Mostly missing for many years, all six parts of The Enemy of the World have now been found and released on DVD. Scores of fans can now say they know what the Doctor looks like in his long johns.
I’m sure we can both agree, it’s been worth the wait.
The first thing to mention is how wonderful Patrick Troughton is. He has a brilliant screen presence, so charismatic and charming, with an almost child-like wonder at the world around him. And yet, there is so much more to him and the character than that. Behind the smile, is a mind that is constantly working and putting the pieces of the puzzle together and when he switches to a more serious character, it is totally believable. Troughton also has the unusual task of portraying the villain of the story, giving him something different to do, which must always be a welcome thing for an actor in a television series. The approach the show takes is one that would not be considered now – Salamaner is refered to as being Mexican and so Troughton is ever so slightly ‘blacked up’. This, along with a different hair style, makes him visually different enough as to not be confused for the Doctor. That being said, Troughton also gives us a very different character through his performance. In later episodes, we have the Doctor pretending to be Salamander, and Troughton seems to effortlessly switch between the two by just changing his facial expression or the look in his eyes.
Despite being a six part story, the pacing never drags. I tend to shy away from six-parters, because of all the Dalek stories that were very clearly designed to be four-parters then stretched out because they were a popular enemy. Troughton, as Salamander, is such a strong screen presence that I hardly noticed that Jamie and Victoria were not in the fourth episode. I hardly even noticed when the Doctor barely made an appearance in some episodes. Presumably this was done to not give Troughton an even heavier workload than he would have already had as the lead actor in a television series. My only real criticisms would be the scenes with Victoria in the kitchen, which are pointless filler that add nothing to the overall story. It’s a shame, because the two guest female characters are not the usual scream-at-the-monster types, they are both strong and brave in the face of adversity. And speaking of Victoria, she comes from 1866, yet seems to be happy running around in a skirt that stops above the knee?
The serial is directed by Barry Letts, and has some very nicely handled moments. The extreme close-ups into the Doctors face during the more serious moment adds an intensity to them and a p.o.v shot of a helicopter lifting off the ground and away from enemies is an energetic moment so rarely seen during this era of the show. Costume design also stood out at me. Salamander’s clothes have just enough of a hint of Mexican about it, without being too in-you-face and with the exception of the silly helmets they wear, the guards costumes are nicely designed. Black leather, or perhaps pvc, make them reminiscent of Mad Max – just over a decade before Mad Max was released.
I said in my post about The Tenth Planet that I was pleasantly surprised to see a positive role being given to a black actor. Here we see the same thing again, in the form of Fariah, a woman who works closely with Salamander. While she is shown not to question Salamader directly to his face, we learn later that there is more to the character than simple obedience. No man, except Salamander, seem to be above her.
While some minor characters dying is par-for-the-course in Doctor Who, the big surprise for me was the deaths of Fariah and Kane which are more drawn out. Fariah is shown to be shot fatally then threatened for information on the Doctor. Her response, while being held at gun point, is ‘you can’t threaten me now, I can only die once.’ In the final episode, Kane is winged by a bullet from Salamander who laughs and slowly follows him in his futile effort to get to safety. Perhaps it’s my perception of sixties television that’s in error, but I really wasn’t expecting this kind of violence and darkness from a family television show of this time.
The biggest disappointment for me was the final confrontation between the Doctor and Salamander. They’ve become aware of each other over six episodes and yet when they are finally in the same room together, it’s over in a flash. I expected, and even wanted, more between the two, an exploration of whether their similarities were only skin deep or not. In fact the whole serial comes to a very abrupt end as stories during this era bled into one another – so it’s probably just as well that most of the Web of Fear has also been recovered. I really would have liked to have seen more of Salamander. It would have made of an interesting Pertwee era story if he had returned and would have been a novel way of bringing back an old actor without what would later become the cliché of the Doctor teaming up with a younger incarnation of himself.
I’m glad this story has been recovered and highly recommend it for watching. It has a good story and pacing, Patrick Troughton is captivating as both the Doctor and Salamader and a human enemy makes a refreshing change from the monster of the week stories we so often get with Doctor Who