by Mark Greig
‘Horror of Fang Rock’ may have been the first story the man was credited as producer, but ‘The Invisible Enemy’ is where the Graham Williams era really begins. Williams’ tenure as producer is one which continues to divide the fandom.
Like the tin dog it introduced, you either love it or hate it. I love it, but will be the first to admit that it produced some terrible stories, some of which I love because they are so terrible. ‘The Invisible Enemy’ is not one of them. If I had the time and resources I would track down and destroy every copy so no one would have to suffer through this story ever again.
Even though I’ve been a Doctor Who fan for nearly 25 years now, there are still many television stories I haven’t got around to watching yet. I tried to watch ‘The Invisible Enemy’ a few years back -- it was the only Tom Baker story I had never seen -- I kept putting it off for various reasons. When I finally sat myself down to watch it I only got five minutes into episode one before switching it off. It was that bad. That I was ultimately able to get through it in order to write this review is something of a minor miracle.
Even by Dave Martin and Bob Baker’s usual low standards 'The Invisible Enemy' is terrible. If I had to pick a story that I felt represented the Graham Williams era at its absolute worst, this would undoubtedly be it (with ‘The Armageddon Factor’ a close second). I can only assume Williams and Robert Holmes were drunk (or stoned, it was the 70s) when they let this one get past the pitch stage.
The script is terrible, the acting from the guest cast is pretty lousy all round (the less said about Frederick Jaeger’s accent as Dr. Marius the better), and Derrick Goodwin's direction has all the life and energy of a wake. It wants to be Doctor Who’s take on Fantastic Voyage, with the Doctor forced to travel into his own brain (yes, you read that right, his own brain) to fight off an alien parasite bent on galactic conquest, only made on a fraction of the catering budget of Fantastic Voyage.
I haven’t even got to the monster yet. The Nucleus is laughable. It is next to impossible to take any story seriously when the villain is a giant shrimp. His minions aren't much better. The make up for those possessed by the Swam was terrible, and one seems to be sure if they are meant to be emotionless zombies or raving mad men.
Even Tom Baker, an actor who can usually be relied upon to salvage even the dreariest of stories, can’t make this travesty watchable. He just seems bored throughout and I don’t blame him. But it's really Louise Jameson who I most feel sorry for. At least Tom gets to spends a lot of time asleep. I'm sure even Daniel Day Lewis would struggle to look convincingly scared if he was attacked by what look like beach balls covered in candy floss.
This story is mostly remembered for introducing the world to the Doctor’s smarty pants robotic pet, K-9. For some the addition of K-9 is a travesty along the same lines as Fonzy jumping that shark, Cousin Oliver moving in with the Bradys or everything that happened on Heroes after season 1. I don't have any issues with the mechanical mutt, but he won't be making my favourite companions list any time soon. The tin dog was originally only meant to appear in just this story, but the producers decided he would make a good companion for the Doctor and kept him around. It’s not hard to guess why. Star Wars had taken over the world that summer and the producers were no doubt eager to take advantage of the public’s desire for sci-fi adventure. If annoying robotic sidekicks were good enough for Luke Skywalker they were good enough for the Doctor.
Notes and Quotes
--Leela wearing the Doctor's hat is beyond adorable.
-- How is Leela able to pilot the TARDIS accurately to its destination? And how the hell are the clones able to breathe while inside the Doctor's mind?
--Once again, Gallifrey is assumed to be in Ireland.
--As one story catchphrases go “Contact has been made” is no “Eldrad must live” or “Are you my mummy?”
--The spaceship’s chairs look like they were purchased from a tacky furniture shop.
--The Doctor and Leela have moved back into the old control room.
--I'll admit, the special effects aren’t as bad as they could be. Some of those asteroid effects are rather good.
The Doctor: "5000 AD! We're still in the time of your ancestors."
The Doctor: "Yes. That was the year of the great breakout."
Leela: "The great what?"
The Doctor: "Mmm. When your forefathers went leapfrogging across the solar system on their way to the stars. Yes. Asteroid belt's probably teeming with them now. New frontiersmen... pioneers... waiting to spread across the galaxy like a tidal wave... or a disease."
Leela: "Why 'disease'? I thought you liked humanity."
The Doctor: "Oh I do, I do. Some of my best friends are humans. When they get together in great numbers other lifeforms sometimes suffer."
The Doctor: "Sometimes my brilliance astonishes even me."
--Humility is not one of the Doctor's virtues.
One out of four giant space shrimps.
Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011. More Mark Greig.