Sue: The TARDIS doesn’t sound very healthy. That can’t be good.
Our heroes have landed on a beach. Sue keeps Polly’s memory alive by suggesting they’ve arrived in Cornwall. The Doctor doesn’t care where they are and goes paddling in the sea.
Sue: I’m glad this scene with the Doctor in his underwear only exists as a blurry photograph and you can’t see anything. Recons do have their advantages, sometimes.
The Doctor and his companions are menaced by some grumpy-looking Australians in a very cramped hovercraft. Jamie is flabbergasted when he sees the floating beastie.
Sue: Why doesn’t Jamie believe in hovercrafts after everything he’s been through? It’s not as if it’s a very impressive hovercraft, either. I’m sure it’s just a VW camper van with bits of cardboard stuck to it. It’s the steering wheel that gives it away.
Suddenly, a helicopter arrives and it’s piloted by…
Sue: Yootha Joyce!
… Astrid Ferrier, who manages to save our heroes in the nick of time.
Sue: Do you think Astrid is a forerunner to Anneka Rice?
Me: Well, she does have a very nice arse.
Sue: I like Astrid. She’s brave, she can fly a helicopter and she doesn’t piss about. Is she the next assistant? They could just leave Victoria behind in Cornwall. It wouldn’t bother me if they did. Don’t kill her, though. Just dump her somewhere nice.
Sue notices just how atypical this episode is.
Sue: This is very James Bond. I wonder what it looked like when they blew that helicopter up. That is frustrating. The photo looks nice, though.
The Doctor just happens to be the spitting-double of Salamander, a ruthless megalomaniac who is dominating the United Zones Organisation with his high-tech thingamy whatsit.
Sue: Is Salamander really the Master, scheming under an assumed name? Or am I jumping the gun again?
When Salamander shows his face, Sue can’t believe her ears.
Sue: Is he French? No, wait, he’s German. Or Spanish, maybe.
Me: Close enough. He’s Mexican.
Sue: Mexican? Mexican?! Are you ****ing joking?
The secret police turn up and the Doctor is forced to impersonate his way out of trouble. It should be a tense cliffhanger, but Sue’s in hysterics because the Doctor’s Mexican accent is even worse than Salamander’s!
Sue: The Doctor looks like the Milk Tray man in that jumper. It’s a good look for him. “And all because the lady loves… bad Mexican accents.”
Salamander is an endless source of fascination for Sue, and she perks up whenever he’s on screen. She’s not convinced by his wardrobe, though.
Sue: The Doctor shouldn’t wear a frilly shirt. In fact, now that I think about it, nobody should wear a frilly shirt. And he reminds me of Al Pacino in Scarface. “Say hello to my little friend!”
Sue can’t stop laughing. It doesn’t matter how evil, corrupt or villainous Salamander acts, every time Troughton opens his mouth, she’s in stitches. She finds it especially hilarious that he ends every other sentence with an upbeat, “Huh?”
Sue: It’s Inspector Clouseau meets Speedy Gonzales. This is supposed to be funny, isn’t it?
Jamie and Victoria infiltrate Salamander’s inner-retinue by going under cover.
Sue: Are Jamie and Victoria boyfriend and girlfriend now, or is that just part of their cover? Have they started dating yet? I’m curious.
A volcano is about to explode in Hungary.
Sue: This is too weird for me to keep up with. There are too many people, too many locations and too many accents. I feel like I’m being bludgeoned to death by accents. And what is it with the Doctor and evil doubles? They can’t leave that plot alone, can they? Oh, was that the cliffhanger? That wasn’t very exciting.
After performing our real episode dance, we settle down to watch Salamander cheerfully blackmailing everyone he bumps into.
Sue: He’s the Mexican Rebekah Brooks.
The rebels’ contact on the inside is Denes, Controller of the Central European Zone, but he’s currently being held captive in – wait for it – a security corridor.
Sue: What the hell is this? Have they run out of money? Did they spend it all on the helicopter? I can’t believe they can’t build a simple prison cell! This is absurd. Were the carpenters on strike? Seriously, Neil, what the hell is this?
Victoria is taken to meet Griffin the chef.
Me: The Monoids would have locked Denes up here instead.
And Griffin proves to be a bit of a taskmaster.
Sue: It’s the Australian Hell’s Kitchen.
Sue: Then you’ve come to the right place! Ha! Get it? Hungary? No? But seriously, I can’t keep up with this. Where are we? Who are these people? Who’s in charge? Can I see the wine list?
Griffin forces Victoria to rustle up a recipe from memory.
Sue: Now it’s turned into a surreal episode of MasterChef!
Me: Cooking doesn’t get more incongruous than this!
Sue: What is it with the BBC and latex? Do the people working in the wardrobe department have a fetish? Perhaps they bought a job-lot of kinky-gear in the mid-’60s, and now they’re trying to get their money’s worth? I have to say, Jamie looks, er, interesting this week.
The next scene takes place in Kent’s static caravan.
Sue: It’s the Lyndhurst 2000!
Me: Ah, yes, the caravan years. The frozen toilets; the swaying violently in gale force winds; cooking in the living room; the sound of rain as it bounced off the roof like nails; and not having enough room to swing any of our cats. Yes, I remember it all.
Sue: You loved every minute of it. Oh wait, this isn’t good. When the secret police smash your crockery, you know you’re in trouble. Giles must be bricking himself. You know, I’m sure if this was a James Bond film we would have had a big car chase, or a death-defying stunt by now. But in Doctor Who, all we get are some smashed plates.
Jamie and Victoria try to break Denes out of his, er, corridor, but they fail miserably.
Sue: I’ve just realised that Victoria is wearing Jamie’s skirt, which means they must going out with each other. It must be serious if they’ve started sharing each other’s clothes.
Me: That reminds me – you’re wearing my socks.
Sue has taken a particular shine to Fariah, Salamander’s duplicitous food taster.
Sue: She’s great. And very beautiful. She’d be a good companion, but I’m not stupid enough to suggest it, for obvious reasons. I’ll leave you with that thought.
The episode concludes when Salamander realises that someone is doing a bad impersonation of him in Australia. He isn’t very happy about it.
Sue: Why did they make the bad guy Mexican, especially when they knew Patrick Troughton was going to play him? There has to be a reason for it. It can’t have been an arbitrary decision. Why not make him German? The accent is practically the same and you’d avoid all this blacking-up nonsense.
Sue and I have started talking to each other in bad Mexican accents, even when we’re not watching Doctor Who.
Me: Hey, what’s up, Sue? So you wanna watch The Enemy of Ze World with me, huh?
Sue: Sure-a thing, Neil. You wanna make-a me-a cup of tea first, huh?
Thankfully, Nicol is away this week and she doesn’t have to put up with this madness.
Sue: I had a fringe like Benik’s once. It wasn’t a good time for me at school.
Me: (Singing) “Fariah! I’ve just met a girl named Fariah! And suddenly that name, will never be the same to…”
Sue: Why did the writer give all the characters names that sound so similar? Ferrier, Fedorin, Fariah. Is he trying to confuse me on purpose? This is hard enough to follow as it is.
She may not understand what’s going on, but at least she’s enjoying the overall vibe.
Sue: I like the good guys in this story – Astrid, Giles, Fariah – they’re a good bunch. They should have their own TV series. In fact, it’s as if the Doctor has stumbled into their show by mistake. This isn’t Doctor Who. I’m enjoying it – I think – but it isn’t Doctor Who.
Sue is horrified when Fariah is brutally murdered by Benik’s men, and she goes into a bit of a huff as a result. And when Frazier Hines describes Salamander’s trip to his secret base, it sounds like something straight out of Thunderbirds.
Sue: Is he heading for the Salamander-cave?
We end up staring at a photograph of an empty room for what feels like an eternity. Either John Cura was ill, on holiday, or he left his lens cap on.
Sue: Will somebody please answer that bloody phone!
And then the plot twist hits us.
Sue: Is Salamander the world’s biggest practical joker? This is the result of a bet with a rival dictator, isn’t it? Because it’s insane!
Salamander’s underground captives include Harold Steptoe and Frank Spencer. Well, that’s what Sue reckons and I’m not going to argue with her.
Sue: Seriously, Joseph Fritzl has nothing on this guy. He even has the same accent.
Me: Joseph Fritzl was Austrian.
As the Doctor blacks-up in preparation for impersonating Salamander, Bruce walks in on him.
Sue: Wow. Yet another cliffhanger that doesn’t even try to be exciting. This is really, really… odd.
Down in the underground shelter, Salamander is treated like a hero.
Sue: Troughton reminds me of Seve Ballesteros in this scene. Seve was always my favourite golfer. He had excellent wrists.
But not everyone is happy with the way things are, and one of Salamander’s slaves – a man named Swann – begins to question the whole operation. It’s only taken him five years.
Sue: Troughton’s turned Italian now. “What’s-a matter, you, huh? Got-a no respect! Hey!”
Swann thinks he’s rumbled Salamander when he finds a newspaper, which suggests that the world isn’t a radioactive husk after all and that people on the surface are enjoying themselves holidaying on cruise liners (until they sink, that is). Incredibly, Salamander decides to brazen it out.
Sue: I can’t believe my ears. And I’m not just talking about his accent. Let me get this straight: Salamander is trying to make out that there are cruise liners running holiday tours for monsters who have been affected by nuclear radiation? Cruise liners? Just how stupid are these people?
The Doctor uses his fake identity to rescue Jamie and Victoria from the sadistic clutches of Benik.
Sue: I like the way Troughton’s accent keeps slipping when he’s pretending to be Salamander. It suggests that his performance is a lot more subtle than I originally thought. Still funny, though.
And then Harold Steptoe is bludgeoned to death. For being terminally stupid, probably.
Sue: Oh look, another lame cliffhanger that was signposted to us several minutes ago. Nice.
Sue: So the mad dictator is toppled when he’s caught falsifying his catering accounts. This is either years ahead of its time or a really clever spoof. I’m not sure which.
It turns out that Giles Kent was a bad guy, after all.
Sue: Well, he had me fooled. He lived in a caravan and everything. Still, I haven’t been able to keep up with this story since episode three, so I’m not sure if I’m supposed to be surprised by this or not.
And then all hell breaks loose as Salamander and Giles battle for control of the underground base’s volcano-igniting machines.
Sue: Wouldn’t it be ironic if Giles Kent and Salamander end up trapped in that collapsed bunker, and it takes the authorities five years to get them out again? That’s the ending I’d have written. They’ll be lovers by the time they’re rescued.
Just when we think it’s all over, not only does Salamander escape from the base, he also finds his way onto the TARDIS (“Villains don’t normally get inside the TARDIS, do they?”). And then the Doctor turns up and the characters actually share a scene together!
Sue: How the hell did they do that? Why doesn’t this exist? This is so frustrating.
And then, in the blink of an eye, it’s all over. The TARDIS dematerialises and Salamander is sucked out into the space-time continuum (although it looks to us as if John Cura has sneezed on his camera lens).
Sue: Okay, here’s a quick tip for the future: build a safety feature so you can’t take-off when the TARDIS doors are open. It’s common sense, really.
Sue: I have no idea what to say about that. It was nice to have a change of pace, but it wasn’t Doctor Who. I have no idea what it was, but it wasn’t Doctor Who. So I don’t really know. The plot was either really clever or utterly bonkers, and while I liked the characters in this one – the acting was really good, incidentally – it didn’t hang together for me. It was far too complicated for its own good. And a bit silly.