Directed by David Whitaker
Written by Barry Letts
“The Enemy of the World” is a bit of an odd duck in Season 5 of Doctor Who, in a season which saw the emphasis on alien races and especially those that could recur, this serial has none of that. Along with five (four missing) episodes of the next serial, “The Web of Fear”, “The Enemy of the World” represents the most recent find for Doctor Who missing episodes and even though it was now four years ago, represents a small hope for finding more of them. The five missing episodes were discovered in Nigeria which considering the instability at the time they were found makes it even more remarkable.
Set in the distant future of 2018, the TARDIS lands on a beach and The Doctor randomly decides to strip and jump into the water. His glee at doing so is delightful. The Doctor is recognized as someone and an attempt is made on his life only for him to be saved by a woman in a helicopter. It turns out that he resembles an aspiring dictator, Ramón Salamander (also played by Troughton) and as a result “The Enemy of the World” serves as a counterpart to “The Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Eve” in terms of the Doctor playing a dual role as the villain. I have no clue why they made him play a Mexican when they could have made him literally any nationality. The only thing it accomplishes is let Troughton try on a new, highly questionable accent and to make the villain not white. In fact, it’d probably just easier to imagine he is playing a Spaniard if it wasn’t for the brownface.
While Salamander is the person responsible for helping to solve the food crisis with his sun collecting satellite thing (which is quite Bond villain-esque), he has been using that to amass power, replacing all who oppose him with friendly figures. Maybe that was the reason for the accent, as after murdering a man for failing him I was really struck by how much he seemed like a Bond villain complete with underground lair in which he keeps scientists. Salamander has knowledge of future natural disasters and uses his knowledge of such to benefit from them.
A discredited former official opposes him, having discovered his true machinations and accusing him of causing the disasters. The Doctor is quick to defend his doppleganger’s possible motivations since I guess he feels a kinship with him but also isn’t trusting that he just happened to stumble onto the right side of things (not helped by the fact that they immediately use him to their own ends and ruined his beach fun). The Doctor is forced to impersonate Salamander to save his and his companions life quite against his will to investigate even though it is clear he wants nothing to with this whole crisis. Jamie on the other hand insinuates himself into Salamander’s inner circle by “saving” his life but I’m most impressed that the villains are still skeptical of him and quick to figure out his true intentions. We also get more teasing of Jamie/Victoria as Victoria goes undercover as his girlfriend which I am all for that coupling.
In truth, Salamander has managed to keep a research team locked up for years, having convinced them the surface has become a irradiated nuclear hellscape consumed by war, casting himself as the brave man venturing to the surface to search for food. It’s almost as if these scenes are snuck in from another Doctor Who serial and it just feels so disconnected from the rest of the plot. None of them interact with any of our main cast as Salamander serves as the only link between the two plots which tell two very different stories. It’s a shame too, cause the serial goes downhill as it loses focus.
The Doctor’s refusal to believe Salamander is evil starts to get tiresome and he’s never seen so meek before. The serial has a great twist though (that I had forgotten about since my first viewing) in that the disgraced man was helping Salamander in his evil plots and only wants to topple him to take his place. He was right about everything about Salamander, it’s just that he only knows cause he’s just as evil and has deceived even his supporter. So technically The Doctor was right to question him, just that it required him to do an awful lot of mental gymnastics to delay figuring out Salamander’s evilness.
But that Salamander is a crafty one and even after his multi-layer creative Bond-villain plot fails, he almost escapes with the TARDIS too by impersonating The Doctor. It’s a shame he didn’t know how to fly it (not that The Doctor does really) but that would have made this a very different show. The serial is alright in the end, but it teeters on the verge of something much better, once again undone by the increased serial length.
– This is sort of a past meets future as David Whitaker has been a frequent writer (and original script editor) since the show’s inception while director Barry Letts makes his debut here and would eventually become the show’s producer.
– We get some more teasing on just who The Doctor is as one of the characters runs through the various types of doctorates to figure out which one he is. The only one he explicitly denies is being a doctor of medicine.
– The Doctor gets in a signature dig at humanity and its constant urge to destroy each other. “Human beings, indulging in their favorite past time of trying to kill each other”
– Having watched a number of sci-fi films (and read one sci-fi book) of the 50s and 60s recently, I’m curious if the writers from that era are the most bummed that travel by rocket never became a thing.
– We get a referenced to the Yeti when The Doctor mishears a pronunciation of “jetty”. I like the little callback and it makes sense it would be on his mind.
– We get a rare black actress for the show in Carmen Munroe (as a servant but for the show anyway it’s a fine sight)
– The random stock footage of volcanoes erupting and the destruction is hilarious
– I’m including links to all the original posts below for posterity (and for the comments) but from now on, any retrospective links will be to the new site.
– This Week in Cliffhangers: Back to having a cliffhanger! Salamander manages to send the TARDIS off flying but with the door open. Everyone is clinging for life save Salamander who is flung off somewhere in space and time never to be seen again. It would be cool if he had actually shown up again on the series in some unknown time period.
Next Up: Doctor Who steps into the “The Web of Fear” on 11/20 as the series becomes biweekly to allow for more varied writing and hopefully decrease the chance of burnout.
December 4th – “Fury from the Deep”
December 18th – “The Wheel in Space”
January 1st – “The Dominators
“Mission to the Unknown”
“The Myth Makers”
“The Daleks’ Master Plan”
“The Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Eve”
“The Celestial Toymaker”
“The War Machines”