Doctor Who – The Enemy of the World – Episode Four

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Episode four is where the story takes a unexpected turn after Salamander’s underground base is revealed.  The Enemy of the World has often been likened to a James Bond film and the eventual reveal that Salamander has been engineering natural disasters (with the help of a group of duped underground workers) places him firmly in the Bond villain category.

It also helps to give the story more of a science fiction/fantasy slant, as up until now it’s been pretty much a contemporary thriller (although set in the future, it could have just as easily been set in 1967).  But before this mid-episode about-turn happens, we spend some time with the Doctor, who’s still a master of inactivity.

As a vehicle for Troughton’s Doctor, Enemy isn’t the best, since he’s absent for long stretches to enable him to play Salamander, which makes his limited screen-time when he does play the Doctor even more precious.  There’s a definite feeling that the Doctor is still at something of a disadvantage and he only agrees to the impersonation in order to rescue Jamie and Victoria.  Kent continues to be totally ruthless, telling the Doctor he has to kill Salamander – if he doesn’t then Kent won’t lift a finger to help his friends.  Naturally, the Doctor isn’t happy.  “Private justice, eh? Oh no, no. I’ll expose him, ruin him, have him arrested, but I won’t be his executioner. No one has that right.”

In the power struggle between Kent and the Doctor, at present you’d have to say that Kent has the upper hand.  Troughton’s Doctor may not quite be the fool that he sometimes appears, but the world of early 21st century politics isn’t his natural environment and he continues to be buffeted along by events, rather than shaping or initiating them.

More evidence comes Kent’s way when Fariah (who appears to be wearing a black bin-bag) offers her help to expose Salamander.  The hinted back-story between him and Fariah is teased a little further when she explains that “I have every reason to hate Salamander. He blackmailed me into being his personal servant. I even had to smile when he told me to.”  We never find out what he blackmailed her about, as the Doctor is happy to accept her at face value.

There then follows the main action sequence of the story, as Benik and his guards surround Kent’s office (which means that Kent, Astrid, Fariah and the Doctor are trapped).  The sequence does show the limitations of studio shooting – Astrid has a fight with a guard that looks terribly unconvincing, whilst the guards make something of an effort to break down Kent’s door, when the wobbles we’ve already seen would imply that just leaning on it would be enough to collapse it!

It’s also another opportunity to see the sadistic side of Benik.  He orders the guards to shoot to kill and one does – hitting Fariah.  Even when she’s dying, he continues to question her (much to the disgust of the guard captain).  And after the captain tells him that she can’t tell him any more, because she’s dead, he’s unruffled, simply saying “good”.

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Bruce (Colin Douglas) has been something of a background figure for a few episodes, but the seeds are sown here for the action he’ll take later in the story. We’ve seen that he’s not a man who’ll blindly follow orders (and he lacks Benik’s pleasure in killing).  Douglas’ performance is rather bluff (and sometimes he seems to be struggling for his next line) but Bruce is a good counterpoint to the more hysterical Benik.

Prior to the episode being recovered, exactly how Salamander travelled underground was a bit of a mystery, the telesnaps didn’t really cover it and the camera script wasn’t very precise.  It’s actually quite an impressive few moments and does sell the illusion that Salamander has journeyed deep underground – where he meets a rather rum bunch of people.

Swann (played by Christopher Burgess, who’ll be cast again several times by Barry Letts in later Who stories) is the leader, whilst Mary (Margaret Hickey) and Colin (Adam Verney) are two of the younger workers.  Verney is incredibly earnest, delivering his lines as if his life depended on it.  “Don’t stop me now. I’ve got to see the surface, Mary, I’ve got to. I want to see the Sun again, walk on top of the Earth, not hide like a rat underground. I’ve got to do it, Mary. I’ve got to ask him.”  True, his dialogue is a bit ripe, but it would have been nice if he’d approached it in a more naturalistic way.

The story teases us as we learn that the underground workers believe the surface to be radioactive and that it’s not safe to leave the safety of the bunker.  They also believe Salamander to be their benefactor, risking his life to bring them supplies.  But the reason why they’re there isn’t revealed until the next episode, although those who’ve been following the story could probably work it out.

We end with the arrival of an unseen visitor paying a visit to Kent and the Doctor …..

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