Time Can Be Rewritten 10: The Face of the Enemy (David McIntee, BBC Books,
It’s January of 1998 – the month after The Roundheads came out, for helpful reference. But in this case, the slow undulations of the wilderness years aren’t really what I want to talk about, because the book we have on offer today is really quite interesting on its own merits. The Face of the Enemy is an oddity in the Doctor Who novels range. It’s one of two books from the Missing/Past Doctor adventures lines to focus entirely on characters other than the Doctor. The first of these – Virgin’s Downtime – is just the novelization of a Marc Platt-penned direct to video story with the Yeti in it. But this one is a different beast – a story of what UNIT gets up to while the Doctor is on one of his periodic jaunts off-world – to Peladon, in this case.
The result is a story that goes a long way towards disentangling some of the issues and juxtapositions of the Pertwee era. Because we’ve only really seen, at this point, two Pertwee stories that work much like traditional Doctor Who. Other than that, Pertwee has been paired up with the Brigadier and, in most of the stories, Yates and Benton. The Curse of Peladon, in fact, is the first story in the Pertwee era not to feature the Brigadier. So thus far, there’s been no way to meaningfully tell the difference between a Pertwee-era Doctor Who story and a UNIT story. And as I’ve already suggested, this is perhaps at the root cause of some of the tensions we’ve found so far in the Pertwee era.
And let’s be clear – the tensions are there. Contrary to the apparent beliefs of some of my esteemed commenters, I actually do like the Pertwee era. It’s my least favorite era of Doctor Who, true, but that’s like declaring the 2000 vintage my least favorite vintage of a fine wine. I still love the thing. But good lord, the era is utterly schizoid in spots. I keep harping on the ending of The Silurians largely because it captures the fundamental problem – the show can’t decide what it wants to be. And it handles this strangely – it tends to charge off in a given direction, and then, in the next story, charge off in a different direction with minimal heed paid to its compatibility with the last direction. With only the continuity of actors to hold it together, the era becomes… schizoid. I mean, that’s really the only way to describe a show that went from the social realist thriller approach of The Mind of Evil to the glam mania of The Claws of Axos. Yes, Doctor Who has always been about contrast between stories – hence going from Vortis to the Crusades. But it’s one thing to go from the tone of The Web Planet to the tone of The Crusades with a time machine. It’s quite another to do it while remaining on Earth.
But that’s changing.…