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A Rediscovered Gem: The Enemy of the World

I had always hoped that another random episode or two of Doctor Who might be discovered, but the return of a full story…that seemed incredibly improbable.  However, fans can now watch “The Enemy of the World” in its entirety, one of only two completely intact stories from Troughton’s first two seasons.  I was very excited by the news of its return, but I wondered if the story would live up to the hype.  However, the story more than lived up to my expectations for it.   “The Enemy of the World” stands as one of my favorite stories.  This story which features companions Jamie and Victoria, as well as Troughton in a double role, is a clever well-paced story that keeps you guessing until the end.

It's a Troughton face off!

It’s a Troughton face off!

“The Enemy of the World” is an unusual story.  It’s set on Earth in 2018 and contains no alien threat.  Nestled in the heart of what is known as “the monster season,” this story contains no monsters (unless you count Salamander, the man who is trying to become dictator of the world, as one).  It is also the only story of the season that is not a version of the “base under siege” plot.

After a light-hearted opening involving the Doctor going swimming (and who wouldn’t believe that, underneath his clothes, Troughton’s Doctor is always prepared to take a dip?), some men attack the Doctor and his companions.  Fortunately, a woman named Astrid arrives just in time to save them.  She also enlightens them as to why they were attacked; it’s because of the Doctor’s striking similarity to a man named Salamander. It seems that there has been a spate of natural disasters in the world.  Salamander is a scientist and philanthropist, and has been helping the world cope by using his scientific knowledge to bring food production back to areas that were struck by disaster. His aid has given him a great deal of power, and there are some who believe that he hopes to become the dictator of the world.

Salamander, or maybe the Doctor posing as Salamander...

Salamander, or maybe the Doctor posing as Salamander…

Astrid and her commander, Giles Kent (who was deputy security adviser before Salamander discredited him), want the Doctor to impersonate Salamander.  They believe that Salamander is an evil man who must be stopped.  The Doctor does not want to get involved, since he does not feel that Astrid and Giles have enough proof that Salamander is a truly evil man. However, before the Doctor can refuse, events are set in motion that result in him getting drawn into a world of intrigue and danger.  Can he stop Salamander from taking over the world? And should he even try?

Overall, this story was excellent.  The story has great pacing and, even though it is six episodes long, the events never feel like filler; each episode added more to the story instead of just maintaining some kind of stasis to fill time.  The first episode introduces the idea that the Doctor and Salamander look almost identical, in the second we meet Salamander and enter his world (leaving us with little doubt that he is an evil man), and the third focuses on the attempt to provide the Doctor with proof of Salamander’s evilness.  Then, just when you are getting settled with the political intrigue, episode 4 brings the introduction of the underground base that Salamander is using to creating the natural disasters.  New mysteries and conflicts are added at every point so that when one is resolved, another stems from that resolution.  This keeps the story suspenseful until its final moments.

The ending is also quite unique (major spoilers ahead).  Unlike many episodes, where you have some idea how the story is going to wrap up, this story kept me guessing.  A weakness in the ending is that it doesn’t offer much resolution for the people who have been living in the bunker for the past five years, but there’s still so much going on in the final episode there’s not much time to dwell on it.  The revelation that Giles knew all about Salamander’s plan and was, in fact, trying to have him killed so that he could take his place, caught me by surprise.  The fact that the story as a whole ended on a cliffhanger was also an interesting touch.

Fariah and Astrid

Fariah and Astrid

Along with the strong plot, the characters are engaging.  Giles Kent and Donald Bruce make for interesting characters,  as our feelings about each one shift throughout the story.  For me, the story is especially notable for its female characters.  Mary Peach does a great job as Astrid.  While Victoria, once again, has little to do, Astrid is, in many ways, the action hero of the story.  She rescues the Doctor and his companions in her helicopter, overpowers guards, and is generally the active one in this story.  Plus, she’s not the only interesting female character, which is a bit unusual for the series.  Fariah, the woman who Salamander forces to work as his food taster is another interesting character.  What makes her even more unusual is that she is the first black, female character that I remember seeing in the series to this point. We don’t know what material Salamander was using to blackmail Fariah, but her story is an interesting one.  I wish we could have seen more of her, rather than seeing her killed off halfway through.

Of course with all focus on the new characters, the companions once again have a limited role.  Jamie and Victoria play a role in the story until episode 3, but they’re not in episode 4 at all and make limited appearances in the final two episodes. However. in most of their scenes they are together which is a vast improvement on “The Ice Warriors,” since we get to see their chemistry together.  They’re even in matching outfits, as Victoria’s skirt is almost identical to Jamie’s kilt.  While on a panel at Gally, Frazer Hines and Deborah Watling said that they tried to play scenes as if Victoria and Jamie were more than just friends, and that subtext does appear to exist throughout this story.  From the way Victoria clings to Jamie in the helicopter to Jamie’s withstanding of Benik’s torture for about 5 seconds (until he pulls Victoria’s hair) they do seem very…close.

Jamie and Victoria in the helicopter.  Doesn't this look like something more than friendship?

Jamie and Victoria in the helicopter. Doesn’t this look like something more than friendship?

Of course I haven’t touched on the most important character introduced in this story, Salamander.  The relative absence of the companions isn’t felt too strongly since this episode really is a showcase for Patrick Troughton.  He does an excellent job of distinguishing the Doctor and Salamander. Physically, Salamander is just the Doctor with a slightly swarthy complexion and a different part in his hair (and with a slightly questionable Mexican accent), but Troughton makes him feel like a completely different character.  He lacks the Doctor’s mannerisms and trademark facial expressions.  There are also some clear parallels drawn between Salamander and Napoleon, especially in his wardrobe.  It’s clear that Troughton relished the chance to play the antagonist for once, and his Salamander is a cold, calculating, and evil man. It’s a nice contrast to the Doctor in this episode, since his desire for nonviolence and proof before taking action is set up in stark contrast to the ruthless Salamander’s unquenchable desire for power.

Overall, “The Enemy of the World” is quite enjoyable.  David Whitaker wrote the story, and he is one of my favorite writers for classic Who.  His scripts generally focus more on the people and their motivations than some of the other writers and his script for “The Enemy of the World” might be his best.  It is filled with memorable characters and interesting plot twists.  Add to that script some great casting and performances, and you’ve got something special.  Even without all the other factors, Troughton’s performance alone would make this story stand out.  After all, two Troughtons are better than one.

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