5 December 2018: It Takes You Away review added.
26 November 2018: The Witchfinders review added.
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"Resistance is futile."
Buy this Dr Who DVD: UK US
Why's it so dark in here? Oh, right - must be those herds of pigs flapping past the windows. Yes, we've found a Fifth Doctor story we actually like.
Now, we know that sounds unlikely. But we swear it's true. We were intrigued. We were gripped. We got through four episodes without our usual prayers for a meteorite to smash through the roof, demolish the VCR and release us from our agony. Enlightenment. It's that good.
First of all, the story's well interesting. The Eternals aren't the standard villains bent on the destruction of Your Planet's Name Here. In fact, they're not bent on anything except having a laugh. And that's nice. Yes, they end up killing people and stuff, but it's not because they enjoy it. They just don't care. Refreshing. (And just as well, really, considering the Black Guardian manages enough evil laughter for about ten stories all by himself.)
Barbara Clegg manages to come up with Big Concepts way beyond the usual villain of the week fare. Her Eternals aren't just immortal mind readers: they're actually empty until us ephemerals come along to recharge them. The rules aren't always applied consistently (if the Eternals' minds are empty, where did they get the idea for the race from in the first place?) but her terminally bored voidmeisters are thought-provoking all the same. It's the kind of idea that's Doctor Who at its best.
There's also some terrific acting here, particularly in the first part. The sailors do a good job of setting the scene, but Keith Barron as the Captain and Christopher Brown as Marriner are fantastic. The Captain's determination to win and indifference to the fate of the ephemerals are chillingly convincing, and Marriner's quiet fascination with Tegan is seriously creepy. Brrr. The sets aren't exactly sprawling, but the panelling in the corridors (and we get plenty of opportunity to admire them), the magnificent dining room and Tegan's bedroom add up to a nicely real-feeling atmosphere.
There's too much corridor-running, and things deteriorate a bit with the introduction of the yo-ho-ho-look-out-she's-got-a-bomb thread, but despite this the story manages to stay interesting to the end. Granted, the bolted-on Black Guardian plot, with the tediously squealing Turlough, is pants, but that isn't Barbara Clegg's fault. We'd love to have seen the story with her original Enlighteners instead of the poultry-hatted twins, but hey, it's the JNT years. We're grateful for what we did get.
So there's all of that. But wait, there's more. There are two other things that set Enlightenment apart from the Fifth Doctor stories that precede it.
The first is Clegg's treatment of the Doctor. She... erm, how can we put this?... actually manages to graft on, in the trouser department, what definitely wasn't there before. Instead of his customary pathetic feebleness, this Doctor is - at least in the early episodes - sharp, cold and uncompromising. He's even almost forbidding at times: just watch him snapping at his companions in the TARDIS scenes. Awesome. We were cheering.
And the second? It's the surprisingly sexual undercurrent. From the White Guardian gasping "More! More!" as Tegan fondles the console lever, to Wrack and Turlough's unmistakable flirting, it's not on the surface but it's very definitely there. A big contributor, of course, is the deeply strange Marriner and his Tegan fixation. He might say it's her mind he's interested in, but then he would, wouldn't he? After his dreamy musing about putting her in handcuffs, not to mention his earnest assurances that he wants to please her, we think he (or the writer) is protesting too much. As with the Doctor's ignoring of Tegan's appearance in her revealing dress, we love the way Clegg puts this stuff in then denies it's there. Fun for all the family.
See it, love it, treasure it. It's a jewel.
MORAL: It's not winning but taking part that counts. Oh, and blowing things up.
SQUARE. WITH A KNOB
"Dead end?" "No, it's a door." We know Turlough is supposed to be an alien, but that's just taking the piss.
As the Doctor and Turlough emerge from the TARDIS into the hold, the camera swings up and down a couple of times to indicate that the ship's rocking from side to side. Tegan gets the same treatment in her turn, and then we get more camera swinging in the dining room (shame about the stationary wine and candle flames). The rest of the time there's no indication of movement, since they were too cheap to do that, and yet going by Tegan's seasickness we're supposed to take it as read that the ship's always rocking. But why? That's all very well when we're supposed to be thinking they're at sea, but it falls apart once we realise they're actually in space. They're solar winds, not solar tides.
The Doctor is annoyed to see that Tegan has left the TARDIS, and Tegan apologises. Huh? She left the TARDIS to give the Doctor the White Guardian's message, which is just what the Doctor asked her to do.
IT'S JUST A KNACK. YOU'VE EITHER GOT IT OR YOU HAVEN'T
In the first episode, the Doctor tells Tegan and Turlough he'll meet them in Tegan's cabin. How does he know where it is?
WHAT'S IN IT FOR ME?
Is Tegan the most pathetic companion ever here? The Doctor tells her it's vital she helps him fool the Eternals, but she decides she couldn't possibly do that and instead whines to go back to the TARDIS. Even Susan wasn't that bad.
BUT I COULDN'T GET AN APPOINTMENT
On deck, Tegan says to Marriner "I must go to the Doctor", then promptly plonks herself down on a bench.
Wrack freezes Tegan in time with her eyes open, but in the next shot she's got them closed.
THIS IS SO SUDDEN
In some of Turlough's scenes in the third episode, he's forgotten to take off his wedding ring.
The Doctor gets a good clear view of the jewel the Greek was wearing, so wouldn't you think he'd notice the identical jewel that suddenly appears in Tegan's tiara?
Why does the Doctor struggle across the deck with the bits of jewel as if against a high wind?
Buy this Dr Who DVD: UK US