Doctor Who #605: Enlightenment Part 1

"They may be a rough lot, but they hardly threaten the peace and harmony of the universe, do they?"
TECHNICAL SPECS: This story is available on DVD. First aired Mar.1 1983.

IN THIS ONE... The White Guardian sends the TARDIS to a sailing yacht... in... spaaaaaaaaaaace!

REVIEW:
Enlightenment's premise is a fantastic one. A grand race pitting sailing ships from across Earth history in a race. IN SPACE. And oddness builds on oddness through Part 1 until we get to that amazing revelation. However, that does mean Part 1 is not particularly indicative of the serial's quality. In fact, it suffers at the top from having to set up the Guardians' conflict, ineffectual "gods" both. While the Black Guardian's "nyah ha ha" moment is mercifully brief, his threats to the Doctor's life are by now hollow indeed. The White Guardian, for his part, wears an even sillier bird on his head, and though he's got limited energy to communicate with the Doctor, keeps repeating key words, meaningless without context. Both are weak presences and it's really a shame Enlightenment is strapped with them.

The one thing that redeems these early scenes is the lighting in the TARDIS (above). What great lighting! I wish it were the TARDIS' default and is a precursor to the atmosphere in New Who's first two TARDIS interiors. Of course, that's no excuse to task Tegan with babysitting a lever aboard the time-ship. Nyssa dodged a bullet there, I guess. Thankfully, the White Guardian isn't tardy, though his message remains obscure, and she's free to go out an investigate the handsome (and creepy) officer lurking outside the TARDIS (showing how the ship's viewer looks out of the top light). The introduction of Marriner, and his behavior, are part of the oddness of Captain Striker's ship, where the sailors are lively, normal folk (if amnesiacs) and the officers emotionally strange and disaffected. Anachronisms mount until the Doctor and Tegan find their way to the wheelhouse and look out the window at the other racers.

There are plenty of fun moments once the heroes board the Edwardian racing yacht. The Doctor rolling his eyes when he finds Tegan has abandoned her station. Turlough laughing at the Doctor when the Time Lord is mistaken for the ship's new cook. The sailor who doesn't drink taking Turlough under his dry wing. Captain Striker's delay before showing a normative reaction to the stowaways/visitors. Marriner's chaste fascination with Tegan. Even though we're denied the serial's most fantastic ideas in Part 1, there's a pleasant focus on the characters.

VERSIONS: The DVD includes a feature length re-edit with new CGI and sound. I'll discuss it in Part 4's review.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium
- Enlightenment promises better, but feels like Terminus in the way it begins. Guardian business then an unusual landing on a ship. Direction and acting rescue it from this over-familiarity.

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