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DVD Review

DVD cover

Doctor Who
The Enemy of the World


Starring: Patrick Troughton
Distributor: BBC DVD
RRP: £20.42
Certificate: PG
Release Date: 25 November 2013

The TARDIS lands on an Australian beach in the 21st century, but this is no seaside holiday. Within minutes the Doctor, Jamie and Victoria are under attack. They soon discover that the Doctor bears a startling resemblance to Ramon Salamander, a would-be dictator intent on global domination. He is hailed as the “Shopkeeper of the World” for his efforts to relieve famine – but why do his rivals keep disappearing, and how is he able to predict so many natural disasters? Before long, the Doctor and his companions are plunged into a dangerous game of espionage, intrigue and deceit as they face off against the enemy of the world...

This year saw the recovery of nine episodes of Doctor Who that were previously thought to be lost forever. This is the largest single recovery of Who material since 1978, and it is all thanks to Phillip Morris of TIEA (Television International Enterprises Archives), who found the film recordings at a television relay station in Nigeria. Five of the returned episodes are from the 1967–8 Patrick Troughton story The Enemy of the World. These are the first of the recovered episodes to make it on to DVD (after being released at a lower resolution on iTunes), together with the already extant third episode of this six-part serial. (The other recovered episodes are from 1968’s The Web of Fear, which is coming to DVD in February 2014...)

Being able to watch The Enemy of the World as moving images has greatly improved the story’s reputation. The previously orphaned Episode 3 is far from the most exciting instalment, and it doesn’t show the serial in the most favourable light when viewed in isolation. Soundtrack recordings exist, as do off-air stills known as tele-snaps, and so many fans – myself included – have been able to experience the story in the form of a narrated CD release or as reconstructions. However, many fans simply don’t enjoy narrated soundtracks or reconstructions, so this is their first chance to experience the true might of The Enemy of the World.

As an orphaned episode, Episode 3 gives the impression of a story set largely in a caravan and a corridor, but the recovered instalments reveal a broader, globetrotting tale. The director, the late Barry Letts (who went on to produce the show), adds a wonderful sense of scale via the beach scenes in Episode 1, a back-projected park in Episode 2, and Salamander’s descent to the underground shelter in Episode 4. The recovered episodes also benefit the character of Benik (Milton Johns). He comes across as camp and ineffectual in Episode 3, but proves altogether more sinister in Episode 4 – “Fariahhhhhh…” – and a downright effing psychopath in Episode 5, threatening to shoot Jamie (Frazer Hines) and Victoria (Deborah Watling) – “Oh, not a mortal wound,” he assures them, “in the leg, perhaps?”

Having pored over the soundtrack and tele-snaps several times before, the above plot elements were not new to me. Even so, watching the complete episodes proved to be a revelation. Tele-snaps and reconstructions cannot convey the full excitement of the pre-filmed footage at the serial’s start (almost ten minutes of slick location work) and end (the dramatic final confrontation between the Doctor and his doppelganger). Nor can they communicate the Doctor’s delight when Astrid (Mary Peach) tells him, “To me you’re the most wonderful and marvellous man that’s ever dropped out of the skies.” I never knew before now that the excited Doctor clicks his heels with glee as he gallivants across the beach, or that Victoria is rooted to the spot in sheer terror at the unfamiliar sight of a helicopter. Nor did I know that the year is 2018, which is revealed by the helicopter registration and a scrap of newspaper discovered by the unfortunate Swann (Christopher Burgess): 2017 is said to be “last year’s date.” Episode 4 proved particularly interesting for me, since no tele-snaps exist from this instalment, so the visuals were entirely new – even the cliffhanger ending to this episode was not quite what I was expecting!

It’s not all perfect, of course. As is common with multi-camera studio-based productions of the time, there are a few boom microphone shadows in evidence, especially during Episode 2, some very flat-looking “brick” walls in Episode 4, and a wobbly doorway in Episode 6. The final episode seems a little rushed – more time could have spent with the underground dwellers, perhaps by introducing them at the end of Episode 3.

While I’m quibbling, I am disappointed by the lack of extras on this DVD. The only special features are subtitles for the hard of hearing and a trailer for The Web of Fear. There is no audio commentary, production subtitles, or even the original BBC trailer for this serial (which would have been fairly easy to reconstruct from the extant soundtrack and recovered footage). I realise that secrecy was an issue while preparing this DVD, but the cynic in me suspects that a special edition will follow in a year or so, complete with commentary and documentaries.

Generally, though, this is a must-see for classic Who fans. The restoration team’s efforts to renovate these decades-old film recordings show up better on DVD than they could possibly do on iTunes. The Enemy of the World is an excellent story, one of my favourite Troughton serials, and it makes a nice change from an otherwise formulaic season of “base under siege” plotlines. As Astrid herself might have put it, to me these are the most wonderful and marvellous episodes that have ever dropped out of the skies!


Richard McGinlay

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