Sunday, March 25, 2007

DWM Preview! The Enemy Within

Is there life after death? It is the question which has puzzled man since before the dawn of history. Is there something beyond this mortal coil? All that is certain that once you find out, you're in no position to tell anyone the answer. Even in the fantastical universe the TARDIS occupies, the undiscovered country remains just that. The Doctor has never actually died, merely come close enough to death to trigger a metamorphosis. His various enemies have never come back from the dead, merely being assumed to have died when the reality was different. The dead stay dead. Don't they?

These questions creep unbidden to the minds of the Doctor and Peri as the TARDIS takes them to an unknown point in space and time - a cold, dark forest at midnight. Is it Earth or some distant planet? Is it even a real place? If it is Earth, is it in the past, the present or even the future? The only way to find out is for the time travelers to explore... but are they really prepared for what they will discover?

The previous year dabbled with supernatural horror - the poltergiest activity in The Awakening, the vanishing corpses of Frontios, and of course Mestor's army of the walking dead in The Twin Dilemma. But The Enemy Within takes the Doctor into realms of horror unseen since the Phillip Hinchcliffe days, and the format is more reminiscent of the very start of the program: the majority of the story has the Doctor and Peri alone, trying to find out not only what is happening, but even just where and when in the universe that the TARDIS has unwittingly brought them to.

While the Doctor may spin out the occasional scientific rationalization for what they face, it's clear he's telling it to reassure himself as much as his companion. Science fiction is very much in the background as the story tells a living nightmare of haunted woods, dark houses, ominous thunderstorms, a presence watching and an increasing sense of unreality. As Peri notes in the first scenes, after tackling armies of Cybermen and the like, a lonely night in a dense forest should be a piece of cake. But it manifestly isn't and by the end of just the second episode both our heroes will be at the brink.

The Enemy Within is four episodes of unsettling fear and outright horror - a monster bursting out of the swamp is sometimes not as terrifying as the suggestion of there being something in the corridor outside your bedroom. Characters appear and disappear, leaving it for the audience to deduce if they have fled, been killed, kidnapped, or if they ever truly existed. As time and space themselves seem to twist and decay, there are suggestions that this is a harbinger of the apocalypse itself... Following the psychological horror of The Haunting, the full blown base-under-siege terror of The Evil Dead and pretty much every Hammer Horror film made, if there is a story in this season that will frighten the viewers, it's this one.

The small cast is still a notable one. Michael Sheard, last seen in the debut of the Fifth Doctor, Castrovalva, plays the Colonel. His sinister family comprise of the three brothers Theodore, Maurice and Daniel played by Jon Wyman, James Harvey and Mark Elliot respectively. Carol Hawkins, who appeared in Blake's 7 with Colin Baker, plays Tracey, while Emily is Sally Harrison. The resentful manservant Pascoe is portrayed by Dicken Ashworth while Lenny O'Taiy provides the spectral Voice. Also making cameos as "the first ghost" is David Banks, better known for being the Cyberleader, having already appeared in The Attack of the Cybermen at the start of the season. His companion, the "second ghost" is Gavin Richards - pictured - perhaps most famous as playing the dangerously foolish 'Maniac' in Dario Fo's The Accidental Death of An Anarchist, which he adapted specifically for English audiences in 1980.

Filmed almost entirely on location in the Cambridge forests and Stargreaves House, the only studio recording was for the TARDIS control room sequences and special cutaways to "the Beyond" which will be created entirely by special effects. The precise details of the plot beyond the first half of the first episode are a closely guarded secret, though the idea of the Daleks, Ice Warriors, Lytton or old companions returning in a haunted house story seem unlikely - which might not mean it won't happen. A new monster has been created to menace the Doctor, based on Edvard Munch's The Scream and simply refered to as "the creature" by cast and crew.

So, stand by for four weeks of unrelenting terror directed by Graham Harper, late of the fifth Doctor's swansong The Caves of Androzani, the first ever story the BBC will warn viewers is not suitable for young children or those of you who may have a nervous disposition - surely the best way to get those groups watching! The Enemy Within will no doubt make more than a few viewers decide to sleep with the light on, even though they have a luxury that the Doctor and Peri do not: the knowledge that it's just a television programme. "This story will shock the viewers in more ways than just the obvious thrills and scares," is all producer John Nathan-Turner is willing to say on the story, "it is a line drawn in the sand. After this, Doctor Who may never be the same again..."

- anonymous, Doctor Who Magazine # 95, November 1984

Pictures: A portrait of Nicola Bryant as Peri; Gavin Richards is a discarnate entity, a ghost from the past; and the creature in the woods...

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