Doctor Who #461: The Invisible Enemy Part 2

"Non-thinking is the only way to shake it off, but I can't stay mindless for eternity, can I."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Oct.8 1977.

IN THIS ONE... It's K9's first appearance!

REVIEW: As facts are unearthed about the nature of the threat, the serial starts to come apart. I'm especially annoyed by the idea that the virus feeds on intellectual energy, so naturally, stupid Leela is completely immune. Make no mistake, again and again it is suggested that she doesn't think, has a low intelligence, and indeed, the script overdoes it by making almost every line she gives about not understand words or situations. This isn't how Leela was ever written before. Uneducated, yes. Leading with intuition, of course. But stupid, she never was, and in fact seemed quite the opposite. Even here, they have her memorize a complicated set of TARDIS coordinates. You're telling me the virus didn't want to jump her brain pan right then? She has a nice, mildly frustrated rapport with K9 and his technobabble, but some of the gags fall quite flat, like her asking the tin dog if she really looks like her clone, as if there wasn't a mirror in the wood-paneled control room the whole time. I'm insulted for her and I'm insulted for myself.

Because it's really not the only logic problem. The whole cloning thing, for example. In the year 5000, they can make clones that have all your experience AND clothes, but that last only 11 minutes. It's a "parlor trick" and has "no medical value", and yet there's a cloning chamber right there in Professor Marius' surgery. The Doctor compounds the ridiculousness of this idea by shrinking the cloned Doctor and Leela so they can be injected into his brain, and of course, though they're microscopic thanks to some TARDIS gear, Marius can go straight to the right spot and suck them up in his syringe. Don't take this the wrong way, gentlemen, but I don't think it's Leela who's stupid. Even the effects people are getting it wrong. As we move the action over to the asteroid hospital, the establishing shot is clearly from AFTER a shuttle crashes into it (above is the CGI option's correction). And yes, I'll even take a shot at K9 who seems incredibly out of place in this universe, a flight of fancy in a world of white walls and simplified spelling. Then again, they've got drawings of eyes in the hospital's eye section, and Grecian columns in the corridors. Maybe they're starved for art and whimsy, and Marius IS an eccentric genius. Ok, the dog can stay. In any case, the Doctor has an immediate rapport with him.

At least Lowe is an intelligent pawn of the Nucleus, able to think on his feet, adapt, use subterfuge, etc., which lends credence to the idea that the Doctor made the better host. He's the smartest guy in any room/solar system. The Nucleus' efforts to survive are bold and clever - crashing a ship into a hospital to isolate your host is pretty incredible stuff - perhaps as it assembles more minds in its network, it will get even more dangerous. I also want to mention the secretary who takes Leela's information, a sort of parody of hospital staff, cold and humorless, with breathing mask and rubber gloves, completely sterile. It's an amusing scene which they could have done more with. As usual, the point was to make Leela foolish so we'd buy her immunity to intelligence feeders.

VERSIONS: Once again, the effects take the episode up a notch. The hospital's establishing shot is correct and undamaged, and the shuttle crash is a giddy, point-of-view affair with a CG-assisted explosion. There's also lots of shooting in the halls, which was just limp and messy when you couldn't see the beams. A few glows here and there, such as on the Doctor's furry hand molting (it still bugs me that the reverse transformation doesn't shed that white hair on the floor), complete the enhanced look of the show.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Some amusing bits, K9's first appearance, and Michael Sheard are the only reasons this gets up to a Medium. The sheer stupidity of the science and the way Leela is being treated makes me want to do to it what seems to be happening to the clones in the cliffhanger - it makes me want to flush it down some toilet.


snell said...

A day late here, but perhaps our writers could have looked forward to the future, and watched Django Unchained. There are reasons that won best screenplay, and one of them is that Quentin knew how to write the character of Django as uneducated and inexperienced without making him dumb.

Siskoid said...

A good point. And generally, I've liked Leela's characterization. Chris Boucher (her creator) of course wrote her well, and Holmes and Dicks both got her. As script editor, Holmes should have fixed this, but I get the feeling he was already looking for his way out after Hinchliffe's departure, and not paying as much attention.


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