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

Day 195: The Enemy of the World, Episode Three

Dear diary,

Excitingly, not only does today’s episode survive in the archives, but it’s also the first time that Doctor Who has been broadcast in High Definition!

Oh, all right then. It’s not technically HD. This is, however, the first time that the series was made and broadcast as a 625-line picture (or 576i by today’s standard - feel that definition!). It sounds like quite a small thing, but it is a big increase on the 405-line image that has been the standard of the series (and, indeed, all BBC transmissions to this point). The switchover comes as part of a move towards something far bigger, though – bringing colour to BBC1. We’re still a little way off from that change, but it’s nice to see the journey beginning.

And what a story to feature an upgrade in picture quality! Episode One features a hovercraft and a helicopter on the beach! The second episode ends with the eruption of a volcano! This third episode is full of… well, corridors, decorated with varying types of garish wallpaper. Oh dear. Couldn’t we have had Episode One saved, instead?

I’m not being entirely fair, here. The episode does feature the images of volcanoes erupting again, but the majority of this episode is far more low-key and scaled back than the last two have been. It’s a pity in many ways, because I’ve been looking forward to seeing some of this story – the telesnaps for the last couple of days have made things look very unique, and I was keen to see Barry Letts’ directorial style in action.

It’s not a complete disaster, though, because having an episode that’s far more intimate than the last few means that we get another chance to really appreciate the performances of both our regulars and the guest cast. Perhaps the greatest guest performance has to be Patrick Troughton’s turn as Salamander. I know he’s not really a ‘guest’ as such, but he is giving a very different performance here, and as with Hartnell in The Massacre of St Bartholomew’s Eve, it’s pretty easy to forget that you’re watching the same chap that you’ve known over the last however-many stories.

There’s a lovely moment at the start of Episode Two, after The Doctor has pretended to be Salamander, and he reverts back to the man we love. He gives a little cough after Bruce has left the room, and although it’s a small thing, it really does feel so much like the Doctor, it instantly reminds you who we’re really watching. His turn as Salamander really is a brilliant one, and the character’s nasty side just keeps oozing out. Today we get the lovely moment when he kills one of his top men for failing in his mission. Having reassured the man that there will be other ways to complete the task, he watches as he falls dead to the ground, and dryly issues a final sentence to him; ‘One chance, my friend. I said one chance…’

It’s a good episode for him in character as the Doctor, too, and we get another of those lines that’s very well known among fans – ‘Sad, really, isn't it? People spend all their time making nice things and then other people come along and break them.’ It’s a lovely line, and it works nicely in context. It also serves to nicely highlight the differences between his two performances, so it’s nice to see him in action as both for one episode, at least.

The one thing that I did have to wonder about was the Doctor’s slight disbelief that Salamander could have found a way to harness the ‘natural forces’ of the Earth and cause the volcano to erupt on cue. He describes it as ‘a little difficult to believe, but not impossible’. Wouldn’t it essentially be the same technology used in the Gravitron machine from last season? Maybe the Doctor’s just a little skeptical that Salamander could have developed a way of doing this in the era we’re currently visiting? The About Time books place The Enemy of the World as being somewhere around 2030, which would work nicely with The Moonbase coming about forty years later. I don’t know where this is all going (I’m not even entirely sure that Salamander is able to control things like the volcanoes, but the implication certainly seems to be so, and I don’t think I’d put anything past him. Brujo), but I’m hoping the end of the story leaves it open as a possibility that the Moonbase technology can be developed from here – it ties things together nicely.

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