- Actors: Tom Baker, Louise Jameson, John Leeson
- Directors: Derrick Goodwin
- Format: VHS
- Studio: BBC
- VHS Release Date: 2 Sept. 2002
- Run Time: 92 minutes
- Average Customer Review: 21 customer reviews
- ASIN: B00006G9VH
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 127,036 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)
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Doctor Who: The Invisible Enemy [VHS]
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Another adventure for the intrepid space/time traveller. A mysterious cloud is causing havoc in space, infecting all those who pass through it with an intelligent virus which could spread throughout the whole galaxy. The Doctor (Tom Baker) and Leela (Louise Jameson) try to come to the rescue, but the TARDIS passes through the cloud itself, leaving the Doctor infected with the virus. He and Leela then try to find help at a nearby medical station, where they meet the eccentric Professor Marius and his pet robot K-9. Can this unlikely alliance save the Doctor from the viral menace?
In "The Invisible Enemy", the first adventure of Doctor Who's 15th season, the enemy is all too visible and looks like a giant shrimp. The Doctor (Tom Baker) and Leela (Louise Jameson) receive a Mayday signal, but before they can go to the rescue the Time Lord is infected by the same intelligent virus which has already taken over the crew of a base on Titan. Leela gets the Doctor to a nearby medical station and--while the satellite comes under attack by agents of The Nucleus--miniaturised clones of the Doctor and Leela venture into the Time Lord's brain. The plot thereby combines the classic science fiction tension-builder of a tiny group of humans battling a superior alien foe with the premise of the 1966 film Fantastic Voyage. Inevitably the virus escapes into the full-sized world in a desperate bid to bring about "The Swarming".
This saga boasts copious but variable special effects and laughable make-up; it also marks the debut of irritating robot dog K-9. The Doctor had already been miniaturised in "Planet of the Giants" (1964) and "Carnival of Monsters" (1972). While this 1977 story gets progressively more outlandish and silly, somehow it remains surprisingly gripping to the end. --Gary S Dalkin
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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.
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