The Black Guardian Trilogy
The Celestial Toymaker
The Black Guardian Trilogy Part Three
|Dates||Mar. 1, 1983 -
Mar. 9, 1983
With Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, Mark Strickson.
Written by Barbara Clegg. Script-edited by Eric Saward.
Directed by Fiona Cumming. Produced by John Nathan-Turner.
|Synopsis: A deadly competition between eternals holds the ephemeral lives of the Doctor, Tegan, and Turlough in the balance as they race towards the ultimate possession.|
Enlightening by Dennis McDermott 11/5/97
I wonder if the Star Trek writers ever watched Doctor Who, for this program anticipates Q and his whole bored continuum. On the way it creates a superb story; one of the best episodes ever, in my opinion. Certainly it is the strongest of the three stories in which the Black Guardian seeks his revenge.
The Doctor, warned by the White Guardian that a catastrophe may occur if someone wins the race, materializes on an Edwardian racing yacht. It isn't as ordinary as it seems, however, as the officers are eternals using the race as a diversion, while the crew were kidnapped from their timezone. The prize was the one weakness in this story, but I'll get to that later.
There were oodles going on in this story. Ample surprises (the end of the first episode was excellent), dilemmas (What is Turlough going to do? How will the Doctor prevent anyone from winning the race?), even a bit of a love story (bit one-sided, though). The sets were fabulous, the acting perfect (Mr. Marriner was especially creepy), the plot engaging, the climax strong.
And through it all it keeps us thinking. What would we do in Turlough's place? What would we do if we achieved enlightenment?
Which brings me to the one weakness of the story. Captain Wrack claims enlightenment brings endless power. That is a concept that I found difficult to swallow. Enlightenment to me would bring wisdom, and wisdom doesn't necessarily lead to power. But that is a minor matter. This is a story I strongly recommend.
An Anomaly by Tom May 19/10/98
Enlightenment has a lot going for it; but then again, as was the norm in this era, such promise was mercilessly squandered. Visually, this tale is really outstanding, especially in context of the season it was transmitted in, and the grand, rich concepts Barbara Clegg invented are done some justice. The music is inventive and very suitable for the story, and the overall atmosphere in episodes 1 and 2 is very nicely achieved, as is Part 2's cliffhanger.
The concept of the race is very good, and the idea of an Edwardian sailing ship taking place in a surreal, leisurely, yet necessarily important race in space is so absurdly good, and a refreshing one for Doctor Who.
The acting througout the story, however, varies considerably in quality. Keith Barron and Christopher Brown are superbly subtle as Striker and Marriner respectively, Mark Strickson is on fine form as the insecure rogue Turlough, Janet Fielding is a little less irritating than usual, Peter Davison is bland yet dependable, Leee John is woeful, and the Guardians are well performed, if undermined by their stupidly ludicrous headpieces.
The main problem for me is the totally incorrect portrayal of Wrack by Lynda Baron as a pirate with an absurdly irritating laugh. Eternals were meant to be bored, lonely, underplayed characters, yet Baron soars over the top in a unnecessary, irritating way. Turlough's assertion that "I like to be on the winning side" seems to be a characteristic of Adric's that was boringly used again here.
The start is bewildering if you have never seen the preceeding two stories, which is a shame for the casual viewer, and I don't like the way the excessive TARDIS scenes open this story. The ending is quite a satisfying one in one way (it makes for a good conclusion to the trilogy) and unsatisfying in another way (a poor conclusion to the premises of Enlightenment).
Once again, in the JNT era, plot is sacrificed to continuity obsessions, and one is left disappointed at the end of the story. Enlightenment stands up as a somewhat atypically imaginative plot, well produced, but let down by some characterisation and the fact that it's part of a story arc.
The most puzzling thing about the story however, has to be the Pig joke, I defy you to understand it! 7/10
Enlightenment... Was Not by Dean Balanger 24/6/01
We all know the feeling, you are watching a Doctor Who episode and you start nodding off. It usually happens during War Games or somewhere in the middle of Frontier in Space. I rarely nod off during a four parter. Enlightenment did it for me.
I have been watching the entire run of the good Doctor in order over the last two years. Usually once a week I will try and watch an entire tape. This week I fell asleep during part 1 of Enlightenment. Part 1 !!!!!!!! Sorry to say but the two actors playing the eternalsin part 1 were boring me to... well... sleep. Now let's get to the good part, the part that I have noticed is usually criticized. I was wide awake by the time parts 3 and 4 came along and that is due to the actress playing the eternal pirate. Her over the top acting woke me right out of my slumber. I am Canadian so I am not familiar with the actors' real names, but she was so bad it was great, and as bad as Leee (why the third "e") Johns was (and he was bad, he kept looking off camera to cue cards or something) it was at least entertaining enough that I took the time to learn his name in the end credits.
The set design was very good, except for the vaccum room in the bowels of the ship with the "low...medium...high" settings.
The regulars were generally good except for the fact that the Black Guardians laugh was REALLY OVER THE TOP at one point. But as I've mentioned, I love O.T.T. acting. Where would Doctor Who be without it. As far as this story closing off the so-called Black Guardian Trilogy, my feeling was that the Black or White Guardian were not featured enough. They show up in the last 5 minutes to wrap everything up in a neat package.
In closing I will go on record and say that I am probably one of few fans that love the bird hats worn by the Guardians.
A Review by Daniel Spelner 1/12/01
Enlightenment is 1980s Who at its best. This creative, charming story has some splendid ideas and they are executed to maximum effect for once. Director Fiona Cumming seems to have got on the same wavelength of the script and as a result turns in four fascinating episodes. The story is about a race in space using literal space "ships" captained by the parasitic ghostly Eternals. The voyage gives all the regulars relevant, worthwhile material. Turlough as he struggles to resolve his "contract" with the Black Guardian, Tegan as she copes with the attentions of the soft romantic Marriner who seems to have feelings for her (he is in fact an Eternal studying her) and the Doctor as he reflects on the situation, becomes investigative as he endeavors to uncover the true nature of the contest. A very fine, sumptuous example of television drama.
Focus... focus... by Stephen Wood 26/8/02
In some ways, the Peter Davison era of Doctor Who can be viewed as a struggle of high concept ideas against the technological and budgetary constraints of the period. Enlightenment probably represents the definitive example of it's kind. Like many of it's predecessors, it has something new to bring to the Doctor Who format, yet by the closing credits of Episode 4, has come close to wasting it's potential. The glimpses of greatness that we do catch sight of however, more than justify the attempt.
Episode 1 showcases much of the serial's best features - TARDIS scenes shot in a manner which smother the console room in an unfamiliar darkness, ratcheting up the tension between the regulars and heightened by fresh camera angles. The quick cut to the exterior of the TARDIS after landing, without the customary materialisation noise adds to the atypical feel of the entire episode.
The initial exploration of the ship really plays to the regulars strengths. Mark Strickson brings an ambivalence to most of his scenes, creating a character with understandable conflicts and an appealing amorality. Unfortunately, when asked later to lose control of his character, displaying genuine fear, his performance becomes more mannered and awkward, especially his scenes in the vacuum chamber and his betrayal of the "rum locker" mutineer. Tegan's disquiet at the Eternal's abuse of human beings and Marriner's questionable probing of her mind, allow her the opportunity for some interesting scenes of uncertainty and Janet Fielding definitely responds well to them, though I think she is let down by the occasionally clunky dialogue she is lumbered with. Peter Davison's performance has come in for criticism here. I find that rather than blandness, as he is often accused, he brings a palpable sense of urgency to the part, displaying a rapidity of thought and an energy to his scenes that other Doctors (I'm thinking Pertwee or McCoy) would have struggled to convey.
Plot-wise, Barbara Clegg introduced not just a unique concept for the story, but a different structure to the adventure. Most DW stories spend the first two to three episodes establishing a threat, pitching the Doctor and his allies against it by the final reel. In this story, we are provided with an objective before we've even started, and as the story progresses relentlessly to the finish line, the TARDIS crew have literally no one they can fall back on to assist them. This angle stands out, rather than the sadly bolted-on Black Guardian arc and I suspect the story would have been stronger if it had taken this route.
As I said earlier, the visual style of the first episode deserves some credit. The darkness of the hold is a welcome shift of pace from the brightly lit locales of previous adventures, but as the story progresses, it feels like the production team lose nerve in this approach and place the majority of the sets in unrealistically blazing lights. My only other criticisms of the production would be the overused companionway (which appears to have two sets of stairs leading aloft), the inappropriately jolly "sailor" theme and the painfully dated modelwork, which sits uncomfortably even with some contemporaneous stories. Unfortunately, the success of this story is hampered more by the hopelessly misjudged casting of the actors aboard Wrack's ship. Whereas Keith Barron and Christopher Brown capture the emptiness of the Eternals, animated only when given sufficient stimulus by ephemerals, Lynda Baron and Leee John bring out the vacuous campness that plagued the (minor) celebrity casting of the 1980s. With tongues placed firmly in cheeks, lines read rather than performed and an unforgivable rant direct to camera, they suck out any attempt at real jeopardy in the final episode, and the climactic action scene with the explosive focus is only saved by Peter Davison's conviction.
Overall, a striking attempt to try something new with the show, knocked off course in it's second half by the failure of the production team to translate the essence of what the script strived to achieve. In that way, it is typical of the period - flawed, but trying hard to be itself.
A Review by Jonathan Martin 18/1/03
Enlightenment has a great first episode. Everything going on is wonderfully intriguing, and it's very refreshing to have the Doctor and companion to wander out of the Tardis, and not be dragged away or chased after within the first five minutes!
Credit must be given to Christopher Brown as Marriner, whose disarming smile and amiable nature (even when Tegan's rejects his "advances") make him a difficult person to dislike, and when you add his complete indifference regarding "Ephemerals" you have a effectively neutral character, whose good points clash with his bad, and it's difficult to classify him with the usual black or white shades of goodie/ baddie that most Doctor Who characters are inhibited by.
It's certainly different to see Tegan being desired by a bloke for a change, makes a change from Peri, though of course, Marriner's only interested in Tegan for her mind (or so he says), something Peri never experienced.
Indeed, the whole of the first episode can be summed up with the word "refreshing", it's very an atypical episode of Doctor Who, and I very much looked forward to episode 2.
Unfortunately things soon took a turn for the worse, and my heart sank when I saw Turlough bringing out that infernal crystal thingy. Of course, I'd seen the White Guardian at the start of episode one, but it hadn't really registered - this is more of that dubiously titled Black Guardian Trilogy. The story was doomed from then on...
Great scenes like when Tegan discovers her cabin is beginning to resemble her one back home, and Peter Davison off-handedly picks up one her teddies and gives it an inspection (that always makes me smile) are replaced by crummy Turlough/Black guardian scenes, and with the dreadful cliffhanger to episode two, things couldn't have taken a sharper turn for the worse.
Unfortunately things get even worse when Captain Wrack and her sidekick appear. Lynda Baron is dreadfully OTT, and irritates me no end, and Leee John should have stayed with his band, because he can't act, that's for sure. The cliffhanger for episode three is even worse than the previous one.
By episode four, the story of the Eternals has all been forgotten and they fade away with little impact in the end: what a waste. Instead we get the thrilling conclusion to the Black Guardian Trilogy, where Turlough gets to choose between good ol' Pete Davison or the underdeveloped concept of Enlightenment and what do you know? He chooses our celery-munching friend.
Speaking of Pete, how does he do throughout the story? Well, lets see - Most of the time he's just his usual reliable but unexciting self. He does have a few good moments though where he reminds me very much of Hartnell; when he's just enjoyed his meal, wanders into the corridor and makes a very Hartnellesque high-pitched sound of satisfaction, and later on when Tegan's just made her entrance in her fancy clothes, - and I half expected him to look enchanted and say she looked very nice - he just goes "hmmmf" and wanders off. But unfortunately by the end of the story he's back to his corridor acting, of which he feels he's so good at.
To conclude, Enlightenment has a truly excellent first episode, and don't get me wrong, the other episodes have their moments, but ultimately I feel there should have been another story chosen to end the trilogy, as neither that, nor the brilliant idea behind Enlightenment, reach their full potential.
A well crafted tapestry by Tim Roll-Pickering 18/4/03
On the face of it Enlightenment should be a disaster. The very idea of sailing ships from Earth's history racing through space is just plain laughable that the story would seem destined to be written off as idealistic fantasy. And yet the story actually works. This is achieved by constructing the setting carefully so that by the end of Part One the viewer has already realised that this is no straightforward historical setting before the revelation that the ships are racing in space. The concept of the Eternals, a natural development from the concept of playboys who already have everything they need and still seek new experiences and pleasure combined with the notion of loneliness that long living beings must suffer. The comparisons between the Doctor's way of life and the Eternals' are clear but wisely this is not dwelt upon at length and instead the story focuses on other elements.
This story resolves the ongoing plot of the Black Guardian using Turlough as an agent to assassinate the Doctor and even brings the White Guardian in for good measure. Cyril Luckman's performance is a letdown though, since the character appears a weak old man throughout and not at all like the all powerful being that the Guardians are often made out to be. This contrasts poorly with Valentine Dyall's performance as the Black Guardian which is far more thought through and powerful, giving the character a strong presence as he goads Turlough to carry out his orders and the latter finally determines to break free. The Guardians' wider presence in the story is a clear part of the plot and so it doesn't feel at all like a coincidence when they appear to award the prize at the end.
Barbara Clegg's script is full of strong ideas and peopled by some wonderful characters. All three of the regulars are given strong material, such as Tegan as she fends off the interests of Marriner or Turlough as he seeks to escape from the nightmare he is in and is finally forced to make the choice he has sought to avoid for so long. The Eternals are handled well, with Christopher Brown making Marriner seem extremely sympathetic, whilst Lynda Baron brings Wrack to life strongly, showing how some Eternals cope well with their situation. The cast is for the most part strong and so the story flows well like a neatly woven tapestry.
Productionwise there is the difficulty of realising the ships sailing through space, but director Fiona Cumming and her team are successful in producing a very commendable effort that has not noticeably aged much. The period sets and costumes for the ships may have the odd anachronistic detail but this is entirely in keeping with the story and so this is a tale where it is hard to make design mistakes. The result of this strong combined effort is a pleasurable story to watch and a fine conclusion to the Black Guardian subplot. 9/10
A Review by Will Berridge 3/7/03
As adventures in time and space go, Enlightenment isn’t exactly a very fast-paced one, though this isn’t of itself a detraction. When you have to listen a first ten minutes largely composed of characters repeating basic words or phrases in monotone, however, things get a tad frustrating. Evidently, the ‘let’s win the race’ plot was going to have to form the core of the narrative but thankfully there are diversions from it, mainly Turlough’s struggles with bird-man and the Doctor and Tegan finding out about the nature of the Eternals themselves.
Unfortunately, these aren’t particularly diverting. The Black Guardian’s tormenting of Turlough is becoming a bit tiresome now in the third adventure of the trilogy, since it seems to happen at random times now for no particular reason, and bird-man now seems to have taken at this point to auditioning for pantomime by going ‘Nyaaaarghahaha’ every time he disappears. And, come to think of it, why does the supreme embodiment of all the evils in the universe think he looks hard with a dead bird on his head, anyway? At least Mark Strickson gets to roar ‘HELLLLLLLP ME!’ at one point.
Of the eternals, only Striker comes across well as a callous alien sentience. His real determination, for instance in the zest of his line ‘this is the sort of excitement that makes eternity bearable!, marks him out from the others, and he plays off against the Doctor very well, belittling him by enquiring of Time Lords ‘are there Lords in such a small domain?’. Hence it’s a bit of a pity he’s largely ignored in the last two episode with the focus placed on Marriner and the ludicrous Wrack. Marriner, at least, represents a brave attempt to show an alien intelligence trying to comprehend a concept utterly foreign to it, love. Unfortunately, he comes across as a rather old-fashioned pervert who’s obviously had a hard blow to the head recently. Watching the supremely bitchy Tegan ignore the poor fool all adventure is acutely painful. As for Wrack, Lynda Baron makes it clear that the panto her and the Black Guardian, and her whole crew come to think of it, must have been auditioning for, was Captain Cook. Of course. By the time of her hideously overacted 3rd cliffhanger, I was too bored to either laugh or cry.
So, the race. Well, in the first 3 episodes, a few ships blow up, and Striker seems terribly interested in it, but it only really gets going 15 minutes from the end. It then all climaxes in a horribly convenient finale, as the Doctor pilots the TARDIS (increasingly used for short hops now) onto Wrack's ship, and her and her first mate disappear through what seems to be a relatively small hole into space, off screen of course. Wrack's enormous dress causes a series of problems here. Firstly, she'd be struggling enough to fit through that hole in the first place, especially since with his pacifistic views the Doctor would never force her though. Secondly, the outlines of the two figures on Striker's scanner make it abundantly clear that neither is wearing a dress, unsurprising at the time since we are supposed to believe the Doctor and Turlough lost their little tussle. The second denouement's a little better, as Turlough finally gets his moment of redemption and Mark Strickson works ever bit of frantic OTTness her can into it, smashing the glowy thing into the Black Guardian with quite some vigour.
Unfortunately, the overall quality of the story can be easily equated with that of its jokes:
'Why can a pig never become a sailor? Because he can't look aloft!Oh dear. Maritime humour has always been on a different level. 4.5/10.
Average fare... by Joe Ford 17/7/03
I hate to say it but every time I watch this story I seem to enjoy it less and less. Like everybody else when it was first released I was wowed by the story but with each subsequent viewing I seem more and more aware of its faults. It is certainly a step up from the trilogy of terror from season 20 (Arc, Terminus and King's Demons) but lacks the nostalgic optimism of Mawdryn Undead and the elegance and thrills of Snakedance.
The story is quite enjoyable and entertaining and holds my attention throughout. It has a wonderful Doctor Who idea at its core, the thought of sailing ships floating about in space is lovely and rather than the shoddy FX I imagined I was awed by the stunning simplicity of some of the classy FX. An angelic, ethereal score by Malcolm Clarke (this is the guy who ruined The Sea Devils! What happened?) gives a sense of scale and magic and scenes on deck in episode two and three lit in shadowy blue are extremely effective. Indeed much of the story LOOKS gorgeous from the eerily lit console room to the creaking, detailed sets below deck to the stylish party that Wrack holds. It looks very authentic. There is hardly any moments where you cringe with embarrassment at a dodgy effect (except Turlough being hauled in by a CSO net!) thanks mostly to the skilled direction from Fiona Cumming, always reliable, often stunning.
I also really like Wrack. Unlike the bland crew on board Striker's ship she lives up her role as a pirate captain with real relish. She is one of the few baddies to have come out of the Davison era with any impression. I love her insane cackling at the end of episode three where she is placing the jewel in Tegan's tiara. She's nowhere as overplayed as people believed and her scenes with the conniving Turlough are nicely underplayed by Lynda Baron.
I've always said this is one of Tegan's better stories but I have to change my opinion now. Watching this last night it took 20 minutes before she said ANYTHING that wasn't negative, bitchy or grouchy. Look at her in the console room in episode one, bored looking, rude to Turlough... is this the sort person you would want to travel with? She makes Peri look like an optimistic wonder! I've always enjoyed the scenes between her and Marriner, Doctor Who rarely does love stories and this is a new take on an old idea. But the more I watch this the more cross I get with the woman for being so close minded. If I were her I would want to explore this unusual romance (gee Mariner is pretty cute!) and experience the wonder of the ships flying amongst the stars. And that's what this story needs... companions who can express their wonder at the glorious sights the story offers up not moaning about sea sickness, creepy first mates and Turlough. It would seem so much more fantastic if only miserable Tegan could lighten up and enjoy herself. Buts she's just so bloody antagonistic she drags the story down a notch.
Equally annoying is the Doctor who possibly does his most corridor walking in this. I kid you not he's forever parading the bloody things, rushing up and down in search of a character and plot devices. I thought when he left for Wrack's ship he would get involved a bit more but nope, first opportunity he gets he's below decks getting lost again! Admittedly there is one terrific Davison acted scene in episode two where he criticizes the Eternals for their abuse of the Empherals but it's just not enough. Since the conclusion of the story is all about Turlough the Doctor is relegated to the sidelines even more than usual in season 20.
Turlough is still enjoyable to watch at this point, far better than the absent ducting wanderer from Terminus. His reaction to the Doctor being the ship's cook is great and he lights up episode one with his interaction with the crew. His scenes with Wrack are passable but he does overdo it a little in a way only the fabulous Mark Strickston can. "I serve him as I wish to serve you..." is especially camp. However the conclusion works well in context to Mawdryn Undead and gives him a new path to walk down. It works here but is conveniently forgotern from this story onwards. Still one out of three charismatic regulars is better than nothing!
Episode one is plagued with horrible scenes of Tegan tripping about in the dark. Who cares about this woman? I just wanted to get back to the crew and some decent actors. And irritatingly it is worst ever case of Davison cliff-hanger killing... the end of episode one is a jaw dropping moment but Davison looks about he's stifling a yawn. A shame because the other two cliff-hangers, especially episode two, are great. Also distracting is the Black Guardian bits with his overdone witches cackle... purlease. And what is the point of Leee John, his Tom Baker style eye boggle acting suggests he is about to burst into song any minute! Everytime his mouth opens I hang my head in shame.
However there are still a number of quality moments. The first sight of Tegan in her stunning evening attire is great, as is Davison's complete non reaction (and doesn't she look positively lickable? At least that's what my friend told me!!!). I love the whole sequence with the tiara blowing up... it has a real sense of urgency and drama that is missing from so much of this season (plus it looks gorgeous). And any scene with Mariner works a treat (despite that stubborn old cow he's fallen in love with) because of Christopher Brown's gentle performance that hits all the right notes. Keith Baron's Striker is also eerie in places especially in one scene where he and his first mate listen in silence to the Doctor and co talking about the TARDIS... very creepy. Fiona Cumming's intimate direction and Barbara Clegg's juicy dialogue mix well and the end result is watachable but flawed.
Enlightenment is overrated but still has its moments. It is in middle territory as far as season 20 is involved, not a classic but not a failure. Just sort of there.
A Review by Richard Tarrant 18/1/04
A little cheeky on my first review, I know, but I'm going to ask a little favour of those of you distressed to find yourselves old enough to remember the original transmission of this story. Cast your mind back: in the last 16 weeks you've shaken your head in disbelief at the worst acting in DW history (Arc of Infinity), been served attractively garnished but ultimately unappetising Kinda leftovers, sympathised with Nick Courtney that the Brig had to return in such an underwhelming tale (and then they give him Battlefield - what had the poor man done wrong?), perked up briefly at the sight of Sarah Sutton's legs, but finally watched in amused silence as the regular cast were menaced by a 7ft Bedlington terrier. How desperate were we then for an outstanding story to lift what was shaping up to be the weakest ever season of DW?
And we so nearly got it. Enlightenment is mighty close to being the classic that would have had us looking back with fondness (a la Season 17) instead of disappointment on the anniversary year. There is so much to praise: the outstanding script full of big ideas and big ideals, but succeeding most for its treatment of 'ephemeral' emotions (greed, love and loyalty); the direction is at times excellent (I particularly love the hands appearing on the TARDIS scanner behind Tegan); and some of the guest cast are a revelation - Keith Baron brings exactly the right degree of inhumanity and aloofness to Striker, and Christopher Brown makes Marriner the outright most interesting character of the whole season - his increasing notions of 'love' for Tegan (which he can only interpret as a desire to 'exist') are acted with such conviction and sensitivity that I wanted the character to be offered the final choice to which the sub-plot seemed to be leading - to relinquish immortality and be allowed to experience emotion.
Sadly, it's not all great. Though it seems redundant to criticise special effects and modelwork, the ships in space, and CSO were particularly poorly realised. Lynda Baron, though mercifully resisting the temptation to play Wrack as a 'yo ho ho' pirate, completely fails to imbue the character with any menace (in fact, her only effective scene is the quietly sinister moment with Tegan who, dare I say it, was displaying a very fine [w]rack of her own in that delightful evening gown). All too often, threats were issued and then followed up with a Babs Windsor giggle. But even Lynda's laugh was more convincing than poor Valentine Dyall's bronchial cluck. The Bucanneer's fearless crew were on rehearsals for an Am-dram 'Pirates of Penzance', and Mark Strickson veers from the wonderfully camp (fooling about in his bonnet with the sailors) to the tremendously overblown (you thought he couldn't overact any more outrageously than this, and he confounds your expectations by dribbling in Frontios), without ever actually hitting the right tortured, conflicted note that the character needed to convince. And the less said about the school play 'Lion King' headresses of the two most powerful beings in the Cosmos the better.
As a final plus point though, this is one of Davison's best (perhaps only second to Caves of Androzani), with a perfect mixture of injured morality (attacking the Eternals for their exploitation of the humans) and alienness (his complete non-reaction to Tegan's eveningwear, and 'Is she?' reply to Marriner's assertion that Tegan was attractive, are redolent of Tom). The sense of panic which accompanies the jewel scene was particularly well conveyed, and is arguably the best sequence of the season.
All in all, I have to admit a real fondness for this story, despite its flaws, because it thought BIG and tried so hard. Like it's competitors, it went for the biggest prize, but didn't seem to want it in the end. 8/10.
A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 12/5/04
Enlightenment brings the Black Guardian Trilogy to a satisfying conclusion with a mixture of clever storytelling and strong characterisation. At its simplest the story is about a race in space; a storyline that has been used in various other shows; what they haven`t done which Enlightenment does is use ships from various periods in history and as such the imagery is particularly strong.
Similarly the storytelling is equally powerful; the Eternals are racing out of boredom; although it is not this which makes them powerful but their characterisation. Christopher Brown`s Marriner and his almost predatory interest in Tegan makes for great viewing. Similarly Keith Barron brings an impassiveness to Striker that is at times compulsive. Lynda Baron also manages to make Captain Wrack a joy to behold, her performance isn`t too over the top, drawing on the cliche of pirate captains of old; making Wrack a female villain also adds much to the story.
As to the regulars Peter Davison gives a good performance; his realisation of the Eternals parasitic nature being a case in point and also more interestingly is that the Doctor doesn`t seem to acknowledge Turlough`s treachery. Mark Strickson brings a sense of panic to Turlough, who slowly completes his redemption by rejecting the Black Guardian and similairly Janet Fielding`s Tegan whilst displaying an uncertain trust in Turlough is also convincing as the "harrassed" air hostess. Finally we have the two Guardians. Dyall and Luckham bring dignity to their role as well as malevolance and benevolance in equal measures respectively. Enlightenment also has great production values too, rounding off a clever story, and if you can ignore Leee John`s atrocious acting then you have a winner.
The Journey, the Destination by Mike Morris 1/6/04
Okay, so this just sort of happened, really. I watched Mawdryn Undead, and thought I'd review it, and then I sort of got on a run of things and now I've found myself reviewing the Black Guardian Trilogy. I didn't mean it guv, honest, it just sort of happened. Now I find myself tackling Enlightenment, a story I've often tried to review and given up on. A story that, these days, I number amongst my most cherished. Warning; I'm going to ramble a bit here, because what Enlightenment triggers off is something I find tough to encapsulate.
So anyway, we'll get the obligatory bit out of the way. Blah blah last of the Black Guardian trilogy blah blah trilogy was shite blah blah blah not worth the bother blah blah blah obsession with continuity blah blah blah Season Twenty was crap. You know the drill.
Okay, so it's The Worst Trilogy Ever. Two of the stories are pretty good, and the other one is Terminus, but I quite like Terminus as well, so I find this trilogy perfectly watchable. It's just that it would have been ten times as good if the Black Guardian wasn't in it, and there doesn't seem to be any reason for him to be in it, and after Mawdryn Undead he just shouts at Turlough rather than actually planning anything, as if he was added in at the last minute or something, and anyway Turlough's tale of redemption didn't need a Black Guardian and would have been more affecting if it was a desperate-alien-plans-to-steal-TARDIS-but-discovers-moral-strength-he-never-knew-he-had sort of thing. In Enlightenment he's bloody irritating, he's there but not in any meaningful way, popping up every now and then and interrupting the good stuff like a sweaty streaker at a cricket match.
Anyway, as Kate Orman would say, could you put the bins out Jon? No, sorry, I mean; Enough Of This. What about Enlightenment?
I can remember Enlightenment. I can remember watching it. In the middle of Davison's middle season, in the middle of the 1980's. And it remains special, because it summarises the 1980's as far as I'm concerned. Oh, and it's marvellous. In it's own way. It's also a bit shit in it's own eighties way. But anyway, this is the eighties, right here.
Yehwhat? I hear yiz all cry. Well, I don't, I'm just imagining it. But at the moment (in these here parts anyway) the eighties is the nostalgia decade of choice and no matter what shite reminiscence programme you watch, Stuart Maconie's going to say "weren't lolo balls great?" or "do you remember Wham?" but he's not going to say "Do you remember that joke about the pig looking aloft? What was that about?" Actually, what was that joke about? And weren't lolo balls great?
(Stuart Maconie's not going to say "look, decades don't have overriding characters anyway, culture didn't spontaneously change on 31st December 1979 and remain the same for ten years you know" either, and nor am I because I'm a roll)
Anyway; at the moment, the eighties are the "tacky" decade. It's being sold as synth-pop, Miami Vice, Adam Ant, Wham! and Duran Duran. The sixties were flower-power, the seventies were punk and grit, the nineties were Generation X, but the eighties were just tacky. The current decade (the Noughties? Oh for the love of...), meanwhile, is shaping up nicely as the endlessly depressing post-modern pastiche and nostalgia decade, but anyway, that's not the point. The point is... er, what was the point again? Oh yes. See, ten years ago, the seventies were the nostalgia decade and they were all about Abba and the Bee-Gees and Grease, and oh they were so tacky then and sod the Sex Pistols. Thing is, all decades have their tackiness and it's a question of what you choose to remember - yeah, so Bob Dylan was selling records in the sixties, but Sandy Shaw was still top of the charts. Nowadays our tackiness comes in the form of noxious asswipes like Justin "music for people who hate music" Timberlake, and because he's of his time and is riding the crest of shallow processed McCulture with sufficient skill, people believe it all, actually think he's cool and don't notice how tacky, derivative, preening, pseudo-macho and insidious the poisonous little shit is.
Sorry, what? Oh, yeah, apparently this is a Doctor Who website and not Melody Maker. I forgot.
No, there's a point to all this, honest. Fact is, in the eighties there were gritty dramas like Threads and The Boys From The Blackstuff knocking about, and a lot of synth bands were very good, and articulate bands like The Smiths had a massive audience (they'd have no chance these days), and Bono talks about Drop the Debt now and everyone says shut it, arsehole, but back then U2's music was incredibly messianic and everyone lapped it up, and Live Aid meant something. And all those Goths and New Romantics might be called tacky now, but back then there was a very serious philosophy behind it. It was about expressing individuality in an uninhibited way, even though it's based on a clothes-maketh-the-man axiom that's pretty sickening.
Enlightenment (yeah, remember that? I'm reviewing it, I am) also takes itself very seriously indeed. As it should. It's atypical, and in that sense it's very typical. Because in that "express your individuality, dare to be different" way, eighties Who was very much about stories that were "different". There isn't the house style feel to the eighties that there is in, say, Hinchcliffe-era Who, where basically Bob Holmes seemed to pretty much write all the stories, even if he got some other people to type them up for him. But where in the seventies do you find stories like Warriors' Gate, Kinda, and Revelation of the Daleks? The great stories aren't Talons-esque examples of an era, rather they're the ones that tear up the script of what "Doctor Who is all about" in a very serious way - and that's without even going into the McCoy era. An Edwardian clipper sailing around the solar system, populated by immortals who absorb character from their surroundings in order to gain life... even the Williams era wouldn't have come up with that one. That's nuts, that is. That's brilliant, that is.
What ties this story in with the above-mentioned tales is its attitude to plot. As in its ah-fuck-the-plot attitude to plot. See, usually in Doctor Who, the setting is there to back up the plot, but in Enlightenment and all those others, the plot is there to back up the setting. Or the concept. Or whatever. Enlightenment is hung on two ideas; It's a Spaceship, you know! They're Eternals, you know! They read minds, you know! The reviewer can't count, you know! And the rest, really, is talking about those ideas, running around, and shite bits with the Black Guardian. Sod "plotting" and "adversaries" and "storytelling" and all that, it's about the idea. To go back to the music analogy, it's a bit like early-eighties concept bands selling songs with their videos, although unlike We Fade To Grey it's also pretty good.
The setting's brilliant. I mean, when I saw this story as a kid I was about six, so watching it again as an adult I was shocked to find my memory going "hey, this is already in here!" And then I remembered gaping at the television, and the next day talking excitedly to a friend of mine called, weirdly, Tristan, about all these boats going around in space. And I'm sure I thought this was the coolest thing since... er... Adam Ant. Oh well, I was six.
It's a brilliant first episode though. The early TARDIS scenes are the usual ooh-the-TARDIS-is-in-danger stuff, but it's shot in a slow, ominous way that gives them more impact than usual. And then we're on the boat, with its creaking timbers and softly swaying cargo holds. The crew feel real. And the officers are clearly odd. It's off-kilter and creepy, but the cliffhanger is a real shocker. The direction piles on the nautical feel to the point of cliche so when it's revealed that we aren't at sea at all it's marvellous.
As for the Eternals - what a super idea they are. Immortal endless vessels, desiring nothing more than their own amusement, tormented by the endless wastes from whence they come. The fact that they know it all is counterbalanced by the fact that they know absolutely sod all really. Marriner is the ultimate expression by this, being fascinated and bemused by someone as instinctive and contradictory as Tegan. Striker gets that "Are there Lords in such a small domain?" line, but he also gets a role that counterbalances Marriner's perfectly. Where Marriner is intrigued, Striker is commanding. Where Marriner is friendly, Striker is politely brusque. Where Marriner is uncertain, Striker is definite. Yet they're both united by their mannered nature, the way they're defined by etiquette and the period they've chosen.
Terrence Keenan recently panned this story in a fascinating manner, and while I couldn't disagree more with most of what he said, he raised some interesting points. He called the performances hammy, but I think that's the point. What makes the Eternals creepy - and they are bloody creepy - is that they're more fascinated by playing their roles than anything real, and they get to carelessly, kindly deliver chilling lines like "ephemerals have such short lives in any case" when justifying so much death. The fact that they're cliched stiff-upper-lip characters just shows how flat and dead they are. They are wrapped up in their own unreal costume drama, the conventions of the period, polishing the silverware and the dining-room table. Basing their hollow lives around the trivial, the unimportant, the meaningless. Clothes maketh the man, essentially; it's eighties stuff again. If you examine the society of that time you'll find it was one of hollow, vacant people whose amusement is based on style and etiquette, and who pursued their goals relentlessly as if life were an endless race. Survival wasn't the first story to have a thing or two to say about yuppie-culture, you know.
But it's more. Pick up some Sunday supplement and read a columnist wondering have you ever noticed how you never attend night classes, or discussing the etiquette of when to call and when to text, or droning on about Sex and the City... so much of this world is fascinated by etiquette. Empty vessels playing out their roles, doing some networking and inviting the right people to dinner parties. So when Enlightenment calls them barren, or parasites, or hollow, I want to cheer. That's why the Eternals fascinate me, really. They speak of a real, creeping horror; the horror of crashing bores.
What's interesting is how each of the TARDIS crew is paired with an Eternal, and how those Eternals function as mirrors of their characters. Striker is the captain of a ship on a voyage through space, marshalling his crew... but he's not interested in what he sees or finds. It's about the objective for him; the destination rather than the journey. He's an anti-Doctor, really, a bit like Captain Cook in Greatest Show. And so when the Doctor berates him for not caring of his crew, we're forced to question the Doctor wandering about the universe putting his companions in danger... it's that sort of tension. The two are like yet unlike; Striker's confidence contrasts marvellously with the Doctor's uncertainty, and there's a fascinating difference between the way that Striker is always utterly honest about his lack of morality, while whenever the Fifth Doctor has a tricky moral question asked of him blusters and dodges it. There's nothing as childish as Striker being an evil Doctor, or the evil within the Doctor, but he's an amoral being with certain Doctor-like trappings (he sticks rigidly to his own code of conduct). He shows us what the Doctor could have been. It's interesting, that is.
Then there's Marriner and Tegan. This is even more a marriage of opposites, but there are certain similarities - the way Marriner volunteers to go to Wrack's ship is similar to Tegan's fierce loyalty to her friends. Also, Marriner's complete lack of awareness of interpersonal relationships leads him to say private things without stopping to think... sound like anyone we know? Still, the tension comes more from Marriner's fascination with Tegan. His neverending courtesy is unnerving, and Janet Fielding plays Tegan's distaste and bemusement marvellously. Of course I'm sure her detractors will accuse her of moaning, why does she ask to go back to the TARDIS, why doesn't the bloody woman just enjoy herself - might be something to do with nearly getting killed all the time, I might suggest. Some people don't like that sort of thing. But she's a proper character, a real person, who acts instinctively and is a mass of contradictions, who's determined but unfocused, and who's adorable because her heart's in the right place. I know people like Tegan, and I adore them because no matter how much they bitch and moan they'd throw themselves under a bus for you. Add in Janet Fielding's legs and you've got my favourite companion ever, ever ever ever, and ever and ever - so, her interaction with Marriner is a delight. I adore the way that he describes so beautifully how he is in love with her, although he isn't capable of the emotion, and so trots through phrases like "you give me life" like a primary school teacher patiently explaining subtraction to a kid who can't quite understand it.
As for Turlough, he gets an audience with Wrack, and his own deviousness is mirrored by hers in the section over in the pirate ship. Now to be fair, this is the naffest element of the story really, because "ooh-it's-pirates" is incredibly kiddish. I mean, very overtly. You can imagine Eric and Babs Clegg (I'm very comfortable abbreviating the names of people I don't know) having a Hudsucker Proxy moment and saying we'll put this in, you know, for the kids; and yet, I don't mind that, because it gives the story a feeling of an adult subtext being smuggled in to a children's programme, so the naffness is sort of the point. It's very strange to go from those scenes on the deck between Tegan and Marriner (you know, those ones that are some of the most calmly beautiful sequences in the programme's history, when the viewer really feels the gorgeousness of the setting, really wants to be there, really loses him/herself in the simple, impossible, madly reposed vistas of a boat sailing through the stars) to those play-acty scenes, but somehow it's okay. And Lynda Baron's having a ball as Wrack, picking over Turlough with incredible confidence, examining him with amused precision, and you just know that he hasn't got a chance. I love her performance, she's very overtly sexual in a Catherine-the-Great manner, you can imagine her lining Leeeeee Johns and the rest of her crew up and deciding which one she'd have tonight. Great fun. I find her incredibly attractive, in a terrifying sort of way.
Anyway, the pirate bit works, I think, because it's refreshingly honest about just having fun, and the way the story can jump from concept-stuff about minds and thoughts and character to "wheeee, pirates!" prevents it getting portentous, it lets us know that it's not wrapped up in its own notions and its storytelling responsibilities, just as Morrissey delivered lines like "It's monstrous, it's cruelty, that someone so handsome should care" but smuggled them into a catchy-as-hell pop beat. Enlightenment knows that this is a family show. So yeah, the bit with the jewel might seem terribly obvious to stuffy gits like me, but it's all part of the blend and should be seen as such - I'm sure the bit with the jewel would have been great for a nine year old. I don't remember it, because I was only six. There were other things in the mix to bring me along. And that is why I think Enlightenment can claim to be the best, the most perfect slice of eighties Who, not the greatest story but the very greatest piece of family programming - because there really was something for everyone. It wasn't just a concept story, or just a character piece, or just a visual delight, or just a pirate romp. It was all of these things. Or none of these things. Something else entirely. Something marvellous. I don't know - enlightenment isn't the jewel, it's the choice, and all that.
Anyway, that's my case for calling this a Great Story (capital letters are great for making a point, aren't they?), in spite of a number of things that can be denounced about it. It's great because, back in the mid-eighties, there were people walking around with spiked green hair and men wearing dresses and there were black-lipsticked Goths, and they were terrifying and beautiful and wondrous to my eyes. Computer geeks had discovered keyboards and suddenly they were shouting out their guts, strange concepts like tainted love, cold names like Enola Gay. U2 had swirling bass-lines and were "face to face, in a dry and waterless place"... so many mysterious things, some of which I remember from the time, others that I've discovered since and retroactively put into that picture... still, I was a child, and the world was full of wonders. And somewhere, in there, I do remember a Doctor Who story which unfurled another incredible tapestry before my eyes - boats, racing through space, an intoxicating idea that sent my mind racing with excitement. It was a mysterious place, my world, back then. Sometimes it still is.
But it's not just nostalgia that makes me like this story so much. Because I think of punks and Goths, and I still find a beauty in what they did, how they looked. Because Morrissey has just released a new, vibrant album, and dammit I don't even like him all that much but it's still exhilarating and uplifting to have him back, composing the beats while throwing out his anger and his ideas and his insanely poetic words, one man putting forth his thoughts as best he can. "You have never been in love, until you've seen the stars reflect in the reservoir," he's saying... or, perhaps, seen the stars coalesce around an Edwardian racing yacht that's quietly coasting through ink-black heavens. I've been in love, I think.
Enlightenment is a thrumming, sparkling, heady tune, double-dipped in 1980's counterculture; a tune that's light and fun, rich and wondrous, thoughtful and contemplative, a free-fall through imagination and storytelling. I still find it deeply resonant. I love it.
A Review by Robert Smith? 20/7/06
My biggest criticism about Enlightenment used to be that the Doctor never reacted to the revelation at the end of the story that one of his companions had been trying to kill him. He just seems to stand there, as though implying he already knew. How lame was that? Watching the story again though, it's clear that the Doctor knows almost everything in episode 1 and he's pretty much figured out the rest by episode 2.
The sheer genius of this is that it's all done through Peter Davison's acting, with nary a word of dialogue addressing it directly. It's as though everything clicked into place the moment he saw the Guardians in episode 1. There are tiny hints throughout the rest of the story: when Turlough jumps overboard in the episode 2 cliffhanger, he yells "I'll never serve you" within clear earshot of the Doctor. Then there are the marks on Turlough's neck after the Black Guardian strangles him. By the time we reach the story's climax, the Doctor doesn't need to say a word to Turlough. He leaves the choice entirely up to him. It's very unlike the fifth Doctor, who, even throughout the rest of this story, is usually all breathless improvisation and fast-talking. But in Enlightenment's climax, his silence marks him out as remarkably... wise. It's probably the only moment in the entire era of the fifth Doctor where he gets to play the wise mentor.
The bulk of the opening episode is taken up with the ship's crew. And despite the utterly surreal pig joke -- which is all the more bizarre for the dramatic setup and ribald laughter it gets -- they're surprisingly affecting. Which is a shame, because they all but disappear from the rest of the story. There's an attempted subplot in episode two involving Jackson stealing the rum key, but it's resolved within five minutes of its introduction and that's about the last we see of them. That said, it's marvellous the way the crew expecting the Doctor avoids the obvious route of "ship's medic" and instead casts him as the much more seaworthy and amusing "ship's cook".
Some of the direction is truly inspired. The hands on the scanner are leap-out-of-your-chair shocking. Marriner's face on the scanner smiles at the exact moment that Tegan asks "Are you the White Guardian?" The final scene begins with a shot of the Black Guardian but then he steps to the left and the White Guardian steps to the right from behind him, which is a marvellous piece of imagery.
Marriner is one of the most underrated characters to ever appear in Doctor Who. The moment he meets Tegan he's inhumanely creepy, relishing the line "You're a stowaway. I'll have to put you in irons!" as though he's some demented child and all his birthdays have come at once. Every ounce of this man's performance is directed at Tegan. His face lights up as soon as he sees her, he wants to spend every moment he can with her. He might tell her that he doesn't know what love is and wants existence, but it's patently obvious that he actually is desperately in love with her, even if he doesn't know the word.
Striker is incredibly wooden until he meets the Doctor, at which point he suddenly seems to come to life. It's an interesting thought, that the Doctor's arrival has altered the Eternals on board. His hiding place for the TARDIS -- the Doctor's mind -- is a stroke of genius.
The cliffhanger to episode 1 is utterly fantastic. The panning shot of the sailing ships in space is great, largely because the design has kept to old style sailing vessels. But even better than that is using the Doctor's line ("We're on a ship. A space ship.") as voiceover. Unlike Tegan's equally redundant 'electronics' line, this one works.
The same can't be said for episode two's cliffhanger. The Black Guardian pops up about twenty minutes into the episode because it's getting a bit boring. He then promises Turlough he will never be able to leave the ship. It's a little strange that he keeps repeating this, since it turns out to be patently false within five minutes. It's all a bit contrived, despite the fact that it does get Turlough to the Buccaneer. That said, the music on deck is superb.
Once Turlough gets to the Buccaneer, it's as though the story loses all interest in Striker's ship. Wrack's introduction is great, not just for the slow pan from her feet up, but for the rapport that Lynda Baron and Mark Strickson so obviously have. Turlough and Wrack take one look at each other and instantly recognise kindred spirits, which turns out to be eerily accurate later in the story. They're a great pair, scheming, plotting and trying to win the actors' Christmas prize for the most overacting done in a single episode. Lynda wins the race, but Mark takes the prize simply for trying to beat Tom Baker's record for the longest sustained eye boggle in Doctor Who.
One of the best things about the Eternals is how flawed they are. Not just for the fact that they can't function without Ephemerals, but for the fact that their mind reading powers are simply such hard work. Tegan can actually keep Marriner out, while Wrack seems to baulk at the work involved in untangling the strands of deviousness that make up Turlough's mind.
Wrack's vacuum shield, with its enormous lever and giant flashing red sign, is hilarious. You've got to wonder about the ephemeral mind she took that from. Maybe Terry Nation was on board somewhere. And while having a dead crow on the Black Guardian's head almost works, you'd think the equivalent for the White Guardian would be a live dove. Instead he's got a dead duck on his head. Which might be a subtle way of emphasising the nonhuman nature of the Guardians, especially in a story where their existence has to compete with both a Time Lord and the Eternals, so there's a need to subvert expectations and present something truly, surreally, textually wrong... but he's got a dead duck on his head. It's hard to take the embodiment of good and evil seriously when they've got roadkill for hats.
Turlough getting stuck in the shield room seems to go on just a bit too long, but it leads into another excellent cliffhanger. It's a triple whammy: the tension builds over Turlough's possible asphyxiation, which you think is going to be the cliffhanger until the Doctor appears and saves him. The Doctor is suddenly attacked by Mansell and his guards with a knife held to his throat, which seems so arbitrary that you're sure the camera zoom up Peter's nose is going to be a classic Davison cliffhanger. But the real cliffhanger occurs with Wrack planting the crystal in Tegan's tiara. The genius of this one is not that Tegan is the unwitting bait in her trap, it's that the episode finally ends on Wrack's clear dominance of the situation, having outwitted the Doctor utterly - and she hasn't even met him yet!
Much has been said of Leee John's performance, which I think only proves that some people are desperate to find fault somewhere in every Doctor Who story. It's mannered, yes, but it's actually not bad at all. He and Baron have a great rapport, especially in the subtle way that he reacts to the merest nod as she takes Tegan from the reception. His acting seems like a deliberate choice, rather than a lack of talent. Okay, you couldn't have a weekly series starring this guy, but what he brings to the role is appropriate. The very fact that he's memorable enough for people to complain about is telling, I think, given that he's only in about three scenes. On the other hand, no matter how long I live, I'll never figure out how the Doctor and Turlough managed to throw him and Wrack out through that tiny hole in the floor.
Tegan has a lot to do here, from her interactions with Marriner to her appearance at the banquet. The altering of her cabin is marvellous, although for a moment it looks as though the photo by her desk is Adric, when in fact it's Aunt Vanessa. The Doctor gets to walk between the various levels with ease, from his easy rapport with the sailors, to dining with Striker and foiling Wrack's plan with the crystal.
But ultimately this is Turlough's story. He plays about five levels of traitor, some real, some as part of the Doctor's plan. He ingratiates himself with Wrack, at first because they seem to have a lot in common, and later saving himself from death by figuring out she serves the Black Guardian as well. After he and the Doctor come up with a plan and he turns the Doctor in as a spy, it isn't long before Wrack sees right through him. But deliciously, what she sees isn't the Doctor's double bluff, it's the sheer greed underneath -- and everything about that scene tells you that she's right, too. It still feels odd that the story's climax is (literally) in his hands, but thematically, it's spot-on. And the final description of just what the prize was -- that Enlightenment wasn't the diamond, it was the choice -- is excellent.
Discounting The Five Doctors, Enlightenment is far and away the best story in season 20. It's creepy, it's literate, it's got some great music, it's really well directed in places and it has acting that will knock your socks off. It's the perfect conclusion to Turlough's storyline and it remembers to unfold beautifully, while giving all the regulars prominent roles. And in today's money, part one would be called Enlightenment and part two Persuasion. How awesome would that be?
A Review by Duncan Parker 14/8/06
To fly in the face of popular opinion, Season 20 has always been one of my personal favourite periods of the series: sitting alongside gratuitous nostalgia are a set of high concept, character-driven, rather ponderous stories, which, despite occasionally plodding in parts (Mawdryn, Terminus in particular), demonstrate a hitherto untapped meditative potential of the show which was sadly completely abandoned in the more generously budgeted, but scripturally arid, Season 21 (bar the rather Season 20-ish Awakening and the all-time classic Caves). One might look on Season 20 as a happy accident then: seemingly presented with a shrinking budget, and necessarily abandoning the original Dalek climax to the season (I'm glad they didn't bother actually), the production team decided to cut down on action and monsters and confine two consecutive four-parters entirely to the studio. The first of these was the - unjustifiably criticized, I feel, though admittedly rather slow and bleak - Terminus. The second is, of course, the subject of this review, the brilliantly entitled Enlightenment.
Of course we were all at the time (I was about nine then) rather taken aback by the bizarre revelation at the end of episode one and the Jules Verne-inspired literalism of sailing ships in space. But again, like the pith-helmet oddity in Kinda the previous season, the gamble paid off supremely well. Sitting as the conceptual oddball of Season 20, and being inevitably greeted as such by the fans at the time, Enlightenment's very oddness helped in the long run to secure it as a recognized classic and generally the favourite story of this season (along with Snakedance and, in some circles, Mawdryn Undead). Only the beautifully theatrical and wittily scripted Snakedance comes anywhere close to rivaling Barbara Clegg's masterpiece of subtlety. It was indeed an intriguing revelation recently when I read that Clegg had based the Eternals on rich distant relatives - an inspired inspiration, if that's not a tautology, and one which truly shines through the brilliantly depicted entities.
The Davison era was one of casting experimentation (not least in the central character himself) in its imaginative use of known light entertainment actors in key dramatic roles: Nerys Hughes in Kinda (and, in Richard Todd's case, casting a known dramatic actor in an offbeat role), Michael Robbins (superb as Richard Mace) in The Visitation, Beryl Reid in Earthshock (who, though famous previously for serious film roles, was more known for sit-coms in 1982), Lisa Goddard in Terminus, Polly James (the other half to Nerys Hughes in the Liver Birds) in Awakening, Stig of the Dump in Awakening, Rula Lenska (known at the time more for comedy) in Resurrection of the Daleks, Rodney "Likely Lads" Bewes (brilliant as a stuttering turncoat) in Resurrection of the Daleks, and to top it all, the inspired juxta-pairing of Davison with fellow Sink or Swim star as Salateen in Caves of Androzani. The only one of these experimental casting moves which didn't work was Chloe Ashcroft as a very wooden character in Resurrection.
But for me, the crowning glory of this inspired casting wave was Keith Barron as Captain Striker in Enlightenment. Yes, Barron had of course begun his career in dramatic roles such as Nigel Barton, but had by the early 80s instilled himself in the public's mind for his sitcom role in Duty Free. So at the time one felt slightly taken aback by his presence as a stony-faced Edwardian Captain in Doctor Who. But Barron pulls it off superbly and is for me the key performance in this classic story. His delivery of such lines as "This is the type of excitement that makes eternity bearable" and the more muted "Don't ask me what it is. I shan't tell you" are conveyed with an unforgettable slant of tone and glare of longing which ranks his portrayal as the most intriguing in the entire season (even slightly surpassing the consummate Collings as Mawdryn). So Barron was another gamble that paid off brilliantly.
Two other casting quirks of Enlightenment also work well: Linda "Open All Hours" Baron is effectively overblown as Captain Wrack, and very sinister in the possession scenes; and even Leee "Imagination" John as her sidekick is passably strange, seemingly slow-moving to one of his pop tracks when steering the ship's wheel. Weird but it works.
Second to Barron is the other key Eternal role of Mariner played with creepy subtlety by Christopher Brown, whose silky tones bear a striking resemblance to those of D84 in Robots of Death. His performance is perfectly pitched between creepiness and longing, and his retort to Tegan on her realizing he is in love with her, "What is love? I want existence" is one of the most beguiling lines in the series' history. Beautiful stuff.
Enlightenment also displays one of Davison's best performances as the Doctor, given ample scriptural opportunities by Clegg to shine as a passionate moralist in his frequent outbursts at the callous impunity of the Eternals, one particular speech strongly echoing his classic retort to the Cybermen in Earthshock (and the powerful, "You didn't know what I was thinking. Just for a moment. Interesting"). But in Enlightenment the Doctor is confronted with more disturbing foes than those foil-covered Mondasians. The Eternals are particularly disturbing because they win our empathy as well our dislike, in that they are ultimately the real victims, rather than the humans they exploit, precisely because they are immortal and thus, basically, bored stiff. Hence "the race" and their reliance on humans for ideas with which to occupy themselves in the vast wastes of eternity. They are leaches basically.
The theme of immortality's curse runs through Season 20 and is sublimely commented on throughout. In Mawdryn Undead the immortals are eternally searching for an end to their perpetual regeneration (i.e. death), echoing the similar plight of P7E's crew in Season 15's Underworld. In Enlightenment, the Eternals are metaphysically trapped in their immortality, so seek to alleviate it with their period games. And later in The Five Doctors, we witness Rassilon's curse as Borusa, lusting after immortality, finally attains it, at the cost of his mobility. So Season 20 teaches us that immortality is not a good thing, and leads to despair. Unending despair. This too is played on in Enlightenment with the Black Guardian's threat to curse Turlough with immortality so he will be trapped on the ship in "perpetual torment", and thus his subsequent suicide attempt by leaping off the ship's side (another brave, adult move for a companion's characterization).
This is of course Mark Strickson's story. Never has a companion been given so much dissection and focus as Turlough in his first three stories. In Enlightenment, the Guardian arc comes to a superb conclusion, and Strickson is given ample opportunity to shine in his flame-haired, sharp-eyebrowed, gangly, craning glory. It's a great shame Turlough's development was basically dropped after this story as for those three stories he has to be, to my mind, the most interesting companion of all time (certainly my favourite), expertly played by the ever-straining Strickson. One can't fault the sheer energy with which Strickson portrayed the character (only ever to be reprised fully in his gibbering breakdown in Frontios the following season). The only problem is, once again, Davison is slightly overshadowed by another actor, and this time more worryingly, one of his companions (both actually). However, somehow in Enlightenment, the combination of the craning wreck that is Turlough and the slightly detached and passive Fifth Doctor just works. Especially in the scene when the Doctor twigs as to the naval term of "Doctor" meaning ship's cook, to which Turlough chuckles manically. Strickson's delivery of lines such as "I like to win" and his hilariously high-pitched indignation at Wrack's accusation, "I wasn't SPYING!", are truly memorable moments. Turlough is given the ultimate justification as a character at the end when he chooses the Doctor over Enlightenment, and it is an inspired revelation that Enlightenment is indeed the choice and not the crystal.
The Guardians are excellently realized throughout, particularly the ghostly apparition of the White at the beginning in the eerily lit TARDIS opening scenes (brilliantly shot by Fiona Cumming, and surely the most sinister and alien the TARDIS has come across since the early Hinchcliffe era) and in the well-staged confrontation at the end. Yes, the crow and dove motif hairdos do rather echo the unfortunate New Romantic experimentations of the period, but I think they work as follicular symbolisms. Certainly JNT gifted the Black Guardian with a more definitive manifestation than his TARDIS-scanner copout at the end of the Key to Time season.
The combination of Clegg's rich and thoughtful script and Fiona Cumming's subtle and unforced direction make for a truly hypnotic story. Right from the eerie TARDIS opening scenes to the truly creepy and creaky arrival in the ship's dark hold, Enlightenment stamps its presence in the season as something new and strange (and that's saying something for a generally innovative season). Mariner's face and hands on the Tardis scanner is creepily shot as is his silent baiting of Tegan in the hold. From the outset there is obviously something amiss with this ship. Atmosphere is what Cumming brings to this story: real, spooky atmosphere, which lends Enlightenment the sort of feel seldom managed in Doctor Who before or since that echoes the supreme claustrophobia of Sapphire and Steel (another example is the spaceship scenes in Invasion of the Dinosaurs, and some moments in Castrovalva, Greatest Show and Ghost Light). This feel is clinched in the first scenes with the crew of sailors in the rather spartan sleeping quarters: their seemingly unflustered obliviousness to how they got on board in the first place immediately hinting that something very odd is afoot on the ship. Clegg surpasses herself in these scenes as a script writer who has clearly researched the period she is writing in, with some expertly authentic naval dialogue among the crew which truly justifies this story's pseudo-historical status. Beautiful scripting.
To the revelation itself at the end of episode one: well, apart from the rather overly repeated "on an Edwardian sailing ship?" observations by Tegan, this is still a real surprise, signaled by the curious chart of "marker buoys" ("Oh they're considerably more than that") and the open-sliding panel of tinkly buttons, and then the, admittedly slightly dodgy, shot of flapping sails in space. A masterly cliffhanger.
I could go on. This is one of those stories which gains with age and sits timelessly on the screen today; along with Kinda, another beautiful slice of the early-mid meditative Davison era. My third favourite story of all time (after Kinda and Caves - don't worry, the next in line are mainly Hinchcliffes).
My only niggling criticism of Enlightenment is why on Earth - or off it - didn't the Doctor simply pick up the rug rather than try and pick off the individual bits of the crystal when trying to throw it overboard? I suppose one misses logic when in a panic.
Enlightenment is one to treasure for eternity. 9/10
"Have you ever heard of the phrase 'time standing still?'" by Terrence Keenan 20/3/08
Enlightenment and I have given each other dirty looks over the years. The first couple of times I saw it, I hated it. Boring, pretentious oldcrap. It even ended up on a list of Bottom 40 stories I did long wayback. Then I actually pulled it out and watched it for the first time in ages and, well... It wasn't as bad as I thought.
It's a throwback story. Set up like a Hartnell tale, the regulars find out things at the same time we do. Only the Doctor manages to connect the dots just a little quicker. Despite the sci-fi elements, it plays like a weird cross of history lesson and pure fantasy, a fairy tale for adults.
Even though the Black Guardian storyline is deftly woven into the serial, I'm much more interested in the Eternals themselves and the Tegan/Marriner relationship. The Eternals are interesting as a villain, because of who they are and what they can do, they manage to eliminate most of thestandard cliches of Who from the start. The game is to figure out how they will react to any given situation. In this case, only Wrack is a disappointment because she acts too much like a Mwahahahahaha villain. (But she is a pirate straight from legend, so...)
The Marriner/Tegan pairing is the first love story of any kind in JNT-era Who. Marriner stalks Tegan's thoughts to try and impress her, not understanding that he's creeping her out. Christopher Brown just looks like a drooling psycho under the guise of respectability, and plays Marriner perfectly. Janet gives one of her best performances as Tegan, showing a whole lot of sides and subtleties that she normally doesn't get a chance to.
Even more than the Eternals though, the setting is so Who, it's a bit surprising it hadn't come up before. Sailing Ships in Space. Sailing Ships in Space! One hell of a concept, up there with, say, a police box being the doorway to the entire universe.
The ending is bollocks, though. Not only are we denied seeing Wrack and her First Mate getting tossed off their boat -- there's no element of surprise, because you know the Doctor and Turlough aren't going to die -- but we have to see two old men with pigeons on their heads get philosophical on a child's level. It's an anticlimax, again because of the predictability of what will happen. Turlough is not going to take the diamond and tell the Doc to sod off. Which is a shame.
But before that, you get about 90 minutes of a weird fantasy world with rules of its own, and rather good performances. That is always a good thing.
I Really Like Terminus by Joe Briggs-Ritchie 22/1/12
So then, Enlightenment yeah?
Is it any good? Yeah it's okay.
Is it the best Peter Davison Story? No.
Is it the best story of the Black Guardian Trilogy? Not for my money.
Actually, I found this to be the least enjoyable story of the Black Guardian Trilogy. Yes that's right, I enjoyed Terminus more than this one. Yes you heard me correctly. No I haven't taken leave of my senses. Yes I'm prepared to resort to fisticuffs on this one. Queensbury Rules and everything.
I don't dislike Enlightenment. It's a solid enough production, but I'm just somewhat lukewarm about it. It has its fair share of charm but it just doesn't captivate the way that Mawdryn Undead does. It has its fair share of surreal moments and darker touches, but it doesn't have the uncompromisingly grim stance of Terminus. There are those who consider it a strong contender for the best story of the Davison Era. I'd have to give some thought as to what might be Davison's best story but it sure as buggery ain't this one. The story begins with the TARDIS' power being drained away and reduced lighting in the console room. Death to the Daleks (one of my favourites) begins in the same manner so as far as I'm concerned it's a fairly sound way to commence proceedings. Enlightenment is story which abounds in striking and unusual imagery. Notables examples include Marriner appearing on the scanner screen in episode one and the fleet of ships flying through space. If you had no prior knowledge of this story, then it must have come as a surprise when it is revealed that the Doctor and friends aren't on the high seas but are in fact traversing the cosmos.
The regulars are all on form and Turlough seems to have settled into his stride by this point. He's weasely and devious, but underneath it all he's afraid and simply wants to be free of the Black Guardian. The Doctor actually gets stroppy with him at one point, delivering the line "never disobey my instructions again". Quite an unusual pronouncement for this incarnation. His particular character trait of breathlessly stating that he'll explain things later is well and truly on display. Did he actually ever explain anything? Just recently I've begun to notice just quite how much he says that he'll explain things later and the frequency of it really is staggering. Tegan is her usual self which is either very good or very bad depending on your opinion of her character. Marriner's obsession with her is quite charming and strangely touching when one considers that humans are little more than playthings for the Eternals.
Keith Barron and Lynda Baron are by far the most memorable of the guest cast with the latter dominating every scene that she's in. In fact, all of the guest cast are doing a good job and I can't think of a particularly bad performance. It's also a fairly well-designed production although you could argue that it isn't especially difficult for the set designers to knock up a fairly decent looking interior of an Edwardian sailing vessel. Malcolm Clarke's score is quite nice, in a similar vein to his score for Earthshock although with a less militaristic feel. It's interesting to compare his scores from this period of the show with his score for The Sea Devils. I like them both, although I have to admit that his score for The Sea Devils is definitely more interesting if not necessarily easier to listen to. I'm not overly fond of those birds that the Guardians feel compelled to wear on their heads; they look fantastically stupid and the Black Guardian is defeated far too easily. Okay, so it's hard to shake off the impression that he's all talk and no trousers but even so I feel that he should have had much more of a final tussle.
Quite why this story has such a glowing reputation is beyond me. Yes it's a competent enough affair and everyone involved is clearly giving it 100%, but that indefinable magic that is required to elevate a story beyond merely good just isn't on display. When I think of top notch Davison stories I think of Castrovalva, Four to Doomsday, The Visitation, Terminus (shut up) or Planet of Fire. I don't think of Enlightenment. It's okay but that's all it is. Very average.
Oh and why is Turlough wearing eyeliner?
A Review by Brian May 5/11/13
Enlightenment is one of the most bizarre and different Doctor Who stories, made more distinctive by being part of the glossy, sci-fi/action-oriented Eric Saward era. It's more fantasy than science-fiction, and a thought provoking existential fantasy at that. It's intellectually deep and visually stunning. Of course, the descriptors different and bizarre are meant in the most complimentary of ways. Indeed, this is my favourite story of the Peter Davison era - and possibly of all time.
Fiona Cumming directs with a deft hand, bringing out the best in Barbara Clegg's already excellent script. The questions accumulate during the first episode as the Doctor, Tegan and Turlough try and work out exactly where they are, with the reminder of the White Guardian's warning underpinning the proceedings. The opening TARDIS scenes are wonderful, the under-lighting so atmospheric it's a pity when it reverts to the full, bright whites. The sudden appearance of Mariner's face on the scanner, as he almost voyeuristically spies on Tegan, is creepy. (As in Snakedance with the skull-and-mirror scene, Cumming is adept at providing touches of horror in her work.) A favourite shot of mine is in part two, when the TARDIS crew enter the hold; the silhouette of an officer is dominant, proving they've been beaten to their craft, but allowing the audience to know it upfront, leaving a few agonising seconds' wait for the protagonists to realise. Then, of course, there is the fantastic cliffhanger to the first episode, the indelible image of sailing ships travelling through space. The scenes on deck are sublime, with genuine depth in the shots.
Everything works in its favour. The period costumes and designs, especially the walls and corridors of the ships, are a major factor. Thanks to the rules the Eternals play by, the viewer is treated to something other than the usual spaceship corridors and spacesuits (to be fair, Mawdryn Undead allowed some of the former, but not to such an extensive or rewarding scale as this). Malcolm Clarke deserves a substantial mention, as he provides some of the most ethereal and mournful music ever heard in the programme. There's his nautical theme for all the shipboard scenes (and the way it peters out, with a gentle echo, as the various crews vanish in part four is divine). His gorgeous composition "The Milonga" complements the sumptuous-looking party in the third episode. The accompaniment for the aforementioned deck scenes is spine-tingling, while that succession of three notes throughout establishes a real bleakness and fatalism.
This leads me back to my reference to Enlightenment as existential. Nowhere does this ring truer than in the final scene, when Striker and Mariner are sent back to their realm, without even a chance to state their cases. Throughout the story, the Eternals are treated in a somewhat sympathetic way. It's not the warmest of sympathies, but it's made clear their position is not the most enviable. Striker refers to the "endless wastes" of eternity; to him, the race is a diversion. So too for Wrack, who wants to be amused. Immortality as a curse was a recurring theme for Doctor Who in 1983, as we saw two stories ago in Mawdryn Undead and would see two stories' hence in The Five Doctors. But in both these cases we're made aware of motivations and consequences; here we're not even informed of the Eternals' origins. Perhaps they cannot help being what they are, no more than a human, a cat, an antelope or a Sontaran has any say in being born what it is?
The three principal Eternals are all graced by fine performances. Lynda Baron is slightly over the top as Wrack, but this is perfectly in character. Keith Barron's Striker is the polar opposite, guarded and secretive. He refuses to disclose what he desires and I for one like this. It's a great example of neither showing nor telling, heightening the story's already-enigmatic feel. Christopher Brown's Mariner is played to be the most relatable, appearing more genuine than the others. He seems to actually make the effort to understand humans and at times he reacts with a child-like curiosity that is quite endearing. His fixation on Tegan is reminiscent of a socially inept suitor; you feel embarrassed for him at times until you realise what he really is, hammered home in a great moment when he replies to Tegan: "What is love? I want existence." Nevertheless, his banishment back to eternity is the most heartfelt.
The story's climax impresses further with the first on-screen meeting between the two Guardians. They verbally spar in the most civilised way, a gentility that only a British programme could achieve! The anticipated showdown between the Black Guardian and the Doctor is quite anticlimactic, but that actually works for the better here. This scene also neatly wraps up Turlough's introduction and redemption; he was fortunate enough to be written into the series in the most fascinating of ways and Mark Strickson has impressed throughout. I would like to say all the acting is good, but unfortunately this hitherto glowing review must now mention a blemish: the awful performance of Leee John as Mansell. Apparently he was lead singer of a pop group called Imagination (who?), so perhaps a bit of minor celebrity casting was afoot, as was the tendency in this era. He wasn't the first choice of course, as another actor was unavailable after the remounting of studio sessions. (This was also the case with Keith Barron, but at least he can act.)
During the course of ten years' reviewing on this site I've drifted away from listing wobbly walls or poor effects unless they affect the story significantly. That doesn't happen here, but in the interest of fairness I can't avoid mentioning the bad continuity at the end of part three, with Tegan's "freezing": eyes open or closed? Make up your mind, editor and/or vision mixer. Or perhaps the director herself needs to take responsibility? But if so, it's a negligible black mark given the otherwise sterling job she's done, for overall Enlightenment is a delight to watch. It looks and sounds wonderful, augmenting a first rate script. It's magical, haunting and - a term not usually reserved for a Doctor Who tale - beautiful. One of the best, for sure. 9.5/10
The Female of the Species by Jason A. Miller 28/5/19
Think about this: Enlightenment was the first Classic Doctor Who serial written by a female author, and it didn't arrive until late in Season 20. The Ark bore a co-credit for the author's wife but was evidently written solely by Paul Erickson. That's all I could find. Jane Baker and Rona Munro arrived later, and that would be it for the Classic Series. Attack of the Cybermen did bear a credit for Eric Saward's girlfriend, or whatever, but Ian Levine insists that he wrote the story himself because, you know, Ian Levine thinks that Doctor Who and girls don't mix.
This fact about Enlightenment usually manages to not get brought up in reviews, but it's fascinating to think about what Barbara Clegg brought to the table -- a perspective that Doctor Who had literally never considered before.
Part One takes place in the usual man's world that is the Classic Series. Apart from Tegan, there is not a single female character in this episode. And that's very, very normal for the Classic Series. Outside of the TARDIS, Part One's entire setting is the chummy all-male world of an Edwardian racing yacht, populated only by rowdy male crewmen and oddly detached male officers. Because the world of Classic Doctor Who is so masculine-normative, you barely even notice that this is unusual. It's just an ordinary Doctor Who story.
However, Barbara Clegg knows exactly what she's doing, and it won't be long before she flips the script to comment on this. We assume through most of Part One that Captain Striker is going to be a good guy. He's white, he's British and the actor Keith Barron got cast because he was co-starring with Peter Davison on another show or something. But, in Part Two, we learn that he's an amoral Eternal from the endless wastes of eternity, not a good guy per se. He's merely cosplaying as a human, in order to have something to do. In fact, as an Eternal, Striker wouldn't even need a gender; he's only taken on the role of a male because he's playing a ship's captain, and, looking to Earth in the year 1901, that's all you would find. Men, men, men.
A running theme, gathering steam in Part Two, is Marriner the Eternal's romantic interest in Tegan. Up until this point in Doctor Who history, you had two kinds of love interests: Male guest-actors who fell in love with female companions, usually as a way of writing that companion out of the series; and male guest-actor villains who fell in lust with the companion and placed them in some kind of sexual peril. In Enlightenment, you have something a little different: a guest character who falls in love with a companion who's not interested, and a guest character who continues to pursue that companion until the very end, even in spite of her lack of interest. The nearest comparison would be Terry Nation having Third Thal on the Left propose to Jo Grant in the closing moments of Planet of the Daleks, as a lead-in to Jo's marrying somebody else in the next story. But this is, I think, something different from Clegg as Who's first female author: it's the pesky male suitor who won't give up, doesn't go away and doesn't understand why the mere fact of his interest isn't enough to cause the woman to jump for joy. Clegg is a different kind of writer, and Tegan is a different kind of companion, than the show has had before, and thus the Marriner/Tegan non-romance is something that makes Enlightenment virtually unique in the show's already-lengthy history.
And then comes Captain Wrack. Oh, glorious Captain Wrack. I'd already fallen in love with Lynda Baron's voice in The Gunfighters, but here she's on screen as one of the great female villains. Doctor Who had done female villains before: Miss Winters in Robot (with the weaponized "Miss" before her name, to peg her as an evil feminist), Vivian Fay in The Stones of Blood, Maaga in Galaxy 4. These were all vivid ladies, with flair (it wasn't until Episode 3 of Galaxy 4 got returned that most of us realized just how compelling Maaga was, complete with monologues to the camera and live flashbacks). But Captain Wrack is a whole class above. She's the villain who loves being the villain, who's proud of her villainy, who brings extra energy to every scene. And she's a woman in her mid-40s playing a lusty, bawdy character, who is not punished for this in the script. Something else Doctor Who had never shown us before. Maaga bemoaned her lot in life, Vivian Fay posed as a hero for half the story, and Miss Winters was a decoy villain who vanished early in Part Four. Wrack, on the other hand, joins the story halfway and lights the screen afire, creating a whole new type of bad gal. Thank you, Barbara Clegg.
Something else gorgeous, more likely to have been worked out by Peter Davison in rehearsal than scripted by Clegg (it's not in the novelization): when Tegan emerges from her cabin in an evening gown in Part Three, and the music swells, and Janet Fielding ta-da!s for the Doctor... Davison turns his head and responds with an aggrieved "Hmmph!". This is perfect, either from Davison's notion of the Doctor as an old man in a young man's body or from the writer expressing her frustration at how bad men are at noticing changes of clothing.
The mansplaining continues even into the end. "Let the victor receive his prize," announces the White Guardian, even though at that point in the story we the audience have been led to believe that Captain Wrack is the victor.
Now, I love Enlightenment; it was one of my first stories and has never dropped out of my Top 20. It's a story I'd love even for reasons not directly related to Clegg's script. I'm even going to defend Leee John. A last-minute casting choice who'd never acted before, playing Lynda Baron's pirate first mate? How fandom hates him! But, you know what? I think he's great. He's the perfect boot-licking counterpart, matching Baron's virile energy. They make a fine double-act. Had this been a Robert Holmes script, where their double-act was at center stage, I doubt anyone would have complained. But John does what he needs to do to match Barron's energy, and, for what few scenes he's in, I think he succeeds just fine.
We'll never really know what else about this script was uniquely Barbara Clegg. We do know that Eric Saward had to rewrite the original scripts liberally to make room for the Black Guardian story arc and to effectuate Turlough's redemption. All that material is Saward, not Clegg. The ending, in which no Eternal actually wins Enlightenment, is a bit of a cop-out and means that almost none of them get a satisfactory exit, with Wrack and Mansell being dispatched offscreen and with Striker exiting without a word; only Marriner's unfulfilled longing for Tegan as he disappears is a strong note, but I sense that none of this is how the story was supposed to have ended before the Guardians got worked in by Saward.
Several bits added for padding, like all of Jackson's scenes (the only crewman to realize that the ship is in space rather than on the ocean), don't really go anywhere dramatically, and, as lovely as the Part One is, with its eerie tone and gorgeous cliffhanger, all that would be condensed into a three-minute cold open today.
But all of those are minor quibbles. Like many classic Doctor Who stories, it was made under rushed circumstances, with multiple rewrites and last-minute casting changes and a story arc causing the author's intended ending to disappear. There are lots of seams showing. Even Malcolm Clarke's lovely score was completely accidental; he composed it years earlier, but it still wraps around the story like a mariner's knot. But never mind all the DVD production notes. This is a fresh script, telling us things Doctor Who had never told us before, with terrific work up and down the guest cast and unusual visuals. If I ever win the Eternals' cosmic race, and Enlightenment is my prize, this story is pretty much all that I'd ask for.
"A veritable jewel" by Thomas Cookson 8/7/20
Enlightenment's always left me awestruck. It's an enchanting perfectionist work of magnificence that consistently leaves me haunted long after viewing.
My first time watching it on youtube, it was amazing. The second time I watched it, on video, I worried Enlightenment would turn out to be not as good as I remembered. But gradually, almost unconsciously, its thick magic won me over again.
Afterwards, I didn't even want to write anything on it or do anything that might break its after-spell. I could still hear the mystical music and solar winds ringing in my ears. Its powerful, magical after-effect makes me recall Colin Baker describing being literally stunned to a twenty-minute standstill after first seeing An Unearthly Child.
It's a slow-burner, but there's not a single dull or wasted moment onscreen. It's consistently intriguing. Possibly the most unpredictable, life-affirming story since City of Death. In a way, because each carefully crafted moment of the story matters, it brings home how each moment of life is precious and worth making most of.
Enlightenment unfolds beautifully, from lower decks to the majestic starboard view of the solar system, then travelling ship to ship. It's expansive, imaginative stuff that unfolds at a perfect pace. Each part of it a meal in itself.
The set design is exquisite, with finest attention to period detail since Horror of Fang Rock. The directing really sells the illusion of the ship's motion through space. I could vividly feel the vibrating floorboards beneath their feet and icy solar winds on my skin.
What makes Enlightenment so strong and compelling is the level of thought gone into the Eternals, their perspective of existence and the lesser species. Their believable motivations sell the story's concept of abducted humans from history trapped in an illusory state, as utterly believable and real. Are the Eternals really villains or merely doing what anyone would to keep sane if faced with an eternity of cold, dragging existence ahead?
They feel alien in ways that expose most Who aliens as half-baked and one-dimensional. Simultaneously, they also represent human nature's hedonism, obsessiveness and child-like curiosity. It's a beautifully humanistic, existential story.
Fiona Cumming understood Clegg's vision in a way many of JNT's directors wouldn't, and she gave Enlightenment the unnatural unrealness it needed. The ghostly atmosphere gets more unnerving when Mariner starts stalking Tegan, reading her mind in intimate ways that make it clear there's no privacy here. When Turlough panics and jumps ship at the halfway mark, I empathised completely with his desperation to escape, even if it risked death.
Davison's at his sharpest here, almost playing a precursor to McCoy's Doctor. Up against God-like beings he must constantly outwit and keep ahead of. Clegg makes exceptional use of this TARDIS trio, ensuring they're all given essential parts to play. She's among few Davison writers who could write naturally spontaneous, intriguing, layered characters and elevate the usually plastic Davison leads to their best.
Tegan's put to her best use and looks damn sexy in that ballgown. Mariner's pursuing of her, articulating how she makes him feel with child-like emotional honesty, provides some real magic moments, especially when she thinks the Doctor's been killed and he reads her mind turning to grey desolation.
Turlough finally starts demonstrating good companion material and performs the more intense moments well. He looks on the verge of biting it frequently, particularly when about to be jettisoned into space. Especially as he's a cowardly quisling, which usually guarantees a fatal comeuppance in this show.
That he ultimately survives is a welcome cliche-crusher, and sums up why I love this show. Where there's often much death, but dying's not always an inevitability or certainty, even if you've chosen the 'wrong' moral path (likewise being one of the 'goodies' doesn't guarantee your survival). There's always hope that fate can be cheated and people and civilizations can survive and live on in spite of this cruel universe.
Wrack is a fantastic character, performed with such boisterous spunk and spirit. A throwback to the Williams era's larger-than-life characters. She doesn't appear until halfway through, but when she does, she immediately steals the show. She pre-empts River Song's shrewdness, cunning resourcefulness, socialite charm and mercenary self-sufficiency.
Her ultimate ruby weapon suits her personality: elegance, firey energy and precision. A shame she wasn't brought back when JNT wanted a recurring female villain to supersede the Master.
The ending is unusual, but I like its eccentricity. It's odd that we don't see Wrack and her first mate get tossed overboard. We cut away, led to believe it's the Doctor before the surprise, but it works well. It's particularly haunting seeing the human crew vanishing, leaving an empty, silent ship. It's bittersweet how Striker and Mariner are sent back into their shadowy existence, their time of living for a beautiful moment suddenly fading into transience.
Finally, there's the Black and White Guardian's meeting on a crystalline space station. Davison's argument that no-one should have absolute power is a beautifully cohesive capstone, consistent with how we've seen the all-powerful eternals abuse their power to exploit humans.
Regarding Turlough's decision, everything about the scene, the Black Guardian's temptation and Turlough's character so far, should realistically lead to him choosing to sell Davison out. Any redemptive choice he made should've seemed pat and contrived. But Strickson's performance turns this on its head. Brilliantly conveying all of Turlough's rage at being exploited like a pawn and threatened finally erupting as he gets his revenge in a great, punch-the-air moment. To see the young underdog come up and beat his cruel master is so gratifying.
Overall Enlightenment is a fantastic story on many levels. Speaking to the beginner fan I was at 11, with its perfect frivolity and glimpse into an imaginative universe of higher, more wholesome concerns than daily life's sordid pettiness. A universe of wonders I wanted to explore forever and a sea-faring adventure appealing to my young romantic nature.
It's classic television that makes you proud to be an elitist snob with your own superior niche tastes and distain for simple-minded mass entertainment. It's a rare, precious story, and it's a damn shame they don't make TV like this anymore.
But so far I've only been considering Enlightenment as a standalone. In its wider context Enlightenment can't escape the dragging weight of its season.
There's a dismaying sense that Enlightenment was the right story at the wrong time. It would've felt right at home alongside State of Decay and Keeper of Traken. But Doctor Who's become a far more dour, cynical show since then. Enlightenment almost has too much delicacy for this brutalist era.
Enlightenment seems inadequate at washing away Mawdryn Undead and Terminus' unpleasantly morbid, depressive aftertaste. Its slick dose of pure fantasy coming out of the blue so suddenly after such sordid indignity makes it almost seem an unrealistically contrived turn. Almost too crafted and plotted, at a time when the series was mimicking life's bleak unresolved monotony. I can imagine viewers craving a more uplifting story like this and finding it almost too restlessly eager to get itself finished.
It's a whimsical, spiritual story amidst an unrepentantly materialistic era (the idea that the material world is all that exists, and there's no spiritual connection between people). Saward's Earthshock and Resurrection define this era's brutal, mechanistic materialism, where it's about who has the bigger weaponry hardware to damage our earthly bodies. Comparatively, this magic-based story feels incongruous and ill-fitting.
It comes just as that spark of new era excitement had dampened. Afterwards it'll fade again like it never happened. This feels like Who from the prog rock era. Sorely craved, yet misaligned.
The Five Doctors maybe provided a peacemaker, demonstrating how Cybermassacres, ancient curses and immortals could happily co-exist in this show. But Davison's era was becoming a reflection of Saward's inability to manage his own accumulative negativity and rage. A good writer can exorcise that through their work cathartically. Turlough's aforementioned scene of beating the Black Guardian is a perfect example. It inspires active audience spectatorship rather than Saward's usual passive learned helplessness.
But the show had become increasingly about Saward's apathy and defeatism. Where the Doctor can be wrong and fallible, and it's somehow worth devoting whole serials to contriving his sucker-punch failure ending. Something audiences saw as an untaxing soundbite. Even the unhealthy Sawardian violence that's indulged manages to trump gentler stories like this, because they seemed to scratch at something rotten in our system.
Enlightenment is almost too gentle a story to have that kind of impact or effect. That's partly why, like so many rare good stories, it doesn't stand out from the dreck so much as become swallowed by it.
Enlightenment might've had the lasting impact it should, had Doctor Who ended here. On this transition into stranger realms. Maybe Enlightenment, in resolving Turlough's trilogy, was a story 'big' enough to be the show's finale. A story about chasing a goal and destination point. Asserting perhaps the show's getting 'too broad and too deep' for TV.
Enlightenment could've been big, strange and extravagant enough to be the show's ideal wrap-up party with the Gods. Like Sapphire & Steel's bizarre conclusion or Quantum Leap's final episode of normality gone sour. Mariner disappearing into the nether reaches feels the perfect metaphor for the show's fade out.
Enlightenment should've been a turning point, leaving the show's grim early 80's phase behind with a burst of life and imagination. It briefly vindicated JNT's new-blood policy. Unfortunately, this new blood wasn't properly nurtured. Christopher Bailey gave up on his third script because of Saward's neglect and lost faith in the project. Barbara Clegg submitted many more promising story ideas that weren't taken.
Judging from Big Finish's The Elite and Point of Entry, Barbara was writing for a Doctor Who far removed from Saward's tacky, infantile grot. Stories where the Doctor was central to events, inquisitive and fit for purpose. Allowing audiences to share his intrigue at each strange environment. But alien enough to occasionally do dark deals with the devil. That's what Barbara Clegg's work offered that JNT's era lacked. Active audience participation. Unexpected, surprise twists. Actual compelling choices for our leads that didn't have mind-numbingly predictable outcomes. She'd thought them through like a role-playing scenario.
What'll Turlough's choice be in the face of ultimate temptation? Will the Doctor help the stranded Dalek? Davison's refusal to bring The Elite's stranded Dalek home, knowing it'll eventually kill again, would've made welcome reparations for every time he'd let Ainley escape.
Choices that'd actually enrich the Doctor's character, rather than leaving anyone who's not a myopic fanboy face-palming at his moronic inaction. Choices that'd make the Doctor unpredictable and unknowable anew, whilst compelling casual viewers in the choice, making a show that lingered in the mind for the right reasons rather than the ugliest.
Saward's era generally resembled the most depressing live-action roleplaying game, where everyone's apathetic, lethargic and determined to play the game as badly as possible, with the intent to lose so it can be over with. Strangely, Saward's writing only ever commits to cultish, paralytic impotence.
Barbara's stories were about will, faith and conviction winning out, unlike Saward's misanthropic compulsion towards wilting and crumbling all that to nothing. Barbara could've given the show a freshly feminine, humanistic quality ahead of its time.
The Elite could've been Classic Who's own Jubilee (with more coherent backstory on how Dalek-human warlike natures became historically intertwined). Point of Entry could've been Classic Who's Vincent and the Doctor.
Sadly, Resurrection's moral torpor was the season-defining finale they had in mind. Not this. JNT/Saward weren't interested in doing more stories like Enlightenment or City of Death, only in replicating yet more Earthshocks.