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12 December 2013

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

Day 346: The Enemy of the World, Episode Six (Revisited)

Dear diary,

Oh, I’m so very happy. All the way through this story – no matter how much I’ve been enjoying things – I’ve had something niggling at the back of my mind. Let’s face it, the ‘Doctor vs Salamander’ fight at the end of this episode has long been at the top of many fan’s wish lists when it comes to the missing episodes. It’s Troughton up against Troughton, and as I pointed out when I first did this episode, the single telesnap which shows the pair pretty much nose-to-nose made it look so good.

And that’s where my problem came from. I’d seen people praise the way that Episode One of this story was directed. I’d seen the excitement at finally having a date pinned down for events. General consensus was that Salamander's ludicrous accent was far less distracting when you could actually watch the rest of Troughton's performance…

But curiously, no one seemed to be discussing the final scene. Now, admittedly, I've been avoiding threads on the forum specifically dedicated to these recovered stories, but there's been several posts of praise about them showing up on Facebook and Twitter… but not a word spoken about these final few minutes. Ah. The doubt started to grow in my mind. Was no one talking about it because - God forbid - it wasn't very good?

Well, no, of course not. I watched the final scene, and then I went back and watched it again. And then again. And then once more, just for luck. Oh, it's stunning. Brief, yes, but stunning. And it's not just the actual fight that works so well. We've got an actual night shoot! That's rare even deep into the depths of the Pertwee era (remember how shocked I was to see one crop up in The Dæmons? Double it for this). The whole sequence on the beach is stunning, from the way the TARDIS is lit from inside, to Jamie staring out into the night and Salamander stumbling his way up over the dunes.

Once we're inside the TARDIS, things continue to be rather lovely. Salamander indicating to Jamie that he should set them in motion is rather nice (He doesn't actually say anything at this point, so it's hard to enjoy the subtleties of Troughton's performance when you're only listening to the audio), and the way he turns around to see the Doctor stood in the open doors… It's one of those things that will sound weird when I say it - but doesn't he just look so much like the Doctor stood there, staring into his ship? I don't know if it's the direction or what, but it's lovely.

The fight is then rather well done. The single tele snap that promised so much pretty much sums up the entire time they spend occupying the same shot, but I'm pleased to see that it's just as effective on screen as I' hoped. There was a very real danger that this may not hold together, but it's become one of the most striking bits to survive from the 1960s.

And isn't that just a brilliant sentence? Suddenly - wonderfully - we've got The Enemy of the World in its entirety ready to watch and enjoy. Waaaay back when I first did Episode One of this story, I told you a story about how it was my friend Graham's favourite tale ever, and how I was a bit surprised to learn this:

“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. The sad fact is that The Enemy of the World is one of those stories that people just forget about.”

Since the recovery, these six episodes have had something of a reappraisal. I've seen a number of people commenting that it's now become their new favourite Troughton adventure, and I think a large part of that is because barry Letts was right all along - Episode Three was by far the worst example to survive from this tale. I wonder if people were simply put off it by seeing those twenty-five minutes?

It's not going to be to everyone's tastes (Another friend this week has said he didn't really care for the story, and thought it was a bit of a disappointment), and once the sudden thrill of having it all back wears off, I think it's going to balance out in people's estimations again. It's lovely to see that the recovery has won people over, though. This makes the next story all the more interesting, because The Web of Fear has been a fan favourite for years and years despite being just as missing as this one was. I've seen fewer comments on that tale since the return of the episodes, so I'm keen to see my reaction.

If nothing else, it's Douglas Camfield directing Patrick Troughton again! That may just be the most exciting thing in the world…

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