Reviews Doctor Who: The Enemy of the World on DVD

Published on November 25th, 2013 | by Elton Townend Jones

Reviewed: The Enemy of the World on DVD

You’re a Doctor Who fan, so it probably won’t have escaped your notice that two ‘lost’ stories from the much-lionised Patrick Troughton era were recently recovered amid a flurry of press and publicity that almost threatened to melt the internet – twice.

Back from wherever telly-we’re-never-going-to see-again lives came the all-time most-wanted ‘lost story’, the apparently unassailable The Web of Fear (yeah, some might say, just like Tomb of the Cybermen was unassailable – until we saw it…) and its intriguing but less well-regarded season-mate The Enemy of the World.

They were back and it was about time and we were so, so lucky to be able to have them again.  Even now, it’s pretty hard to tell whether or not we’d know they were back at all just yet, if not for the press leak that fuelled the so-called ‘omni-rumour’ (of 109 recovered episodes, apparently) and the wildfire press and fan attention (Internet Melt 1) that pinned down the BBC and those-in-the-know-that-didn’t-mind-lying-about-it-to-those-not-in-the-know and practically forced them to reveal that something had been returned.  What follows, as you no doubt know, was a very twenty-first century development, and that was the ‘rush release’ of said stories onto iTunes for download into the hand of hungry – perhaps even greedy – fans such as you or I before any whole or part of them could find themselves pirated onto YouTube or whatever, but mostly because they wanted to be kind to us and make sure we had them as soon as possible (Internet Melt 2).  Yeah, that just might be true, that they had our interests at heart.  Who could, in all faith, deny that?  I mean, it’s not like they were going to be releasing them on proper DVDs any time soon, was it?

[pullquote align="right"]It’s been a month since we all downloaded these recovered stories from iTunes because the BBC wanted to be kind to us and make sure we had them as soon as possible.  They had our interests at heart.  Who could, in all faith, deny that?  I mean, it’s not like they were going to be releasing them on DVD any time soon, was it?[/pullquote]

Well, it’s been about a month, maybe six weeks since we all downloaded these recovered stories and realised that the ugly sister – The Enemy of the World – was actually way better than its much-feted sibling.  You’ve shelled out your hard-earned and those without Apple computers have growled and cursed at the inadequacies of the iTunes experience, but in the end, those nice folks at the BBC rewarded you with perhaps one of the most striking bits of 1960s telly you’re ever likely to see, let alone one of the most accomplished bits of Doctor Who

The Enemy of the World, written by David Whitaker – perhaps the biggest single influence on early Doctor Who – and directed by future producer Barry Letts, marking his place as one of the series’ most inventive and creative directors, is relentlessly and magnificently epic.  Those who read Ian Marter’s excellent 1980s novelisation might have suspected as much, but this one just keeps on moving, full of intrigue, excitement, double-cross, red herrings, and twists and turns aplenty.  At its simplest – because you’ve all seen it, so not much point in me telling you at great length – the Doctor, Jamie and Victoria arrive in Australia in the year 2018, where it turns out the Doctor is the exact double of would-be world dictator Ramon Salamander.  At the request of Salamander’s enemies, the Doctor impersonates Salamander and travels across continents in an attempt to expose the villain’s dark secrets and reveal the hand behind a number of volcanic disasters to recently have beset the world.

Letts uses every directorial and visual trick in the book to keep the story moving at an exciting pace – the helicopter P.O.V in episode one is jaw-dropping on its own (yes – they have a helicopter!  And a hovercraft!), as are the back projections used to fill out the park and the jetty, the model shots and visual effects used to effectively portray Salamander’s ‘lift’ into his underground base, and the final TARDIS effects sequences.  All of this stuff, if you’ve never seen it before, elicits whoops and coos of wonder.

Patrick Troughton as the Doctor's doppelganger Salamander in The Enemy of the World

Whitaker’s script is weighty and powerful, recalling his historical tales from the William Hartnell period more than anything else, and the cast is varied and as original a bunch of characters as Doctor Who will see at this point in its history.  Comic actor Bill Kerr fills Giles Kent with a desperate edgy steel, Milton Johns is deliciously sadistic as Benik, Carmen Munroe eats up the screen as the gorgeous and impressive Fariah, while Reg Lye’s Griffin is just adorable.  The real acting kudos must of course go to Patrick Troughton, who does do an amazing job as both the Doctor and Salamander – he really does make them utterly distinct.

There are some beautiful production designs from Christopher Pemsel and costumes from Martin Baugh, both of which combine to give us an almost Captain Scarlet/Gerry Anderson near-future.  If you want to be picky, perhaps the only things that let the production down are Colin Douglas as Donald Bruce and the fact that some of the underground dwellers (Adam Verney and Margaret Hickey) are a little wooden, wet, or just too earnest.  But in terms of the allegedly brilliant Season Five, The Enemy of the World wins out by the sheer freedom it allows its creators – no boring base under siege for six weeks here (and this comes as a refreshing change after the one-note dross of The Ice Warriors); this is an exciting, varied epic adventure that spans a world and is rich with very Who-ish ideas – and, most noticeably, some of the sudden deaths and acts of violence are actually rather striking, if not downright shocking.  The Enemy of the Worldis Doctor Who doing a proper theatrical drama – a full-on Revenge Tragedy – and doing it incredibly well.

But like I said at the top of this review, you already know this, because you’ve already spent £17 downloading it and gorging yourself on it because, like me, you didn’t want to be the only fan who hadn’t seen it when the buzz was happening a few short weeks ago.

Well, now the Beeb want to sell you it again.  They want you to shell out £20rrp and do it all over again.  And who can blame them?  I mean, it’s what you want, isn’t it?  The DVD?  So it can sit on your nice, chronologically organised shelf?  Not like that messy downloady thing cluttering up your laptop files, no thank you…

But that’s OK, buying it twice is fine because you’re a completist and you’re looking forward to the Extras.  Quite right too.

Doctor Who: The Enemy of the World

 

The Enemy of the World DVD Extras

  • A single shiny disc with a picture on it and words that tell you what it is you’re putting into your player.
  • A plastic case in which to keep your shiny disc safe.
  • A cover with words and pictures on it telling you all about the shiny disc you’re putting into your player.
  • An insert with words and pictures on it telling you all about the, yeah, you get the picture…
  • Coming Soon Trailer for The Web of Fear (which you’ve seen three times now and already own).

I’m being a little sarcastic, of course, but there aren’t even Production Subtitles or a Commentary track.  I don’t expect miracles – I know these things take time – but am I alone in thinking I would have been happy to wait a year or so until such items could be assembled?  Surely you think the same?

On the plus side, if you manage to get hold of the ‘Limited Edition’  with an alternative cover, you don’t get any other DVD content, but you do get a nice, specially commissioned ‘Enemy of the World’ t-shirt.  Which is nice.  If you’re not interested in proper clothes.

All in all then, an undeniably disappointing release of Patrick Troughton’s finest hour (or three) as Doctor Who and one of the series’ most epic and satisfying adventures.  This – if you don’t already have it (really?!) is a Must-Own.

Completist? You can order The Enemy of the World for just £13.75 from Amazon now!

 

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About the Author

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Elton Townend-Jones is a journalist, playwright, actor, theatre producer and philosopher. He does ‘80s zeitgeist at www.25yearstoolate.blogspot.com.



17 Responses to Reviewed: The Enemy of the World on DVD

  1. avatar Rick714 says:

    I would have waited for the DVD but so far, no sign of even the opportunity for a pre-order over here in the states–which sucks—but I enjoyed it immensely and will enjoy the DVD’s too, whenever they do come out over here.

  2. avatar sw says:

    I waited for the DVD and have to say I am quite disappointed at the lack of special features, the rumors of lost episodes had been floating around for quite sometime and I’m guessing that restoring the picture and sound is not just a 5 min job. surely those great folk at BBC/2entertain could have knocked up a few odds n sods to put on the dvd or even knocked a few quid off the price to make up for lack of content I’m now thinking that the release of the Web of Fear will be just the same. Oh well I guess we will just have to wait for the “xtra special edition”……Revisitiations 4 anybody????

  3. avatar mwruger says:

    I suppose it’s possible that most of the DVD extras from Troughton Era have already been produced and released on previous DVD’s and other than some production stills, there might not be much left to say or add.

    Still, I’m sure we’ll all buy it. I know I will. But I didn’t buy the web version so no double dip for me!

  4. avatar francis cave says:

    Good review though when they were released in Itunes it was made clear by the BBC that the Enemy DVD would be out this month so there was no deception going on.

  5. avatar Elton Townend Jones says:

    Thanks for that, Francis. While I’m sure you are entirely correct, you can tell from my review that – as a fan and punter – this wasn’t something I noticed, therefore from my perspective – although it’s my own fault – it wasn’t at all clear. A case of caveat emptor perhaps? Or more likely, pay more attention, me! I genuinely wasn’t aware of that fact when I downloaded hungrily and greedily. I’d still have downloaded had I known, so the tone of light-hearted cynicism (but now with blatant abnegation of self-responsibility ;) ) in the review is upheld, I think. Still disappointed that there’s not even a commentary or production notes. Still, a cracking story.

    • avatar francis cave says:

      My copy arrived today and it is weird to put on a classic DVD without any production subtitles or extras of any kind. Still at least its comes with a reversable sleeve so it matches all of the others, phew!

  6. avatar Ant says:

    What? No special features? That’s pretty shameful. No footage of the press event to announce these tapes have been found? No interviews with the folks that found the tapes? They couldn’t have recorded interviews with the cast at said launch? Not good enough, is it?

    • avatar Francis Cave says:

      Unfortunately I’d imagine that the discs had to be made ready for authoring before the official announcement was made..

      However it is a shame that nothing apart from the Web Trailer was included, not even an interview with Philip Morris or members of the restoration team who obviously would have been in the know before it was announced.


  7. For a change, it’s good to be an American Whovian! By the time this is ready for Region 1 distribution there will be real extras! I have not downloaded, but I think price is lower here too!

    • avatar Al says:

      Don’t hold your breath. 99% of the time Region 1 gets the same release as the UK. I can’t see them making exclusive content for North America. Doctors Revisited aside, that’s reserved only for the new series.

      What the reviewer doesn’t indicate is whether they’d at least VidFIRE’d the thing. The online trailer offers no clue.


    • At this point, I’d just be happy to get a US release date….

  8. avatar Elton Townend Jones says:

    Al – the reviewer couldn’t tell you for sure. I have no supplementary information to tell me either way. Just by looking, I think not, but it’s still a rather nice print.

  9. avatar Mark Learey says:

    The video restorer Peter Crocker recently said somewhere or other that the DVDs would, as is standard practice, be VidFired. The iTunes versions are not, as iTunes allegedly doesn’t support interlaced standard definition. He also confirmed that they could’ve happily encoded the episodes as Hi Def 50p files, which would benefit from the smoother motion of VidFire, but the increased file size was rather bizarrely felt to make this option less attractive.

    The DVDs are also encoded at a slightly better resolution. The iTunes versions are softer and somewhat artifacty encodes :(

    So, in summary, the DVDs will be a better visual experience, although more expensive.
    Only plump for the downloads if you want them immediately or for the convenience of having a digital file.

  10. avatar Daz Voz says:

    Aw, who are we kidding, we can’t stay mad at the BBC…


    • I dam well can lol


  11. Its discussing frankly I couldn’t wait for it to arrive in the post,I enjoy the features almost as much as the show itself so to receive none, and if thus is just a ploy to sell us a special edition later on then shame on them.

    Mainly as the reason they Arnt animating the missing who’s is because it would cost too much money .

    I’m really upset about the lack of features after I got over the stock of a different cover before seeing the correct cover was on the reverse side I flick over the dvd to see what treats awaited me in the features and…..none well thanks bbc .

    Total bastards on this one no excuse

  12. avatar Robin Rowles says:

    I’m used to listening to the CD Soundtrack and watching the, up to now, sole episode, so I can wait for a ‘full’ version. Even so, how long does it take to record a commentary track and cobble up a ‘Making of’, better still, a ‘Recovery of’ featurette?

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