Friday, October 11, 2013

The Enemy of My Enemy

Librarian in the TARDIS, Bonus Review #2

Title: The Enemy of the World
Written by: David Whitaker
Team TARDIS: Second Doctor, Jamie McCrimmon, Victoria Waterfield
Adversary: Ramon Salamander
Originally Aired: Dec 23, 1967-Jan 27, 1968
Number of Episodes: 6

Synopsis (from TARDIS Wikia) -
On Earth in 2018, the Doctor and his companions are enmeshed in a deadly web of intrigue thanks to his uncanny resemblance to the scientist/politician Salamander. He is hailed as the "shopkeeper of the world" for his efforts to relieve global famine, but why do his rivals keep disappearing? How can he predict so many natural disasters? The Doctor must expose Salamander's schemes before he takes over the world.

My Review:
The idea to review this story came to me on my way into work today right after I finished watching “The Enemy of the World” on iTunes (let that statement sink in for a bit...) Because this was one that I thought I would enjoy watching and I am so very pleased to report that it lived up to my expectations. So, why not slot in a special Bonus Review to go along with the rest of my 50th Anniversary reviews? (it’s my blog, my project, I do what I want!)

Let me back up - last night, Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and the various fansites were all aglow and abuzz with the joyous news of the return of “The Enemy of the World” and “The Web of Fear” to the BBC archives. The joy was even more palpable because both of these stories had been made available to the public immediately via iTunes, with the further announcement of DVD releases for both (“Enemy” next month, “Web” in January 2014). I hadn’t intended on getting either one of them quite yet, mostly because my personal finances are a little bit strapped at the moment (don’t worry - things are fine. It’s just that there are certain things in life that take precedence). However, upon doing a few further calculations, I reasoned that I could purchase one of these two stories. I settled on “The Enemy of the World” because I had watched Episode 3 on the “Lost in Time” box set some months ago and for whatever reason, that’s the one out of all the missing Troughton stories that really resonated with me at the time (I know people are the most excited about “The Web of Fear,” and I will be getting to that one eventually and I have no reason to say anything against it - if indeed there is anything negative to say about it at all. I just haven’t seen it yet, so I have no idea).

So, “The Enemy of the World” it was. And after a 3+ hour download (I’m on my internet provider’s “It’s Better Than Nothing” El Cheapo plan), I was ready to tuck in and enjoy a veritable feast of Who.

And what a feast it was! There are so many things to love about this story and I’ll probably only be able to go in-depth on a few, but it was so very worth the ten bucks (plus whatever the DVD ends up costing - because I’m likely going to drop dineros on that as well).

Here I am wishing they'd taken this approach
with all of the DVD cover art! Oh well...
One of the greatest things about this find of Classic Who is that these are two stories that restore the lovely Miss Victoria Waterfield (played by Deborah Watling) to our screens. I’ve said before that I found the dismissal of Victoria as “just a screamer” not very fair, but I didn’t have much evidence to support that. But I am tired of the surface impression of the early Who female companions just being screamers in short skirts (I could do an entire essay on the many ways in which those assertions are wrong - with specific examples - but the people who need to hear them wouldn’t bother to read it anyway). Granted, the Victoria I found in “The Enemy of the World” may be a bit timid, sure. But there’s nothing wrong with being shy and reserved. Remember - Victoria joined Team TARDIS as a result of the death of her father and she didn’t have anywhere else to go (not really). Imagine being thrown into a situation like that - you don’t know who you can trust or how you’re going to be taken care of. Some may not like the idea of Victoria being the poor, weak little girl who needs a big, tough man to protect her - and I wouldn’t even go as far as to say that she needs a man, per se. But what she does need (and what everybody needs at one point or another) is a friend. The Doctor and Jamie become Victoria’s friends because they care about what happens to her. That doesn’t make someone weak or insignificant or less-valued. That makes someone human. And, as often happens on Team TARDIS, those friendships evolve into a feeling of family. Sure, you’re hopping all around in space and time and running from frightening monsters and crazy psychopaths - but as long as you’ve got your adopted family with you, things are going to be just fine. And on that level, I love Victoria’s characterization. I love her bravery and her courage. I love her dependability. I love that she gets scared, but she still steps up when she is needed. That’s what makes a hero. It’s not necessarily the willingness to throw a punch that makes someone heroic

(Though I wouldn't trade Jamie knocking out a hostile on the beach while shouting “Creig au Tuire!” for anything - that was awesome. But that’s in Jamie’s character and there are things that I love about Jamie that make him different from Victoria or Zoe or Ben or Polly - but I talked a lot about that in my review of “The Evil of the Daleks,” so I’ll let that analysis stand on its own).

But there are a fantastic couple of scenes in Episode 5 where Jamie and Victoria have been captured by Salamander’s men and they’re being interrogated by Benik. And Benik is quite the horrible little sadist. He threatens Victoria, which upsets Jamie but there’s nothing he can really do about it - not without getting Victoria hurt or killed. There were some moments where I actually thought “Holy... this is supposed to be a kids’ show!” (before amending my own thought - “family show.” Still, it was scary stuff! And I’m 28!)

I really liked the iTunes
 cover art for this story - nice
and intense!
But then the Doctor comes in, clearly impersonating Salamander and fooling everyone - including Jamie and Victoria - and says that he will continue the interrogations. Which he does - even with Benik and Benik’s little “puppy dog” (as the Doctor calls Random Guard #3) out of the room. And Victoria has had it! She finally tells off “Salamander” and yells what a horrible man he is and all the things she and Jamie found out about him while they were sneaking around his compound in Episodes 2 and 3 - which amounts to the proof the Doctor has been looking for when Astrid and Giles first asked him to help them bring down Salamander (plus, Benik comes back, still thinking the Doctor is Salamander, and hands him some documents to sign. Who knew the catering bills would be so damning?) Jamie gets in the fracas too, thus proving to Bruce that Salamander really is a creep.

And then - just when Victoria and Jamie are so angry that they’re probably going to beat the crap out of “Salamander” (yes, even sweet, innocent Victoria is pissed enough at this point to throw a punch or two), the Doctor reveals to his friends that it’s really him. But neither Jamie nor Victoria quite believe it (who can blame them?) and it’s only when the Doctor plays “air-recorder” (in one of the most heartwarming and delightful moments I’ve seen Patrick Troughton display) that both Jamie and Victoria recognize their friend and their reunion is something that should be ranked on one of those “Top Doctor Who Moments” lists that someone somewhere has probably compiled (we Whovians are fond of our lists).

I haven’t even gotten into any plot elements of this story! The storytelling in “The Enemy of the World” is just so tight and engaging. The only reason I realized that I had already watched four episodes when I suddenly felt very sleepy, on account of it being so late (I decided to go to bed at that point and save the rest for when I was fully alert). This story trucks. It moves and it’s interesting and it’s just so much fun to watch! Patrick Troughton is simply brilliant as both the Doctor and Salamander. The best part about his performance is the subtle differences when he’s the Doctor impersonating Salamander. You know that he’s playing the Doctor playing a different role, but even if you didn’t know that, you would probably be fooled right along with Jamie and Victoria and the rest. And the other characters are phenomenal too. I think my favorites were Astrid and Fariah - Astrid’s kind of the action-lady who saves Team TARDIS from the guys hunting Salamander on the beach at the beginning and Fariah is Salamander’s food taster who actually hates Salamander and she ends up helping the Doctor escape (and sacrificing herself in the process, but her death scene is really quite good).

I could go on and on about this story and how much I enjoyed it. But it’s also such a wonderful treat to FINALLY have it back. It was one of those that I pretty much had resigned myself to never being able to see, but I figured I could listen to the audios and read the novelization - but there’s so much that you miss with just having those little pieces of the story. You miss the facial expressions and the movements and the scenery (the wallpaper in Salamander’s compound - yeah, even that made me laugh) and you miss just what kind of people these characters are. Animation and recons help, but there really is nothing like seeing the story as it was originally broadcast.

Of course, rumors persist and there’s always hope - however dim - for more finds. This huge discovery has brought the number of missing episodes down to 97 (down to double-digits! HOORAY!) and there are expert archivists out there still searching for whatever else they can uncover. There’s still a long way to go to having a complete collection of every Doctor Who episode ever made - and who knows whether or not that’s actually possible...

But for now - we dance!

Other Librarian in the TARDIS reviews of the Second Doctor -

Review 2.01 - A Work of Heart (TV: The Evil of the Daleks)
Review 2.02 - A Reunion of Friends (Big Finish: The Forbidden Time)
Review 2.03 - The Celestial Chessmaster (Novel: Dreams of Empire)

Next Time, on Librarian in the TARDIS -
Review 10.3 - The Most Ancient and Noble House

Previously -
Review 10.2 - Life Can Be a Bumpy Ride, Let the Doctor Smooth It Out

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