Saturday, April 21, 2018

The Enemy of the World Episode 6

The one where Giles Kent is exposed, and the Doctor finally meets Salamander...

Mary Peach is given lots to do in this closing episode, essentially doing what a companion might do in other stories and eras. Astrid is the one who finds the injured Swann, and promises to help get the people trapped in the bunker back to the surface. She is the one who goes down in the tunnel to the shelter to find them all, and she is the one who breaks it to them that their lives have been an entire lie.

The clash of revelations throughout this episode is breathtaking, and it grows in size until the grand finale. It starts with Swann, just one man, discovering the truth about Salamander as he lies dying in Astrid's arms. Then it's an entire community of people who find out the truth, thanks to Astrid's thrilling infiltration of the shelter. "War? What war?!" she replies, flabbergasted at what she's discovered, and appalled at what Salamander has been doing. Peach is fantastic in these scenes, fending off marauding attackers, and then bursting their bubble by showing them that everything's been a fake - even the anti-radiation scanner.

Friday, April 20, 2018

The Enemy of the World Episode 5

The one where Swann finds out that Salamander's been lying to them all these years...

The first few minutes of this episode serve to neatly summarise the story so far as Kent and Astrid fill Bruce in (for it was his shoes which entered last week) on what's going on. Yet again, Bruce demands evidence of their claims, as the Doctor has for the last five weeks, so although they manage to recruit a key collaborator to their cause, they still have to go through the rigmarole of convincing him. If everybody just believed everybody else on face value, there wouldn't be much story left!

Colin Douglas continues to underwhelm me with his performance. He's about the only cast member who doesn't seem to be giving it their all (and that includes Margaret Hickey and Adam Verney). He's just kind of there, saying his lines, whereas everybody else seems to be revelling in the intricacies and opportunities of the script. Even a minor player like Elliott Cairnes (as the Group Captain) manages to squeeze something more out of what little he has to do (the character has shown clear but suppressed dislike for his boss Benik in both episodes 4 and 5, often just by expression alone).

Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Enemy of the World Episode 4

The one where we learn about an entire community kept in the dark beneath ground...

There's something rather wonderful about this story's two strong female characters coming to blows in Kent's office, even if their conversation is some way short of passing the Bechdel Test. In another context these two women could be leads in their own action adventure series. Imagine it: "Ferrer and Fariah", the bold new international espionage series from ITC! Of course, if it were to happen back in 1968 it'd probably have been called something crass like "Ebony and Ivory" or "Black and White", but regardless... wouldn't it have been amazing? And there's no doubt that Mary Peach and Carmen Munroe could have pulled it off magnificently!

We learn a little more about Fariah, who says that Salamander blackmailed her into becoming his servant. I share Kent's curiosity as to what exactly Fariah was being blackmailed about, but the Doctor rather wonderfully draws a veil over it all, saying: "Nobody's perfect." Poor Fariah. Whereas it seems Fedorin's misdeeds were engineered almost entirely by Salamander (and I do love the ambiguity of "nearly every one of those swindles"), whatever secrets lie in Fariah's past are all too true. One can only imagine what they were...

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The Enemy of the World Episode 3

The one where Fedorin becomes Deadorin...

Oh, be still my pounding heart - it's Jamie in a rubber uniform! I know it's rather seedy to start a review off with such salacious observations, but it's impossible for me to ignore the fact that Frazer Hines looks very tasty in that costume (thanks Martin Baugh!). I remember feeling similarly impressed with Jamie (and Ben) in rubber wetsuits in The Underwater Menace, but this outfit excels in every way!

Right, enough of that. What's happening with furry-faced Fedorin? I'm wondering how much of the dossier Salamander has on him is true and how much is fabricated, because Fedorin himself gives conflicting evidence. He claims the file is all lies, but also says that Salamander has "found things out" about him. He says they're lies, but as the Mexican tyrant puts it: "Lies... truth... Who knows?" Either way, I'm not sure how secure that file is in Salamander's flimsy wall safe.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Enemy of the World Episode 2

The one where we get to see for ourselves just how unpleasant Salamander is...

It's remarkable how good an actor Patrick Troughton was. Doctor Who was so lucky to get him, and lucky to have him for so long. He was the consummate British character actor, able to take on almost any role and utterly convince, whether it be bumbling fools, scheming villains, foreign spies, kindly uncles, or magical wizards. He plays two characters in this serial, but actually has to give three distinct performances - the Doctor as himself, Salamander as himself, and then the Doctor pretending to be Salamander.

But even within those three turns, there are nuances to pick out. In episode 1 we see Troughton playing the Doctor trying to perfect the Yucatan accent. Here, in episode 2 we see Troughton playing the Doctor pretending to be Salamander, but with a subtle sprinkling of vulnerability not present in his performance as the actual Salamander. We can see that the Doctor is still himself underneath, struggling a little to stay afloat of the deception. A lot of thought has obviously gone in to every scene Troughton plays, because it would be all too easy just to play "Salamander" here the same way he plays the real Salamander later on. But there's a difference, a weakness in the disguise. Patrick Troughton was simply masterful, a true genius of his art.

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Enemy of the World Episode 1

The one where the Doctor goes for a swim in the sea, survives an attempted assassination, and then impersonates a dictator...

As the episode opens and we see the TARDIS materialise (rather noisily - it sounds like it needs servicing), I can't help feeling instantly grateful that we're actually able to watch this story in whole now, thanks to its recovery in 2013. It still astonishes me that nine whole missing episodes were discovered in a dusty old storage room in Nigeria after 45 years. Doctor Who fans are so lucky to have these episodes back.

I mean, take this first episode, of a story which, before recovery, was overlooked, forgotten, disparaged and maligned by much of fandom. But now we can see it, The Enemy of the World has taken on a whole new lease of life, going from the black sheep of Season 5 to one of the series' all-time highlights. Episode 1 is a tour de force for director Barry Letts, who turns in some stunning location filming with real flair and style. What a pity Barry never got to see it again before he died.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

The Ice Warriors SIX

The one where the computers says no...

OK, so I was wrong. Zondal does manage to fire the sonic cannon at Britannicus Base, and some damage is caused to the humans (well, a chandelier slips a bit, and some polystyrene falls from the ceiling). I take it back, Brian Hayles. For once, you did have the courage of your authorial convictions.

What I found most remarkable about episode 6 though, is how Walters suddenly springs out of his box and gets loads of lines, and fair dos, actor Malcolm Taylor grabs his chance and runs with it. Walters has a kind of breakdown by turning against Clent and his reliance on the computer, and threatening to smash it up. Sadly, Taylor's impressive soliloquy - performed with gusto, like Eddie Yeats in hyperdrive - is cut short by Miss Garrett's trigger-happy need to preserve the computer at all costs, and he's gunned down (but only stunned, like Penley last episode).