The Enemy of the World

It’s so very weird to think that less than a month ago, I was reading Barry Letts’ reminiscences of why The Enemy of the World wasn’t as good as he would have like it to be, reflecting on Phil Sandifer’s championing of it as the best story done thus far, and regretting that I’d never be able to know for sure. I had the audio, I’ve watched the reconstruction, I have read Ian Marter’s adequate novelisation, and these are all OK faute de mieux. But now we have all six episodes restored, in decent quality, for our delectation and delight, and we can decide for ourselves whether to believe Letts, who directed the story, or Sandifer, who was born almost fifteen years after the only time it was ever shown on British TV and like me had never watched any beyond the surviving third episode.

And Sandifer is right. This is a true gem to have uncovered. The two particular set-piece scenes that I had really hoped would work – Salamander entering his secret underground lair, and the confrontation between Salamander and the Doctor at the end of the story – more than lived up to my expectations. (Letts is particularly regretful about the latter in his memoirs, and there is perhaps an element of haste about it, but it is still pretty damn good.) More than that, this is a superb performance by Patrick Troughton, as two very different characters, each of which at various time pretends to be the other – I am a sucker for these blurred-identity yarns anyway, but Troughton takes this to a level that is not managed in any other Doctor-meets-his-double story.

Most of the rest is great too – Carmen Munro plays Fariah, possibly the most interesting non-white woman in the whole of Old Who (not a lot of competition – Ping-Cho and Shou Yuing are the only others who come to mind); the other cast are good too, both the above-grounders and the undergrounders; and even the third episode stands up way better in full context, with the comic Australian chef not quite so out of place when we know more about his environment. It’s a story that has generally been a bit overlooked, as the only one of Season 5, the Monster Season, that lacked actual monsters; that will change now, as fannish wisdom adjusts to the newly revealed reality.

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