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12 July 2013
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Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start... 

Day 193: The Enemy of the World, Episode One

Dear diary,

Shortly before Christmas of last year, my friend Graham embarked on a similar quest to the one that I’m now on – watching all of Doctor Who in order. Whereas I’m doing it at a real snail’s pace of one episode a day, Graham went for the opposite way of doing things, and watched them all as quickly as he possibly could. There was a point where he went through the entirety of Leela’s stay in the TARDIS and the Key to Time in the space of about three days. That’ll take me months to go through. Months!

It did, however, lead to a fun situation where every time I saw Graham, I’d get to ask which story he was up to, and then quiz him for his thoughts (though a fan of the series, there were large chunks he’d not seen before the marathon). One day in particular we got together and before I could even ask what story he was watching, he announced that he’d got a new favourite tale. I knew he’d been on something mid-Season-Four when we’d last spoke, so I went for the obvious one: The Tomb of the Cybermen. Nope, that was good, but it wasn’t it. Fair enough. Evil of the Daleks? Another no. Web of Fear? Blank looks every time. No, Graham explained, his new favourite story was The Enemy of the World.

My disbelief wasn’t because I’d heard bad things about this story, it was mostly just from the fact that, well, I* hadn’t really heard anything about it. It’s that one story from the Fifth Season where they don’t do ‘Base Under Siege’, and Troughton plays a Mexican bad guy. That’s pretty much all I could tell you. The sad fact is that The Enemy of the World is one of those stories that people just forget about. Even now, it’s sat at about number 188 in our poll – not bad (and just out of the bottom 50), but not really all that great, either.

Incidentally, I checked with Graham again this week – he’s finished the marathon now, including Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures - and The Enemy of the World is still his favourite story. He puts part of the success down to the fact that it’s very different to what came around it, and part down to the fact that they get Jamie into a tight black outfit.

So I didn’t really know what to make of this one. Graham’s absolute love for it seemed to be a good sign, while fandom’s complete apathy towards it didn’t bode all that well. Thankfully, I’ve found myself agreeing far more with Graham than with fandom (he’ll be glad to hear that – I think he’s been on tenterhooks waiting to see what I thought), I absolutely loved today’s episode.

It probably doesn’t hurt that we’ve arrived in some slightly sunnier climes: there’s a moment when the Doctor jokes that he and his companions have been away for a while suggesting that they’ve been ‘on ice’. Terribly apt, considering our last sixteen episodes have all taken place in or around very cold places! The soundtrack opens with us being told of the TARDIS’ arrival on a beach, amongst ‘golden, sun-kissed sand dunes’. How nice! Listening to it as I walked to the shops on a nice sunny afternoon probably helped a little, too.

We get a nice few minutes of the Doctor and his friends playing about on the beach (it’s in his suggestion that Jamie should go look for some buckets and spades that you can really see where Matt Smith has taken his inspiration from this incarnation – there’s a real child-like glee to being here), but then it’s right down to business. By the time we hit the eight minute mark, our TARDIS team has been chased down the beach by hovercraft-driving gunmen, and spirited off over the ocean in a helicopter! By the time that they’d reached Astrid’s house and were again set upon by gunmen, I was fairly sure that we’d be somewhere around the end of the episode… but there’s still another ten minutes to go! You certainly can’t accuse this episode of padding things out, and I’m not sure I can remember the last time that we had such an action packed twenty-five minutes in the series.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this episode also marks the first involvement that Barry Letts has with Doctor Who, coming in as director for the story. It’s quite fitting that his first instalment to the series involves an action-packed chase with hovercrafts and helicopters (both of which will become staples in the series under Letts’ producership, but which make their first appearances here). I spent a while listening to these scenes thankful that this episode didn’t exist in the archives, because it all sounded pretty good and there was no way that the visuals would live up to the same standard… but then the telesnaps make the scene look just as epic as I’d hoped. My only complaint, I think, is that the beach doesn’t look quite as lovely and sunny as described.

You’ll probably have picked up by now on the fact that I’m babbling a bit. It tends to happen when I’ve really enjoyed a story and my notes become full of nice things to say. I’ve not even touched on the story (I’m sure there’ll be plenty of time to do that in the next few days) or the guest characters, but I run the risk of just babbling on for the rest of the entry in praise of things.

It’s led to something of a deliberation over what I’d be rating this episode. My first thought, immediately after the episode ended was a solid ‘9/10’, but then I started thinking: there was nothing I could fault with the episode, and I had really loved it. Surely that deserved top marks? The problem I had was that it took so long for me to give a perfect score, and this would be the third in the space of a month. You know what, though? I’ve enjoyed Innes Lloyd’s era so much, that it’s the perfect way to start of his final story as producer, and since I really can’t fault this one…

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