Classic Doctor Who often gets tarnished with jibes about the set, the costumes and acting. Some of the criticism is justified to be fair. Some sets are really unconvincing, some villains looks terrible and some deaths are comical rather than thrilling. None of that can be said for this story though. The Enemy of the World is a story that wouldn’t be out of place today. Touch it up with a bit of colour and high definition footage and it genuinely would slide quite nicely into a modern day series. Patrick Troughton gives one of his best performances for the show, not just as the Doctor but as the story’s main enemy too, Salamander. First broadcast between December 1967 and January 1968, this six part adventure is one I’m glad that was recovered.
Doctor Who has always been extremely lucky, or probably it is more a case of the show being extremely good at casting, in particular at casting the Doctor. Everyone has their favourite Doctor, but it’s hard to argue against the fact the show has never cast a poor actor to play the main role. Patrick Troughton demonstrated he was one of the finest and talented actors to play the role as he played the Doctor and Salamander here. The job he did was superb. He was totally convincing in both parts. One minute you loved him as the silly and energetic second Doctor, the next you despised him as he schemed and murdered in the role of Salamander. To play such contrasting parts in the same story so well shows what talent Troughton had. Salamander as a villain was excellent. It’s rare in Doctor Who not to have an alien threat. Even in stories like this where it’s set on Earth, there’s normally an alien influence. Here Salamander was a dictator, set on ruling the planet. He wasn’t too dissimilar to Hitler. His combed over hair and powerful speeches certainly made comparing him to the Fuhrer easy. This made him a character who was easy to dislike. Sometimes in the show, it’s hard to feel any sort of anger or opposition to an enemy because you can’t relate to their goals of universal domination. Salamander was such a good villain because you could relate to him. Earth has had and will probably have in the future, people who are intent on ruling the planet their way. He was a downright evil character and his manipulative side did make him a force to be reckoned with.
In this story, the Doctor was travelling with Jamie and Victoria. This is a TARDIS team that I simply adore. Jamie and Victoria are two brilliant companions. Their urge for adventure is wonderfully entertaining to watch, and unlike some other companions’ will to impress the Doctor, their confidence in their own abilities is never irritating. I loved how quickly Jamie and Victoria volunteered to try and infiltrate Salamander’s base. When Jamie came face to face with the dictator, he showed what a fearless character he was. As Salamander doubted Jamie’s presence, he didn’t flinch once and it was out of sheer loyalty to the Doctor that he could maintain such an impressive veil. Not only were Jamie and Victoria extremely selfless throughout, their chemistry with the second Doctor was at its peak. The three bounced off each other marvellously and were so enthralling to watch. In terms of just sheer entertainment, the three can only be matched by the fourth Doctor and Sarah Jane and the tenth Doctor with Donna, in my opinion.
The story is not without its flaws. I thought the ending was a bit rushed. In terms of the script, a rushed ending with a story that lasts six parts is normally inexplicable. However I can understand why this particular ending was so abrupt. Narratively, it was always going to result in a stand off between the Doctor and Salamander. This was a challenge, producing convincing footage of the two being played at the same time by Troughton would’ve been difficult, although the one fight scene they did have was done stunningly well, all things considered. Salamander falling into the Time Vortex was a bit simple. For someone who’d worked so hard at controlling the planet, seeing him being torn apart piece by piece and the actual character being dismantled, would’ve been a more rewarding ending. Being able to see the reaction on Earth to Salamander’s death would’ve been nice too. However, those are just nitpicks really. Overall, this is a super story that is way ahead of its time and it does well not to drag in any of the six parts. Patrick Troughton cemented his place in my heart as one of my favourite Doctors in this story and Jamie in particular is also brilliant. Although Matt Smith had a go at playing the Cyber-planner in Nightmare in Silver, I’d love to see something like this done in the modern era. With the resources and funding to film more scenes with the same actor appearing twice, it could only improve visually. Produce a decent script and with an actor as talented as Peter Capaldi, an iconic episode could be in the offing.