Nick: Now, I can't do maths, so what was Midnight GMT for you, and what did you do?
Sarah: Nick, my lad, in 20 years you’ve never been able to do the time zones thing. I am always behind you – no matter what part of
I’m in, about a quarter of a day behind you. In this case, it was quite handy,
because your midnight was my 6 PM. And the cat was essentially out of the bag
by around 2 or 3 – we all knew what was in that announcement when it finally
hit. In fact, I think I was able to access the iTunes files well before the
announcement. So that was certainly one occasion where me being several hours
behind you was a benefit! By midnight I was finishing episode 2 of “Enemy of
the World” and bemoaning the fact I had to go to bed. Tennessee
Nick: But my boyfriend is not a Doctor Who fan, even in the slightest - plus he had an important exam next day. So off I toddled to bed at 11.00, and read the news next morning on a Number 12 bus going past
What was your reaction? Peckham
Sarah: Honestly, I was completely stoked by the news – any find is a good find by my count, and two (basically) complete stories sends me over the moon! I wish the fan grapevine had been a little more willing to keep quiet on the day, though. I’d kind of rather have had the big announcement than have it trickle out the way it did. I’ve never quite understood the fan need to spread information as fast as possible, especially when you know it’s going to come out later the same day.
Nick: It's a shame that to an extent the excitement was almost dissipated through over-expectation. In theory, I really was extremely pleased, very happy. And then - I watched the trailer for "Enemy", and it came home to me. My heartbeat increased. I realised it wasn't just the fact of having these back in the archive. They looked fantastic and alive and surprising too. Were those things separated for you, at all?
Sarah: A little. Because the only laptop I have these days is a netbook, with extremely limited memory, it took me several hours after downloading to figure out how I would actually be able to watch the episodes. That’s why it was 11 PM before I was actually able to sit down and start. But I was able to watch the trailer for “Enemy of the World” on my netbook, and that pretty much put me up on Cloud Nine with adrenaline. Oh my God! It’s the Doctor and Salamander in the same shot!
Nick: I don't have any fancy ways of watching these episodes, so I decided to settle on one episode per story - and then to wait for the DVDs.
Sarah: You’re absolutely mental. Sorry, it had to be said.
Nick: Of course, I could be persuaded to change my mind... But yes, I went for Episode One of “Enemy of the World,” and Episode Two of “The Web of Fear.” I sat in my kitchen and just grinned pretty non-stop. What did you choose to do, and what were your first impressions?
Sarah: By the time I was actually able to secure a method to watch the episodes, it was very late in the evening, and I knew I had to teach a class at 8 AM the next day. So I decided on the first two episodes of “The Enemy of the World,” which turned out to be an excellent choice. Like you, I spent the whole time in a giddy, grinning haze – which is a little awkward when you’re trying to eat a personal pizza. But it was a good time. It was a little midnight treat. It was like staying up Christmas Eve and opening a present early.
Sarah: The stunning part, really, is what I did next. I portioned “Enemy” out over the next two evenings, which seemed quite reasonable, and then I planned to watch “Web” with my buddy Michael Hickerson (remember him from our “Tomb” blog?). That never happened, though – Michael and I never see each other nearly as often as we should, so he and his wife Erica and I just sat around and talked and had a generally lovely time. And then my next few days were very busy. I only actually got to “Web” last night, and I was only intending to watch “Web” episode two, in prep for this blog. And then as I was watching, I realized…there’s no Doctor in episode two, and that’s no good, is it? So I pressed on with episode four this morning, over breakfast. Yeah, I’m going to be single forever.
Nick: It's such an amazing reminder of how brilliant Patrick Troughton is, and actually of how high the production values are for that era. The first thing that struck me, when I watched “Enemy of the World,” was just how slick the whole thing looked. There's no sense of the cardboard sets and embarrassing monsters that we are so fond of. That amazing shot from the helicopter, leaving men on the ground, dwindling to specks - it's actually breathtaking. The incidental music is amazing, the chase scenes are convincing - and then, once we're in studio, we have some really phenomenal dialogue from David Whitaker. It was a reminder that the production team were narrowing the ambition of the show to be, basically, a highly idiosyncratic thriller. But they were actually successful for the most part - and when the Doctor is written well, I can forgive a lot of dumb action around him.
Sarah: That first episode is very slick, in a way I’m not sure the rest of the story ever manages. What has struck me about both of these stories is that we’re getting to see additional examples of two prominent Who directors, both fairly early in their “runs.” And Barry Letts – you’ve got to hand it to him, he’s extremely good with action sequences. There’s a pace to that first episode that’s really punchy and strong. You add a great Troughton performance to that and you’ve got a total winner. It’s a little less involving when it starts being more about talking heads in the second half of the story; I didn’t feel I was getting as much of an enhanced experience from just listening to the soundtrack. Once again, though, Troughton lifts the material. There are so many little things he does – and sometimes, big things – which add to his characterization. A great example is his conversation with Astrid in episode one – Whitaker’s dialogue was already great, but what Troughton is doing with his facial expressions just adds so much.
Sarah: I noticed that as well. “Web” has a totally different tone from “Enemy,” and the Doctor himself is really characterized differently and more seriously (more like Quatermass). I think Douglas Camfield acquits himself incredibly well – his action is strong, we all knew that, but he manages to add energy to what is mostly a big stageplay. His camera setups are extremely precise and nearly always interesting. “Web” is also more of an ensemble piece – the Doctor is the focus, yes, but you’ve also got a number of other very strong new characters: Cpt. Knight, Staff Sgt. Arnold, Anne Travers, and of course, our good friend Lethbridge-Stewart (and isn’t it interesting to compare how he is here to his final regular appearance in “Terror of the Zygons,” over 15 years later, also directed by Camfield and out on DVD this month).
Nick: I shall soon find out! (I've never seen "Zygons" but my lovely friend Steve is coming to watch it with me in November.) Interesting what you say about an ensemble piece. With Troughton, Episode 2 really does feel like an episode of Quatermass, with the Professor and the military versus the Unknown: even the Doctor becomes a suspicious figure.
Sarah: Camfield gives them all their due and makes them feel integral, so you feel the loss of Knight, for instance. Even Evans – I mean, he’s a stereotype (roughly equivalent to a Southern hick in American culture), but he’s very hard to dismiss or find funny. Instead, he just adds to the nervous tension of the group. I’m pretty excited to finish these last two episodes of “Web” – and I definitely want to see if they bear out our suspicion, several months ago, that they would have a Sapphire & Steel quality. I think they well might.
Sarah: Yes, it is! My natural feeling is that, yes, we come back and do both of these…maybe just before “The War Games”? Or just after, but before our concluding blog? I think we should open it up to our regular readers. What do you think?
In case you were wondering, the gorgeous B-Movie posters for 'Web' and 'Enemy' are by Stuart Manning. Well done, that man.