Top critical review
Mid-Level Who but something's missing
on 30 September 2016
Since 'The Enemy of the World' is one of only 7 Patrick Troughton Doctor Who stories to survive complete in the archives, it therefore must be wholeheartedly cherished for even being here. Sadly, however, its DVD release is more than a little lacking in bonus material; with a coming soon trailer for 'The Web of Fear' being the only extra material available here. The usual restoration process is applied to the archive telerecordings, with the never missing episode 3 obviously looking and sounding the best, and so all dues to the Restoration Team for more hard, painstaking work to make the viewers experience as good as possible. The VidFIRE process has been applied to all scenes originally recorded on video. So it looks good; sounds good (the Béla Bartók score is lovely on the ears); and has little in terms of bonus material, but what about the episodes themselves- they of course being the main reason in choosing to purchase this DVD.
Set in the year 2018, The Doctor (Troughton), Jamie (Frazer Hines) and Victoria (Deborah Watling) land on a beach, supposedly in Australia, where a triumvirate of posturing Antipodean macho men pursue the Doctor from there hovercraft- sounds like a lot of money was thrown at it already. After being rescued by means of a helicopter (the production team certainly splashed out), the Doctor discovers he is the doppelganger of scientist and Machiavellian dictator, Ramon Salamander, and becomes muddled in a plot to topple him. Cue six episodes of capture and escape, plotting, impersonations and infiltration, as the Doctor and his companions try to succeed and survive.
The script by David Whitaker is authored like a low budget teatime Bond film with big filmed set pieces, especially in episode 1, juxtaposed by scenes of cramped videotaped dialogue scenes, such as Denes' corridor imprisonment. Whitaker's strengths lay in characters and there are many great characters, with director Barry Letts filling them with actors that can hold the parts well. From Astrid Ferrier (Mary Peach), a strong adventuress much in the same vein as Emma Peel, and Bill Kerr's Giles Kent, unfortunate enough to spend most of the story in caravans; to Bruce and Benik (Colin Douglas and the superlatively slimy Milton Johns, respectively), Salamanders security employees of whom one comes across as a decent human being, which makes a change for a henchman. Whilst the whole cast are top drawer, particularly Carmen Munroe (better known now from starring in 80s sitcom 'Desmond's') in her role as Salamander's food taster, Patrick Troughton stands out in his dual role as The Doctor/Salamander. This is undoubtedly Troughton's story and he puts in a tour de force making his Doctor even more mercurial and moral than usual to sharply contrast with his sinister double. His Mexican accent is, however, shall we say, a tad unconvincing.
If any aspect of the script is to be criticised, plot logic stands out as something David Whitaker forewent in his scripting process; the twist in plot during the latter half of this serial is remarkably bizarre and makes little sense, but does drive the last 2 episodes, when several strands of the plot have fallen away, and stops the fabric of the story from falling apart. But enough with the terrible embroidery metaphors.
Overall, this DVD seems to me a worthwhile purchase for anyone who hasn't bought the episodes from an online streaming service; complete Troughton serials being so sparse any without missing episodes should be immediately snapped up. Oh, and Reg Lye's chef is wonderfully funny in his dour pessimism.