Monday, 30 May 2011

The Invisible Enemy (Part One)

Originally Broadcast 1st October 1977

Written by: Bob Baker and Dave Martin

In a nutshell: Moments before answering a distress call on Titan, the TARDIS is infiltrated and the Doctor infected by the nucleus of a space virus.

Review: Some good old VFX model work opens up this episode as a small shuttle speeds through an asteroid field. It all looks quite convincing until we reach the inside of the ship where some dodgy astronaut suits make an appearance. It’s hard to get into review mode here as the story, whilst a bit dull and full of irritating sound effects has gripped me already. The shuttle is seen to be trapped in some electrical field followed by a chillingly delivered message from the communicator; “contact has been made”.

Now we find the Doctor entering the control room of the TARDIS with Leela and some fantastic dialogue between the two about the appearance, Leela having only seen the number one control room before. Tom Baker delivers every line in the most alienated way, in just a two-minute scene he proves that he was the perfect casting for this role and why he’s seen by many as the definitive.

A frightened Leela picks at the fourth Doctor's scarf

Back to the shuttle and the model work matched with some CSO makes the whole thing look a tad dated, but the set, whilst not the bet, looks fairly convincing for the budget restraints. The story takes a big turn as the three ‘humans’ from the shuttle turn out to be infected with green decorations! Writers Baker and Martin are just giving exposition now as a refuelling station is taken over. I find myself still intrigued but I can’t help myself just waiting around for the Doctor to make a second appearance and steal some more of his show.

A mention has to be given to Louise Jameson as Leela as she tries to write her name on a blackboard whilst wearing the Doctor’s hat, she next appears troubled and pulling on the Doctor’s scarf, she gives a wonderfully child-like attitude to the character. I’m not entirely sure how a distress message takes thirty minutes to get to a time machine but I’m sure it’s nothing to worry about. Whilst that’s nothing to fret about, something has made ‘contact’ with the Doctor despite him being in the safety of the TARDIS!

The story is giving me something to worry about as the audience, how can something break into the TARDIS, infect the Doctor? It’s certainly something scary as is the writing and performance given for the Doctor, making it quite clear something is wrong but neither we nor Leela know what.

'Contact has been made!'

As the Doctor exits the TARDIS in comic fashion, there’s a stereotypical “Doctor, look!” as the body count rises. The Doctor is quite harsh to Leela here, calling her a savage; it’s left me unsure as to whether it’s the Doctor or the infestation that’s talking. Tom Baker, like Troughton before him, can change emotion in an instant, being funny for a second then deadly serious, but now there’s none of that as the glitter-eyed baddies have taken control of him!

Tom Baker’s performance when under the control of the nucleus is very robotic and quite poor by Tom’s standards, how this fools Leela, even for a second, is a far stretch for anybodies imagination. But poor Leela has already been called a savage and a reject in twenty minutes, now she’s left with the task of saving the Doctor with no clue as to how and on a planet where everybody has been taken over! And what’s worse, the Doctor’s about to shoot her in the back!

Tomorrow: The Invisible Enemy, Part Two!

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