Checking Out Classic Who: The Enemy of the World

In 1966 the producers of Doctor Who faced a dilemma. William Hartnell’s health was failing. For nearly three years straight he worked a grueling schedule to shoot over 40 episodes a year. He admitted he could no longer keep up. What would the producers do?

The answer turned out to be one of the many reasons why Doctor Who has stayed on the air as long as it has. The producers recast the role. Instead of looking for an actor similar to William Hartnell, they went in a different direction and cast Patrick Troughton. The character underwent a regeneration and the Doctor’s personality changed to reflect his new appearance. The Doctor was no longer stern, but rather impish and joyful  who at the beginning of The Enemy of the World gleefully strips and runs into the ocean. 

The Enemy of the World  starts with a case of mistaken identity. The Doctor is pegged for Salamander, a megalomaniac ruler who wants to solve world hunger. However he’s not the most popular leader and the Doctor learns this the hard way when he is nearly assassinated.  The Doctor is thrown into a plot to overthrow him. For most of the story, he must impersonate Salamander.

Patrick Troughton played both parts. His transformation to Salamander is incredible. I have to admit I haven’t seen anything else with Patrick Troughton in it. I knew he was a character actor, but this story certainly proves he is an excellent actor. This episode even has the Doctor playing Salamander and the reverse as well, and Troughton does his best to make the four roles distinct.

Salamander. No trace of the Doctor. Image Credit

I came into this story with no expectations. But I really enjoyed it. I loved that the Doctor didn’t write off Salamander as evil right away. He learned, along with the viewer, the ruler’s true nature. The story is six episodes long but there feels like there is enough plot so it doesn’t drag out. It also doesn’t feel like there’s too much plot crammed in.

One of the highlights came in Episode 3 when we’re introduced to Salamander’s cook, Griffin. For some reason, I found his bleak outlook on life refreshing. He comments that courses of dinner will probably be ruined by things like earthquakes and explosions. Given the plot of the story, the comment almost breaks the fourth wall.

Salamander and The Doctor Image Credit

Up until 2013 we couldn’t watch this story because it was missing. The BBC would often tape over shows that had already aired to reuse film.  At the same time they would often sell copies of early Doctor Who stories to other countries for broadcast. This created a confusing environment where episodes would be taped over without checking whether a copy had gone overseas yet. Unfortunately there are still 97 episodes  still missing. They exist in audio form so many have been reconstructed with either telesnaps, or even animation. It’s a pity that so much of the Second Doctor era is incomplete because I really enjoyed this story.

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