This is the most highly rated story of the season, and it’s easy to see why. It’s a very stylish four episodes of Doctor Who directed by Fiona Cumming and written by Barbara Clegg. It tells the story of the ‘Eternals’, beings that live outside time, immortal beings, sailing boats inspired by Earth in space in a race for ‘Enlightenment’. It’s well cast and expertly directed. It’s a story which doesn’t have a lot of points where as an audience member you question the reality of what you are watching, so you believe in the world of the story.
However, to me it falls short of being a classic. Why? Because the script appears to lack a level that it COULD have. It’s basically a very linear storyline and not one with a lot of twists. It resolves the story of Turlough trying to kill the Doctor, but not in a convincing way. Plus the two Guardians walk around with birds on their heads. What WAS the designer of those costumes thinking?
|Janet Fielding, Lynda Baron and Peter Davison.|
On the DVD a shorter and presumably tighter version of the story is presented along with the broadcast version. In this case I went with the broadcast version. The sets are polished and beautiful. The model work for the time and budget is excellent. The cast has some wonderful performances. I’d like to start with Tony Caunter as Jackson. There are many humans aboard each ship, kidnapped from the appropriate time on Earth. Jackson doesn’t drink the rum, so he is aware of everything that’s going on. I understand his part was expanded on after the first draft of the script. I really would have liked to see this character feature more in the story. He doesn’t really appear in the second half of the story, but worked very well with Turlough.
|Publicity still with Leee John in the middle.|
Mark Strickson gets a good run in this tale, as it is wrapping up the whole ‘trying to kill the Doctor’ thing which has got a little old by now. He tries to gain the confidence of ‘Wrack’, played by Lynda Baron. I think the casting was great but perhaps she could have toned it down at places. The Episode three cliff-hanger features hey laughing down the barrel of the camera which to be honest was just too OTT. Her offsider, ansell played by Leee John was a poor, stunt piece of casting and the character is very distracting and the actor does not appear to be taking it seriously.
Janet Fielding also has a good go, with the Eternal Marriner (Christopher Brown) showing a somewhat lustful interest in Tegan. She gets to wear a hell of a beautiful dress, which people remember for…. Anyways. It’s a good run for both companions and in fact the Doctor does take a bit of a back seat for the best part of this story.
However, as good as it all is, I feel it’s lacking something. ‘Terminus’ has many more issues than this story, yet watching it I cared more for the characters. There was something to work out. At the end of the day, the prize is ‘Enlightenment’, which is… enlightenment. Meaning great power for the winner of it. But why? Not really explained. Why Turlough ends up with it is not clear other than narratively they needed him to. Then when he sweeps it over to the Black Guardian the Black Guardian is destroyed by it for some reason, even though he wanted it, but he’s not really destroyed of course. Valentine Dyall’s appearances have been interesting over the course of the three stories. Like Wrack, the Black Guardian laughed evilly a lot and got angry a lot but basically did nothing.
The biggest issue with ‘Enlightenment’ is though as visually stimulating as it is, there’s an awful lot of nothing going on. Four episodes is more than enough to detail the story of a race through space, but what we get is about three or four points – two ships destroyed and a party aboard the Buccaneer. I feel in some ways it’s a missed opportunity.
So this sounds pretty negative. It shouldn’t be. It’s a great example of Doctor Who, the look is superb, I just feel that there could have been MORE. That it’s something of a missed chance to make one of the most sensational Doctor Who tales of all.