CRRRaSh! 388 Doctor Who: The Invisible Enemy

By Roy Mathur, on 2021-06-18, at 01:45:01--02:40:56 BST, for Captain Roy's Rocket Radio Show, Listen

The State of the Rewatch

The revisit continues! I'm back again with the retro rewatch/recap, and whatever silly words SEO begs me to type.

As I said last time, my lack of sleep is the root of most of my health problems right now, and the main thing preventing me from more podcasting. My bedroom temperature was 27 Deg C last night, so the hot weather isn't helping. Of course, losing weight would help too.

In other news, the Beard of Captaining/Wizarding (I can't decide) has been destroyed. Did I say it has been hot?


Fourth Doctor: Tom Baker
Companion(s): Leela: Louise Jameson and K9: John Leeson
Director: Derrick Goodwin
Writer: Bob Baker and Dave Martin
Producer: Graham Williams
Location: Model filming at Bray Studios, Slough, also BBC Television Centre Studio TC6, Shepherd's Bush from Mar--Apr 1977
Broadcast: This is the serial 2 of season 15, 4 x 25 minute episodes, first broadcast from 1--22 October 1977, following Horror of Fang Rock covered in pod 385.

On this Day

A wicked disco cover medly called Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band by Meco, from the album Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk, hit number one in the US Billboard Hot 100 on October 1, 1977 and stayed there for two weeks, but only reached no. 7 in the UK Singles Chart. Apathetic bloody country.

Pele (Edson Arantes do Nascimento) played his final football match and then retired.

What Happens

During an attempt to negotiate a hazardous field of asteroids, three astronauts are sucked into an energy field which infects the crew. They fly to Titan Base, kill the staff, except for supervisor Lowe who escapes and sends out a MAYDAY.

The Doctor and Leela are in the main console room that Leela hasn't seen before when they get the SOS call, but are also hit by the same energy field on the way Titan Base. The Doctor, but not Leela, is afflicted with the Nucleus of the infection, but revives and continues the journey over Leela's objections because she senses evil.

At Titan Base Leela rescues an almost frozen Lowe who was trapped by the infected behind an airlock door. Meanwhile, the Doctor's infection takes hold after the infected send more of the energy into him and then instruct him to kill Leela. There is a confrontation in which one of the infected are killed by Leela, but in the struggle Lowe is infected.

The Doctor faints, revives, tells Lowe he needs medical attention, and Lowe leaves with him for the Bi-Al Foundation, a nearby hospital station. The Doctor tells Leela the co-ordinates and she takes the TARDIS there.

There, the Doctor meets Professor Marius, while Lowe spreads the infection around the hospital. Marius's robot dog K9, a replacement for his pet on Earth, tells him the Doctor is an alien infected by a virus. The Doctor wakes, talks to Marius, and realises that the virus infects the intellect, but because Leela relies more on intuition and instinct, it cannot infect her and so sees her as a risk.

As Marius prepares to operate, the virus, sensing a threat, makes a ship to crash and the infected attack while Leela and K9 defend. With limited time they decide to clone the Doctor and Leela, shrink them using the TARDIS's technology, and send them into the Doctor's body to attack the Nucleus directly. The injected clones, fighting hazards like the Doctor's immune system, find the Nucleus in the Doctor's imagination centre.

In the corridor outside the operating theatre K9 is infected, ordered to kill Leela, but Leela is only stunned, while K9 shuts down.

With access to the operating theatre, Lowe clones, is shrunk, and is injected into the Doctor.

The cloned Doctor and Leela talk to the Nucleus, which refuses to negotiate saying that it use the TARDIS to spread. Clones Lowe and Leela fight, Leela winds, and leaves Lowe to be attacked by the Doctor's immune cells. The clone Doctor runs out of time before he can shoot the Nucleus and both he and the Leela clone disintegrate. The Nucleus escapes vis the Doctor's tear duct, and is enlarged by the machine.

Leela disguises herself one of the infected, rescues the Doctor, and both escape with K9 to the TARDIS

Doctor find out that the Leela's clone presence within his body has made him resistant to the virus, so he creates a serum and cures Professor Marius setting him the task to make more of the antidote.

The Doctor, K9 and Leela leave for Titan where the Doctor plans to use the serum to stop the replication, whereas Leela wants to blow up the base. They arrive too late to help the infected, who are now also more resistant to their weapons. The Doctor loses the serum during a confrontation with Lowe and instead traps the Nucleus and booby traps the hatch. The three escape just in time to witness the explosion and return to the hospital.

Marius asks the Doctor to look after K9 and they leave in the TARDIS.

What I Thought

The way the infection took over and the central control of the Nucleus reminded me of both the Borgs of Star Trek: The Next Generation with their Queen and their ability to develop resistance to energy weapons and the infected even have a Borgish catchphrase: "Contact has been made.", and the intelligent biological contagion of the Amnion in Stephen R. Donaldson's The Gap Cycle.

The journey through the Doctor's body in The Invisible Enemy is clearly influenced by Fantastic Voyage (1966) and perhaps influenced the bioprinting technology of Red Dwarf XI, episode 4: Officer Rimmer. I was sad about the clones, whose limited lifespan stretched to only a scant ten minutes; not even the 4 years of Eldon Tyrell's Nexus 6 series clones from Blade Runner (1982).

Let's talk props. Those wobbly plastic control panel switch props are going to stick around for years on Doctor Who and later Blake's 7. And that spacey font used in the signage looks like something from 60s not the 70s. FX? I enjoyed the space effects, spacecraft models, and pyrotechnics. While the main creature design is impressive, it is also very silly. Silly enough for me to laugh out loud when the true majesty of a full size ambulatory prawn is revealed. Even the Doctor ridicules it, calling it a "pathetic crustacean."

Despite being a "reject" according to the Nucleus and a savage according to the Doctor, Leela's finely honed military and hunting instincts about evil are correct. She is also intelligent enough to begin learning to read from the Doctor, as is evidenced by the chalk board in the console room of the TARDIS; no easy task for an adult. The methodical way she learns to kill the infected with a knife in the neck is disturbing, as is the calmness she uses to describe the process to the Doctor. It reminds us that Leela is a hardened and ruthless warrior. As if we need reminding! She also inspires the Doctor again; this time to blow up the station. She accidentally gave the Doctor the idea of the laser in Horror of Fang Rock (385), but this time her recommendation is intentional. As if that isn't enough, now Leela can remember space coordinates and pilot the TARDIS! I'm scared of Leela. I like Leela.

As a child, I used to love K9, I was ambivalent towards him when older, and later repulsed by his creepy obsequiousness as an adult. K9 is an odd choice for a companion. Clearly meant to amuse and endear itself to children, and while the characters of Leela and the Doctor bond with him, I can't imagine the actors Baker and Jameson happy to be upstaged by a robot dog. It's almost an insult! Baker said to the Radio Times in 2014, "I didn't like K-9 at all", due to his discomfort when having to kneel down in front of him as well as its slowness moving around the set. Is he more annoying than Adric? You decide.

Professor Mariuus is a dead ringer for Eddie Izzard in goatee mode!


VFX Matt Irvine says that the model used for the surface of Titan was the same one used for the surface of the Moon in Space: 1999 (source: tardis.fandom.com via BBC DVD commentary).

Supervisor Lowe was played by Michael Sheaard who you may now as nasty old Bronson from Grange Hill and the unfortunate imperial admiral in Star Wars: The Empire strikes Back.

Listener Comments

Again a comment from Salty Space Grrrl (@SaltyGrrrl, Twitter, 2021-05-26 19:03), "I remember feeling disturbed that the Doctor could actually get sick! The concept of walking around inside your own head made me quite squeamish. Watch out Doctor, don't break anything! And of course, we meet K9 in this episode. One of the greatest companions!"

Michael Shane (@Glitter_Rock, Twitter 2021-05-26 21:07) said, "That was a great story! Not just for the introduction of K9, but the fact the Doctor was out of commission (clone notwithstanding) for most of it. It really gave Leela a chance to shine."

In the last revisit I considered pre-canvassing listeners for comments about a story, so that I could include their comments in the same pod in which I talk about that particular adventure. Though I've done this in this show, I'm not doing it again. The reason is that I have not seen or can't remember some of these stories and I don't want spoilers! Instead, I'll ask for comments after uploading and read them out in a later show.