Doctor Who – The Enemy of the World Review (Spoilers)

  • Series Title: Doctor Who
  • Story Title: The Enemy of the World
  • Story #: 40
  • Episodes: 6 half-hour parts
  • Discs: 1
  • Network: BBC
  • Original Air Dates: 12/23/1967 – 01/27/1968
  • Cast: Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines, Deborah Watling
  • Format: Standard, Black and White, DVD, NTSC

“Oh, you’re a Doctor…” – Astrid
“Not of any medical significance.” – The Doctor
“Doctor of law? Philosophy?” – Astrid
“Which law? Whose philosophy?” – The Doctor

“Years ago, Doctor, when one country wanted to invade another – it set about attacking the confidence of that country, throwing it into confusion, making it weak – and then it was ripe for takeover.” – Kent

“It’s sad, really, isn’t it? People spend all their time making nice things and other people come along and break them.” – The Doctor

“The Enemy of the World” is a tense, taut political thriller. It’s easily watchable in one go, though because of my schedule I did watch it in two parts (1-3 one night and 4-6 the next day). There’s no monsters here (other than those of the human variety), no alien invasions, no cults or sickness or viruses. It’s just about people and politics – and it’s absolutely fascinating. It also has a very strong guest cast, especially the women (Fariah – pronounced with three syllables – FAIR-REE-ah, not like Farrah Fawcett) and Astrid. But all the characters, good and evil, those “simply following orders” and those fighting back in an repressive, fascist regime, are well-drawn and well-rounded characters.

The Doctor, Jamie and Victoria land in the TARDIS on the seaside, and the Doctor immediately runs into the ocean for a dip – which Jamie and Victoria think is a bit nuts. The Doctor is attacked, a case of mistaken identity, and rescued by Astrid in her helicopter. The three are taken to Kent, the leader of the resistance against Salamander – the dictator who leads the world. Kent and Astrid insist Salamander is evil and corrupt – and he’s trying to take control of the world. The Doctor is unsure and unwilling to involve himself in local politics (no really!). He insists on proof. Astrid remarks on the Doctor’s uncanny resemblance to Salamander (this is Troughton in a dual role), and wants him to use that to their advantage to get the evidence they need – not only to convince the Doctor but to convince the world to do something about Salamander.

The Doctor is somewhat forced to at least try to get more information. Jamie and Victoria are sent to the Central European Zone to sneak in and get information by going undercover. Kent and Astrid provide travel documents and passage. Astrid even goes with the two to help them with the travel and to assist with getting them in. Jamie goes in and “saves” Salamander from a “bomb” – actually a clever deception organized by Astrid. Jamie gets a job as a guard and Victoria is sent to the kitchen.

The leader of the Central European Zone is Denes – and Salamander tells him that a disaster will hit his region – he can’t help it, but he can help if Denes turns total control over to him. Denes refuses – stating he wants to investigate further, doubting there will be a disaster. Extinct volcanoes erupt in the region, killing millions. Salamander has Denes arrested. He offers Fedorin his job but also blackmails him with a file. Salamander will control Fedorin. He then orders Fedorin to kill Denes. Meanwhile, in the kitchens, Victoria meets a crusty Cockney chef who complains about everything. She goes to bring Denes his meal, and there’s a distraction while Fariah, Salamander’s food taster, gets the hidden file on Fedorin. Fedorin goes to poison the food once it arrives again – but he can’t do it. He reports to Salamander. Salamander kills him then claims it was “suicide”.

Jamie, Victoria, and Fariah escape and meet-up with Astrid. They make it back to Kent’s with the file – and meet the Doctor. Unfortunately, Salamander’s troops are on their tail. they split up to escape, Fariah has the file – Fariah is shot in the back by Benik’s guards (the head of security at the Research Center) and the file taken.

Kent and Astrid become more insistent that the Doctor impersonate Salamander. Learning Jamie and Victoria were taken prisoner to the Research Center during the escape – the Doctor agrees to go in to get more information and release his two young friends.

Meanwhile, Salamander locks himself in the “records room” of the research center. He takes a single-person elevator/subway car to an underground bunker. There are a group of scientists in the bunker, one of whom, Colin, is getting desperate to see the surface. Salamander brings new food stores, but tells the scientists they can’t return to the surface due to the devastation from “the war”. He then orders them to continue causing natural disasters. Swann, the scientist leader, though, finds an up-to-date newspaper that makes him very suspicious of Salamander’s version of events. He confronts Salamander, who agrees to take him to the surface to see for himself (after some very unconvincing attempts to explain away the newspaper Swann found). Once they are in some tunnels by the food store – Salamander tries to kill Swann. Swann wanders off towards the surface, and he’s found by Astrid. Although he eventually dies from his injuries he tells her about “the others”.

Meanwhile, the Doctor is now getting some help from Bruce, the World Security Advisor, who has his suspicions about Salamander – but doesn’t trust Kent at all. The Doctor convinces him he can play the part of Salamander by successfully doing so in front of Jamie and Victoria. He breaks back into character and asks Bruce to escort Jamie and Victoria safely out of the research center while he plays his part and gathers info. The Doctor discovers the research center is ordering three times the amount of food it should.

Benik gets suspicious when Salamander seems to be in two places at once. Astrid gets into the underground bunker via the tunnel – and the scientists at first fear her. When she proves the “radiation meter” is a complete fake, and explains the truth of it – they want to go to the surface, naturally. It’s a bit of a slow process. The Doctor confronts Kent – discovering he and Salamander were partners when a pair of scientists from the bunker arrive. Kent wants to take over from Salamander. There’s a fight, the bunker is blown-up, Kent’s killed, but Salamander escapes.

The Doctor says goodbye to Astrid, who now has plenty of evidence to discredit Salamander (and come clean about Kent) and have him arrested. The Doctor goes to join Jamie and Victoria at the TARDIS. Unfortunately, Salamander gets there first and non-verbally orders Jamie to fly the TARDIS. The Doctor arrives and the TARDIS takes off – Salamander gets the doors open and falls to his doom through them.

“The Enemy of the World” is a taut political epic that is ripe with applicability to our times as well. We instantly want to believe Kent and Astrid because, well, in part, it’s the type of thing that the Doctor tends to fall into (both in Classic and New Who). Astrid is also incredibly strong – not only in her convictions, but this woman flies a helicopter, she shoots guns, she defeats armed guards in hand-to-hand combat (rivaling Emma Peel as she does so) and she never once whines, cries, or complains. Even when she learns Kent, the man she’s presumably worked with to overthrow Salamander for years, has betrayed her she doesn’t stubbornly insist “he couldn’t do that” with the evidence in front of her, she metaphorically rolls up her sleeves and says, “Right, okay, so I’m in charge now, What next?” And she doesn’t get killed. Very importantly, this strong, brilliant woman doesn’t die.

Fariah, who is also Black, is also strong. She’s Salamander’s food taster (and probably his assistant as well), she says she hates him – probably more than Victoria or Jamie, yet the two times she’s pressed to explain why, she refuses, saying it doesn’t matter. There’s a whole ‘nother story there that we don’t see – which makes the world shown in “Enemy of the World” to seem real and lived-in. Yes, Salamander destroys people, good people like Fariah – and the details aren’t important. She, unfortunately, is killed. 😦

Kent at first seems like an overly enthusiastic rebel leader. He reminds me of Blake in Blake’s 7, and of course, we’ve seen his type numerous times in Doctor Who in both Classic and New Who. But he doesn’t set off any alarm bells at first. When the Doctor discovers the truth – it’s a genuine surprise.

The rest of the characters don’t really fall into strict one-dimensional categories either. Bruce starts off as a black-wearing security chief, but as he learns more about Salamander (especially the deaths of Denes, Fedorin, and Fariah). he starts to question Salamander. But he equally doesn’t trust or like Kent. Ultimately, he decides he will make up his own mind if the Doctor can provide proof. In this, he is much like the Doctor who keeps telling Kent and Astrid not so much that he “can’t interfere” but he must be sure he knows what he’s doing if he does interfere.

Patrick Troughton is excellent in a dual role as The Doctor and Salamander. The scene where the Doctor is playing Salamander in front of Jamie and Victoria is particularly well-played and directed. Also, the sets for Salamander’s record room, the transport tube, and the underground bunker are particularly impressive.

“Enemy of the World” is an excellent Doctor Who story and I highly, highly recommend it. This is the story that along with most of “Web of Fear” was recovered in 2013, for more about the recovery see, 9 Missing Doctor Who Episodes Found. The only minor disappointment in the DVD is that while Doctor Who DVDs usually come packed with special features, this one basically has none – the only extra is a trailer for ‘Web of Fear”, which was discovered at the same time. The film was cleaned up though and it looks great! I highly, highly recommend “Enemy of the World”.

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