Appearing exactly half way through Patrick Troughton’s tenure as the Second Doctor, The Enemy of the World is an oft forgotten gem hidden amidst the monster laden fare of Season Five. With only one of its six episodes held in the BBC Archives, The Enemy of the World is frequently overlooked because the single episode released on Lost in Time is so dissimilar to the other five. When I first watched episode three of Enemy I was knocked out by Reg Lye’s characterization of Griffin the chef. The forthright Australian with the phenomenal panache for black humour explodes from the screen with an eccentric disposition that, despite its quirks, is readily identifiable with. That being said, exactly what it meant and why it was included left me totally confused. Upon re-watching the episode during a viewing of Loose Cannon’s reconstructions, it quickly made sense. Griffin is the audience’s identification in a tale of multi-cultural, worldwide intrigue.
The Enemy of the World is Doctor Who’s first foray into James Bond action style conspiracies for world domination. As Barry Letts’ debut to the series as director, it foreshadows a style which will become quite familiar during Jon Pertwee’s tenure as the Third Doctor. With Letts as Who’s producer, action scenes such as those in the first half of episode one of Enemy of the World will become a great deal more common. The hovercraft and helicopter scenes in Enemy are but a prelude to the chase extravaganzas of 1970’s serials such as episode two of Planet of the Spiders. It’s such a shame that all we have left to gauge the success of these Enemy scenes are telesnaps and the audio.
What differentiates The Enemy of the World most from the other Season Five serials is that the only monster is a human. Patrick Troughton was afforded the opportunity to play two characters in the serial with the second being perhaps the most sinister of all Who villains, the dictator Salamander. A Mexican national, Salamander is perceived as a hero to a world confronted by the ravages of war and world famine. He invented the Suncatcher Mk VII, a device which collects and stores concentrated sun-rays. In a film clip showed to the Doctor by Giles Kent, an Australian whom the audience initially believes to be a principled opponent of Salamander, the impression Victoria receives is that the Mexican is indeed a generous public benefactor. Speaking of the successes of the Sun Conservation establishment at Kanowa, in the Australasian zone, Salamander states that his Sun Catcher has allowed the sun’s rays to be shone upon those areas most needing them. Wheat is growing on the Canadian plains and the Ukraine is the grain field of the planet. Corn is ripening on the Dnieper River where 10,000 robot harvesters are gathering fifty million tons of flour. The impression given is that Salamander is the world’s saviour from starvation.
The philanthropic ventures of Salamander are, however, a veil behind which he hides his plans for world-domination. Unbeknownst to all but Giles, Salamander has kept a group of English scientists captive underground for five years. The scientists are under the mistaken belief that a nuclear holocaust has devastated the planet and that it is not yet safe to venture outside. Believing Salamander’s claims that the war is still ongoing, the scientists, by means unknown to the viewers, are creating a series of natural disasters with the intention of thwarting the “enemy”. These supposedly natural disasters, such as a volcano in Hungary, are in effect part of Salamander’s plan to wrest control of all of earth’s regions.
I have to admit that my immediate thought on learning about Salamander’s enslavement of the scientist was the 1993 Australian movie, Bad Boy Bubby. In that film a man is kept captive in a putrid flat by his incestuous mother for 35 years. She claims that the air outside is poisonous and whenever she leaves to collect supplies she dons a gas mask. I wonder if Bad Boy Bubby’s writer, Rolf de Heer, was watching Doctor Who in May 1968?
The exact environmental message that the writer, David Whitaker, is intending to make is a little difficult to discern. Whilst concentrated solar power is perhaps seen as a favourable development, human intervention has devastating effects on the environment. Perhaps an analogy is being made between the deliberate human destruction wrought by the enslaved scientists, and the deterioration suffered by the environment from everyday human activity.
What’s less difficult to ascertain is the anti-corporate and anti-big government messages that Whitaker peddles in The Enemy of the World. In the 21st Century we are used to large scale corporations controlling large segments of the economy. A cursory perusal of the Forbes listing of the World’s Biggest Companies exhibits that six of the top 10 provide banking and financial services, three have oil and gas holdings and one is a conglomerate. Industry was much more local and small-scale in the 1960s, however the consequences of allowing the accumulation of much power into the hands of few was nonetheless appreciated by some.
Similarly, The Enemy of the World evidences a concern for the consequences of big government. In the serial the world is divided into a small number of zones which presumably contain previously independent countries. Zones named in the serial include the Central European, African and Australasian. Travel between zones is undertaken by rockets, with the journey between the Australasian and Central European zones taking only two hours. Transport costs are presumably reasonable and certainly within the means of government and corporation officials. Even without the internet, the world of the near future is much smaller. The dismantling of small nation states has made the possibility of multiple zones being controlled by one person or organization frightfully real. In the decades following the Second World War and Hitler’s conquest for European domination, such fears were well founded.
Imagine for a moment, if you will, that The Enemy of the World was set in our current era. Substitute Bill Gates for Salamander and you may begin to understand the concerns raised. Having established one of the world’s largest corporations, Microsoft, which is currently number 41 in the Forbes listing, Gates is revered by many for his generous philanthropic works. Just imagine that there were some who believed that Gates had an ulterior motive, viz, to take control of the governments of the world. I’m not suggesting that Gates’ philanthropy is anything but wholly virtuous, however the scenario should be sufficient to contextualize Salamander’s motives within a 21st Century schema.
That the serial is set in the near future is only a presumption because nowhere in the script is it specifically stated. As Wood and Miles point out in About Time 2, this question could be easily resolved if episode five was recovered. A close up telesnap of a newspaper shows a masthead, however the photo is not clear enough to enable the date to be read. Given that the recovery of The Enemy of the World is mooted in the current missing episodes rumours, it’s somewhat possible that this question may be answered in the future.
Special Feature – Enemy of the World – Lost Serial
When Salamander was ultimately defeated at the serial’s end by the TARDIS, of all things, I was left somewhat concerned by the Doctor’s inaction. In the fifth Series episode, The Time of Angels, the Doctor saves River Song who, like Salamander (and Katarina before him), was swept out into the vortex. Clearly the Doctor is able to navigate the TARDIS with such precision as to be able to collect persons left floating around in space. Whilst acknowledging that David Whitaker was not Steven Moffat, and the whole concept of the TARDIS as a mid-space rescue vessel had not been dreamed up in 1967, it’s nonetheless disturbing that the Doctor’s stated aim of Salamander facing judicial justice was allowed to dissipate with the blast of air out of the TARDIS.
The Eleventh Doctor saves River Song in The Time of Angels.
May I conclude with a short discussion on casting. The Enemy of the World has the distinction of being the first Doctor Who serial to feature a black female in a speaking part. Carmen Munroe played the role of Fariah, Salamander’s official food taster, a position that reminded me of the First Doctor’s The Romans in which poisoning was perhaps the most common means of homicide. Fariah is one of many well rounded characters which also includes Giles Kent, which was played brilliantly by Australian Bill Kerr, Donald Bruce (Colin Douglas) and Benik, Salamander’s assistant (Milton Johns). Enemy was the first of three appearances by Johns in Doctor Who. Mary Peach, who played the Bond type girl, Astrid, was at the time of filming in the running to be Diana Rigg’s replacement in The Avengers. Finally, I would be remiss to forget Patrick Troughton in his role of the Doctor’s doppelgänger, Salamander.
©Vivien Fleming, 2013.
Tat Wood & Lawrence Miles, About Time. The Unauthorized Guide to Doctor Who 1966-1969 Seasons 4 to 6 Volume 2. Mad Norweigan Press: Illinois, 2010.