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19 June 2018 @ 09:12 pm
The Randomiser: The Invisible Enemy  
The Invisible Enemy is one of the least well-regarded Tom Baker stories and probably marks the point where most* fans feel things began to go clearly wrong under Graham Williams. It is also the first Doctor Who story I have coherent memories of. I have brief images from before then - Pertwee driving under a dinosaur, Sorenson turning into an ant-matter creature - but I have quite clear memories of the basic plot of episodes two and three of The Invisible Enemy.

I decided not to warn tame layman that this was not a story held in high regard. It introduces K9 and I foresaw tedious discussions about how nothing which introduced K9 could possibly be considered bad. I'm glad I didn't because he loved it. About halfway through episode 3, he asked me if this was a classic and I mumbled something about how it wasn't considered very highly and there was a giant prawn. When the giant prawn duly turned up he did concede that it was, indeed, a giant prawn but it didn't really dim his enthusiasm.

Over the course of this Randomiser thing, I've become quite interested in when a Doctor Who story's episodic structure is clear. The Invisible Enemy is another, and quite a late example, where each episode is quite distinct.

Episode 1 is set on the remote Titan base and quite is creepy in many ways. A relief crew is infected by a mysterious mind-controlling space virus (in one of those moments were it does not do to consider the purported science too carefully) and wipes out the base personnel with the exception of Michael Sheard. The Doctor is subsequently also infected - with "the nucleus" no less - but retains more control. Leela, to the consternation of the virus, is immune. The episode revolves around the Doctor and Leela answering a distress call from the base and investigating. It is mostly a game of cat and mouse through dimly lit corridors culminating with the Doctor, temporarily under the control of the virus, raising a gun to shoot Leela.

Episode 2 moves to the Bi-Al foundation, where Leela transports the Doctor's unconscious body, along with Michael Sheard who has now been infected by the virus. It mostly forms a race against time structure, as Professor Marius (and his pet K9) attempt to figure out why Leela is immune to the virus and use that to cure the Doctor, while the forces of the spreading virus take over the facility.

Episode 3 is mostly spent inside the Doctor's brain where miniaturised clones (don't ask) of the Doctor and Leela undertake a fantastic journey style tour in order to find the nucleus. It is a classic 1970s style vaguely psychedelic set. In lots of ways it is an episode of padding, but the central idea is neat (if kind of nonsensical).

The final episode takes everyone, including the giant prawn-like nucleus which has been de-miniaturised to human size back to Titan for a conclusion that is almost clever but ultimately involves blowing the giant prawn up. It's sort of half disappointing and half quite clever, in that Leela spends much of the episode advocating blowing it up while the Doctor insists he has a better idea. It's the weakest of the three episodes - Baker and Martin, the writers, seem to have used up all their ideas in the previous parts and are now simply hurrying towards a somewhat unimaginative conclusion.

Still, the story introduces K9 and, as tame layman repeatedly pointed out - has exit signs, spelled "EGGSIT" on all the doors. Tame layman loved the signage throughout the story.

I can see why aficionados of Hinchcliffe era Doctor Who may not have liked this. It has all the ingredients necessary to be another atmospheric gothic horror piece, but in reality is lighter in tone. The final episode is definitely weak and the earlier episodes, while containing a fair amount of high concept stuff, rely a lot on running battles between Leela and the infected to keep things moving. On the other hand, it is full of high concept ideas, introduces K9 and while, I have to admit, I am not terribly excited by EGGSIT signs - tame layman was thoroughly charmed.

* No, I have no idea what I mean by most, especially now fandom is so diverse. I probably mean most readers of Doctor Who Monthly/Magazine in the 1980s.

This entry was originally posted at https://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/506042.html.