Doctor Who – The Web of Fear. Episode Six

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We’ve seen over the last few episodes how Lethbridge-Stewart’s fighting force has been somewhat decimated.  Apart from himself, only Evans and Arnold are still standing.  Evans remains an unreconstructed coward whilst Arnold continues to be a pillar of no-nonsense strength.

ARNOLD: Now look, lad, you’re scared, that’s understandable. But you’ve been in the Army long enough to know that orders is orders. There’s four people up there. If we don’t warn them, they’re for the chop.
EVANS: So? Four of them’s getting the chop. There’s no reason to make it six, is there?

There’s another surprise reappearance – that of Chorley – who was last seen in episode three. It’s suggested again that he’s the Intelligence’s agent, but since he’s been absent for so long that doesn’t quite scan.

Evans getting carried off by the Yeti (“Hey, steady on. Oh, going for a walk, are we? There’s lovely”) is an episode highlight as is the moment when he’s deposited by the Yeti next to the Colonel and the Doctor. He brazenly denies that he had intended to make a break for it. “Desertion? Me? Oh, good heavens, no. No, I thought I’d try a single-handed and desperate attempt to rescue Professor Travers and the girl”.

We’re entering the end-game, as everyone is brought to the Piccadilly ticket hall, where the Intelligence has set up its brain drain machine. And this is where the Intelligence’s agent is finally revealed.  Right up until the last moment we’re teased that it’s Chorley, but then the shock reveal of Arnold is made.

Jack Woolgar impresses as the passionless voice of the Intelligence, but this is another of those moments which doesn’t make any sense. The Intelligence state that he’s been hiding in Arnold’s lifeless body for some time – but exactly how long?

Arnold seemed no different when he reappeared than he did before, but it’s equally hard to believe that he’s been controlled by the Intelligence all along (although that’s what the story tells us). There’s a faint air of disappointment here, somewhat akin to the feeling you get when a whodunit doesn’t play fair.

The story dropped numerous red herrings along the way, hinting that the Colonel, Evans, Chorley, etc were all credible candidates, but suspicion never fell on Arnold for a minute. Maybe this was due to the Great Intelligence’s skill, but it still feels like a little bit of a cheat.

And if the Doctor’s final reckoning with the Intelligence is a bit of damp squib, then it doesn’t really alter the fact that The Web of Fear is a classic slice of Who. A few quibbles about the script apart, this is glorious stuff and something which is always a pleasure to revisit.

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Doctor Who – The Web of Fear. Episode Five

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After four episodes, the Great Intelligence – speaking through the voice of Travers – finally explains what his/her/its evil plan is.  Some might think that the Intelligence has been somewhat slow on this score, but with six episodes to fill it clearly couldn’t show its hand too soon.

TRAVERS: Through time and space, I have observed you, Doctor. Your mind surpasses that of all other creatures.
DOCTOR: What do you want?
TRAVERS: You! Your mind will be invaluable to me. Therefore I have invented a machine that will drain all past knowledge and experience from your mind.

And this is where the wheels of the story slightly come off. I think that one of the reasons why I enjoy 60’s Who so much is that much of the mythos which would later build up around the character of the Doctor is absent. He’s no god-like creature, known and feared throughout the universe, he’s simply a wanderer in space and time.

So stories where he’s targeted by the baddies are pretty rare (this one and The Chase spring to mind) meaning that it’s much more likely that wherever he appears nobody’s heard of him.

And anyway, if the Great Intelligence needs the Doctor’s intelligence than he/she/it can’t be that great anyway. The Almost Great Intelligence maybe?

We’ve previously seen that the Lethbridge-Stewart of this story is a pragmatist, happy to escape rather than fight to the last man.  So when Evans suggests that if they agree to the Intelligence’s plan (delivering up the Doctor) possibly everyone else will be allowed to go free. The stalwart Brigadier would never consider this of course, but as has been touched upon, the man here isn’t quite the man he’d become and there’s a palpable moment of ambiguity in the air.

The controlled Travers stomps off with Victoria as a hostage whilst the others debate what to do next. Given that the Yeti have decimated the soldiers, there has to be a good reason why the Intelligence simply didn’t take the Doctor. And there is – unless the Doctor submits willingly, the brain drain machine won’t work.  So the fact that the Doctor has been given a deadline to either give himself up or face the consequences provides him with a welcome spot of breathing time.

The Doctor once again teams up with Anne. I wonder if these scenes influenced the creation of Zoe? Zoe might have been younger and more frivolous, but the seed of partnering the Doctor with a scientifically-minded companion might have been sown here.

The scene where Evans deliberately disobeys Lethbridge-Stewart’s order is a fascinating one.  The Brig wouldn’t have stood for this sort of insubordination of course, but the Colonel – still somewhat shell-shocked by the events of the previous episode – accepts Evans’ flagrant disregard of his orders quite calmly.  For those who know Lethbridge-Stewart well, to see the character so out of control is quite disturbing.

Deborah Watling is a little out of the action, but she does get to share a few nice scenes with her father. And when Jamie, out in the tunnels with the Colonel, spots Victoria’s handkerchief it’s hard not to be reminded of one of Frazer’s most famous convention anecdotes.

The Web of Fear is one of those stories where characters tend to disappear suddenly and then reappear with the same lack of ceremony. Both Arnold and Chorley have been MIA for a while but then Arnold pops up out of nowhere, seemingly no worse for wear.

The Doctor and Anne’s lash-up (a device to control the Yeti) seems to work, but a mass of web seems to spell the end for the Goodge Street fortress ….

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Doctor Who – The Web of Fear. Episode Four

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Presumably sometime during the previous episode Anne decided to swop her mini-skirt and boots for a trouser suit, since that’s what see her wearing as the moving pictures start again.  Given all that’s going on it seems a little strange that she was such a slave to fashion.  She might be an independent young woman, making her way in a man’s world, but it’s possibly not too much of a surprise to find her portrayed as something of a clothes horse (a sign of those times).

When the Doctor and the others find her, she’s in a highly distressed state, which is pretty understandable since the Yeti have abducted her father.  Tina Packer rather overplays here, although given the situation Anne finds herself in that’s not too surprising.

Troughton continues to underplay though, which is notable in the early scene where Evans asks the Doctor if he believes that the Yeti have taken Travers.  The Doctor’s dialled-down, abstracted air makes it plain that he’s considering multiple possibilities, none of them good. When the Doctor later outlines what he knows about the Intelligence, it’s yet another wonderfully delivered few lines from Troughton. “Well, I wish I could give you a precise answer. Perhaps the best way to describe it is a sort of formless, shapeless thing floating about in space like a cloud of mist, only with a mind and will”.

Jack Woolgar continues to impress as well.  Look for the moment when Arnold tells Lethbridge-Stewart that Weams and the others are dead – Arnold’s voice cracks for a split-second, just enough to show the pain he feels at the loss of his men.  That Arnold later turns out to be the agent of the Intelligence, rather than the more obvious Chorley, is a cruel blow, possibly one of the cruellest of the story.

But red herrings continue to be spread about, since the Colonel doesn’t seem to remember meeting Evans (he was apparently his driver).  Does this mean that Lethbridge-Stewart is the agent or is Evans possibly the rotten apple?  No to both questions, but they’re nice misdirects.

Anne operates in this episode as pretty much a proto Zoe or Liz.  Like them, she’s able to speak to the Doctor on a similar scientific level (something that Jamie and Victoria were unable to do) which enables the Doctor to have a confidant who can also act as a sounding board for his theories.

One of the reasons why the Yeti work so well is that they’re not seen very often.  Keep them on screen for too long and their shortcomings become obvious.  But a few brief glimpses here and there, ideally lurking in the shadows, and they’re the stuff of nightmares.

But this episode sees them head out and about as they tangle with Lethbridge-Stewart and the others at Covent Garden.  This film sequence shouldn’t work at all – Yeti in the cold light of day sounds like a very bad idea – but Camfield pulls it off in a pulsating action scene that’s an obvious story highlight.

It’s interesting that Lethbridge-Stewart mounts the mission to Covent Garden for one reason only – to locate the TARDIS which will enable them all to escape.  The Brigadier would surely have remained and fought to the very last man, but the Colonel is much more of a pragmatist, keen to find an escape route.

During the scene you can play spot the stuntman – Terry Walsh, Derek Martin and Derek Ware should all be instantly recognisable and the minute they pop up you know that a spot of action is imminent.  It does seem a little odd that a very familiar piece of stock music (associated with the Cybermen) is used here, but maybe Camfield was unaware it had been used before or possibly it was felt that it didn’t matter that it had previously featured.

Favourite moment during this scene is Yeti who clutches his eyes before falling over.  Since we know that John Levene was playing one of the Yeti, I like to think that he was the one here who decided to go extra-dramatic.  Corporal Blake’s rather horrible death – mainly due to Richardson Morgan’s blood-curdling screams – is something which lingers long in the memory.

Knight and the Doctor head up to ground level to look for some vital electronic spares.  Alas, Knight doesn’t make it as he’s mown down by the Yeti.  The last shot we have of Knight – his lifeless body slumped across a table – is yet another unsettling choice from Camfield and Knight’s sudden, unexpected death helps to raise the stakes.  If Knight, one of those characters you’d have assumed would make it to the end, can be killed then no-one is safe.

This is also borne out when every member of the Covent Garden party – except the Colonel – is killed.  And with Knight also dead and Arnold missing, Lethbridge-Stewart is pushed to breaking point.  The cliffhanger – showing the arrival of the Yeti together with a catatonic Travers – ratchets up the tension several more notches.

Doctor Who – The Web of Fear. Episode Three

It’s a pity that this episode is still missing, although one day it might come back, yes it might come back ….

The major irritant is that it denies us our first glimpse of Nicholas Courtney as Lethbridge-Stewart (although since nothing from his debut existed in the archives before 2013 we can’t grumble about this too much).  And if there had to be a missing episode, then better this one than the next (the Covent Garden battle sequence would have been a much more serious loss).

Although Courtney’s characterisation as Lethbridge-Stewart is already pretty recognisable, the Colonel we see here isn’t quite the Brigadier that he’d become from The Invasion onwards.  Like some of the others (notably Chorley) he’s given the odd, off-key moment, suggesting he might have a secret to hide.   The fact that the story will shortly raise the spectre that the Intelligence must have a mole inside the fortress raises the possibility that the Colonel may well be a traitor ….

Chorley’s undergone something of a transformation from the previous episode.  Although things looked grim then, he was calm and in control. But now he’s suddenly become hysterical and desperate to leave.  Again, this suggests that he may be a man with his own agenda (or it could possibly be that he’s simply a coward, thinking only of his own survival).

The return of the Doctor energises the story – he quickly takes command and impresses the Colonel with his practical suggestions.  Lethbridge-Stewart also has ideas of his own – getting rid of the annoying Chorley by creating the superfluous job of “co-ordinator”, for example.

The Colonel is also in his element when leading a briefing.  Interestingly it’s Anne who is slightly riled when everybody’s presence is requested (“a briefing? We’re not in the army yet”) rather than the Doctor. It would be easy to imagine the Pertwee Doctor expressing a similar sentiment, but the Troughton incarnation was always much more easy-going.

But although the Doctor may appear to be pretty placid, it’s plain that there’s plenty going on under the surface. This was always one of the joys of Troughton’s Doctor. He didn’t need to dominate proceedings like Jon Pertwee or Tom Baker’s Doctors, he was content to sit, watch and wait. But when he spoke, people tended to listen – as seen with this short exchange between him and the Colonel.

DOCTOR: Someone here is in league with the Yeti. Maybe even controlling them.
COLONEL: What?
DOCTOR: The main door didn’t open by itself, did it? It may be any one of us.
COLONEL: Me, perhaps?
DOCTOR: Perhaps.

Based on what we later know, the idea of Lethbridge-Stewart as a traitor is laughable, but at this point we simply don’t know him, so it’s completely possible.  And the fact that Troughton doesn’t overplay this moment – he delivers his lines in very a matter-of-fact way – makes the scene even more powerful.  Unlike some of his successors, Troughton tended to understand that less was more.

Jamie spends most of the episodes stuck in the tunnels with the rather annoying Evans, whilst Victoria’s back in the fortress with the others. She doesn’t do a great deal in the episode sad to say, partly this seems to be because Anne – a more dominant character – is rather taking the limelight. And it’s a pity that as the episode draws to a conclusion we’re left with a whimpering Victoria and a slightly angry Doctor (she’s told Chorley about the TARDIS – a bad move if he’s the agent of the Intelligence).

The sudden death of Weams (the first – but not the last – of the established characters to die) and the cliffhanger shot of a terrified Travers tangling with the Yeti (who have been mostly off-screen during this twenty-five minutes) provides a strong hook into the next episode where – hurrah! – the pictures will move again.

Doctor Who – The Web of Fear. Episode Two

With Patrick Troughton on holiday, episode two allows the others, especially Frazer Hines and Deborah Watling, a little more screen-time.

Jamie and Victoria’s first encounter with the aged Travers is a treat.  Camfield favours lingering on Victoria’s delighted face as she instantly realises that the old man in front of them is the same person they encountered forty years earlier in Tibet.  It’s a nice touch that Victoria is several steps ahead of Jamie, who doesn’t recognise Travers to begin with at all (although when he finally twigs, his comment – “here, hasn’t he got old? Oh, but we’re very pleased to see you, Professor. Very pleased” – is lovely).

The formidable Anne tangles with another man and again easily bests him. Here, it’s the oily newspaperman Harold Chorley (Jon Rollason).

CHORLEY: Oh, for goodness sake, why is everybody being so evasive? Why won’t anybody answer any questions?
ANNE: Perhaps they’re afraid you’ll interpret them in your own inimitable style.
CHORLEY: And what does that mean, pray?
ANNE: It means you have a reputation for distorting the truth. You take reality and you make it into a comic strip. In short, Mister Chorley, you are a sensationaliser.
CHORLEY: You smug little redbrick university ….
ANNE: Don’t say it, Mister Chorley. I have a very quick temper and very long claws.

Ouch! It’s interesting that although Web was made some fifty years ago, Chorley’s character – a unscrupulous journalist – is still a very recognisable one. The more things change ….

Jack Woolgar gives a lovely performance as Staff Sergeant Arnold. Arnold is your archetypical NCO – a gruff, no-nonsense type who’s easily able to keep his subordinates in order. Amongst his charges is the familiar face of Richardson Morgan (as Corporal Blake). Morgan would later turn up in The Ark in Space. Also good value is Stephen Whitaker as Craftsman Weams.

The arrival of Driver Evans (Derek Politt) adds a little levity to the story. He’s a comic, cowardly Welshman (if his accent wasn’t obvious enough, then the fact he turns up singing the Welsh national anthem provides the audience with another clue as to his nationality. Not the subtlest of characterisations then).

The Yeti look very good when lumbering through the tunnels on film. When they pop up on videotape it’s fair to say that they’re slightly less impressive, but Camfield is still a good enough director to ensure that they don’t look completely ridiculous (other directors might not have been so successful on this score).

There’s already a nice sense of claustrophobia and unease throughout this instalment, which increases as the story progresses. Although the Troughton era tended to overdose on base-under-siege stories, when done well (as here) they’re gripping entertainment. By the end of the second episode, the parameters of the story have been established – a small group of heroes isolated in the underground and menaced by the Yeti on all sides.

With Victoria lost in the tunnels and the Doctor still missing, things are nicely set up for episode three.

Doctor Who – The Web of Fear. Episode One

Following the news of Deborah Watling’s death, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to reach for this story.  Back in the mid eighties though, if you wanted to see Victoria in action you were limited to either the second episode of The Abominable Snowman, episode three of The Enemy of the World or the first episode of this one (and that was always supposing that you were able to obtain a pirate VHS from a friendly contact).

It’s very pleasing that season five is now much better represented than it was back then and, for me, it’s the two stories returned in 2013 – The Enemy of the World and this one – which are the real jewels in the crown.

I first encountered Web 1 back in the late eighties, on a pirate tape along with a selection of other orphaned Hartnell and Troughton episodes (a bit like an early Lost in Time then, although the picture quality sometimes left a little to be desired).  It’s therefore an episode which I’m very familiar with, having rewatched it countless times across the decades (always wondering whether the rest of the story would maintain this strong opening).

Non-controversial statement – Douglas Camfield was Doctor Who‘s best director.  It’s easy to see why he directed more stories than anybody else – his skill at crafting intriguing picture compositions (both in the studio and on film) was second to none and there’s plenty of examples to be found in this opener.

Since studio time was always limited, most directors wouldn’t spend too long on creating interesting visual images – simply getting the actors to hit their marks and deliver their lines without bumping into the scenery seemed to be the top priority.  Camfield, possibly due to the fact that he ran his productions with a military precision, was quite different as he was able to find the time to craft pleasing shot selections.

A good example can be found in the early TARDIS scenes.  The Doctor, Jamie and Victoria, staring at the scanner screen, are positioned with the Doctor in front, Victoria behind him and Jamie at the back.  In order to make this shot work, all three actors had to hit their marks exactly whilst the cameraman also had to be in precisely the right place.  If anybody was slightly off, then the composition wouldn’t work.  Many directors would simply have elected to line them up side by side (this would have been easier to shoot, but also would have looked unnatural – Peter Davison raises this point several times on his audio commentaries – the way that certain directors shot the TARDIS scenes very flatly).

I assume the reason why the confrontation between Travers (Jack Watling) and Julius Silverstein (Frederick Schrecker) is recorded on film was because the underground sets took all the available studio space.  Camfield always had an affinity with film (no surprise that he later graduated to all-film series like The Sweeney) which makes this scene a creepy pleasure.  It’s true that Jack Watling gives a very broad performance (“stubborn old goat!”) and his facial contortions are something to behold, but presumably he was playing the part as written.

Strong female characters aren’t terribly common during this period of the show, so Travers’ daughter Anne (Tina Packer) stands out rather.  A scientist in her own right, she’s acidly polite when the hapless Captain Knight (Ralph Watson) attempts to clumsily chat her up.

KNIGHT: What’s a girl like you doing in a job like this?
ANNE: Well, when I was a little girl I thought I’d like to be a scientist, so I became a scientist.
KNIGHT: Just like that?
ANNE: Just like that.

Compare and contrast this with The Invasion (which in its early drafts would have featured return appearances for Anne and Professor Travers). Anne’s replacement – Isobel – is a much more pallidly drawn character who’s happy to entertain romantic overtures from Knight’s counterpart – Captain Jimmy Turner.

Whilst I may love The Web of Fear dearly, it’s not a story that makes a lick of sense.  Firstly, if the Great Intelligence’s plan was to ensnare the Doctor, why envelop London in a web?  After all this wasn’t the early seventies – a time when the Doctor was resident on modern-day (to the viewers) Earth.

And the moment when the museum Yeti changes before our eyes from the cuddly Abominable Snowman version into the sleeker Web of Fear model might look good, but again it’s something which isn’t at all logical.

Quibbles apart, this opener effectively sets the story up.  We know what we’re dealing with (Yetis in the Underground!) and we’ve also been introduced to a varied cast of military characters who we’ll get to know better as the serial progresses.

For many long years there seemed to be little hope that we’d ever get to see the rest of the story.  And then in 2013 something remarkable happened …..

Doctor Who – The Enemy of the World – Episode Six

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The Doctor’s impersonation of Salamander places him in a rather precarious position as Benik doesn’t seem to be totally convinced.  But he’s able to authorise the release of Jamie and Victoria and he asks Bruce to take them to the gates to ensure they get away safely.  There’s a lovely moment when Bruce asks them to call his deputy Forrester, once they get outside, and tell him that Bruce is at the research station (using the word “redhead”).  Jamie wonders if that’s a reference to his wife, but Bruce tells him no, it’s just a code-word.  Typical Jamie, always thinking of women!

Once Jamie and Victoria leave they don’t reappear until the the final scene, so this, together with their fairly light appearance in episode five and their absence from episode four, means they’ve hardly featured in the second half of the story.  Maybe this is because whilst The Enemy of the World is a good story, it’s not necessarily a good Doctor Who story, so Jamie and Victoria end up rather surplus to requirements.  Indeed, you could remove the Doctor as well and it would have been made a very decent one-off serial with Kent and Astrid facing off against Salamander and Benik.

Astrid is able to do little for Swann, but he’s able to tell her the whole story and Astrid ventures underground to tell the workers that Salamander has duped them. She’s only able to take them up two at a time, so she naturally elects to take Colin and Mary (there’s no point taking any of the others, as they’re non-speaking extras!).

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For a large part of the story, Kent has insisted that the Doctor should impersonate Salamander in order to find incriminating evidence that will expose him.  In the end, this doesn’t happen (and is rather neatly reversed) when Kent meets Salamander (or so he believes) and betrays himself.  Kent and the faux-Salamander seem to be trapped in the records room, but Kent knows about the secret exit.

DOCTOR: Well, that’s very interesting, Mr Kent. Why didn’t you tell me that before?
KENT: Oh no, it can’t be.
DOCTOR: Oh, I’m afraid it is. Oh, look. Here’s another surprise for you. Look behind you.
KENT: Astrid, you’ve come just in time.
ASTRID: It’s too late, Giles. I know everything.
COLIN: That’s him. That’s the man who took us down there in the first place.
MARY: Giles Kent. We thought you were dead.
KENT: Now look, I’ve never seen these people before in my life.
ASTRID: They’ve told me everything. You and Salamander were in it together.

The emergence of Astrid at just the right moment (and with two people who can confirm that Kent was Salamander’s partner) is more than a touch contrived, but it works in story terms as it finally strips away the lingering pretence that Giles Kent was on the side of the angels. The Doctor tells him that he was never convinced by him anyway, as “any man who resorts to murder as eagerly and as rapidly as you must be suspect. You didn’t just want to expose Salamander, you wanted to kill him and take his place.”  Although Kent may have been more convincing had Bill Kerr played him as a more reasonable and sympathetic character, it’s still a very watchable turn.  Best known as Tony Hancock’s idiot friend in the radio version of Hancock’s Half Hour, he also enjoyed a long and successful acting career (some of it spent in the UK) and once of the joys of the recovery of this serial was that we were able once more to enjoy his complete performance.

As previously touched upon, Doctor Who was still a long way away from out-of-order recording, so each episode has to mostly feature Troughton as either the Doctor or Salamander.  Since it was the concluding episode, it’s not a surprise that he’s mainly the Doctor, although this means that after building Salamander up throughout the serial, he rather fades away.  But he does get to confront his old associate Kent, before his first (and last) encounter with the Doctor.

Had there not been at least one meeting between the Doctor and Salamander, the audience would probably have felt a little cheated (although the Doctor and the Abbot never met in The Massacre).  Before that happens though, loose ends are tied up as Bruce and Astrid take charge.  Kent has apparently killed both himself and Salamander (via a huge explosion) and the Doctor leaves Astrid as she attempts to rescue the people trapped in the underground shelter.

The final scene is a bit of a cracker.  Salamander impersonates the Doctor and he asks Jamie to operate the TARDIS controls.  This naturally confuses the Scot, but when the real Doctor makes an appearance, all becomes clear.  The Doctor tells Salamander that “we’re going to put you outside, Salamander. No friends, no safety, nothing. You’ll run, but they’ll catch up with you.”  After a tussle, Salamander is flung out in the Space/Time vortex and (unusually for the Troughton era) the story closes on a cliff-hanger.

Although The Enemy of the World does have a few logistical issues, there’s plenty to enjoy (especially as it’s such a break from the norm).  It was a daring move to tackle a James Bond-type plot with the series’ usual budget (and especially since 95% of the story was shot in the studio) but, apart from the odd wobbly set, it all holds together.  Troughton’s great (no matter who he’s playing) and he’s surrounded by some familiar faces (Colin Douglas, George Pravda, Milton Johns) all of whom would appear in later Doctor Whos.  Hines and Watling have little involvement in the later part of the story, but Whitaker keeps the story bubbling away so nicely that this never becomes an issue.

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Doctor Who – The Enemy of the World – Episode Five

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The mysterious visitor at the end of episode four is revealed to be Donald Bruce.  Although he’s Salamander’s head of security, he also seems to have a policeman’s instinct, as he’s willing to listen to the claims of Kent and the Doctor that Salamander is not the universal benefactor he claims to be (although anybody who’s spent time around him surely would have quickly picked up plenty of negative vibes).

Astrid disarms Bruce’s guard and the Doctor attempts to bring Bruce onto their side by handing the gun back to him.  As Bruce says, “you must be a complete fool or very clever.”  The Doctor responds that Bruce will “have to make up your mind to that right away.”  This fairly basic piece of psychology does the trick and Bruce agrees to accompany the Doctor as he attempts to enter the Research Centre.  But as insurance, Astrid and Kent are left behind – under guard.

Meanwhile, Salamander is still underground.  One of the slight problems with the underground scenes is that there’s only three speaking roles – Swann, Colin and Mary (there’s plenty of other people in the scenes, but they’re all just rhubarbing extras who rush around with clipboards, looking busy).  Adam Verney (as Colin) is still machine-gunning his lines, delivering them with an intensity that borders on the manic.  As the character is supposed to be somewhat stir-crazy, it’s a reasonable performance choice – although a little of him does go a long way.  Especially when delivering lines such as “I don’t think it’s right. Just work, sleep, eat, if there’s enough to go round. Like worms under the earth, sightless worms wriggling about without hope, without purpose.”

Mary (Margaret Hickey) has the thankless task of having little to do except react to Colin’s complaints.  Swann (Christopher Burgess) initially seemed also to be a rather uninteresting character, very much Salamander’s yes-man, but events take an unexpected turn when he discovers a fragment of newspaper which was stuck on their new boxes of supplies.  Salamander has told them all that there’s a global war occurring on the surface, and that their work (engineering natural disasters), is vital to the war effort.

But the scrap of newspaper has a report about the sinking of a holiday liner.  How can there be holiday liners in a world at war?  Swann confronts Salamander and it’s the first time that we’ve seen Salamander even slightly shaken.  He quick back-peddles and tells Swann that the war is over, but the survivors are deformed in mind and body.  “They have a kind of society, but it’s evil, corrupt. You don’t think I could expose you to that sort of thing? Think of Mary and the other women.”  Swann insists on going up to the surface with Salamander.  Salamander readily agrees and it’s not hard to understand why – Swann may go up, but he’s not coming down again.

Jamie and Victoria were absent from the previous episode and in the first half of this one were only in a brief shot (as their unconscious bodies were carried past the camera).  Once they’ve woken up, they have to face the tender devotions of Benik.  Milton Johns excels in this scene.  So much is left unsaid, as it’s left to the viewer’s imagination to wonder exactly what Benik would be prepared to do to them.  Jamie tells him that he must have been a nasty little boy, Benik concedes he was, but that he had a very enjoyable childhood.”

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But he only gets as far as tugging Victoria’s hair when he’s interrupted by Bruce and (apparently) Salamander.  In order to convince Bruce that Salamander is as corrupt as he believes him to be, the Doctor stays in character for a while – and he’s convincing enough to fool both Jamie and Victoria.  The recovery of this episode allows us to see a few more nice visual touches – as Jamie and Victoria confront the man they believe to be Salamander, the Doctor takes fright and falls off his chair.  He’s then concerned that his friends don’t recognise him, but after miming playing the recorder he’s delighted to find they believe him after all.  Just before this, Letts manages to ramp up the tension as he rapidly cuts between close ups of Hines and Watling as they list some of Salamander’s crimes.

Kent and Astrid manage to distract the guard (thanks to some HP sauce, it appears) and Kent hot-foots it to the Research Station.  He says he’ll have no trouble getting in, since he has a pass (are we supposed to believe that Salamander wouldn’t have had it cancelled by now?!).

At the same time, Astrid is trying to shake off the guard (through a very unconvincing section of forest – alas, it’s too obvious that it’s a studio mock-up) when she hears a cry for help.  She stumbles across a mortally injured Swann, who clearly has come off second best in a tussle with Salamander.  It’s interesting that a few minutes earlier Salamander asked Swann if he was sure he wanted to go right up to the surface – the inference being that if he’d changed his mind, Salamander would have spared his life.   I’m not sure if that was the scripted intention or just how it was played, but it does make the character of Salamander a little more interesting (was he reluctant to kill?  And if so, was it just because he didn’t want to get his own hands dirty?)

As it is, we once again end on a cliff-hanger where neither the Doctor and his friends are in danger.  It’s another atypical ending to an atypical (but far from uninteresting) story.

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Doctor Who – The Enemy of the World – Episode Three

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Until late 2013, this was the only surviving episode of The Enemy of the World and it may be the reason why the story generally enjoyed a fairly low standing, pre-recovery.  There’s nothing particularly wrong with it, but it’s quite low on incident (which is quite typical for one of the middle episodes of a six-parter).

Salamander orders Denes to be arrested and he later tells Fedorin to kill him (thoughtfully he provides the poison to do so).  Given that Denes would obviously prove to be awkward if he was brought to trial, his removal is understandable – it’s just bizarre that Salamander would chose Fedorin to do it.  From his first scene he’s been presented as a weak link.  True, if he did murder Denes then it would tie him even closer to Salamander, but logically you would have expected that a hand-picked guard would be a better choice.

As has often been stated, it’s a little odd that Denes is kept under guard in a corridor.  This is because, apparently, it’s the easiest place to guard him.  What, easier than a room with a door they can lock?  In story terms, having Denes in the corridor means that he can easily interact with any passing character, but it’s a pity that they couldn’t come up with a better reason why he was there.

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This episode is immeasurably livened up by Griffin the Chef (Reg Lye).  In plot terms he contributes nothing (and he doesn’t appear later in the story either) but his droll sense of humour is welcome in a story that’s been rather grim up until now.  Griff’s an eternal pessimist and with a long-suffering air agrees to take on Victoria as an assistant.  He asks her to write out the menus.  “First course interrupted by bomb explosion. Second course affected by earthquakes. Third course ruined by interference in the kitchen. I’m going out for a walk. It’ll probably rain.”

Jamie wonders if somehow Salamander managed to cause the earthquakes.  We then cut to scenes of the continuing earthquakes and rather neatly we pull away from this footage to show it was something the Doctor and Kent were watching on a monitor screen.  It seems like a nice directorial flourish, although it may have been scripted since Kent unconsciously continues the conversation that Jamie (many miles away) was having as he tells the Doctor he’s convinced that Salamander, via the Research Station, is somehow responsible for the earthquakes.

This is Troughton’s sole scene in episode three as the Doctor and he’s still not convinced.  “What you’re saying is that Salamander’s found a way of harnessing the natural forces of the earth. It’s a little difficult to accept. I’m not saying it’s impossible, mind you.”  Although the plot’s ticking away nicely and Troughton continues to entertain as Salamander, the necessity of the story means that the Doctor is once again placed in the background.  He gets to witness how unpleasant and ruthless Beink can be, but it’s still not enough proof for him.  “Unpleasant, yes, destructive, but not necessarily evil.”

There’s quite a high body count in this story and in episode three we bid farewell to both Denes and Fedorin.  Denes is shot in the back after Astrid attempted to rescue him and Fedorin is poisoned by Salamander.  I love Fedorin’s death scene, as you can clearly see that David Nettheim was milking it for all it was worth!  Denes’ death is a little more rushed though – it’s possible that time was a factor as there’s a swift cut after he’s shot straight into the next scene.  It’s a shame that Denes won’t take any further part in proceedings as George Pravda, especially in this episode, was rather good, especially the way he managed a wry tolerance of the madness occurring around him.

We end with Salamander becoming increasingly suspicious of Jamie and Victoria (which will conveniently remove them from the story for a week).  He’s also amazed to hear from Bruce that he’s recently met with Giles Kent ……

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Doctor Who – The Enemy of the World – Episode Two

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The Doctor manages to bluff Bruce into believing that he’s Salamander, but afterwards he’s still not convinced that he should help.  “I don’t know where you stand, Mister Kent, but you and this Salamander are obviously on opposite sides. That at least is clear. But which side is good? Which side is bad? And why should I interfere?”

Kent’s proposal is that Jamie and Victoria infiltrate Salamander’s HQ (using a plan he’d already devised for his own operatives) to find proof of his criminal activities.  Given the Doctor’s reluctance to get involved, it’s a little strange that he agrees so freely to this, as it will place both Jamie and Victoria in terrible danger.  We’ve seen the manipulative side of Troughton’s Doctor before, notably with his treatment of Jamie in Whitaker’s The Evil of the Daleks, but it’s still difficult to believe that he would agree to such a risky plan so readily.

As Jamie and Victoria leave for the Central European Zone, Kent suggests that he and the Doctor take a look at the Kanowa Research Station.  They won’t reach there until episode three, but we briefly see inside it this episode, as we meet a character who’ll become more central to the story later on – Benik (Milton Johns).  Before we go inside, there’s an establishing shot of the outside of the building.  Although it’s represented by a still photo, it’s a nice touch that a small piece of foliage is slowly waved very close to the camera, increasing the impression that it’s a live action shot.  It’s a very simple trick, but quite effective.

Like many of the actors in Enemy of the World, Milton Johns would make several appearances in Doctor Who as well notching up hundreds of other credits.  Frankly, he’s something of a national treasure – one of many, many actors of this era who could always be guaranteed to enliven whatever tv show or film he appeared in.  Never the lead, but always solid support.

He’s tended to specialise in playing odd, weak or ineffectual characters and Benik fits into all three categories quite nicely.  We’ll discuss Benik in more depth later on, but even in his single scene here it’s quite possible to get a good grasp of his character.  He occupies a position of some power and he’s no problems with exercising this authority (witness his confrontation with Bruce).  But there’s something slightly repellent about him and he certainly doesn’t give off a very trustworthy vibe.

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We then move to the Central European Zone, where we get our first proper look at Salamander.  He’s got an interesting accent which at times does slightly rob the character of a little of his menace, but it’s Troughton, so you know that he’s always going to deliver a nuanced performance that will command the screen.

He’s meeting with the Zone controller Denes (George Pravda) and Fedorin (David Nettheim).  Salamander warns that the Zone will shortly suffer a devastating earthquake.  Denes is polite, but noncommittal, although he promises to have his experts check the data (much to Salamander’s irritation).  Denes is another of Kent’s allies, although when he speaks to Astrid later he mentions that the meeting he just had with Salamander was the first time he’d met him.  This would imply that Denes has only just been made controller, as surely he would have had contact with him on a regular basis.  And since he’s never met him, why is he so convinced that Salamander is evil?

Once Denes leaves, Salamander explains to Fedorin exactly what will happen next.  Denes will die and Fedorin will take over.  Salamander has incriminating evidence (faked, if we believe Fedorin) on Fedorin, but doesn’t plan to use it, “this just an insurance, hmm?”  It’s a joy to watch Troughton’s Salamander steamroller the ineffectual Fedorin and it gives us an early indication that he’s utterly ruthless – replace an honest man with one that you have a hold over and your power-base is immeasurably stronger.  David Nettheim’s role isn’t particularly large (he only appears in this and the next episode) but his twitchy, anxious turn is a memorable one.

Barry Letts elects to use back projection for the park scenes, which is an innovative, if not entirely successful, attempt to suggest the action is taking place outdoors and not in the studio.   After the initial location splurge at the start of episode one, the rest of the story is largely studio bound so it was reasonable enough to try and open things out.  When he became producer of Doctor Who, Letts would delight in using CSO in ways that few other directors would ever attempt, so it’s not surprising that he tried something similar here.  It looks just as fake as CSO often did, but we’ll give him points for effort.

The other major character introduced in this episode is Fariah (Carmen Munroe).  She’s one of Salamander’s servants, but Fedorin observes that she doesn’t appear to be an ordinary servant.  Fariah tells him that she’s his food taster, as there have been many attempts to poison him.  As her contempt for Salamander is barely concealed, Fedorin wonders why she decided to work for him.  Fariah tells him that Salamander has a way of persuading people and Salamander’s own comments on her are quite noteworthy.  “She was hungry. Only thing is, now she has all the food she needs, she’s lost her appetite. Both Troughton and Munroe are skillfully able to imply an intriguing back-story with just a few lines.

Meanwhile Jamie and Victoria have managed to win Salamander’s confidence (in a slightly unbelievable way, it must be said).  Salamander’s security must be really poor for Jamie to be able to get within touching distance of him without any of his guards being able to stop him.  Although his ruthless streak is made even clearer when he tells his guards to take the guard that Jamie overpowered away.  “Look after him.  Better still, get rid of him.”

Episode two ends with Salamander’s forecasted volcanic eruptions.  This is achieved, less than satisfactorily, via stock footage which doesn’t at all match with the clean VT studio sequences.  It’s also a little strange that Salamander quite calmly watches the devastation from the veranda in his Presidential Palace, which implies that that the eruptions can’t be too far away.  But at no time does anybody suggest that they should leave and move to a safer place.

Salamander orders Denes to be arrested and we then see a rather odd cliffhanger which ends on the worried face of Fedorin who’s clearly deciding whether to agree to Salamander’s plan or support Denes.  It’s a convenient place to pause the story, but rather atypical (normally we’d expect to see one of the regulars in peril).

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Doctor Who – The Enemy of the World – Episode One

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Even some eighteen months later, there’s a faint air of unreality about the recovery of The Enemy of the World and The Web of Fear.

Maybe this is because the notion of complete (or nearly complete) stories returning to the archives seemed to be such a remote possibility.  Yes, it had happened back in 1992 with Tomb, but as time went on that appeared to be a miraculous one off.  Post-Tomb, we’d become conditioned that the small (but very welcome) trickle of orphaned episodes would be all we could ever expect.

The recovery of these nine episodes changed that though and it allows us to reassess a substantial chunk of season five.  For most people, including myself, viewing these two stories was a very different experience from watching The Tomb of the Cybermen back in 1992.  Tomb might have been a legendary lost story, but in 1992 I didn’t even have a complete collection of the existing episodes (although I was well on the way).  So Tomb was just another story and I approached it with none of the baggage that some older fans would have had.

Enemy and Web were very different.  I’d had the orphaned episodes for twenty five years and the audios for nearly as long.  So the small amount of existing visual material and the audio of the remaining episodes were very familiar – meaning that finally being able to put pictures to the sounds was an exciting, if slightly nerve-wracking experience, first time around.

This was Barry Letts’ first brush with the series and it’s apt that episode one features both a hovercraft and a helicopter, given that the Pertwee era would show a similar love of hardware.  The opening ten minutes or so are mostly shot on film and they help to give the story a glossy, expansive start.  As a first-time director on the show, Letts was clearly keen to push as far as he could and there’s some impressive shots (such as the POV from the helicopter showing Anton and Rod firing as it pulls away) that maybe a more experienced (or jaded) director wouldn’t have bothered with.

The early minutes are peppered with some lovely visual moments – such as the Doctor stripping down to his long-johns to take a dip in the ocean.  This emphases the Troughton Doctor’s child-like nature although he’s also quick to sense that the approaching hovercraft means them harm (although this seems to be via a sixth sense as there’s no visual clue).

The hovercraft is piloted by Anton (Henry Stamper), Rod (Rhys McConnochie) and Curly (Simon Cain).  It’s Anton who gets the lion’s share of their dialogue, although sadly it’s not particularly memorable and Stamper’s unsubtle delivery doesn’t help.  Thankfully, all three are put out of our misery shortly afterwards.

The Doctor, Jamie and Victoria are rescued by Astrid (Mary Peach).  Our first sight of Astrid is from the rear and it’s easy to believe that this was a deliberate shot-choice from Letts as Ms Peach does have a rather attractive derriere.  Certainly something for the dads there!

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But although it’s impossible to deny that Astrid is an objectified figure right from the start, she’s also a strong, capable woman at a time when that was still something of a rarity in Doctor Who.  There are other examples in the Troughton era – Anne Travers in the next story and Gia Kelly in The Seeds of Death, for example – but they were still the exception rather than the rule.

After the Doctor attended to a flesh-wound she picked up during their escape, she begins to delicately pump him for information.  Once she learns he’s a Doctor, Astrid wonders in what field, possibly law or philosophy.  Troughton’s reply, with a faint smile playing around his lips, of “which law? Whose philosophies, eh?” is another of those lovely moments that only works when you have the visuals to match up to the soundtrack.  And it does make you wonder just how many more examples of Troughton’s magic are lost on the audio-only episodes.

Another nice moment comes shortly afterwards when she tells the Doctor that he’s “the most wonderful and marvellous man that’s ever dropped out of the skies” and asks if he’ll do something for her.  The Doctor’s quite taken with her compliment and dreamily tells her that, yes, he will.  But he’s brought up sharply when Astrid tells him it’ll probably cost him his life!  It’s a gag moment, as it’s impossible to believe that the Doctor would ever be taken in by such a cheap piece of flattery, but it’s still amusing.

What happens next is interesting.  The Doctor seems reluctant to meet with Astrid’s boss, Giles Kent (Bill Kerr) and wishes to leave.  It’s Jamie who for reasons unknown (perhaps he fancies Astrid?) tries to persuade him to stay.  The Doctor’s inaction during the story was mainly for practical reasons – an episode could either largely feature Troughton as the Doctor or as Salamander, but it would be hard to do both.  So the Doctor had to drop out of the narrative for a few episodes in order for Salamander to dominate. Therefore, if the Doctor had agreed to the impersonation straight away, then the story would have been over much sooner.

There could be another reason though – since the story was scripted by David Whitaker, the show’s original script editor, whose view of the series was very different from those who came after (especially Dennis Spooner).  Something very consistent in the Whitaker script-edited stories is that the Doctor never decides to stay and help purely out of a sense of moral duty (instead it’s generally because he’s unable to leave – the TARDIS is taken by Marco Polo, the lock of the TARDIS is stolen in The Sensorites, the TARDIS is trapped by a fallen girder in The Dalek Invasion of Earth, etc).  It’s therefore quite reasonable for Whitaker to script a Doctor who’s reluctant to act.

This is unusual for the series at this time though, where the Doctor is generally quite happy to pitch in straight away. But it’s an interesting move, as whilst Giles Kent is very convincing in painting Salamander as a villain, there’s little actual evidence to back this up.  For anybody familiar with the parameters of the series to date, it would seem clear that Salamander = Bad and Giles = Good.  As we’ll see though, things aren’t quite as clear cut and this is an early example of the series taking a more pessimistic world-view where few, if any people, can be trusted.  Possibly the best example of this is The Caves of Androzani which must be unique in lacking any characters (outside of the regulars) that could be said to be wholly “good”.

But even this early on, we have clear evidence that Kent is a ruthless manipulator.  He wants the Doctor to impersonate Salamander but obviously knows that he’ll take a great deal of persuading.  So he contacts Salamander’s head of security Donald Bruce (Colin Douglas).  Since they’re implacable enemies, quite what he says is something of a mystery, but Bruce turns up shortly afterwards and Kent gives the Doctor an ultimatum.  He has to impersonate Salamander and he has to be good enough to fool Bruce, otherwise the lives of Jamie and Victoria will be forfeit.

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Give a monkey control of its environment and it’ll fill the world with bananas. Doctor Who – The Two Doctors

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The Two Doctors is, to put it mildly, a real mixed bag.  Robert Holmes was asked to include a number of elements – a foreign setting (originally New Orleans, later Seville), the Second Doctor and Jamie and the Sontarans.  We’ve previously discussed how Holmes disliked “shopping list” stories – this was the reason he didn’t complete his draft script for The Five Doctors for example – so placing so many restrictions on him was possibly asking for trouble.  Another problem was that it was effectively the same running time as a six-parter (which was a length of story Holmes loathed).

Given all this, it’s a little surprising that The Two Doctors turned out as good as it did.  Its tone is uncertain at times (Holmes always had a dark sense of humour and was probably delighted to find his whims indulged by Eric Saward) and it’s surprising to see that Troughton is somewhat wasted, but there’s plenty to enjoy here, so let’s dive in

The opening fifteen minutes or so are pure bliss.  Back in 1985, the sum total of my exposure to Patrick Troughton’s Doctor comprised of The Krotons and The Three Doctors from the Five Faces repeats in 1981 and The Five Doctors from 1983.  They were enough to convince me that Troughton was a brilliant Doctor and this story only cemented my appreciation of him. Although Troughton looks much older and greyer than before, there’s still a spark there and his byplay with Shockeye and Dastari is lovely.  Frazer Hines, somewhat remarkably, didn’t look much older than when he bade the Doctor farewell in The War Games, some sixteen years earlier.  Whilst Hines works well later on with Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant, it’s a pity he’s separated from Troughton for the majority of the story.

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The incomparable Patrick Troughton

Given the length of the story, it’s odd that Troughton is absent for such a long period (he vanishes fifteen minutes into the first episode and doesn’t re-appear until fifteen minutes into episode two – some forty five minutes).  And after such a strong start, he’s a somewhat impotent character for the remainder of the story.  He spends episode two tied up (although he has a few good scenes) and suffers the indignity of being turned into an Androgum in episode three, something of a lowlight of the story. But back to episode two, there’s a delightful scene between Troughton and Stike (Clinton Greyn).

DOCTOR: Tea time already, nurse?
STIKE: I do not understand.
DOCTOR: Just as well. A face like yours wasn’t made for laughing.
STIKE: The operation must begin at once. I am needed at the front.
DOCTOR: Yes, I heard you. What was it, a vital strike in the Madillon Cluster? Oh, dear me. Nothing changes, does it? You and the Rutans have become petrified in your attitudes.
STIKE: Nothing can change till victory is achieved. But, but I fear I might have made a tactical error.
DOCTOR: Oh? I thought the Sontarans never made mistakes.
STIKE: It is not easy being commander. The loneliness of supreme responsibility.
DOCTOR: Why don’t you resign, Stike? Take a pension.
STIKE: When I die, it will be alongside my comrades at the front. Doctor, you have a chance, in death, to help the Sontaran cause.
DOCTOR: How can I do that?
STIKE: Tell Dastari where your symbiotic nuclei is located in your cell structure. Vital time will be saved and I can be on my way.
DOCTOR: Is that what Chessene’s offered you, the knowledge of unlimited time travel? In that case, you should watch your back, Stike.
STIKE: What?
DOCTOR: She’s an Androgum! A race to whom treachery is as natural as breathing. They’re a bit like you Sontarans in that respect!
(Stike slaps the Doctor.)
STIKE: That is for the slur on my people!
DOCTOR: And for that I demand satisfaction!
STIKE: You know that is impossible.
DOCTOR: I am challenging you to a duel, Stike. That is traditional among Sontarans, is it not?
STIKE: Oh, I would dearly love to kill you, but unfortunately you are needed alive.
DOCTOR: Release me, Stike. You are not only without honour, you’re a coward as well.
STIKE: As you are not a Sontaran, Doctor, you cannot impugn my honour.
(Stike leaves.)
DOCTOR: Well, that didn’t work, did it?

It does worry some people that Troughton’s Doctor is working for the Time Lords (and that Jamie knows all about them).  This has given rise to the Season 6b theory, but the basic truth is that this was the latest attempt by Robert Holmes to demystify the Time Lords.  Holmes disliked the way they had been portrayed in The War Games (aloof, august, etc) and instead he took every opportunity to portray them as out of touch and basically corrupt.  The Deadly Assassin (which so upset a vocal minority of fandom at the time) was the clearest demonstration of this and The Two Doctors, more subtly, carries this on.  Holmes would, of course, continue this theme the following year in his episodes of The Trial of a Time Lord.  This interview excerpt with Holmes sheds some light on exactly what he was attempting to achieve.

When I wrote The Two Doctors, it was no mistake that the Troughton Doctor knew he was being controlled by the Time Lords. The theory which myself and others who worked on Doctor Who began to conceive was that the Time Lords were in dual control of the TARDIS all the time. The first trial was a mockery, a public relations exercise, because the Doctor had become involved too close to home and something had to be done about him. That’s why he is almost half-hearted about attempting to escape, which normally he never was. He knew that they were in complete control and had been all along. To operate as sneakily as this, you would have to be corrupt, and that’s what came later, when I was the script editor. Did they not condemn the Doctor to exile for interfering in the affairs of other planets? And yet who had sent him on these missions? They had!

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Episode one has some rather strange plot holes (although it’s possible to argue these away).  What was reason for displaying the image of the Second Doctor apparently being put to death?  If nobody was left alive then who would have seen it?  And it’s incredibly sloppy to leave the equipment in place, so that when someone came to investigate they would instantly see that the Doctor’s death was a fake.

And if the Second Doctor’s death was phony, why should the Sixth Doctor be affected?  It’s also a remarkable co-incidence that when the Sixth Doctor decides to seek medical advice he not only chooses Dastari (out of all the medical men and women in the Universe) but lands the TARDIS at exactly the point in time immediately after the Sontarans have attacked the space station.  The only possible explanation for these whacking great plot holes is that the Time Lords were aware the Second Doctor had been kidnapped and subtly influenced the Sixth Doctor in order to get him to investigate.

Robert Holmes always had a gift for language, which is very much present in this story.  True, it sometimes edges towards the macabre (there were plenty of examples of this in the 1970’s and it does seem that Saward was keen to exploit this).  Colin Baker benefits from Holmes’ writing – he’s impressed me in his stories so far, but here (thanks to Holmes) he goes up another couple of notches.  This is a good example of morbid Holmes.

PERI: Ugh! Oh, Doctor, it’s foul. Are you sure it’s safe?
DOCTOR: Plenty of oxygen.
PERI: Yeah, but that awful smell.
DOCTOR: Mainly decaying food (sniffs) and corpses.
PERI: Corpses?
DOCTOR: That is the smell of death, Peri. Ancient musk, heavy in the air. Fruit-soft flesh, peeling from white bones. The unholy, unburiable smell of Armageddon. Nothing quite so evocative as one’s sense of smell, is there?
PERI: I feel sick.
DOCTOR: I think you’ll feel a good deal sicker before we’re finished here.

And this is lyrical Holmes.

DOCTOR: She can’t comprehend the scale of it all. Eternal blackness. No more sunsets. No more gumblejacks. Never more a butterfly.

There are problems with The Two Doctors, and the major one is the Sontarans.  Although they have the reputation of being a classic Doctor Who monster, they were remarkably ill used, particularly in the original series.  Linx was great, thanks to a wonderful performance by Kevin Lindsey and an impressive mask.  Styre was comprimised by only appearing in one episode and a slightly less impressive mask (made to ease the strain on Kevin Lindsey).  Stor was pretty rubbish and the Sontarans were generally pretty ineffectual anyway in The Invasion of Time.

Which leads us on to their next appearance, in this story, and it does seem to be a case of diminishing returns.  The masks here are the worst yet seen – they look far too obviously like masks (just compare them to Linx from a decade earlier).  Both Stike and Varl are very tall as well, which looks a little odd – nasty, brutish and short should be how the Sontarans look.  Holmes writes them quite well, and Stike has a nice military swagger, but it’s clear they’re not the focus of the story and it probably would have worked just as well with just the Androgums.

The Sontarans (and their ill-fitting masks) fail to impress
The Sontarans (and their ill-fitting masks) fail to impress

The debate about violence during S22 was a fairly hot topic and there are two main talking points here – the death of Oscar and the death of Shockeye.  Oscar (James Saxon) seems to be an archetypal Holmes figure (think Vorg in Carnival of Monsters or Jago in Talons of Weng Chiang).  They exist to bring a little light relief to the story with their cowardly antics, but they come good in the end – by showing unexpected reserves of courage. Holmes was never afraid to kill off sympathetic characters (Lawrence Scarman in Pyramids of Mars, for example) but the death of Oscar is a jolt.

Although he wasn’t used as much as Jago, there would have been a similar shock if Greel had knifed Jago to death in the last episode of Talons.  His death is supremely pointless too – although maybe that’s Holmes’ point.  Throughout the story we’ve seen how groups of characters treat the species’ they consider to be lesser than them.  The Doctor and Dastari consider the Androgums to be a lower form of life, just as the Androgums regard humans as little more than animals whilst Oscar has no compunction in killing moths, which he does simply for the pleasure their mounted displays brings him.

The Doctor’s killing of Shockeye isn’t a problem – it’s obviously self defence as Shockeye was out for blood.  It’s just unfortunate that we have a few shots of the Doctor smiling whilst preparing the cyanide.  The sight of the Doctor apparently relishing what was about to happen is more than a little disturbing – although this may not have been the intention and simply how it was cut together.

So whilst the story flags somewhat in the last episode (like City of Death and Arc of Infinity they can’t resist a run-around so they can show off the foreign location) it’s never less than entertaining across all three episodes.  It’s a pity that Troughton wasn’t used better and also that the two Doctors were kept apart for the majority of the story, but apart from these niggles it’s a very decent script from Robert Holmes and in many ways it was the last one he wrote where he was fully on top of his game.