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13 June 2014 @ 08:10 pm
The Randomizer: Enemy of the World  
I was excited when this one popped up out of the randomizer. It was one of the two stories recovered last autumn and released on iTunes in time for the 50th anniversary. I opted to watch the other, The Web of Fear, for my birthday because Brigadier and because I had hugely fond memories of the novelisation, but this one seemed to be pretty highly rated by many other commenters at the time and I was eager to see what it had to offer.

One of the things that is notable about Enemy of the World is that it is a monster-free story from a period that was dominated by monsters, many of which still resonate today (the stories that surround it introduce the Yeti, the Ice Warriors and feature the Cybermen). Enemy is a very different beast, seeking to be a futuristic thriller.

It is also notable as being a story in which Patrick Troughton gets to play the villainous Salamander as well as the Doctor. These days the fact that Troughton "blacks up" or, at least, "hispanics up" for the part is a little uncomfortable though at least, in this case, it is no mere excuse that no Mexican actor could possibly have played the part. It is easy to understand the temptation to let a versatile actor show off his range (including accents). I suspect, these days, Salamander would have been American, Australian or Northern European. I'm entirely undecided whether or not that would have been a good thing.

The story is also interesting in that most of it is driven, not by the Doctor's desire to thwart an evil dictatorship, but by his attempt to decide whether or not this is an evil dictatorship at all. He quickly falls into the hands of Salamander's enemies who naturally want him to impersonate the great leader for their own purposes. However the Doctor smells a rat and isn't at all keen to fall in with their plans until he knows more about the situation. I can't, off the top of my head, think of another Who story which is structured in quite this way and the emphasis on the Doctor's responsibility to choose his battle well is refreshing.

The structure also, of course, enables the thriller elements. The early episodes centre around Jamie and Victoria infiltrating Salamander's organisation in order to amass evidence for or against him. Meanwhile Salamander is busy blackmailing and poisoning his enemies in order to seize power over Europe. Salamander's opponent in all this is the disgruntled Giles Kent, who the Doctor doesn't really trust, and Kent's assistant Astrid Ferrier who has been fashioned from the same mold that gave us Emma Peel.

"Make sure you watch the girl," a guard is ordered at one point. "Quite right," muttered tame layman, "she's dangerous".

Action then switches to Salamander's research facility in Australia where, in true Bond villain fashion, it transpires he has a secret underground base from which he can inflict natural disasters on the world.

The thriller structure, with its whirl-wind tour of the globe (albeit mostly envisioned as static interior sets) also stands in contrast to the surrounding monster driven stories which invariably follow the "base under siege" template. Enemy of the World is attempting to be on a much grander scale. There is a helicopter. In fact, there is a helicopter in Fury from the Deep two stories later which makes me wonder if someone on the production team either had a helicopter fetish or a mate who was prepared to fly one for the BBC on the cheap.

Is it any good? Troughton is very good, clearly having fun as Salamander. The supporting cast (give or take a few "dupes") are also pretty good and the script allows most of them to have varying allegiances and motivations so that it is rarely clear cut who is, or will remain, a friend or an enemy. On the other hand, Salamander's manoeuvring seems somewhat heavy handed and simplistic but given this is a tea time family show, I think points mostly get awarded for not telling too simple a tale. Victoria is a retrograde companion in the helplessness stakes, even for her era. I don't dislike her exactly but she irritates me more, the more I see of her, and Deborah Watling's performance isn't good enough to make me like the character in spite of the dismal role she gets to play in most scripts. In all this is a very different kind of Dr Who story. Although it isn't maybe very showy in its difference, I don't think we've seen anything really like in Dr Who either before or since.

In some ways Enemy of the World is a forerunner of the Earth-based, more thriller-ish stories, we were to get in the Pertwee era. However its global locations give it a feeling of a wider view and greater ambition, and it is pleasing that the production, mostly, manages to match that. Web of Fear however, is just as good in terms of production and acting, has an equally strong, albeit more traditional, script and it has the Yeti and the Brigadier in it.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/118056.html.
parrot_knight: Troughtonparrot_knight on June 13th, 2014 07:21 pm (UTC)
This review makes me want to watch the whole thing again, immediately. I don't think I brought my headphones to the library, though.

On the subject of Salamander, there's a whole theatrical tradition which was part of the actor's repertoire of changing one's features by make-up and prosthetics which is now seriously under question; I await the reaction when and if Marco Polo or some part of it turns up with interest.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on June 13th, 2014 07:30 pm (UTC)
I think it's fair to say that that particular tradition too often
a) denied parts to equally talented actors from ethnic minorities
b) generally involved the purveyance of offensive stereotypes

I don't think either criticism actually holds here which, being the case, the suggestion that a Mexican could be de facto ruler of the world is actually a refreshing change and a more interesting choice than someone of European ancestry. However, the fact of the tradition, still makes it uncomfortable viewing because one remembers that black-face is a bad thing without necessarily recalling the reasons why.

I didn't mention it above but Fariah is also a great role for a black woman in 1960s Doctor Who. It's a shame, obviously, given surrounding stereotypes, that she is a sacrificial victim. However, compared to Toberman's "dumb servant" characterisation a few episodes earlier, she is a clearly a step in the right direction and one I don't think was to be repeated for a long time. I can't recall a prominent black supporting actress in Doctor Who... well until Bambera though I'm guessing I've overlooked someone somewhere.
bookwormsarahbookwormsarah on June 14th, 2014 07:53 am (UTC)
I loved Enemy of the World for many reasons (although yes, there were some slightly uncomfortable moments). There was a particular bit of acting from one of the underground characters (the male young lover I think) which made us shout with laughter and rewind several times, but frustratingly I can't remember the details.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on June 15th, 2014 08:17 am (UTC)
I felt the young lovers were among the weakest of the supporting cast, which was a shame given they were very much carrying the task of representing life underground.

And congratulations on your Council Seat by the way!
bookwormsarahbookwormsarah on June 15th, 2014 05:07 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I think it was the male lover who had a particularly Pinocchio moment causing much hilarity.
Celeste: dw: two & jaimeceleste9 on June 14th, 2014 09:13 pm (UTC)
I just ordered this off Amazon with my bday money! This and Web of Fear. I'm so excited to watch them, OMG.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on June 15th, 2014 08:18 am (UTC)
They are both excellent examples of Black and White Doctor Who and very different stories. Given some of the rubbish that has been produced by the show I think we were very lucky that these two were the ones found.
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on June 15th, 2014 12:20 am (UTC)
Controversially, while Web is the better story, I would say this was a more interesting find, at least for me having heard the audios and seen the two previously-found episodes. Web looked just as I'd imagined it; Enemy sometimes looked better, especially that opening episode, which isn't really like anything else in black and white Doctor Who.

A minor point no one ever seems to note: this is the first time the Doctor wins an enemy's trust by handing over a weapon. It seems a minor point, but it would go on to become a key character point.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on June 15th, 2014 08:19 am (UTC)
Definitely a more interesting find. There are a lot of Doctor Who stories that are like Web of Fear and very few that are like Enemy of the Wolrd.

I had no idea this was the first time the Doctor had pulled that trick!