Every TV show from any era is formulaic in some way. Doctor Who is no exception. But sometimes in the midst of our favorite TV shows we find and episode/story that breaks the mold. For me, Enemy of the World is that story for the sixties era of Doctor Who.
What sets this story apart from the rest is a couple of factors. For starters there is no alien or robotic threat. Now you may say “it’s the 1960’s Who, they’ve done stories with no aliens before” and you’d be right but if you look back to those stories they were mostly all historicals. They used real events from the history of Earth and real people in Earth’s history. Which brings me to the second thing that set’s this story apart. It’s not a historical. No aliens? No real life historical event or personality? In sixties Doctor Who? Yes! Yes, that’s right!
The story is set in the near future on Earth. There is a world power at play and at the center of it is the evil Salamander. Salamander is a dictator who is manipulating all the forces on Earth into giving him full and total control. This is an act we usually see aliens in disguise trying to pull off so that they can invade the planet from within. But Salamander is no alien. He is a human of Spanish decent. There is no alien attack here, no subverting of Earth’s history as we know it. Just an evil power hungry Earth born and greedy dictator.
But there is a catch. While these two staples of the show’s history are not in place, there is a rather clichéd coincidence at play as Salamander does bear a striking resemblance to our very own Doctor and naturally – as you would expect – both characters are played by Patrick Troughton. Now, this brings me to the third item that sets this story apart. As you could have guessed from the fact that the writers have decided to make Salamander a nicely tanned version of the Second Doctor – with his hair parted smartly and a Spanish accent – that the two characters would be set in an impersonator situation. And you’d be right. But while the idea might seem drool to some I’ll ask you to judge it after you have listened to the story. Why? Because just like they broke the mold of the Doctor Who alien/history stories they handle the double in a much more interesting way. In fact, at times you nearly think they never will get to it. But that is part of the magic of this particular adventure.
Let’s a take a moment now to praise Patrick Troughton. His Doctor is of course as brilliant as ever he was and an absolute joy to watch – or in this case listen to – but Patrick gets a change to stretch his acting bones and show us just how cold he can be. His depiction of Salamander is so unlike the man we know and love as the Doctor that you might actually believe they are two separate men. Salamander is a ruthless, conniving, underhanded and sinister man. His plan is to take over the world by manipulating anyone around him into doing his bidding. Either by blackmail, lies, disasters or even by making people believe that his in in fact their last best hope and a hero. This is where it gets really interesting, there aren’t two characters in Salamander and the Doctor, there are three. You see, Salamander leads a secret life. This dual life is where we see some of the most evil aspects of Salamander’s character. In this second life he is hailed as a savior but if those who saw him this way could only know the truth they would find that they have been victims of one of the sickest plans of a Doctor Who villain.
Patrick seems to really relish the role of Salamander. Playing such a despicable piece of work complete with Mediterranean accent it would be so easy to go over the top but, in my humble opinion, I don’t believe Patrick ever did. Not once. All the way up to one of the best story endings in the show’s run, Mr. Troughton played the perfect villain.
[pullquote align=”right”]Playing such a despicable piece of work complete with Mediterranean accent it would be so easy to go over the top. I don’t believe Patrick ever did – he played the perfect villain.[/pullquote]And he is just one of the many great characters in the story. Too many to name here individually but some honorable mentions go to Mary Peach as Astrid is such a strong female lead character. Strong, independent and completely in control of any situation. She’s so well written that at times you feel she is a main, ongoing character. It’s such a shame to have seen her appear in only one story. In fact, knowing that Victoria leaves in the very next story, it’s easy to see that Astrid would have made a perfect companion to take her place. But alas, it never was to be. Frazer Hines and Deborah Walting are also on top for as well as Jamie and Victoria, respectively, while they go undercover to help try to convince Colin Douglas as Donald Bruce – the world’s Security Chief – that Salamander is not the man he thinks he is.
Colin plays an intelligent man, not the sort of bumbling officer/military man who refuses to believe a word anyone says to him outside his own understanding, something we’ve seen several times in Doctor Who over the years. Bruce is a character who develops over the course of the serial, a wise man who is willing to listen. Remarkably, he’s even prepared to believe the claims, should the evidence be provided, rather than outright dismiss it, but naturally his first priority is Earth’s defense. Who can argue with that?
When it comes to any TV show, the proof – as they say – is in the pudding. Sure I can tell you what a great story it is but until you hear it for yourself you only have my word. All I can tell you is that every time I revisit this story I am never let down by the writers or actors. From start to finish this is one of Doctor Who’s finest adventures.