Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Doctor Who: The Enemy of the World – DVD Review

Previously five-sixths missing, this classic Patrick Troughton story is back, and it's coming to DVD...

RRP: £20.42
Released by: BBC Worldwide
Release date: 25 November 2013

"Proof, proof, proof! It always comes back to the same thing – no-one has any evidence against Salamander"

Sometimes, even our wildest dreams can come true. Prior to October 2013, there were officially 106 episodes of Doctor Who missing from the BBC Archives, all of them from the 1960s and starring William Hartnell or Patrick Troughton as the Doctor. Back then, the videotapes that the episodes were recorded onto were very expensive indeed, and so the BBC elected to reuse as many tapes as possible (once the programmes originally recorded onto them were deemed to be of no further use) in order to save on the expense of purchasing new ones. Nobody foresaw that one day these programmes would have a commercial application in the home video market (the domestic technology to achieve this was years away) and agreements with Equity, the actors’ union, severely restricted the number of times that a programme could be repeated on television. Thankfully, however, almost all of the 1960s episodes were copied (or ‘telerecorded’) onto 16mm film for overseas sale prior to the original tapes’ destruction (bar one solitary episode, which is believed to have ceased to exist as soon as the tape was wiped). Eventually, these films also began to be disposed of, as the transition into colour television caused a decline in interest in old monochrome programmes. But every episode of Doctor Who that survives from the 1960s exists on film – and very rarely, some more turn up.

Until now, the most recent recoveries of missing Doctor Who episodes came in 2011, when two episodes found their way back to the archives from a private collector in the UK. But the circumstances of this new find (the biggest of the last 25 years) are very different, and we ultimately have one man to thank. Philip Morris, director of Television International Enterprises Archives (TIEA) discovered nine missing episodes in a store room at a television relay station in Jos, Nigeria. Along with four of the five missing episodes of The Web of Fear, Episodes 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6 of 1967/8’s The Enemy of the World were discovered alongside the already-existing Episode 3, completing the adventure at long last! In an unprecedented move, the episodes were made available for download on iTunes at the very same moment that their existence was announced, at midnight on 11 October 2013. Later this month, a DVD arrives…

When I watched the DVD for this review, it was the second time that I had seen the story (except for Episode 1, which I have now seen three times), and it’s still an incredibly surreal experience to be able to actually watch the story. All of it! With moving pictures! Prior to the recovery, I had heard the soundtrack a couple of times (audio recordings exist of every missing Doctor Who episode), accompanied by a ‘reconstruction’ of the story using materials such as off-screen stills and production photographs, but watching the real thing is a revelation on every level. Right from the very beginning of Episode 1, we discover just how difficult it is to truly appreciate these episodes with just the audio. As the TARDIS materialises on an Australian beach, every single expression from the cast (Troughton in particular) is utterly magical. The soundtracks may allow us to follow the story, but the recovered episodes allow us to experience the story. There are so many things in this sequence alone that we had no idea about. As the Doctor runs towards the sea, Troughton leaps into the air and clicks his heels – a joyous moment which we never knew anything about.

The story’s director was Barry Letts, marking the Doctor Who début of the man who would go on to become the show’s producer during the Jon Pertwee years. Letts truly hits the ground running, with an incredibly action-packed opening instalment – it wouldn’t be too much of an exaggeration to suggest that this is James Bond on a Doctor Who budget. Within moments of the Doctor, Jamie (Frazer Hines) and Victoria (Deborah Watling) arriving, they find themselves under attack, and so begins a thrilling sequence of events. Before I watched the recovered story, I thought I knew this episode, but it turns out that the sense of pace and action that it has barely comes through on audio. The atmosphere is enhanced further by the music. Although it is library music rather than being composed specifically for the story, it suits these scenes perfectly.

The Enemy of the World is often thought of as a ‘future historical’, as it is a story of political intrigue rather than a tale of aliens and monsters. It really does stand out as a breath of fresh air, and gives Patrick Troughton a huge role. This is a world in which one man, Salamander, is striving to gain power over the entire planet – and he looks almost exactly like the Doctor. It’s simply fascinating to watch Troughton in this dual role, and it’s not hard to occasionally forget that Salamander is played by him, because of how differently he portrays the two characters. We first see Salamander on a screen in Episode 1, giving a speech about his eco-technology which is seen to be saving the world from starvation. It soon becomes clear that Salamander is a very complex character – seemingly the hero of the world, but with rather different motives lurking beneath. It isn’t until around half-way through the story that the impersonation element gets fully underway, with the Doctor pretending to be Salamander, but when it does you can really distinguish the different aspects of Troughton’s performance. There is a discernible difference between the Doctor, Salamander, and the Doctor pretending to be Salamander – and a further twist to Salamander’s character arrives in Episode 4, with a brilliantly outlandish revelation.

The story has a remarkable scope and ambition, stretching from Australia to Europe. It feels like the stakes are very high for the Doctor, Jamie and Victoria, as they are up against a truly ruthless would-be dictator, with the TARDIS left on the other side of the world for some of the adventure. David Whitaker’s script incorporates three-dimensional characters, with complex relationships and motives. One such character is Fariah (Carmen Munroe) – her background isn’t entirely clear, but there are hints of more mature undertones beneath her exchanges with Salamander. Fariah is an excellent example of the quality of characterisation we see in this story. She could have been a one-dimensional character, only serving to advance the storyline and nothing more. But instead, Whitaker and Munroe craft something far more interesting.

Astrid (Mary Peach) has a curious relationship with the Doctor. Soon after they first meet, they have a conversation which seems slightly flirtatious, and there is some great dialogue between Peach and Troughton. Setting aside the fact that everyone seems to swiftly forget that she has been wounded by a gunshot in Episode 1, Astrid is involved with some of the greatest moments in this serial. At one point, she works with Jamie and Victoria to trick Salamander into believing that somebody has attempted to assassinate him, and she plays a key role in the story’s opening action sequence. It isn’t difficult to imagine Astrid as a companion, and she is without doubt one of the most memorable characters of the story. Another is Benik (Milton Johns). Benik is a wholly and infallibly unpleasant man, and it sometimes feels as though he is, in a sense, nastier than Salamander himself. While Salamander is certainly more evil, he operates in a more calculated and discreet manner. Benik, meanwhile, is purely sadistic. A surprisingly intense scene occurs later in the story, with Benik interrogating Jamie and Victoria – and it leaves you wondering what he is capable of.

The Enemy of the World is a story which really does deserve to be re-evaluated by fans. It is only now that we can properly appreciate the true quality of the direction, and being able to see the story elevates it to a whole new level. For decades, the third episode was believed to be the only one in existence, and it didn’t exactly show the story in a brilliant light. It is still the weakest episode, but even so, it is improved somewhat by being viewed in its proper context – and it gets bonus points for featuring the hugely underrated character of Griffin (Reg Lye)! There isn’t any other Doctor Who story like this one, and there are a number of thrilling moments throughout, the legendary ‘Doctor vs Salamander’ TARDIS scene for example. The story isn’t perfect – the pacing is a bit uneven, with a slightly rushed finale. But I would still argue that it warrants being called a ‘classic’, and it’s some of the quieter moments, the subtle points, which make the story for me. It’s the fact that we have realistic and multi-layered characters, and I never previously realised just how intricate the story is in this respect. This is a serial which has for so long been overlooked, but it has now enjoyed the forefront of media coverage and public awareness. The Enemy of the World is back.


There are virtually no extras on this DVD. Besides the episodes themselves, the only additional content is a trailer for the other (mostly) recovered serial, The Web of Fear, which will be released on DVD early next year. This is a modified and shortened version of the atmospheric iTunes trailer. Considering the secrecy under which this DVD was prepared, the lack of extras is understandable. While it would have been great for the usual extras to be on this disc, the main thing for me is owning the episodes in the best possible technical quality. That said, from a personal perspective, it's a shame there aren't any production information subtitles (or a commentary, to a lesser extent) on the DVD.


When you consider that they had been sitting untouched on a dusty shelf in Nigeria for over four decades, these episodes look and sound amazing. Where the mono audio is concerned, the story sounds very clean, with clear music, dialogue and effects. We can thank Mark Ayres for restoring the sound to a level of quality that is consistent with many other episodes from this era on DVD. Likewise, the picture quality is excellent – easily comparable to other serials which have been stored in far safer conditions than The Enemy of the World!

Following restoration by the usual team – including Peter Crocker (digital restoration) and Jonathan Wood (grading) – the 4:3 video is very stable, with an impressive amount of clarity in the image. The contrast is impressive, although a couple of the cliffhanger reprises look more washed out (to my eyes, it looks like these reprises are played in from film recordings – if this is the case, the fact that we would then be effectively looking at a telerecording of a telerecording could certainly account for the drop in quality). But this literally affects just two scenes, thankfully.

Episode 3, which previously existed in the archives, has been sourced from the existing copy rather than the newly discovered film. This is because the archives already held a film recording negative for that episode, so the African film print could not possibly achieve the same quality. However, the negative has been given a fresh restoration for this new DVD, and the results are a distinct improvement over the previous presentation of Episode 3 on 2004's Lost in Time box set (see comparisons below), with deeper blacks and a cleaner overall image.

This DVD holds a major advantage over the previous iTunes release of The Enemy of the World, because the episodes here have been processed with VidFIRE, restoring the interlaced 'video look' to the videotaped studio scenes. Technically, the episodes on iTunes were VidFIREd, but the effect was lost because iTunes only supports progressive video. One limitation of VidFIRE is that where a shot consists of both video and film-originated material (for example, where film appears on a screen within a shot), then the film footage ends up with the video look as well. However, this is a worthwhile trade-off for something which, on the whole, brings us far closer to the original broadcast, and the impact that VidFIRE has on the viewing experience is substantial.

Below are comparison images between this DVD and the iTunes release (and, in the case of Episode 3, the Lost in Time DVD). The iTunes episodes are of a lower resolution, so those screenshots have been upscaled so that the vertical resolution matches that of the DVD images, allowing for the most effective comparison. There is a very appreciable difference when the episodes are seen in motion, and the increased definition is visible in these images. It is recommended that you open each image in its own tab and then flick between them.







Lost in Time


2013 DVD








It still doesn’t quite feel real. Previously, it was only possible to watch one-sixth of the story, but now we can enjoy the adventure in its visual entirety. It just goes to show that there is so much that we simply don’t know about the missing episodes – who knows what secrets might be held by other lost stories! But the recovery of these episodes also proves that we should never give up hope. Before this discovery, four episodes had been recovered in the last two decades, so the idea that we would ever see a batch as big as nine being returned – let alone a batch comprising one complete story and one almost complete – was truly the stuff of wild fantasy. This DVD release of The Enemy of the World is an incredible gift to fans for the show’s fiftieth anniversary this month.

Sometimes, nine impossible things can happen before breakfast.

Thank you, Philip Morris.

Main Feature: 8 out of 10
A/V Quality: 7 out of 10
Extras: 1 out of 10

5 OUT OF 10

Watch the iTunes trailer for The Enemy of the World here.

Purchasing this title through either of the links above helps to support this website.

Thanks to BBC Worldwide

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