This, and the next seven posts which will follow – umm – in time, are all from DWM #474, and that big poll feature.
I wouldn’t want to have reviewed Enemy on DVD, particularly not in the wake of Matthew Sweet’s excellent DWM piece that accompanied its iTunes release. But here? Sure, with a smaller word count and the fact there was one specific idea I wanted to play with, I was keen.
When it comes to watching black and white Doctor Who for the first time, I’m haunted by a truth-bomb my mother detonated on a Friday in 1992. As I struggled through the BBC2 repeat of The Time Meddler she asked me: “Isn’t this secretly a little bit boring?” Well, that cut straight to the bone.
That question rematerialised in my mind last October when The Enemy of the World, once lost now found, was streaming down from the cloud and into my hands. Fantastic. But… would it, secretly, be a little bit boring?
For some Doctor Who stories, there’s a fancy that their absentee status has built the myth. Fury From The Deep, perhaps? The Abominable Snowmen? Certainly The Tomb of the Cybermen‘s reputation has never been the same since it made the bold move of turning up in Hong Kong in 1991. But for others, being on the missing list has diminished them. How much more would we admire The Faceless Ones or The Macra Terror if they, y’know, existed?
So how did recovery play out for The Enemy of the World? Well, we can give you the stats on that. The last time DWM consulted its readership, for The Mighty 200 poll in 2009, you ranked it as the 30th best story of the 1960s. Now? Look where it is!
I think this tale surprised everyone. The last story to be produced while Sydney Newman was still at the Beeb, it would be wrong to claim it’s somehow totemic of his Doctor Who. But it’s rugged and ambitious in a particularly Who-ish way. It doesn’t give a damn that it’s heroically over-reaching itself by trying to lay on a pan-global thriller, with a Bond-esque villain causing volcanoes and earthquakes in exotic climes. Climping Beach in Littlehampton will do quite nicely for Australia, thank you. In its pluckiness, and director Barry Letts’ inventiveness, it’s mostly triumphant. That is a real helicopter in Episode 1. There are two Patrick Troughtons together (fleetingly) in Episode 6. But then, ah, that’s obviously not a real park superimposed behind that bench in Episode 2.
Well, that’s all the more reason to love this story. It’s tenacious and plucky and goes like the clappers. The Enemy of the World kept its secret for over four decades, but now we’ve actually been able to see it, we can confirm: no, not boring at all.