Doctor Who Project: The Enemy of the World

You’ll run out of doctors in a minute.

So, we have an underground base? Check. An unexplained device capable of creating natural disasters anywhere on the planet? Check. Monsters attacking said base to use the technology to their own ends? Um, no? Turns out, despite most of the trappings, David Whitaker’s “The Enemy of the World” (Story Production Code PP) changes everything up, and just in time. No monsters (of the non-human variety, at least), no base under siege, just a careful (and rousing) exploration of the importance of trust and certainty, played out through the device of the Doctor’s double. Or, rather, the Doctor being a double. Everyone winds up confused, and that’s a very positive development for Doctor Who as a series.

A smashing do!

We’ve covered this ground before, at least marginally, in the superlative “The Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Eve,” wherein the Abbot of Amboise matches the First Doctor to a tee. But there, the arch coincidence remains mostly that, a coincidence that allows William Hartnell to stretch his acting chops somewhat by playing a new role; the story doesn’t make much of the similarity. Here, the Second Doctor is found to look exactly like Salamander, a highly influential philanthropist and inventor who supplies many of the Earth’s food needs by directing stored solar energy to areas lacking sufficient sunlight to grow abundant crops. However, when the Doctor is spotted cavorting on a beach just after landing—he does love the seashore—he, Jamie, and Victoria are set upon by men trying to kill him, thinking him to be Salamander, apparent benefactor of all humanity. With a hovercraft. It is the future, you see, just shy of the year 2019. Hovercraft it is.

Looks like a 2015 Morris Hovercraft to me.

And when an action-hero-type named Astrid rescues them, it turns out she swoops in and saves them from her own overzealous compatriots in the fight against Salamander. The Doctor has stumbled into a conspiracy against his dopplegänger, who stands accused of subverting the politics of the United Zones in an attempt to become a de facto dictator. The similarity between the two men will allow the Doctor to help the conspirators bring down this awful would-be tyrant, and the Doctor eagerly…well, actually, he says he wants proof. After two episodes of explosions and escapes and derring-do, only bank statements and affidavits will suffice.

Doctor: Which side is good? Which side is bad? And why should I interfere?

The set-up makes clear to the viewer that Salamander is evil, or at the very least up to no good. The well-staged shots of Salamander speaking before the United Zones conference carry a suggestion of something sinister, carried through by his foreign accent (Yucatan, to the Doctor’s thinking upon hearing it and trying it on the tongue) and the brusquely imperial mannerisms. And Astrid, who rescued them at great risk to her own life, has devoted her life to defeating him. But the Doctor is nowhere near convinced enough to intervene, particularly since Giles Kent, the leader of this band of semi-renegades, forces the Doctor to either impersonate Salamander or be turned over as an impostor.

If the viewer remains unconvinced that Salamander is, indeed, the titular enemy of the world, his uncanny ability to predict earthquakes and volcanic eruptions and then his blackmailing of a minor functionary to ensure his loyalty eventually seal the deal. Kent, though, remains an unresolved cypher. Does his hatred of Salamander excuse his own blackmailing of the Doctor to help bring down the dictator? Jamie and Victoria seem convinced that Salamander should be investigated and volunteer to infiltrate Salamander’s compound. There, they hope to gain the proof to convince the Doctor to use his likeness to expose and defeat Salamander.

After a round of close-calls, Jamie and Victoria get into the compound and are then exposed and captured, but in the process, they inspire Fariah, the dictator’s food taster, to escape with files suggesting that Salamander created the conditions needed to blackmail someone into taking over control of the Central European Zone as a puppet. This hard-won evidence still does not convince the Doctor that Salamander should be confronted—particularly since Kent has moved from exposing Salamander to a desire to kill him outright. But Jamie and Victoria must be rescued, so he does impersonate Salamander, entering Kanowa Research Center along with World Security Controller Bruce, a similarly pragmatic figure who has been investigating Salamander’s curious behavior (spurred in part by a prior encounter with the Doctor-as-Salamander) and seeks proof before acting, just as the Doctor does.

Doctor (as Salamander) and Bruce (as Bruce)

And then, just when the showdown between the Doctor and Salamander looms, Whitaker throws a major curve into the story. Salamander secrets himself inside a secure room and enters a high-speed elevator heading deep down. Surely, here come the monsters. But it’s people. They may wear mod-inspired clothes (suggesting, perhaps, a linkage to the prior story’s mod wear and a shared arc from the United Zones to the Great World Computer of “The Ice Warriors“?), but they’re just people. Granted, they’ve lived underground for five years and have been operating the machinery Salamander uses to cause the disasters he predicts, but people all the same.

Inside the Fallout Shelter

Just when the viewer thinks it’s all figured out, we have to stop and wonder at Salamander’s game. For it becomes quickly obvious that he has been playing a long con on these people as well, with tales of a great nuclear war that has devastated the surface. Here, too, there are people who demand proof, who will no longer accept Salamander’s word as replacement for the evidence of their own experience. Upon finding an errant scrap of newspaper on one of the supply crates Salamander sent down, the leader of the underground people confronts Salamander, who grudgingly brings him to the surface—and then kills him, as he did all the others who insisted on seeing rather than blindly believing. This extra beat in the story takes what could have been a slightly overlong tale and gives it new life right when the Troughton six-parters tend to wane.

The Doctor gets his proof, finally, by tricking Jamie and Victoria into confronting him as Salamander rather than as the Doctor, convincing Bruce as well that Salamander has lied, cheated, and killed. But then the Doctor doubles the deception. He confronts Kent while posing as Salamander, and Kent reveals—as villians often do when they think they’re about to kill you and no one else is listening—that he and Salamander orchestrated the entire plot to take over the United Zones together. Astrid, meanwhile, has discovered the underground survivors and reveals that they were tricked into a test of an emergency bunker by Kent and then told by Salamander that a nuclear war took place. How the emergency bunker came to have natural disaster machinery remains, perhaps blissfully, unexplored. Kent escapes and triggers an explosion, though not before being shot by the real Salamander.

The duplicity doesn’t stop there, as Jamie and Victoria, having already thought that the Doctor was Salamander, now think that Salamander, shaken after his encounter with Kent, is the Doctor, and they drag him aboard the TARDIS. Salamander silently motions to Jamie to activate the controls, and the out-of-character behavior causes Jamie to hesitate just long enough for the real Doctor to enter the TARDIS. In the ensuing struggle, Salamander hits the TARDIS controls and the ship begins to dematerialize, but with the doors open. Out flies Salamander to his doom, somewhere in the space-time vortex, and the TARDIS hurtles off, out of control in an abrupt—and rare, for the Second Doctor—cliffhanger ending to a story.

All in all, a tour de force and easily the finest story of the Second Doctor’s era to date. And, amazingly, all six episodes exist on film, with five episodes having been found in a Nigerian television relay station only in 2013. Troughton, as Hartnell before him, simply shines in the alternate role, and to see visage of the heretofore happy-go-lucky Second Doctor in a bloodthirsty killer frankly shocks. Whitaker and the production crew feel comfortable enough in Troughton’s magnetism that the Doctor (though not Troughton) appears only briefly in the middle of the story, with Jamie and Victoria the only real plot elements keeping the story a Doctor Who story.

The supporting cast verges between exemplary and overacted, with Mary Peach (Astrid) and Colin Douglas (Bruce) turning in fine performances. Of note, Carmen Munroe’s turn as Fariah marks the first extended role for a black actor in the series, and though she dies mid-way through, her role comes with some depth and nuance, a welcome step forward for Doctor Who.

And as for Jamie and Victoria? Though again not referred to as “companions,” they do, as noted, carry much of the middle of the story, though they are both absent for episode four, ostensibly on holiday. And they’re wearing matching outfits. No, not Jamie in a Victorian gown; Victoria in a kilt and tam o’ shanter.

A matched pair

Jamie comes off better in the story, with several action sequences and a chance to play hero, while Victoria serves as a bit of comic relief as a scullery maid and then has her hair pulled as a form of torture, causing Jamie to surrender to Salamander’s goons. The writers still seem to lack a strong arc for Victoria, though Deborah Watling gamely gives it her all. In the end, though, Jamie and Victoria suffer as far younger than the Doctor, and they seem to be aware of it:

Jamie: Sand castles? What does he think we are, a couple of children?

Yes, Jamie, it would appear that he does. Or at least the writers do.

The TARDIS in this episode also shows a slight lack of, ah, internal dimensionality, as the back of the box can be seen when our intrepid time travellers exit at the start of the story.

Just a police box after all?

Still, minor quibbles in an otherwise refreshing and vigorous story, showing the breadth of possible tales this series can tell. Whitaker emphasizes that the Doctor must consider his actions rather than just jumping in to fight what looks like evil and, by extension, implores the viewer to do likewise. Heady stuff for a show aimed at kids who are still wondering where the monsters are. But fear not, for they return next story. Or should I say, Yeti again…

(Previous Story: The Ice Warriors)

(Next Story: The Web of Fear)

Post 41 of the Doctor Who Project

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