taste is worthy of respect, don't you?

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jane 3 years, 9 months ago

Well, Sue couldn't help but be impressed by WoF's outstanding carpentry, could she? But so much of the appreciation of Enemy has to come in reading the performances, an opportunity not truly available through the recons -- it really does make a big difference. Hence the current reevaluation.

As I said, I think these two stories may very illuminate the fault lines in Doctor Who and its fandom. There are those who love the show for its spectacle, and those who love it for its alchemy. Sue, like most fans, appreciates the spectacle. Hell, I appreciate spectacle, too.

But where we diverge -- and indeed, where I diverge from most of fandom -- is in the appreciation of alchemy. Spectacle goes for the gut, while alchemy goes for the cerebral cortex. In the best Doctor Who, we get both. But most Who is not the "best" Who, and these two stories are the perfect example. Web is high on spectacle and almost completely devoid of alchemy. Enemy is high on alchemy and middling on spectacle; what spectacle there is absolutely depends on seeing it in action, and the most visceral spectacle in the story is subverted. And of course, Enemy doesn't have any monsters.

I was happy to see that Sue was disconcerted with the faux accents and blackening up in Enemy, a discussion I think deserves more face time. Conversely, she doesn't really seem to care or consider the social implications of a story like Web. She's got a bit of an alchemical perspective -- I think most of us do -- but she's in it primarily for the spectacle. (Actually, she's in it for her relationship with Neil, which is truly alchemical. But Neil's tastes are almost entirely motivated by spectacle, so the end result of her verdicts shouldn't be all that surprising.)

Anyways, I think there's good reason to prioritize the show's alchemy, at least as a critic, because that's where its intellect and morality resides. And that's why I'll prefer Enemy to Web, because it's got so much more grist for contemplation, and because it's got its heart in the right place, even though it's by no means perfect. Web, on the other hand, has got an insidious reactionary strain in its DNA, especially when taken in considering with the other work of Haisman and Lincoln. If anything, I'm tempted to take Web more to task, simply because it's so effective at spectacle that the underlying assumption of its worldview can take root surreptitiously, which I find highly disquieting.

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Anton B 3 years, 9 months ago

'The Doctor's Wife' is probably better not being recovered. From what we can gather from the publicity stills the ragbag trio of quirky extras (including that budget saving Ood!) hardly inspire awe as scary adversaries and the anachronistic Goth girl is just typical Gaiman. It's as well he learned how to write a proper Doctor Who with REAL monsters by the time he did the excellent (judging by the audio)Nightmare in Silver.

Speaking of budget restraints the junkyard set and the recycled Ecclestone Tardis interior (with Blue Peter viewer built console!) pin this firmly to recession hit early 21st century Britain.

With Amy and Rory effectively locked in the Tardis and no major plot development or anything added to the canon this is one we can safely not bother about ever needing to re-watch

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Theonlyspiral 3 years, 9 months ago

This comment thread saddens me to my very soul.

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Pen Name Pending 3 years, 9 months ago

I'm thinking I may buy Enemy since I've got money in iTunes (I do have enough for both of them...) but I may hold off on Web until we get details on the DVD (and possible animation). I was planning on waiting until DVD for both but now it looks like they'll have no extras, and so I'd rather wait for an inevitable special edition. And I can wait because I've got plenty to catch up on. But WOW, what an awesome discovery! It's amazing they've survived, let alone still exist, and along with the 2011 discovery we all have more hope for future discoveries. The history of Doctor Who never ends.

I think it's a bit telling that Web is higher on the iTunes chart than Enemy in the UK, but in the US Enemy is a couple of places higher than Web. In the UK you have the inherited memory of the "classic" status of Web, while US customers are gravitating towards the serial that comes first in broadcast order and that is fully complete.

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Spacewarp 3 years, 9 months ago

"This comment thread saddens me to my very soul."

Why? It's Doctor Who fans having a bit of fun. The sort of thing that appears in these threads quite often. Why does it sadden you? God forbid you are taking the subject too seriously!

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jane 3 years, 9 months ago

It's sad because, in its own way, its so true.

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Theonlyspiral 3 years, 9 months ago

Jane hits it on the head. This is true, and for a lot of those serials we'll never know the truth. The likelihood of ever recovering the 97 missing episodes is slim to none. We might find more, but Doctor Who will likely never exist in it's entirety.

The thought that there could be a Troughten story as good as "The Doctor's Wife" or "The Eleventh Hour" they we don't have SHOULD be saddening to people.

Also a world with an incomplete Matt Smith doesn't bear thinking about.

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jane 3 years, 9 months ago

That's not the sadness I was referring to -- rather, how knee-jerk so much of fandom's evaluations are, and how beholden so much of the base is to mindless spectacle.

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Ross 3 years, 9 months ago

"Spectacle" is the reason we're watching television instead of reading a book.

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jane 3 years, 9 months ago

The enjoyment of spectacle isn't mutually exclusive to mindful alchemy, strong characterization, or even sharp plotting. The problem isn't the spectacle -- it's the lack of mindfulness that's of concern. If all we really wanted was spectacle, Victory of the Daleks would be a pinnacle of the Moffat era.

And *that* is what makes me sad, looking at this thread -- because it's true that a good deal of Who fandom (especially the Classic fandom) that's only invested in fear and adrenaline. Which, sorry, is just a bankrupt position to take. Thankfully, the wonderfully positive reception to a story like Enemy of the World shows that the picture's not entirely bleak!

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AuntyJack 3 years, 9 months ago

I've only seen Episode 1 so far (I'm trying to only watch 1 per day) - the thing that struck me the most was the Doctor's simple joy at the opportunity for a dip in the ocean.

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David Anderson 3 years, 9 months ago

Why do you make that judgement about Neil? From what I remember, he loves Myth Makers and Aztecs, hates Resurrection of the Daleks, and two of his three favourite Doctors are Matt Smith and Sylvester McCoy. Not positions I would consider stereotypically pure spectacle.

For that matter, I haven't seen Web of Fear but from what I've heard you could build up some potent alchemical symbolism. It takes place in the Underground - that is the underworld, or the unconscious. The Underground is a network, that is, the labyrinth. Hence the minotaur - the offspring of royal power that is hidden away but whose destructive urges govern the royal power's actions. Webs are networks too of course. The spider is used by Swift as a symbol of sterile mathematical knowledge that produces only poison and faeces. Yeti of course are famously associated with toilets. The yeti look bestial but are in fact robots. Robot comes from a word meaning slave. The yeti are thus the shadow side of our industrial civilization: the dehumanising effects that public discourse tries not to acknowledge but which yet govern the public discourse.
None of which says whether Web of Fear is any good.

What I'm really saying is that I don't find attempts to categorise fans into those that like the wrong bits of Doctor Who, or like it for the wrong reasons helpful. Even when those attempts are made by people who like the same bits I like. One ought not to become the mirror image of what one dislikes in others.

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Clay Hickman 3 years, 9 months ago

Great write ups, Mr S. The most unbelievable thing is obviously being able to watch The Enemy of the World and The Web of Fear at all. The second most unbelievable thing is that I preferred Enemy over Web. And by quite a margin!

Neither story is one I know very well because I didn't read those two Target novelisations as a kid, plus my Time Team listenings were a long while ago.

Enemy is such a treat to see - how I wish Barry Letts was here to receive the praise everyone is heaping on his direction. Plus the performances are so nuanced and interesting. I love Bill Kerr (as a Hancock fan), and he's great here. Plus Astrid, Fariah, Bruce and Benik - really top notch performances from them all. Troughton is more amazing still, and Philip is spot on about those tiny subtleties he injects when he's Doctor-as-Salamander. Aside from the rushed ending of the main story - did the Bunker folks survive? Did Astrid and Bruce live through their rescue attempt? Did Benik get his just desserts? - the final split screen fight looks even better than I thought it ever could.

Web is lovely, and Camfield's direction is marvellous - I love how grotesque he makes Evans look in big close ups - but there's so much back and forth and too much doesn't make sense for it to be the classic people have claimed it to be. Ann Travers is also very strange - she has the fixed almost-smile and the plodding delivery of a local newsreader! But the sets really are remarkable, Courtney is amazing and Ep 6 has some truly creepy visuals. The charred body of [Spoiler] is horrible and the web deaths earlier look properly nasty.

I think Ep 4 in both cases shows each story in its best light. But I'm still amazed that I'll be revisiting EofW more than WoF in future. Who knows, maybe the Space Pirates is actually a bona-fide masterpiece? It's so great to finally have the chance to find out new things about old episodes innit?

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Monicker 3 years, 9 months ago

I'm always a little uneasy about these kind of dichotomies, because if one applies them too literally there's a risk of oversimplification, both of the issues or concepts or however you think of them, or the people who are being talked about.

To put it in the most obvious way, liking one kind of thing doesn't necessarily have to preclude liking another kind of thing. In the sense that it's possible to appreciate stories which have very disparate intentions, inspirations, and styles, such as, for example, The Romans, Horror of Fang Rock, or Castrovalva.

I suppose it is simply that I find it somewhat limiting or problematic to think of a person as being open to assessment as to their ideology on the grounds of what kind of story they may prefer out of a given selection. That's partly because there can be many reasons for someone to have such a preferences, especially when the premises such reasons are based on may not be universally agreed either. To consider the two stories currently under discussion, these may include such possibilities as:

Someone may prefer Enemy to Web because they think it's better written. Better written itself is a term which may mean several things. It could mean a more believable plot, a more interesting storyline, a more distinctive - within the context of the series - story, or it may mean one which is structured better, or which functions more logically, or which is more unpredictable, has more interesting characters, has more depth, a clearer theme and so forth etc.

Some of this at least could also apply in reverse, whereby someone could consider Web to be better written, either in the sense that it more successfully achieves it's intended aims than the other story - leaving aside the question of the relative merits of those differing aims - because someone could also have no strong opinions or preferences about that, or regard either as legitimate. Or they might think the characterisation better, the flow of the plot to work better, find the concept easier to relate to, find the story more atmospheric and interesting, find the dialogue better and so on.

For myself, I find the stories so different that I don't really feel that much of a need to compare the two or decide which is superior, any more than I would between, say, a slipper and a grapefruit. If anything, I'm glad the series has the kind of diversity of format that allows two such different stories to not only co-exist but to be shown consecutively.

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Monicker 3 years, 9 months ago

To think about another example, there's the two stories that commence Season 25. Now, I am not a fan of Remembrance of the Daleks, it does very little for me overall, and I think the following story, The Happiness Patrol, is vastly more interesting and enjoyable in almost every respect. Nonetheless, I wouldn't really choose to make any conclusions about anyone who disagreed with me about that, certainly not automatically at any rate. They may have good reasons for thinking the former story a more successful production or narrative, or at least what amount to good reasons from their point of view. They may well credit it with ideological intentions of a kind which I wouldn't, so we wouldn't even be agreed on the original premise, but beyond disagreeing with them on some level, that might not necessarily amount to anything other than us having different opinions. Hence it might not have to be the case that one of us be be taking a 'wrong' stance.

I would say that Web of Fear is more concerned with atmosphere and a sense of isolation than spectacle, there's not so much of the latter, except in the sense of good lighting and sets, but then that sort of thing tends to be the minimum requirement most audiences would have for the production side for a TV series anyway.

As far as an immersion in fear and adrenaline are concerned, I think it's also fair to remember the purgative effect of those kind of narratives, whereby the negative emotions are safely used up in a relatively harmless way by watching an enjoyable horror story of some kind, or indeed the way in which fairy stories, including those with monsters of various kinds, can also function in a similar way for the very young. Effectively it's a fairly safe and comfortable way of coming to terms with those kind of emotions, fear, repulsion, hatred and, perhaps, also helping to be able to cope better psychologically with genuinely frightening experiences in the real world.

I haven't expressed it very well, but that's one way of trying to demonstrate why I think stories with such moods and intents do have a useful function. That doesn't mean though that I think that's all that Doctor Who should necessarily attempt, or that a story should be assessed simply on a level of whether it's successful as horror. And even then the issue of whether it is successful is, or can, be, complicated, and subject to various factors.

So there are many ways of assessing stories, as indeed can be indicated by the existence of blogs such as this one, and a great many possibilities for the kind of stories that can be written, which allows for a variety of views. I doubt whether, in the case of Doctor Who, there are any two fans who have entirely the same views on the whole of it. It would probably be fair to argue that it is too limiting, or self-defeating, to have the sort of attitude where one only appreciates material that they find funny, say, or which they find satisfactorily horrific. However, provided that anyone like that is willing to recognise that these are simply subjective preferences of their own, the existence of these views doesn't particularly trouble me. If any opinion on the series is willing to tolerate the right of others to their own, however different, then there shouldn't be any problems about it, or at least in theory.

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Philip Sandifer 3 years, 9 months ago

Ross - I disagree rather thoroughly. Books have spectacle as well - one need only look at the death scenes littered throughout the latter half of the Harry Potter books to see that. Or any number of other scenes. And if the value of television is spectacle, television becomes little more than a poor man's cinema.

I think the value of television is in visual and auditory ways of communicating information, and in a serialized, temporally bound form of transmission. Spectacle is one of many things television can do. I tend not to find it the most interesting, personally, but I also think it's a useful part of the toolbox.

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jane 3 years, 9 months ago

You mistake me if you think that I'm saying spectacle constitutes the "bad bits" of Doctor Who. Spectacle is pleasurable, and I'm all for pleasure. It's not a bad reason at all to watch Doctor Who (it is, in fact, a good reason) but it is nonetheless incomplete -- and without consideration of the show's alchemical nucleus, it can be problematic.

Now, all I know of Neil's tastes are what I've read from his work with Sue. Taking that into consideration, I'd find it difficult to say that both of them aren't motivated primarily by spectacle. That doesn't mean they don't care for the alchemical aspects of the show at all -- you can see from the writeups on Myth Makers, for example, that they're deeply invested in the characterizations. Conversely, there's not much discussion of the underlying symbolism, or the implications for material social progress.

An excellent example of this is their viewing of The Ark. Aside from a single note that being oppressed for hundreds of years justifies anger, the conversation is mostly concerned with the special effects, the costuming, the sets, the cliffhangers. Without an alchemical reading, it's easy to give it a 6/10. And just in terms of spectacle, that's a fair assessment, more or less. (Well, actually, less.)

However, under its veneer, The Ark is deeply problematic. The implications for colonialism, for women, for youth culture, and hell, for war culture and evangelicalism, this all should make the story very hard to stomach. That Neil decided to frame the story to maximize the impact of the reveal at the end of Part 2, rather than to encourage a thoughtful discussion of this story's problems, should serve as strong evidence that he's more concerned with spectacle than alchemy. (It also demonstrates that he's got a very good sense of spectacle, because his framing of this story in the terms of its spectacle was absolutely brilliant and entertaining.)

Which brings me to the underpinnings of Web. Yes, let's say the Underground is a metaphor for the Underworld, for the subconscious -- either collective of individual -- which is bolstered by all that web imagery. Very good.

(cont.)

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jane 3 years, 9 months ago

(cont.)

Into this pot we get several factions -- we get the Military, who are the Good Guys. We get the Doctor, our mercurial anarchist. We get Jamie and Victoria, who together with the Doctor are aligned with Youth Culture. We get Travers and Anne, who represent Science. There's Chorley, our media representative. And finally, there's the Intelligence and its minions.

First, and obviously problematic, the Military are without apology the Good Guys. Second, and even more problematic, the Intelligence comes from Tibet, out of a Buddhist monastery. Counter-culture at the time was loosely associated with Buddhism, so the story is now in two respects aligned with a reactionary perspective. Given this, how it unfolds is rather unpleasant. The forces of the status quo (the military) are under assault by the forces of the counter-culture, with the collective subconscious being the stakes. Ironically, the dominating Yeti prevail only because they have more brute force than the military itself -- the story is still coded with the victory of violence. Likewise, the Doctor's attempt to use a mercurial solution is thwarted by violence, thanks to Jamie (damn youth culture.) The journalist is completely sidelined -- there's no place for investigative journalism in this small opera. Neither is there for scientific understanding -- it's either subverted by Jamie's impulsiveness, or co-opted by the Intelligence's brainwashing of Travers. Anne is sidelined at the end, and Victoria's presence is only notable for the long shots on her bare legs before she's peril-monkeyed halfway through the story.

This has, of course, deeply reactionary implications, and it's no accident considering what Haisman and Lincoln come up with next in The Dominators, which is nothing more than a hatchet job on pacifism and youth culture in general. Haisman will go on to pen cinematic treatments of a comic-strip character who's singular purpose is to shed her clothes that she can better show off her knickers, while Lincoln will go on to (possibly unwittingly) promulgate one of the biggest hoaxes of the 20th Century, the whole Priory of Sion crap that gave us the DaVinci Code.

Which is not to say that Web of Fear wears its problems on its sleeve, or that it lacks value because its alchemy is deeply wanting. It's still very good at spectacle, and very entertaining on its surface. But that shouldn't excuse it from having its lid flipped so we can look at the stew that's bubbling within. It's a stew that's not actually particularly healthy.

Such is the problem with "taste."

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Spacewarp 3 years, 9 months ago

@Jane: " If all we really wanted was spectacle, Victory of the Daleks would be a pinnacle of the Moffat era."

But who are the "we"? Whenever I see either redemptive readings, or re-evaluations of particular eras that I watched as a child, I'm reminded that there a whole swathe of viewers for whom "Web" was the pinnacle of Doctor Who, as was "Victory" and "Blink". They are valid viewers, and I would argue they are the viewers that the majority of the show is aimed at. For although they are the hardest to please, they are also ironically the easiest to satisfy. Throw some thrills, some rampaging monsters, and a good dose of peril at them, and they love it.

It can't be a coincidence that my earliest memories of Doctor Who are of Cybermen sneaking around the Moonbase (actually my first ever story), or Yeti in the Underground, or Clockwork Soldiers in the Land of Fiction, and yet The Enemy of the World, The Space Pirates, and all but the last two episodes of The War Games were a complete blank to me. Move onto Pertwee and I remember Autons and Silurians, but very little about the Ambassadors of Death, and almost nothing of The Mind of Evil.

From the 4th Doctor onwards I started to get a bit more critical and enjoy the underlying allegories, at the same time as the scariness diminished for me. But I've been in conversations with fans five to ten years younger than me, for whom "Revenge of the Cybermen" was the most exciting and frightening thing they'd ever seen...at the time.

As Phil says "Spectacle is one of many things television can do. I tend not to find it the most interesting, personally..."

Very true, but I suspect for most young Who viewers spectacle in Who is the whole point, and when we look at the output of the late 1960s I'll be willing to bet that was the majority of Who's audience.

From that perspective, Web might well have been seen as a more successful story than Enemy, and who's to say that's the wrong viewpoint?

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jane 3 years, 9 months ago

McDonald's french fries may serve useful functions -- they provide calories, and can be intensely pleasurable -- but that doesn't mean they're actually good for us, or that promoting them is in any way in our best interests. And while the huge swaths of people who will vouchsafe them aren't necessarily wrong (those fries have been quite successful) they certainly aren't right, either.

This is not to say that providing calories and intense pleasure is pernicious in of itself.

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Pen Name Pending 3 years, 9 months ago

Well, thinking about Smith's episodes going missing surely makes me sad indeed.

But on all seriousness, I agree, and it's interesting to see how the culture around some episodes depends on if they're archived or missing. What I find really ironic is that the same fans who love Earthshock, etc, complain about how the new series is "all about special effects", when in fact there's usually something going on beneath the surface.

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Alan 3 years, 9 months ago

For what it's worth, I refuse to believe that Web of Fear was a recent and entirely serendipitous find. It beggars belief that almost all of a missing Great Intelligence story (one of only two from Classic DW) should be discovered just after Stephen Moffat devoted a Christmas episode, a mid-season premiere and a season finale to this extremely obscure villain.

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Ross 3 years, 9 months ago

I was actually wondering that myself, if there was reason to think they'd got it back a year ago, and the delay in the announcement was due to it needing extensive restoration

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Monicker 3 years, 9 months ago

I don't think that comparisons between psychological functions and nutrition can be made, or at least tell us very much, in this instance . Firstly, one can get calories from most kinds of foods, so this doesn't necessitate references to specific kinds as a means of weighting the argument.

Therefore, the comparison is really with food in general. Now, we can say that healthy foods also provide a useful function, and that comparison would be just as meaningful, so given that they can be promoted as being good for us, we now have an opposite conclusion. Consequently, trying to make analogies with forms of food cannot really get us anywhere here. I do not think narratives which can help improve psychological health are easily comparable with food therefore, or junk food alone.

To try to give a better example of what I mean, the kind of monsters, ogres, hobgoblins or whatever which appear in classical fairy tales are effectively acting as a means by which the negative emotions are projected onto a non-real object, allowing the reader of them to get rid of them, and be less influenced by them in life. I am being quite serious and truthful when I say that I recall a doctor writing an article, years ago, in which they explained why these kind of narratives can be good for one, and the widespread preponderance of them throughout human history can be partially explained their appeal and importance on a psychological level.

Of course, I don't mean to imply that only by liking horror stories with monsters etc can one become a well balanced individual, that would be silly, but they exist for good reasons, which I consider to be beneficial rather than parasitic. The article I referred to was addressing the "it's too frightening for children" school of thought and trying to put the case that stories like this, experienced in a safe environment, are more healthy for children than otherwise.

Now, there is another consideration, that of excess. This is one place where food comparisons may have some traction. Too much of virtually any kind of food on its own can be bad for us. On an artistic kind of level then, repetition can end up being tedious and limiting. That is a fair observation, but then, as I've already tried to indicate, I don't think of Doctor Who as being limited to only telling or attempting one kind of story, and even if it did do this - whatever particular kind it limited itself to - I wouldn't expect anyone to only be interested in that for fictional narratives, and be uninterested in anything else.

It's an appeal for balance, if anything. I doubt whether many people are interested solely in one form of fiction, and even if they only want one particular kind from Doctor Who they will probably accept other kinds from different sources.

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Anton B 3 years, 9 months ago

That distinctly odd scene in 'The Snowmen' where the Doctor, for no apparent reason, gives the GI a biscuit tin with a Tube map on it suggests that Moffet may have been aware of the find at least some way into the writing process. The way the dialogue is written as well as the way Matt Smith seems unusually unable to convincingly 'sell' the scene suggests a hastily constructed addition.

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David Anderson 3 years, 9 months ago

Authorial intention is difficult when looking at symbolism. (It's difficult anyway.) But I'll note that Jamie and Victoria are spectacularly ill-suited as symbols of youth culture, since they're both from the past (under some writers almost to the exclusion of any other character traits). So if Jamie symbolises anything it's a criticism of old-fashioned notions of masculine heroism. The Dominators, of course, doesn't work as spectacle anyway - in order to put forward their message the authors have had to abandon anything with the symbolic freight of the yetis and tried to make do with the quarks instead.

Again, I find it dubious to try to categorise someone based on the way they present or react to one story. (Phil's blog post on Tooth and Claw defends it entirely as spectacle. That's not his overall critical position.) Actually, I find it a bit dubious to categorise someone on almost any basis.

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Seeing_I 3 years, 9 months ago

"you've taught me that the best way to experience these stories is spaced out."

Dude, people have been watching Doctor Who while smoking pot since at least 1966. :D

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Seeing_I 3 years, 9 months ago

"Watling senior had a meaty part." Ooh-er!

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Matthew Blanchette 3 years, 9 months ago

Although that may be due to Smith not knowing what the Tube lunchbox referred to; remember, he's only ever on record as having seen "Tomb of the Cybermen", with not a peep on the other Troughtons...

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jane 3 years, 9 months ago

@Monicker: Of course you're right, and this is what the people who made Web of Fear are going for -- nightmare fuel for kids, and technical competency for adults. Indeed, that's what made the Hinchcliffe era so popular, and why it continues to have legs.

But I think the comparison of Web of Fear to McDonald's french fries is particularly apt, given the reactionary strains to be found in the other work of Haisman and Lincoln. WoF is pro-military, contemptuous of journalism, condescending of the independent Welshman, suspicious of Eastern philosophy, and cynical towards alchemy.

It really isn't healthy. But it tastes so good! Which is why we need Enemy of the World to balance it out, and something like The War Games to call out the whole kitten caboodle. We can continue to make and eat french fries, but we really don't want to support McDonald's at the same time.

There's another aspect to WoF to consider, too, which is that of nostalgia. Elsewhere on the blog, it's been pointed out that the nostalgic can have some conservative, reactionary consequences. There's a place for it, but in moderation, lest it interfere with material social progress.

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liminal fruitbat 3 years, 9 months ago

Wasn't the whole point of the Intelligence that it was a horrific eldritch abomination that was launching an assault on Buddhism the last time we saw it? (It's been years since I've read the novelisation of this story, though, so it wouldn't surprise me if they forgot or abandoned that bit.)

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Unknown 3 years, 9 months ago

Philip, why not do Tardis Miscelania Addenum volumes every once in awhile instead of updating the old volumes?

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Ross 3 years, 9 months ago

I find it incredibly ironic that the first scene of Enemy of the World is Troughton out Matt Smithing Matt Smith -- it's a dimension to the character I'd sort of known of by reputation, but none of the other extant stuff really showcases it.

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Monicker 3 years, 9 months ago

If we're talking more specifically about the story of The Web of Fear, a case can be made for it being pro-military, although it comes over to me more as one which gives its soldier characters distinctive personalities, ie it doesn't characterise military organisations as behaving in a unitary way. I think that having Evans as a Welsh character is unfortunate as, if he were not differentiated from the others in this way, it could perhaps be more clearly seen as a means of showing that individuals of various kinds can belong to these organisations. It could be said that Evans is the least suitable kind of person to serve in an armed force, in that he's cowardly, even to the extent of putting other people's and colleague's lives in danger, and yet, symbolically he is not really punished for this this by the authors in any obvious way. He's one of only two soldier characters who survives the entire story.

I would say also that it doesn't glamourise military bravery to the degree that some other narratives, either in or out of Who, may have done, in that even someone like the Colonel, later better known as the Brigadier, is allowed to become panicked and despondent, convinced that the adversary they're facing cannot be fought against, practically giving up in despair. And even insofar as brute force resolves the story, it's clearly intended as a pyrrhic victory, in that the Doctor's plan would have provided a more permanent solution. That his plan fails is not necessarily meant to be an implied criticism of his tactics and may be more likely to be set up as a twist to confound expectation right at the end when Jamie appears to have saved the day. Well, that and on the more prosaic level, the writers wanted to do a third Yeti story later, which would require a more permanent solution not to be applied.

As I understand it, the Yeti and Intelligence only hail from Tibet in an indirect sense, insofar as the former is from the astral plane. There may well be reactionary strains in Haisman's and Lincoln's other works, some of which I'm familiar with, adding to the possibility that they can be found here - although of course this would not have been a perspective available to anyone watching at the time of original broadcast, or even for several years afterwards, other than a familiarity with The Dominators, perhaps. However, reactionary tendencies need not always be incompatible with some kind of interest in Tibetan Buddhism. Padmasambhava is clearly supposed to be someone the Doctor has a great admiration and respect for, and whom he also considers himself an old friend of, so I think the idea in The Abominable Snowmen was to be essentially supportive or sympathetic to the monks, who survive the story in greater numbers than the soldiers in the sequel do, however successfully or otherwise this may have been achieved in the story itself.

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Monicker 3 years, 9 months ago

I should also try to make clear that what I am talking about are possible perspectives. I am not intending to insist that you should change your mind on any of your opinions on the story. You may disagree with some of my suggested readings. That's fair enough. You don't have to agree. This isn't supposed to be some kind of "I'm right"/"No, I'm right" type of argument of the kind that forums can sometimes be prone to.

What I am trying to demonstrate is that there is some scope for people to respond to and interpret the material in different ways. The issue is not so much who is right or wrong, more that there are options in practice. If we engage with a text, we can produce our own takes on it, and some may well go off in different directions. Doesn't have to mean disagreeing about everything necessarily either, just holding a similar set of opinions to differing extents. I think there is a tendency to resort to national or ethnic stereotype which detracts from the story, for example, not unique in the series, but still something that's obviously open to criticism. I have never been especially interested in UNIT as a concept, which this story, along with The War Machines, prefigures, and the idea of the kind of format where the Doctor is assisted by an army to defeat aliens isn't one that has all that much appeal to me. Although as that's an era which came and went and did not, in the end, permanently alter the format, I tend to view it as a historical phase in the evolution of the series which has a certain interest in its atypicality.

To shift to another kind of atypical, I'll say that it is good to see The Enemy of the World getting more recognition and praise than it has had in, probably, decades. It's been observed by some that it's virtually a historical in a science fiction setting, so that could make for a rather fitting division between story types. The last historical, written by a former Hartnell script editor, who was there when they began, followed by a prototype UNIT/Pertwee story, at least in some respects.

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encyclops 3 years, 9 months ago

Finished Enemy of the World, but I still have Web of Fear to get through so I can't read this whole post nor all the comments until well after anyone else will be returning to it. :)

But I must say I can't agree more about Enemy of the World. I don't think I would have appreciated it as a kid. I always found "double" plots really corny, so I never really read much about it past that premise, and all the twists took me by surprise. I'm sure I can't add anything to what others have said -- it's absolutely superb, and of the handful of Troughton stories I've seen or heard so far, easily my favorite.

I particularly enjoyed Dick Cheney's turn as Donald Bruce. A fine early role for him!

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landru 3 years, 9 months ago

I've been away from this blog for a bit, I must confess, following a couple of missing episode forums for a few months. So much still going on, but I'm not in the know.

Enemy of the World is just fantastic. I understand some people think the episode that survived all along with the chef was funny, but it did lead me to believe this one wasn't on the priority list at the time. I was very wrong. I think the reason it isn't remembered quite as strongly is that it simply is more adult and doesn't actually have a monster (at least, a guy in a rubber suit monster.)

Web of Fear - I'm going to say that, because episode 3 is still missing, I can't really judge it fairly. I need to give it another go, but it doesn't seem to stand up as much. Frankly, I never thought it was an amazing story, anyway. Always thought it's predecessor was more spooky and bizarre.

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landru 3 years, 9 months ago

"Troughton out Matt Smithing Matt Smith"

Yes, that's a very good description.

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Matthew Blanchette 3 years, 9 months ago

Sorry for the late reply, but... they are all on Dailymotion, currently. Watch them when you can. :-)

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encyclops 3 years, 9 months ago

The silver lining of spending a day home sick from work was finishing Web of Fear, about all my brain is good for today. I was hoping to adore it, but I have to admit it had a hard time holding my attention. I love the concept, and many of the trappings, but for a "web" there really wasn't a satisfying sense of a spider at the center of it (as there was in The Abominable Snowmen). And the poor Yeti! I can typically forgive the effects in this show -- of course I can, we all can, that's the only way we can watch it -- but they are clearly the same species as Sweetums and there's no way around it.

Still, this only goes to strengthen my belief that Moffat's use of the Great Intelligence was actually abuse. Almost every virtue of this story's premise is undermined by giving the Intelligence an origin story, a definite face (Richard E. Grant's), and a motive (revenge). The only thing I like about Moffat's G.I. is that his drones (the Whispermen) are far more in line with the G.I.'s weird Cthulhoid nature. If only they'd been visceral and slimy, like Hellboy's frogmen!

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William Whyte 3 years, 9 months ago

Jane -- 'I'm surprised there hasn't been more criticism of Enemy over the fact that Salamander is cast in the shades of the generically foreign "other."'

I think this is actually one of the wonderful things about Enemy: Salamander is cast in terms of the "other", but Salamander is also the Doctor. It gives us a whole other perspective on how we should think about people who encounter the Doctor. In particular, the bunker entry scene in episode 4, where "the Doctor" shows up in the middle of an existing civilization and gives them a story that is clearly bullshit, highlights just how weird the premise of Doctor Who is. In a standard story, the people who have faith in the Doctor are the goodies and the people who don't believe him are the dupes. In this story, through Salamander, we see how this could -- and sometimes should -- be turned around. It really is magnificently unsettling.

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What Happened To Robbie? 3 years, 7 months ago

I've only just finished watching Enemy - taking the rumours about Marco Polo etc with a pinch of salt I've been determined to make this and Web last - and I can't add much but agree with all the love so far. Absolutely marvellous. Whitaker is the master.

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