I tried watching classic Doctor Who, but aside from a few great episodes, I really have a hard time getting into it. I don’t blame the show though. The 60’s, 70’s, and the 80’s were a totally different time. Plus a sci-fi show like Doctor Who running in a public channel like BBC wouldn’t have much of a budget. The crew had to find creative and low-budget solutions to creating visual effects.
This led to novel solutions like:
A monster made out of bubble wrap.
A toy tank in the middle of a warzone
Cybermen made up of spare parts. (I find this the creepiest version though)
And my favorite, Disco Cybermen.
Add the fact that I’m a 30-year old guy spoiled by CGI, watching a show meant to scare the crap out of kids living the 60’s-80’s with makeshift effects, the pacing of Doctor Who was totally different. One story/serial meant around five 30-minute episodes, so a simple plot like “The Fourth Doctor goes back in time to destroy the Daleks before they could evolve into existence” meanders into a series of redundant chases.
It’s a shame, though, since Classic Who has some of the best writing, with plots that are sometimes superior to the current series.
This leads us to The Enemy of The World. A bit of background: back in the 70’s, the BBC decided to wipe their archive of shows to reuse expensive videotape, thinking that they have back up copies somewhere. Comically, the BBC division that was in charge of the back ups were also destroying their copies, because fuck you Doctor Who fans it’s just a silly kid’s show it will never be huge sometime in the next century amirite? Over a hundred episodes were lost, so we have huge gaps in the canon of the First and Second Doctors. Early this year, two serials were recovered – The Web of Fear and The Enemy of the World. I’ve only seen the second one, and it is amazing.
If you’ve been watching Doctor Who long enough, you’d know that the show follows a formula: Doctor lands in an alien planet/different time, he meets a monster/alien, he gets into trouble, and he saves the day. The Enemy of the World changes this.
WARNING: Spoilers for a 40+ year old Doctor Who serial beyond this point
The Doctor, Jamie, and Victoria land sometime in the future, and are attacked by assassins who mistake the Doctor for Salamander, a megalomaniac bent on ruling the world. The resistance asks the Doctor to impersonate Salamander and take down the dictator, but without any evidence, the Doctor refuses.
From the beginning of the story, it’s incredibly clear how violent this show was. We’re not past the first 15 minutes and we see gunshots and exploding helicopters. I just sat back watching the violence play out and thought “Holy shit, they had a different definition of ‘family show’ back in the 60’s.”
But you know what? I watched this because I wanted to see Patrick Troughton play both the Doctor and the villain of the story, the unfortunately-named Salamander. And he is brilliant. When he plays Salamander, he totally disappears into the role and becomes the scariest motherfucker ever.
The plot is a bit convoluted, but when you’re stretching your story to six episodes, it’s bound to get convoluted, right? But unlike a lot of Classic Who stories where they just make the companion run and get chased by the monster for three of those episodes just to pad out the plot, we get a gripping political thriller full of cloak-and-dagger intrigue. It’s just not the typical Doctor Who plot. It was a blast to watch.
- Jamie is my favorite Classic companion, and this serial just proves over and over again how badass he is.
- Victoria is just the cutest companion. Ever. Sorry, Amy and Clara.
- The scene where Jamie and Victoria thought they were talking to Salamander and the Doctor proves that he is himself by playing air recorder was awesome.
- Salamander is such a sleazebag that innocent, doe-eyed, Victoria actually wants to punch the living shit out of him
- I still can’t get over how stupid a name “Salamander” is
- The Doctor and Salamander’s face-off in the TARDIS is brilliant. I’m still stunned at how well this episode was paced, even by 2013 standards.
- Troughton is just my favorite Classic Doctor, and this serial just solidifies his place as the best of the best.