Doctor Who and the Enemy of the World by Ian Marter

Published: April 1981

Edition read: Target third reprint, 1984

Coolest Cover: Bill Donohoe, but more on this later.

The TARDIS materialises with..."an unearthly grinding and howling sound"

...and dematerialises with..."an unearthly grinding noise"

Childhood Recollections: I have a memory of reading this in one sitting at one point in my late teens and quite enjoying it.

Ramblings: In almost every respect (apart from the number of episodes), ‘The Enemy of the World’ is an odd story. Known mainly from a single episode and a few photos of Patrick Troughton in Salamander costume, the majority of fans would probably struggle to give a summary of the plot. Where most of the stories in its season drew on the potential for suspense in isolated locations under threat from alien forces, ‘The Enemy of the World’ remained firmly Earthbound and relocates its action from Australia to Hungary and back again. It might also seem an odd choice for the Target range to consider at this stage until you consider that it belongs to a fairly solid clump of stories in the middle of the Second Doctor’s era which had already been successfully adapted. Even the cover is somewhat odd- given the then Production Office’s objection to previous Doctors being depicted on book covers, the one story which should have had both the Doctor and Salamander on the cover is instead left with (albeit fairly good) likenesses of Astrid and Kent- apparently in Kent’s open-air office in the middle of a volcanic mountain range- although whether anybody recognised them from 1968 is another matter entirely.

The received wisdom on ‘The Enemy of the World’ is that it represents Doctor Who’s attempt at a James Bond-style globetrotting adventure, and Ian Marter does seem to take his cue from this, however there’s an awful lot more going on. The very nature of the story (and Troughton’s dual role) mean that the Doctor and his companions are often sidelined for stretches of the story- if the cliffhanger to Episode Two is the revelation that Fedorin is going to testify against Denes, then that means that we’re supposed to care about the supporting characters and the political machinations of the plot as much as the regulars. While Marter compresses the story well, it’s evident however that scenes have been cut or conflated- on several occasions a sequence which ends with one particular character then picks up the same character shortly afterwards- and the other thing which seems to be lost is Patrick Troughton’s Doctor himself. Without a great deal of reference material for Troughton’s portrayal, Marter tends to favour a straightforward and unspectacular Doctor, whereas with soundtracks and so on now available to us, it appears that if anything Troughton played up his Doctor’s whimsical and mercurial side to heighten the contrast with Salamander.

That said, it’s a solid work of compression which does seem to have retained the unusual features of the original story. The curve ball of the underground community in Australia still comes out of the blue and provides a good example of how to keep a story of this length going, and the story still feels different. It’s been something of an article of faith of mine in writing these reviews to avoid the televised stories before committing myself, but I have to say that in the case of Doctor Who and the Enemy of the World I really couldn’t wait, so perhaps one of the most important qualities of Marter’s book is that it fuelled a curiosity to go back to the original story and a feeling that I didn’t know ‘The Enemy of the World’ that well at all.