The Enemy of the World
Doctor Who and the Enemy of the World
|ISBN||0 426 20126 4|
|First Edition Cover||Bill Donohue|
|Back cover blurb: In the year 2030 only one man seems to know what action to take when the world is hit by a series of terrible natural disasters. Salamander's success in handling these monumental problems has brought him enormous power. From the moment the Doctor, Jamie and Victoria land on an Australian beach, they are caught up in a struggle for world domination - a struggle in which the Doctor's startling resemblance to Salamander plays a vital role.|
How do make them look the same when they can't be seen? by Tim Roll-Pickering 7/7/09
On screen, The Enemy of the World is based around an entirely visual concept of the Doctor and Salamander being identical. It has difficulties enough translating to audio, perhaps explaining why the story is so heavily ignored, but for print the problem seems insurmountable. Compounding this is that in 1981 Target had a policy to not use the faces of past Doctors on novelisation covers, so this book is denied even the opportunity of a cover showing the resemblance. (Curiously, neither the 1993 novelisation reprint cover nor the early 2000s audio show both Troughton's roles. Has there ever been an illustration or montage of both the Doctor and Salamander?) What we're left with is a tale that works with the concept in prose form, and necessarily has to resort to the wider background.
The twenty-first century has appeared many times in Doctor Who, with the Troughton Doctor being perhaps the most frequent visitor of any from the classic series, visiting no less than five times (The Power of the Daleks, The Moonbase, The Enemy of the World, The Wheel in Space and The Seeds of Death). Enemy is by far the most down to earth of the five with the novelisation set, according to the back cover blurb (but interestingly not the text itself), in 2030. It's a strange vision of what is now only twenty-one years away, a world that is divided up into administrative zones, where a police chief can be unsure about which continent a figure in the public eye is currently on, where a scientist predicting natural disasters can be taken at his word, where few people question him even anonymously (but then very little science-fiction predicted the widespread use of the internet), where women in general are still confined to a subordinate role in society, and where travel from Australia to Hungary can be done in just a couple of hours by rocket.
The closer we get to 2030, the more far-fetched this future seems, although a recent string of real-world news stories about people being kept locked underground for years on end does make me wonder that the underground shelter might at least conform to reality. These problems were hard to foresee in 1968 and even in 1981 the serial was still set so far into the future that the only aspect that had already started to date was the male-dominated political hierarchy, with both Golda Meir and Margaret Thatcher having risen to the top in the thirteen year interval. But Ian Marter had already shown he was no fan of feminism in his earlier novelisation of Doctor Who and the Ark in Space, and so no attempt is made to redress the balance of every authority figure seen being female.
Ian Marter is a curious choice of author for this novelisation, although coming out a year after Philip Hinchcliffe's Doctor Who and the Keys of Marinus it is by no means unprecedented. It's interesting to wonder how this book would have fared in the hands of Terrance Dicks, since on the one hand 1981 was at the tail end of the worst of the camera-script conversion style of novelising, yet Dicks had repeatedly demonstrated the ability to write particularly memorable books for the earlier Doctors. One could argue it either way. But instead we have Ian Marter's work, which turns out to be quite hard and gritty considering the medium. Don't get me wrong - this is still a book produced for a range of predominantly children's fiction. But just as it doesn't throw in gratuitous moments purely for the sake of seeming "adult", equally it doesn't write down.
At a time when Eric Saward was only just starting to work on the television series, Marter was producing a book where the effects of violence are felt, where people who get shot bleed and where it's never clear who can be trusted. It is a very brutal and harsh world, one in which the Doctor's values of decency are in short supply indeed. It is a world of devious politics, where personal loathings are strong, particularly that between Bruce and Benik, and where even sympathetic characters like Fariah and Astrid radiate pain and venom. The contrast between them and the Doctor is strong. Jamie and Victoria's role in the story has always felt rather awkward for their particular characters, and here no attempt is made to disguise it, with the two instead even more marginalised than onscreen. This is very much the Doctor's story and here the little man, very recognisably the Troughton Doctor, works his way through the situations utilising only his wits to survive and discover.
The book for the most part follows the course of events on the screen, but with little touches added. It was here that "bad language" first appeared in a Doctor Who book, over a decade before New Adventures such as Transit. The book also resolves the cliffhanger at the end of the story but elsewhere some glaring holes arrive. Salamander's whereabouts and actions are never accounted for in the lengthy period between his killing of Swann and encounter with Kent, whilst it's also not clear when and why he had jammed the capsule shaft linking the complex and shelter, since Astrid and others were able to use it while his back was turned. And the scene in which Kent confronts Salamander and admits to his past role, only to learn to his horror that he is talking to the Doctor, is totally flattened by Marter showing the Doctor discretely following Kent into the Sanctum and then giving the game away in the descriptive text before the Doctor does. Such small moments at the climax of the story detract from what is otherwise a strong read that holds up quite well even all these years later. 8/10