Doctor Who episode 189: The Enemy of the World – Episode 4 (13/1/1968)
‘I can only die once,’ Fariah sneers having been shot in the back, just like Denes last week, by an over-zealous guard. Her last words consciously evoke the most recent Bond movie You Only Live Twice – which is incredibly appropriate given this episode finally reveals the secret of Salamander’s power over nature – hidden in a secret underground lair straight out of the Blofeld Handbook.
Sadly, this is where The Enemy of the World starts to get a bit daft. Whitaker’s script suddenly introduces a whole new location and group of earnest “nuclear survivors” called things like Colin and Mary, who belong more in a Threads-style docudrama than Doctor Who’s Bond movie and look like they’ve been shopping at the same boutique as Leader Clent. It doesn’t help that Letts’ talent for casting has hit a wall, with Adam Verney and Christopher Burgess among the wettest of fish. Or perhaps that’s the point: to give us a glimpse of the real people inhabiting this world, beyond Salamander’s inner circle. If so, though, it was handled much better with Griff than this incredible bunch.
The more interesting aspect of the episode is the unconscious alignment between the Doctor and Bruce, who are separately shown to strongly disapprove of arbitrary justice. Kent wants the Doctor to assassinate Salamander – which the Doctor flatly refuses to do. Tired of his equivocation, Kent resorts to blackmail the Doctor by threatening Jamie and Victoria – exactly the evil that Salamander is accused of perpetrating. Meanwhile, Bruce rages at Benik for taking the law into his own hands, and seems unconvinced by the suggestion that anyone who opposes Salamander is a traitor and a terrorist.
Again, the real highlight of the episode is Troughton’s performance: he shows Salamander to be quite the actor himself, feigning radiation poisoning as he claims to be the saviour of the “survivors”, and then lighting up a cigar and flicking through some dossiers while Colin and Mary check the equipment outside his office. The cracks in the plot are starting to show, but Salamander – and Troughton – paper over them all with supreme confidence.
Next episode: The Enemy of the World – Episode 5