It came with great relief that the Doctor Who missing episodes rumour that had been circulating fan forums for several months (as well as inner circles for a number of years) finally began to produce material on the 10th of October. Two stories have been released for the first time, allowing viewers and fans to watch them since their original broadcast 45 years ago. The two stories are from Patrick Troughton’s era; three years of the show that are decimated by the BBC’s old policy of junking film reels for space without checking whether they had back-up copies.
The first of these stories released is 1968’s The Enemy of the World. For a number of years now, episode 3 has existed and has somewhat dampened expectations of this story with that episode seeming to be almost wholly set in a kitchen. It should come with great surprise then that this story is just as much of an “odd-ball” serial as other left field episodes such as The Celestial Toymaker (1966) and The Mind Robber (1968). Yet how can a story without any monsters, set entirely on Earth be considered left-field? Apart from the sheer balminess of the story itself, it is vital to contextualise The Enemy of the World in its season.
Season 5, referred to by some as the Monster Season, is chocked full with tropes. Every story bar The Enemy of the World has a big monster at its heart (two Cybermen stories, two Yeti stories, one Ice Warrior story and one weed creature story) so David Whitaker’s tale instantly feels a step away from the norm of the era. The monstrous elements are replaced by the more monstrous, power hungry side of humanity; an occasional topic in the Hartnell era but one that didn’t bear its full fruit until The Caves of Androzani (1984). A number of season 5’s stories are also said to be Base-Under-Seige stories though there is an argument for a lot less of them to branded in this way (especially The Abominable Snowmen, Tomb of the Cybermen and The Web of Fear).
Watching the story as opposed to listening to it is instantly refreshing. Having listened to the audio a number of times, as well as reading the Target novelisation, even before the discovery it was clear that this was a visually heavy story. Episode 1 in particular is full of wonderful moments that simply did not translate into the audio recons. The hovercraft, the helicopter chase, even the Doctor dancing a jig and jumping into the sea for a swim; all of this shedding new light onto the story while massively enhancing it at the same time.
One thing was always a dead cert with The Enemy of the World; Troughton’s performance. Even from the audio, it was clear that it was a spellbinding illusion, making the most of its endlessly talented lead actor (the best to inhabit the role, full stop) to full effect. Other performances shine more with the visuals showing subtleties that were lost with just their vocal parts. The surviving episode 3 did show us the brilliance of Milton Johns’ sadistic Benik but others such as Colin Douglas’ Donald Bruce and Bill Kerr’s Giles Kent now seem far more rounded and effective, especially the latter whose crazed ravings instantly put the viewer on the back-foot.
The Enemy of the World also has a surprisingly large scope of images and scenery. Blocks of futuristic flats (with a women pushing a buggy outside hinting at a run-down dystopia), secret meetings on park benches and a Forbidden Planet-esque transport system to an underground centre all seem magical to watch. In some ways it’s easy to forget that the program in question is in fact Doctor Who at all; it’s refreshing to the point where comparisons to other stories seem almost impossible.
One comparison that should be quashed (or at least tamed) is the oft-repeated notion that this is somehow Doctor Who doing James Bond. There are of course a number of shared elements but this massively undersells what seems to be a subtle satire on the spy-thriller clichés. Salamander is also a far vaguer, more shadowy character than the typical Bond villain. He is power hungry but he is also slimy, ruthless and appears to have only a small, slow idea of world domination (especially considering he appears to almost be in total control anyway). Suffice to say his final confrontation with the Doctor is one of the best episode endings of any story for visual madness and excitement.
There’s something mythical about Season 5; ironically warm considering the amount of stories set in cold environments while also gaining Holy Grail status due to the majority of it being missing. The Enemy of the World, the weak oddball of the season, can now be seen in the bright light of 2013 and there’s no doubt that it’s a complete masterpiece of 1960s pulp television.
The Enemy of the World is now available for download from Itunes and is released on DVD on the 25th of November.
An article on The Web Fear and general speculation about further finds will be online soon.