Doctor Who #463: The Invisible Enemy Part 4

"Shall we try using our intelligence?" "Well, if you think that's a good idea."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Oct.22 1977.

IN THIS ONE... The giant virus goes to Titan to spawn, but the Doctor destroys it.

REVIEW: OK, cards on table, I'm relieved that an antibody is discovered that invalidates the theory that Leela was immune thanks to her stupidity (and coincidentally, she's now clever enough to disguise herself as a possessed nurse - play fair, script, play fair). However, it's hard to forgive the serial when we then cut away to a profoundly silly giant prawn. The Nucleus has reached the macrocosm, and now thinks itself invincible, but it was much more dangerous as a virus! In its larger form, it has to be propped up by human pawns and led infirmly to its hive. Aside from the telepathic domination thing, it actually has LESS going for it as this infirm, wiggly-armed creature than it did as an invisible, microscopic virus. I'm not even sure how its eggs are that big. If they were "grown" with the dimensional stabilizer, why was a place like Titan needed to host microscopic eggs?

But the real problem here is that the Doctor, while calling for a reasoned solution all the way through, nevertheless takes the violent way out, and even takes credit for it (it was Leela's idea) with glee. I mean, he created a cure, but still left the possessed Lowe and friends to die on Titan, and laughs about it afterwards. There's righting the balance and then there's thoughtless destruction. Of course, this Doctor (and the last) has often resorted to violence, but there's something twisted about having him invoke using their intelligence and then immediately having him send K9 firing and Leela put a knife in a guy's neck. It's as if the original idea had always been to make aggression the immunity factor, but it was changed along the way, except the behavior wasn't. But then, this story isn't too concerned with proper motivations for its characters. As long as they do what the script tells them, there won't be a problem. And so, we have Professor Marius suddenly give his trusty K9 to the Doctor out of the blue, and Leela act jealous towards the Doctor's new favorite one minute, and do a juvenile "can we keep him please?" song and dance the next. If Baker and Martin (or Holmes) think the "TARDIS trained" joke is even remotely funny OR motivated, they're very much mistaken.

The production continues to be marred by iffy effects and dodgy direction (Derrick Goodwin never directed another episode). One reason the monster doesn't work is the bright lighting. There's some confusion in the way shots are designed, when for example, the Lowe shoots at?near? the Doctor while we're looking at another shot of those eggs. The model effects are middling, but the base's destruction on Titan makes you wonder if the whole moon somehow blew up. I guess I'm only glad it's over, though I think the Baker years hit their peak and are now facing decline if The Invisible Enemy is anything to go by. I mean, a PIECE of this story will be following the Doctor for some time.

THEORIES: So is Leela the timey-whimey origin of her own antibodies? It's a clever idea they don't really talk about.

VERSIONS: The CGI option certainly redeems the destruction effects. But too glowy for my tastes, but seeing the moon and Saturn behind it, and the explosions on its surface, is a heck of a lot better than the smoke rings previously used. Laser replacement is good, but as they must follow the sound effects, they come out of their guns' barrels at strange times, and not at all based on the actor's movements. Likewise, I was underwhelmed by the new model shots. The Target novelization is much the same, though it probably doesn't suffer from bad effects.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - Yes, the virus attacks intelligence, but it doesn't mean the Doctor should bow down to the most common denominator to beat it. At least Leela doesn't do too badly.

- Watching this seems a high price just to see K9's first appearance. The enemy should have remained invisible, the effects are paltry, the plot is stupid, and Leela's character isn't well used until maybe the last episode. Remove its historical importance from the equation and I give it a Low, straight up.


Zundian said...

I'd like to theorize that the Nucleus being dumb enough to think he was less powerful as a virus was the reason he was attacking intelligent people to either build up his own intelligence, or to make it easier to conquer those left.

It's been a while since I've seen the story, so that may have been covered already.

Siskoid said...

It fits onscreen evidence, but there's no real mention of it.

ShadowWing Tronix said...

As far as Malus giving K9 to the Doctor out of the blue, that was a last-minute decision by the BBC higher-ups who saw marketing potential for K9. (I think he was playing well with audiences.)

Siskoid said...

It was, but in-story, it's a little glib.

Siskoid said...

Of course he wouldn't yet have "played well" with audiences. I think the 4th episode was filmed by the time the first aired. I could check though.


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