The enemy of the world (1967 - 1968)
About this serial
This is a six-part serial that was first broadcast between 23rd December 1967 - 27th January 1968. The serial was written by David Whitaker, produced by Innes Lloyd and directed by Barry Letts. The script editor was Peter Bryant.
The Doctor, Jamie and Victoria find themselves on early 21st-century earth in a '1984'-like future, and encounter a would-be dictator who looks oddly familiar.
Good things about this serial:
- The first two episodes, where we are discovering this story's new world and figuring out what's going on, are incredibly entertaining. There's also excellent location work, with our heroes escaping in a helicopter after being chased by people in a hovercraft. In the end the helicopter even explodes, though fortunately not with our heroes in it.
- With no aliens, evil robots or other monsters, this is an unusual story for Doctor Who.
- With Astrid, Fariah, Donald Bruce and Griffin the Chef the serial gives us several memorable characters, and Benik is an excellently camp villain.
- Patrick Troughton plays both the Doctor and his main antagonist Salamander, and does so with obvious relish.
- The confrontation between the Doctor and his evil twin in episode six is extremely well done and looks fantastic.
The less good news:
- After a promising start the story starts to sag. There doesn't seem to be enough story to fill six episodes, and the whole thing might have worked better as a four-parter.
- The location work in the first two episodes looks great and the underground shelter that Salamander uses for his evil plotting looks pretty good, but everything else appears to be done on a shoestring.
About the underground shelter: we learn that Salamander has tricked a whole bunch of people into hiding underground and causing weather changes and natural disasters for him. In itself, using these manmade environmental changes to destabilise the status quo and to gain influence and popularity is a pretty clever idea, but several things about this plot-line are pretty inexplicable:
- Why would it be possible to trigger weather changes and natural disasters from an underground shelter?
- If the controls to do so were built by Salamander, why did he build them in such a way that they can only be operated by several people working together?
- More in general, how would tricking a bunch of people into hiding underground for an indefinite period of time be the logical course of action in any scenario?
The bottom line
Tough call. If you only watch episodes one, two and six, and skip the other three, this serial is pretty great. Then again, it doesn't seem fair to put a story in the 'Nice!' category when half of it actually isn't that good.