2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 24 April 2009
Now available on DVD as part of the K9 box set, this is the story where The Doctor and Leela first encounter the robot dog; a substitute pet for Professor Marius, a scientist working at the Bi-Al Foundation, an asteroid circling Titan, one of the moons of Saturn. The titular enemy is the leader of 'the swarm', a space virus that infects the crew of a spaceship destined for Titan and which plans to use the moon as its new breeding ground.
The story is notorious for its 'giant prawn'; an enemy that probably ought to have remained invisible as the SFX available to the production team certainly weren't up to bringing it to life (as an avid reader of the Target Doctor Who novelisations I was misled by the cover's superb depiction!) This aside, there are some good performances and some memorable moments; apart from K9 there is the redoubtable Michael Sheard - Mr Bronson from Grange Hill and a Doctor Who staple in the 70s - and a great sequence where The Doctor and Leela are cloned and injected into the Doctor's bloodstream to try and defeat the virus that has infected The Time Lord.
Overall, a great idea that is let down by its SFX but which is still a fun and engaging adventure in classic late 70s stylee.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A fantastical, futuristic voyage through the solar system and the inner space of the Doctor's mind. 4*
5000 AD: A crew shuttle is approaching base on Titan, a moon of Saturn, when it flies through a strange, conscious cloud: "Contact has been made..." Soon a sentient space virus is leaping from host to host, seeking out intelligent minds to infect - and there are few minds more intelligent than the Doctor's...
NOTE: You can now buy this story as part of the `K9 Tales Box Set' and it might even cost less than buying this single DVD.
On the surface at least, this sounds like a classic `alien takeover' or `base-under-siege' story and part of it is; well written, quite violent for this season and directed with pace by Derrick Goodwin in his first `Doctor Who' production. But writers Bob Baker and Dave Martin were already known for imaginative stories like `The Claws of Axos' and `The Three Doctors', and here too the story takes remarkable twists for an ingenious cocktail of action in our macro world and the micro world of the virus, with a bit of help from TARDIS dimensional technology.
The Doctor is not his usual self for much of this story, partly infected by a mind-feeding virus and partly as a mere shadow of himself (more on that later). Tom Baker's performance is really excellent, showing us the Doctor struggling against an invisible enemy lurking deep in his own mind. While the Doctor concentrates on his microscopic inner battle, Leela is more than ready to fight their battles in our normal macro world, knife and blaster in hand.
Louise Jameson has a well-written role in this story and plays it perfectly, a mixture of warrior instinct, intelligence and adaptability that no virus or its unwilling hosts could defeat! There's what looks like a patronising suggestion that her strength against the virus is due to a *lack* of intelligent thought - shame on the Doctor for even considering this possibility! - but this is obviously not true and the real explanation is found later on. The two characters here make a well balanced partnership rather than `Doctor and assistant' and share some great dialogue.
With the Doctor ill, Leela seeks help at the Bi-Al medical foundation in the asteroid belt, and meets brilliant, eccentric (and very obviously German) geneticist Professor Marius (Frederick Jaeger) - and also meets his dog. K-9 makes this story famous, and rightly so; it may have been a rather trundling machine, likely to bang into scenery and send cameras fuzzy with radio interference, but the design is iconic and HE is a wonderful companion in this story and beyond, thanks to the intelligent charm given to the robot by the voice of John Leeson. Good dog K-9! There's quite a large guest cast and Michael Sheard is very good as station supervisor Lowe, but most of the characters are quickly `possessed' by the virus so there's little chance for individual characterisation once "contact has been made."
The next strand is where the story really dives "into the land of dreams and fantasy". (*You might want to skip this paragraph if you're sensitive to spoilers.*) To fight the virus growing in his mind, the Doctor comes up with an ingenious if incredible plan: to have Professor Marius create temporary clones of himself and Leela, shrink them to virus-like proportions with the TARDIS dimensional stabiliser - then send them on the hunt for the invisible enemy - inside the Doctor's brain! The clones not only look like the Doctor and Leela (obviously) but have their memories and personalities (astonishingly) and even exact copies of their clothes (incredibly!) This was a very good idea but might have been done slightly better; white medical coveralls such as the staff wear would have clearly separated the clones from the `real' Doctor and Leela and would have been more believable than `clothes cloning'.
However, the concept sets up a fantastic - journey - and shows off classic `Doctor Who' effects at their very best. With a combination of more superb model work and effective CSO (or `green screen') camera techniques, the Doctor and Leela pursue their quest where no-one has gone before, in `Doctor Who' at least. It's memorable and very effective even by modern standards of effects, and there's a fun `period drama' moment where they stand, hair ruffled by a breeze, gazing into the distance and swapping lines in a scene that might be from `Titanic' or `Brief Encounter'! ("Bracing, isn't it?" "Very" - said in cut-glass tones!)
Unfortunately, when the Invisible Enemy eventually becomes visible in our macro world it is not the story's finest hour. It looks like a gigantic - even titanic - king prawn. John Leeson again provides the voice and it's a very good voice for this daring concept of a `monster' - but with a design that looks too familiar from a rock pool or a plate of scampi. The `Target' book cover was better. Still, with its infected henchmen it provides a visible enemy for the Doctor and Leela to tackle, which they do, with a clever variation on a theme thanks to the strange atmosphere of Titan, to which the virus has returned to spawn. Leela also shows the way to deal with the henchmen as a warrior would, and it's probably this that gives the DVD its `12' certificate, very unusual for this DVD range.
This was a studio-based story (and I'm sad to say there are four obvious set wobbles - which is far more unusual than rumour suggests), but the model work is extensive and brilliantly done, not only the `inner space' sequences but the `location filming' among the moons of Saturn and the asteroid belt. It really is impressive work and holds up very well today. This creates a dilemma for the viewer, because there is an option on the Special Features menu to watch with modern CGI sequences replacing the `exterior' model work and effects - and there are a lot of new sequences and overlays in this story, all very good. I've watched it both ways now and it's a 50/50 choice.
The original model work by Ian Scoones, Tony Harding and Mat Irvine is so impressive that it's a pity to replace parts of it, although there is a continuity error that is now fixed and apparently the new views of Titan now reflect current astronomical knowledge. However, the new effects for the `outer space' scenes are also very good and the interior effects - the virus `contacts', blaster battles, K-9's nose-gun, etc. - are hugely improved by the new effects sequences, so on balance it's probably best to turn on the new CGI effects for a first viewing.
Whichever effects you choose, this is a very enjoyable story; well written, acted and directed and with some exceptional model and CSO work which for me outweighs the King Prawn of Titan any day. Best enjoyed by indulgent viewing from a comfy armchair with the dog and a bag of crisps; prawn cocktail flavour wouldn't you say K-9? "Affirmative!" 4*
Thanks for reading.
NOTE: The first edition of `The Invisible Enemy' has a fault at the end of episode 3, making the final two short scenes play in the wrong order - confusing when you aren't expecting it but doesn't ruin it for me. This fault was corrected in later pressings but it is something to be aware of if you pick up a used copy of this DVD that might be the first edition.
DVD Special Features:
The commentary is very entertaining, with Louise Jameson, John Leeson, writer Bob Baker and visual effects designer Mat Irvine.
The special features are all centred around the effects and K-9, which is fair enough for this story and they're all interesting.
`Dreams and Fantasy' (21 min) - a quite short but good `making of' feature including the original K-9 back in action again.
`Studio Sweepings' (20 min) - a surviving monochrome studio tape going behind the scenes of the story and showing the actors at work; luckily it's mostly the impressive `mindscape' sequences. There's also a classic K-9 outtake.
`Visual Effect' (16 min) - Mat Irvine meets Ian Scoones back at Bray Studios where the model work was filmed and demonstrates some of the original models.
`Blue Peter' (5 min) - K-9 meets John Noakes and his dog Shep in a classic and very funny sequence.
Photo Gallery (5 min).
A fun little Easter Egg, with another K-9 moment.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 24 February 2003
Whilst by no means one of the all-time Doctor Who classics, “The Invisible Enemy” is still an entertaining and enjoyable story from Tom Baker’s era, with some interesting elements too! This story is probably most famous for being the one that introduced us to the trusty robot dog K9, who became a major hit with the younger “Who” fans, and it’s easy to see why! I remember being in the school playground with my mates after the first K9 episode and us enthusiastically intoning “affirmative” and “negative, master”! Not to mention the K9 replicas we tried to make out of Lego and cardboard boxes. The automaton himself makes an impressive debut in this story and adds to some of the show’s best action sequences. Whether or not having him in the show as a long-term fixture was a good thing is a moot point, as some viewers saw him as something of a gimmick, often making it too easy for the Dr to escape dangerous situations. I’ll always have a soft spot for him though – move over R2D2! K9 rocks!
Enough of that, what about the rest of the story? It starts off with the crew of a space shuttle who become mysteriously “infected” when a strange cloud envelops and attacks their craft. On arriving at their destination, the planet of Titan, they kill all but one member of the Titan base. Meanwhile, the TARDIS encounters the same outer space cloud and the Dr becomes infected too, although his companion Leela seems to be immune. The TARDIS materialises on the Titan base and Leela tries to get help for the Dr, but it seems that the alien virus, the “Nucleus” that infected him, has already chosen the Dr as its “host” body and it must be protected at all costs...
The story has plenty of action and gets more involved when it moves to the “bi-al foundation”, an intergalactic hospital situated on an asteroid, in episode two where we meet Professor Marius, the inventor of K9 and surgeon who attempts to rid the Dr of the virus.
Although some of the special and visual effects in this story seem pretty dated by today’s standards there are some good moments like the shots of shuttlecraft when it lands on the Titan base. There’s some less effective bits though, for instance when K9 is about to shoot down a section of a wall and you can see the cracks already there! The Nucleus monster, who we get to see properly from the end of episode three, is absolutely hilarious and resembles nothing less than a giant shrimp, or something ruder. When we see it growing in the chamber at the end of the third episode, waving its pincers/claws about, it looks like it’s disco dancing! Equally silly is the appearance of the characters who have been taken over by the virus – after being infected they sprout what can only be described as Dennis Healey style bushy eyebrows and their faces look like they’re coated with icing sugar! Not very scary! A more successful visual aspect are the sets that represent the interior of the Dr’s mind, where clones of the Dr and Leela are sent to track down the Nucleus host. It’s an interesting concept, although not entirely original, as the idea was originally used in the movie “Fantastic Voyage”.
As for the acting and characterisation in this story, it ranges from average to good. Tom Baker, whilst in my opinion one of the best Drs, seems to be coasting at times and going through the motions (this was the start of the period when Graham Williams produced the programme, who unfortunately had a rather laissez faire approach to the show). However he still has some strong moments, often in his humorous exchanges with Leela - e.g. when he accuses her of copying him like a parrot in episode one – and also in the scenes where he questions the Nucleus’ right to conquer the cosmos. Louise Jameson as Leela, although occasionally annoying in the way she’s portrayed as a silly savage, is still a gutsy companion and she’s great when she’s fighting with K9 against the “evil”, infected characters. The moment when she calls K9 a “tin thing” is funny as is the scene when she asks K9 to explain the cloning technique “simply” (she doesn’t understand him first time round). Frederick Jaegar’s Professor Marius character is half serious/half-humorous and quite endearing, although his cod-Germanic accent is a bit corny at times! Michael Sheard is also good as Lowe, one of the members of Titan base who becomes contaminated later on and is quite menacing as a villain (anyone remember him as Mr Bronson in Grange Hill?!!)
Overall if you’re looking for some entertainment, you can do infinitely worse than “The Invisible Enemy” – I enjoyed it and I think you will probably too, especially if you like some good old 1970s sci-fi. There’s just the right amount of “Who” elements here for all concerned – “make contact” with a copy as soon as you can!
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 6 May 2003
At a key point in 'The Invisible Enemy' the Doctor discovers that cloning experiments first took place in the year 3922 (or some similarly far-flung date), a gentle reminder that recent advances in genetic science have come at us far quicker than could ever have been expected. That isn't to imply that 'The Invisible Enemy' explores cloning in any serious way: it doesn't. But it does demonstrate the wonderfully throw-away approach to science in Doctor Who stories, or what in Star Trek is called 'techno-babble'. But where Star Trek is quite earnest and serious in its approach to 'science', taking it all 'very seriously', Doctor Who stories often seem to fling 'real' science facts into the mix in the way you might fling chocolate chips into a dough mixture: you don't need to be precise, because all that really matters is that you don't forget to put them in.
The reason 'The Invisible Enemy' is still entertaining is the combination of witty dialogue and eye-catching design. Tom Baker frequently proves to be the saving grace of Fourth Doctor stories, and here is no exception. Both the Doctor and Leela are served well by a script which is clever, slightly ironic, and full of good dialogue ("You megalomaniacs are all the same"), and save for a few dud lines (usually where the script is desperately trying to cover some distance in a short space of time with exposition from either Leela of the Swarm) Bob Baker and Dave Martin turned out a solid (if not classic) story.
However what stands out in 'The Invisible Enemy' is the time that appears to have gone into giving the story a distinctive look and atmosphere. A high-angle shot of the three infected astronauts in their space-suits, for example, succeeds in stretching the capabilities of a shot-on-video studio-based TV story into the realms of the filmic. 'The Invisible Enemy' isn't cinematic by any stretch of the imagination, but there are certain shots early on that leave a big impression. The cliff-hanger to episode one, the special effects shots at the very beginning of the story, and the model-shots of the eggs before they hatch, are all particularly effective. And other, smaller details shouldn't be ignored: the decals used in the moon base ('Oxygen' and 'Level 4X', etc.) have a pleasing future-retro feel, and Professor Marius' spectacles are wonderful.
There is a lot to like in 'The Invisible Enemy', and even though certain elements would make even the most hardy of viewers wince (the inside of the Doctor's brain, and the virus in it, for example, are far too tacky) overall it is a successful and enjoyable Doctor Who adventure.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 8 January 2014
I remember watching this story when I was quite young and it did scare me. The whole being taken over by a malevonat force thing and turning goodie into virtually unstopable baddies. Leela was at her finest in this story, I always fancied her, the leathers and those gorgeous eyes! But I digress. A great story, one of my favorites and no it hasn't aged well with regard to the rather clunky and at times laughable special effects. But that was the magic of Doctor Who then.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 1 June 2004
This is basically a pantomime version of the Omega Man in outer space (the Doctor and Leela are beseiged by possessed victims of a plague virus outbreak who've turned into gun-crazed killers) which then turns into a panto version of Fantastic Voyage (miniaturised clones of the Doctor and Leela are injected into the Doctor where they meet the monstrous germ!). All in all, silly, cheap and devoid of reality, but it is rather fun. The giant lobster takes the cake, however!
on 23 August 2007
Yes even though even i wonder why the Doctor seems to have no blood in his brain when he and Leela are cloned and injected into his neck, and how they can breathe as well...well, maybe he doesnt have much blood, he is an alien after all! And maybe he does have an airy head!
Despite these quirks in the script, this story is still highly watchable and entertaining. And doesnt the nucleus just look so cool? Attack of the killer prawn with attitude, although the voice by John Leeson is great! And this story did introduce the cool K9 too. And the spacesuited men whove been overtaken by the virus are actually pretty creepy. And despite the budget restraints, this story doesnt look too bad either. And also i think Tom's acting is great in this story, especially when hes overtaken by the virus, he really looks creepy and possessed. Altogether a great story.
on 11 July 2014
my second fav doctor, and great to see K9
on 12 October 2013
Quality excellent, and subtitles very helpful. Well worth paying the price for, as I already had the DVD K9 and Company, and I didn't want to pay for K9 Tales on DVD. Another DVD to add to my fast growing Dr Who Collection!
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 25 July 2012
This story was created to include a new assistant. the Noisy and clunky K9!!. this is a rip off (homage) to the film Fantastic journey and later reproduced by Steven Spielburg in the film Innerspace where humans are miniuratrised and inserted into a host.
Special effects are pretty naff (check out the falling debris from a pillar and dodgy laser blasts)
The bad guy..the prawn a great idea but suffering from a poor budget and has more strings than a Thunderbirds puppet.
Great story..i love it..oh and look out for the spellings on the doors and walls!! fantastic stuff!!!
CONTACT HAS BEEN MADE!!!