The Invisible Enemy

Written by:
Bob Baker and Dave Martin
Directed by: Derrick Goodwin
Starring: Tom Baker
Year: 1977
Video Availability: Try

It's weird watching one of the cheaper 70s Tom episodes. With the sparse spaceship sets, OTT music and useless CSO technically it's as bad, if not worse, than any JNT production. But this is clamped to a blast of pure childhood nostalgia, making even the worst model shots seem cosy and special.

Tom's performances in his last two seasons were inspired wit and sombre gravitas. But for his fourth and fifth years in the role indifference had clearly set in, and if you wanted to uphold the "best Doctor" theory to someone then never show them this. There's a lot of friction between him and Leela, most of which you imagine is for real. At least she tries, which is a lot more than can be said for Tom. His "possessed" acting is particularly feeble and half-assed. Or should that be half cut?

As with a lot of their work, Baker and Martin have a very visual idea of what Doctor Who should be, and the series isn't one that can exist on special effects alone. There are some good bits in this episode, though - I love the button that's marked "distress" instead of alarm, and "contact has been made" is chilling. Shame the aliens look so crap. It's far from the best Doctor Who you've ever seen, but it is a watchable, mid-season story that would have passed the time for many millions on a Saturday afternoon.
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The second episode perks up a bit with Tom trying a little harder and the action taking place in a different location. It's all a bit season 24 though, with garishly bright lighting and tacky costumes. Frederick Jaeger as Professor Marius is an obvious and crude parody of Freud, but is very amusing with it. Marius and the Doctor's initial dialogue is 100% pure exposition, but done entertainingly so you almost don't notice. He's a shallow plot device of a character though.

Maybe I was a little tired when I watched this, but it didn't seem to go overboard on that television requirement known as "dramatic tension". It goes along, being neither particularly amusing nor particularly exciting, just ... okay. The climax introduces the innovative concept/Fantastic Voyage rip-off of the mini-mes going into the Doctor's body.
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As with Underworld, Baker and Martin explode the padded episode three myth by making it the one where something actually happens. In fact, it's the one where the core thrust of the story emerges. Imagine other stories done the same way - a Pyramids of Mars where the mummies don't appear till half-way through, or Voc Robots absent until the end of part two. In some ways, this is a good thing as it means the story is constantly evolving. Also similar to Underworld is an (un?)intentional innuendo bit, where the clone Doctor makes his own body spasm. Looking at Tom's thrusting crotch, Marius notes "Well it proves they're in some... sensitive area."

There's a lot of fun to be had with this one, with ambitious, and surprisingly decent for the budget, inner body sets and a more adult perspective than you would expect. Some younger viewers would possibly be confused with the Doctor's talk of his brain's inner workings. The nucleus, of course, is a bit poo, and I've never realised before just how bizarre a family show with knife stabbings is. Yet it's amusing and pacy, and even if the countdown isn't in real time then I enjoyed it.
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The daffy final episode sees the nucleus grown into a five foot prawn with arms on strings. So wobbly is John Scott Martin he has to be held up by his co-stars. Every time the nucleus appears on screen the story's credibility (what credibility?) evaporates. This is a serious story with flippant production that conflicts. What would Hinchcliffe have made of it? Would he have attempted such an audacious script? It's revealed K-9 can kill, and he's already a lazy writer's device in only his first story. I do love him to bits though.

There are some funny, if a little obvious, lines in this one, such as "Shall we try using our intelligence?" "If you think it's a good idea." It's as if all the wit and charm the writers forgot to put into Underworld ended up here. The ending, a "blow it up" resolution, while done with some irony, is still a bit unimaginative. The Doctor laughing at committing genocide is a little rough, which, followed by a cringingly bad "Tardis trained" gag, make it lacking.
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The Invisible Enemy certainly has its many faults, but overall I found it a humorous diversion, if not quite the real thing.
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