On October 11, 2013, the BBC announced that 11 episodes of Doctor Who, 9 of those missing from the archives for over 45 years, had been returned, restored and made available over iTunes. Discoveries of missing episodes are rare, and there are still 97 missing from the Black & White era of the classic sci-fi show. However, I’d like to say that contrary to popular opinion, I think the better of the two stories returned is Enemy of the World and not Web of Fear. While both stories give us an ascendant 2nd Doctor at the height of his powers, it’s Enemy that is worse for wear. Enemy showcases Patrick Troughton’s range, gives an entertaining adventure / suspense story, with quality acting and plenty of twists and turns.
The story also gives us VERY strong female roles, in the form of Mary Peach as the female James Bond of the piece Astrid Ferrier. Astrid is easily a sex symbol, not only for her fashionable beehive and leather / PVC outfit, but the way in which she is never treated like a powerless victim. Instead, she is an emancipated heroine who retains her feminine qualities. She is a great model for future companions and would have made a great replacement for the terrified and out-of-her-league screamer, Victoria. Unusually for the period, a black actress is given a prominent role in the form of Carmen Munroe as the jaded and vengeful food taster, Fariah. She is one of the stars of the story, with her dialogue and performance hinting at her exploitation at Salamander’s hands. Both characters are delightfully interesting and real, but thankfully are not alone among this serial’s selling points.
Web of Fear follows on directly from this story, and while Troughton is excellent, along with Colonel Lethbridge Stewart and the action packed battle in episode 4, Web flops about a bit with padding, irritating cultural stereotypes and hammy possession acting toward the end. Nevertheless, later in the series, Troughton began playing the role more for humor and became a little predictable and less inspiring, so I’m therefore very pleased to have two of his best stories available again to the masses!
Enemy of the World is the underrated gem here, and I hope now that it’s fully available, more people will revise their opinion of the serial and place it among this era’s very best. Leanne and I were both surprised how much more we enjoyed it and how well it held up to our previous viewing.
We have watched the entire classic series together, from start to finish — including fan made recons. Over the years, several of the stories perceived to be classics have lost some of their shine after viewing them more objectively. Fury from the Deep for example, is a solid story, with plenty of little moments, but it is not as exciting as some of the others. Frequently I see Web of Fear top the charts ahead of Evil of the Daleks on people’s lists, yet in recent years I’ve come to appreciate Evil of the Daleks far more. Here we see Jamie and the Doctor’s relationship at its most engaging, and Victoria is where she belongs — a guest character. And for the record, Web of Fear episode 4 was at the top of my list of episodes I wanted to see returned because of the action segment involving Lethbridge-Stewart and the Yeti in London. Having been a fan for going on 30 years of my life now, I am still blown away by the fact we have just received a windfall of missing episodes to enjoy like fresh new stories. I got chills watching them live once again. But on our previous viewing we also noted how good Enemy of the World appeared to be, and the recovery of the episodes has confirmed and reinforced that. In my opinion, Web, the story most revered, while riveting, can never sit comfortably on the pedestal upon which many fans have placed it. Power, Evil and Enemy are just too good for it be there alone.
The BBC Shop will be releasing two commemorative t-shirts in November with original artwork for both stories. These are available to pre-order now. The more money the BBC makes out of these recovered episodes, the better treatment for possible future releases. I know I’ll be getting one.
Here’s hoping my personal favorite, Marco Polo is in the works…