The BBC’s Doctor Who has seen many episodes lost in time, especially from the early seasons, due to studio practices that flew in the face of preservation. This is highly regrettable for the many fans of the franchise, especially those of us that came of age well after the original run, having never had the opportunity to see all of the adventures of the infamous Time Lord and his various companions. But from time to time, stories long missing have been recovered and restored, to the delight of viewers the world over. This month’s Doctor Who DVD release, “The Enemy of the World,” is one that benefits from just such a discovery.
“The Enemy of the World” is the fourth serial of the fifth season, originally airing in December, 1967 and January, 1968. Five of the six episodes had not been seen in some time, but were discovered in Nigeria last year, meaning the entire serial can be released as it was broadcast, unlike others which have been augmented with stills or animation to fill in the gaps. A departure from the typical Doctor Who story, “The Enemy of the World” pits The Doctor (Patrick Troughton), Jamie (Frazer Hines), and Victoria (Deborah Watling) against a dictator bent on domination whom looks awfully familiar.
Yep, Troughton plays both the hero and the villain in “The Enemy of the World,” a science fiction trope that has been repeated over and over again, including on Star Trek at around the same time. Perhaps not highly original, and certainly the capability of showing two Troughtons on screen at the same time is primitive, it’s entertaining for the audience to see one of their favorite performers in a different light, and it gives the lead a chance to stretch their acting muscles. The writing here is a little weaker than some, with less care taken to explain away the physical similarities, but that could be a boon, as some shows went into cheesy territory in their desire to give answers. Thus, while the whole thing may seem a little stale from a modern perspective, if one keeps an open mind, one might find the project an enjoyable viewing experience. It’s a decent story, over all.
The story is set in Australia in 2018, not too far from our own era. It’s always enlightening to see how the people in the past expected the world to turn out. For instance, “The Enemy of the World” takes the stance that we would be further along in the globalization process, with more large-scale organizations ruling over huge swaths of the planet. Obviously, while there has been some progress on this front, especially in Europe, this is not the case. Though, events unfold differently on this version of Earth, so perhaps its not unrealistic, just not the outcome reached because of prior circumstances. It’s not the only thing that the story gets wrong, showing a 2018 far behind the technology spectrum than we are in 2014.
I think what is portrayed says something about the era in which it was written, more than where we currently are as a society. Part of this vision is a darkness. The people here live underground, convinced a nuclear war has made the surface uninhabitable, except for grotesque mutants. Whether this is the truth or not is irrelevant in pondering the larger themes, a window into how scared some were in the 1960s about the destruction of the world. Obviously, a third world war has yet to emerge, and personally, I doubt very much that it will any time soon. But it’s cool that the installments, set in the near future, have one thinking much more about the past.
Disappointingly, “The Enemy of the World” lacks any extras, a rarity for a Doctor Who title, as most are jam-packed with bonus material. It is similar to last month’s release, though, which also contains lost episodes found at the same time. Both were previously made available on iTunes, and a DVD may have been hurried along, though I do not have any facts to support that theory. The good news is, the BBC is not shy about releasing Special Editions down the road, so for now, fans can enjoy the serial for the first time in a very long time, and eventually, we’ll probably get an edition more to most buyers’ liking.
Doctor Who – “The Enemy of the World” will be available beginning this Tuesday on a single disc DVD.
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