A couple of weeks ago on September 30th, I finally reached the end of my marathon Doctor Who review project. From An Unearthly Child through to The Name of the Doctor, I’d seen and written about them all. Sure, I knew I’d be writing about the two episodes still to come this year, but if you’d told me that less than two weeks later, I’d be writing about The Enemy of the World and The Web of Fear having had a chance to watch them both in an almost entirely complete manner, I’d have declared you bonkers.
Of course, I’d heard the rumours of the massive haul of recovered material that was due to start with the staggered release of those two stories plus Marco Polo, so although I was thrilled to see them return, I wasn’t shocked about that. But lets put this into perspective; The Underwater Menace Episode 2 was announced to have been returned to the archives almost two years ago and we still haven’t seen it officially released (which is not to say I haven’t seen it *nudge nudge wink wink*) so the idea that these two stories would be announced and released in such short order seemed like fantasy.
But here we are.
Apart from Web of Fear part 3, the most valuable episode of the lot, which has…erm…”mysteriously” not come back with the rest of the episodes (make of that what you will), these two stories are now complete and we’ve all had a chance to see them.
Well done to Philip Morris for finding them and well done to the BBC for their iTunes strategy. Seeing as the episodes are charting world-wide, they must have made a ton of money on them, which shows that there’s an appetite for missing material from fans.
Anyway, having watched the two stories, has my opinion of them changed?
I’m not going to do full reviews of either here, because when I watched them, I wasn’t in the mindset to pick up minute detail; I just wanted to enjoy them as a viewer rather than a reviewer.
But here are my initial impressions.
Doctor Who – The Web of Fear Recovery Review: What Did I Say About It In My Initial Review?
In my original review of The Web of Fear, which you can read here, I finished off by saying
Unlike some stories which I truly believe would not be considered as good if they survived (The Celestial Toymaker being the most obvious example, but I would perhaps controversially suggest Evil of the Daleks too), I don’t think that about the Web of Fear.
It is a classic story that works in the form of the reconstruction, but it would be even better if it survived. If it did, it would be held up as the ultimate Base Under Siege story, considered the real birth of the 70s Unit story and probably thought of as one of the top 10 stories of all time.
Without question, this is one to check out, reconstruction and all.
Doctor Who – The Web of Fear Recovery Review: What Do I Think About It Now?
The most startling thing about my viewing of The Web of Fear was that it didn’t seem to get massively better by watching it in almost its full glory.
While there wasn’t much new from a visual standpoint in Web of Fear, seeing the Web (or the Foam Machine) in action was cool
Now before you accuse me of being underwhelmed by it, I absolutely wasn’t. I thought it was as good and I rate it as highly as I did before.
But what was interesting was that when you put it against the other recoveries of the last 20 years, this is probably the one find that doesn’t feel “New”.
Why is that?
Well think of it like this…
Whether it’s Tomb of the Cybermen, The Lion, The Day of Armageddon, Airlock or Episode Two of the Underwater Menace, they’ve all seemed completely fresh. We were getting to experience new sets, new performances and a completely new visual experience.
With the Web of Fear, apart from a handful of additions, the recovered episodes mainly take place in the same sets as the previously existing first episode and mostly have the same actors. Really, the majority of the story involves people in dark rooms standing around talking to each other.
So if you’ve seen the reconstruction as many times as I have – and to be absolutely fair to it, the reconstruction was very, very good and managed to capture most of the key facial expressions throughout – the recovery feels like being reacquainted with an old friend rather than seeing something completely new.
There are some exciting bits that turn the fanboy-o-meter up to maximum geekery though, like the brilliant fight scene in Covent Garden. Now that’s something that the reconstruction just couldn’t do justice. It was exciting, and I think it is truly an iconic moment in Doctor Who that had been pretty much forgotten about. I certainly had no idea about just how cool it was. People talk about the Daleks in Trafalgar Square or The Cybermen walking down the steps in front of St. Paul’s Cathedral, but this is right up there with it. Beautiful.
Incidentally, did you notice the guy who played Charlie Slater in Eastenders looking exactly the same then as he does now?
Seeing the episodes properly also allowed us to see the Web itself, which wasn’t in Episode One in the tunnels at least. In some respects it looked a bit ropey (such as when Jamie and Lethbridge Stewart opened that door to find giant bubble wrap on the other side) but the sight of the web flooding into the base at the end of Episode Five was very well done for the time.
The last notable bit that the recovered episodes managed to bring to life better was the final confrontation scene. Sure, it has exposed the Yeti as being blokes wearing outfits with massive visible zips on them, but it was still cool.
Perhaps the only thing that I was disappointed about was that there weren’t any visible cues that had been lost to reconstruction to suggest Staff Sgt. Arnold was the Great Intelligence’s body all along.
To me, it’s never made 100% clear whether he was always under the control of the GI or if it happened after he disappeared into the web. I know there was a scene early on where he implies that he knows The Doctor isn’t with the Yeti, but I’d have preferred more.
In the end though, I thought it was very good, but I don’t think my overall opinion of the story has changed any as a result of its rediscovery. It’s exactly as good as I thought it would be,
Doctor Who – The Enemy of the World Recovery Review: What Did I Say About It In My Initial Review?
In my summing up of my review of Enemy of the World, which you can read here, I said…
Although the story slows down a bit towards the end, and starts off with an episode that simply cannot be appreciated in reconstructed form, I would urge you to track this one down.
It’s different from any other Dr Who story and offers you a chance to see Patrick Troughton play a completely different role.
Thankfully Episode 3 survives, and I would say that it’s the best one, so at the very least, give that one a shot…if only to see Griff the Chef.
Meanwhile, in my Patrick Troughton Era Rankings article, I also said
I’d dearly love this story to exist because of how different it is to the rest of stories throughout the Troughton Era and the series as a whole. Who knows, maybe I’d think less of it if it survived. Maybe the best episode is the one that we have. But I like this story a lot and think it’s a sleeper hit.
Doctor Who – The Enemy of the World Recovery Review: What Do I Think About It Now?
I was right about some things and wrong about others.
- It is the sleeper hit
- Episode 1 is massively visual
- Episode 3 isn’t the best one
- It doesn’t slow up towards the end
- It is totally different
Basically, The Enemy of the World is absolutely brilliant.
And here’s the thing….
This is the exact opposite of the Web of Fear. The reconstruction of Enemy of the World did it no justice at all. We’re not seeing the same actors in the same sets, we’re seeing completely new Doctor Who here.
And while Web may have focussed a lot on conversations, Enemy of the World is a visual feast from beginning to end.
Seeing the story come alive rather than in the form of stills, you get to see stuff you never would have known about otherwise.
Look at the opening scene as an example. The reconstruction basically describes a scene where Patrick Troughton takes off his clothes and goes into the sea in his longjohns as “The Doctor goes into the water”. They also get the bit wrong about him
The reconstruction of Enemy of the World failed to pick up on a number of brilliant visuals, including this one of Salamander having a crafty smoke
stubbing his toe and Jamie laughing. What actually happens is he falls into the sea.
But it’s more than that. There are so many interesting bits of direction throughout that the reconstruction misses.
What about the scene where the helicopter takes off with the cameraman in it and the shot pans out and out and out? That’s absolutely superb.
Or the scenes on the park bench and under the jetty?
Or all the location filming?
Or especially the scene where Salamander goes down into the underground base?
Every single part of that was lost to the appreciative eye for 45 years,
Then of course there are the performances of the actors. The looks that Patrick Troughton gives as both the Doctor and Salamander are brilliant, and that scene where Salamander is smoking a cigar in the underground base while he’s supposed to be checking equipment adds so much to the character and to the mood.
Perhaps my favourite performance though is that of Milton Johns as Benik. He’s just so much better in this than in any of his other appearances, and again, the strength of his performance only truly comes to life here. To be fair, in my original review I said he was the stand-out, but scenes like the one where Fariah dies or when he interrogates Jamie and Victoria just seem so much better now.
As I stated above, I said that I felt it slowed down a bit too much when watching the reconstruction, but I’m reviewing my stance on that. Maybe it was the two-minute scene with no dialogue that put me off a bit at the time or maybe the reconstruction just couldn’t realise the dialogue in the bunker properly, but I had no problems with it watching it here.
Finally, the confrontation between Salamander and the Doctor looks better than I think anyone had given it credit for.
Do I have any problems with it? Not really. The only bits that stands out a little are the cliffhangers. Episode 3 ends on a dramatic one, but the rest don’t. I quite like ones that are just pauses in the action rather than putting The Doctor or one of his companions in “mortal peril” that you know they’ll get out of, but at times, these ones just seemed too abrupt and undramatic.
Doctor Who – The Web of Fear and The Enemy of the World Rediscovered: Final Thoughts
These are just my initial thoughts of course and I’m sure more will come to my attention when I watch them again, but my initial final thoughts (if that makes sense) are that The Web of Fear is as good a story as I thought it was in reconstructed format. I did think it would be better if it was recovered, but I don’t feel moved enough to say that is is. It was very good and it still is, but it’s nowhere near being a Top 10 of All Time.
The Enemy of the World though has gone up massively in my estimations.
I liked it before, but I absolutely love it now.
The visuals make such a difference to the acting performances, the feel and the direction.
It truly is an underrated gem and for me, I would go as far as to say it’s in my Top 3 Patrick Troughton stories now.
Of course, the rumourmill states we’ll be seeing many more missing stories returning to the BBC in the months and years ahead, so maybe that’ll change when we get to see the likes of Power of the Daleks in their glory.