So today the ‘Lonely Planet’ declared Scotland the third most awesome place to visit in 2014, which doesn’t sound like an insult, but it was still one place below fucking Antarctica, implying that next year is going to be a shit one for traveling. It then goes on to list several things well worth avoiding as being reasons for this high position on the list. Scotland is a great place to visit, but you’d have to have all the taste of a second hand tetley teabag to think that an overgrown sports day is anything to get remotely excited about.
All of which makes me delighted to be talking about Jamie McCrimmon once again. Even if they did put him in something other than a kilt for parts of Enemy of the World*.
The original plan of this blog was to go through each episode of Doctor Who in order. Sadly, as some episodes were missing ever since their original broadcast well before my birth, I was only able to enjoy them as audio productions. Awesomely however, Enemy of the World and Web of Fear have just been (mostly) rediscovered and given that there is a natural pause here between seasons I thought it would be sensible to go back and watch these episodes and see what was missing from the audio versions.
There have been previously missing stories that when discovered many fans turned out to prefer the audio version. Tomb of the Cybermen, for example, seems to lose a lot of atmosphere when you get to see the wobbly overlit sets and bad Cybermen costumes. This is most definitely not the case with Enemy of the World, which only gains from the visuals. The first episode in particular is an absolute delight to see, with the elaborate chase sequences which just don’t translate as sound effects, not to mention the priceless image of the Doctor paddling in his underwear. But the real treat is the extraordinary double performance from Patrick Troughton. There’d always been hints of it in episode 3, but getting to see the whole thing really brings home what a feat of acting it was. I’d always quite enjoyed Enemy of the World, having seen it in all its original glory I’d now rate it as one of the better Troughton stories, particularly of those not including Zoe, by extension making it one of the finest Whos of all time.
While there were not many qualities of the audio Enemy of the World that I felt might not have been in the original, Web of Fear always had a wonderfully claustrophobic atmosphere which I was slightly scared might not translate. Happily, I am a foolish person, and in this case was very wrong indeed. The overlighting that pretty much every other classic who suffered from is not at all in evidence here, and the sets are outright fantastic. It is abundantly obvious why the authorities in charge of the London Underground were outraged when this show first aired – you could easily mistake the tunnels for the real thing. The only real downside of being able to see what’s going on is that the Yeti, as before in The Abominable Snowmen, look fucking lame. The atmosphere generated by the claustrophobic feeling environment more than makes up for this though.
All in all, these two stories only gain in the discovery of their originally broadcast versions. Both of them positively crackle with that undefinable magic of 60s Doctor Who that the show never seemed to manage to recreate after it went to colour. I was looking forward to seeing them purely as a fan of the show, and excited to see stories thought missing, but both of them turned out to be excellent viewing in their own right. Its hard to describe to a non-whovian the excitement felt when one of the missing episodes is found, but its nothing on watching one and finding out just how good some of them actually are.
*I’m never letting that go.