The Eternals, bored of their existence, have challenged each other to a space race in ships crewed by ephemerals. But one of the Eternals is working for the Black Guardian…
Enlightenment feels different to the majority of Fifth Doctor stories and allows all of the main cast to do something a bit different than usual. It also features a sterling performance by the recently departed Lynda Baron as the villainous Eternal Captain Wrack.
Something that appeals to me about this story is that, at its heart it has a simple yet inventive idea, which helps make it feel. I really like the idea of a race through space using ships from Earth’s history as the vessels. On top of this, there is an element of class conflict between the Eternals and the Ephemerals, almost replicating that diagram of class depicted by John Cleese, Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett. Apparently this was inspired by the relationships between some members of Barbara Clegg’s family who came from different social stratas. This story introduces an almost middle section of the social makeup of the universe in the shape of the Eternals, sitting between the Guardians and the Ephemerals. Interesting the storu doesn’t attempt to argue the case that the Time Lords are special, in fact, they are defined as no different from the others – albeit it with ideas above their station. The writer manages to give each of the regulars something a bit different to do too, showing how the Fifth Doctor, Tegan and Turlough can co-exist within the same story. There are some lovely ideas here too, like the way the Eternals hide the Doctor’s TARDIS from him inside his own mind.
Clegg and director Fiona Cumming manage to make this unconvential story work really well and there are some great minature shots of the ships ‘sailing’ through space and it is no surprise that the DVD crew chose to give this story the Special Edition treatment, bringing Cumming back to revise some of the effects. The supporting cast are on fine form here, especially Keith Barron and Lynda Baron as Captains Striker and Wrack respectfully. Keith Barron brings a great sense of detachment and coldness that make the audience suspect that there is something wrong before the story confirms it. This is helped by the fact that the director ensured that the actors playing the Eternals were not seen to blink whilst on camera. Clegg gives us a sense of his character by having him refer to the planets that they are racing around as buoys and markers, whilst Marriner later states on the destruction of Captain Davey’s ship that the Eternals will have survived the destruction, completely misreading why Tegan is upset. Lynda Baron feels like a different antagonist, with a cheeky and almost flirtatious attitude but she manages to also make Wrack threatening and not to be messed with, like in the scene where she hypnotises Tegan. If there is a weak link in this cast, it is undoubtedly Leee John, who overacts horrendously throughout even when doing simple things like pretending to be at the wheel of Wrack’s ship. His lack of acting chops are laid bare by an inability not to constantly playup to the camera.
This story wraps up the trilogy of stories introducing Turlough, finally resolving his arc of trying to kill the Doctor for the Black Guardian. Turlough is shown to be weak-willed but fundamentally good, even if he wants to be on the winning side. There is something about the way that Mark Strickson plays the character that makes him so slimy but so likeable. The Black and White Guardians sit presiding over Enlightenment, the prize awaiting the victorious team, whilst Valentine Dyall torments Turlough over his failures to do the deed. I really like the Guardians and wish that we got the third televised encounter between the Doctor and the Black Guardian. I know that they have returned in Big Finish but surely they must be overdue a return, perhaps without the dead birds on their heads.
I cannot kill him!
Then I condemn you to everlasting life. You will never leave this ship!Turlough and the Black Guardian
Peter Davison’s Doctor gets a lot to do here and he seems to relish the opportunity to get stuck in. It shows a side to the Fifth Doctor that we rarely get to see on television, specifically in the scenes where he confronts Striker about his actions. Davison seems passionate about the material he is given in this story and that is something that really translates well to screen. It is also revealed that the Doctor has reservations about Turlough, which is good for the show to acknowledge that there are serious red flags for the new companion and almost makes you wish that this has come in Terminus rather than here. The story does give Tegan something a bit different to do, with her having to fend off the advances of Marriner, who so desperately wants to be human. It gives Janet Fielding something different to do, and it is nice to have the show not normalise his behaviour and have Tegan go off with someone who she has just met. Neither of them have any clue how to deal with this relationship, and Fielding plays her inexperience well.
Verdict: I really love Enlightenment. It is an undoubted classic story for Peter Davison’s era with a great concept and good performances from the leads and most of the supporting cast. 10/10
Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor), Janet Fielding (Tegan Jovanka), Mark Strickson (Turlough), Keith Barron (Striker), Valentine Dyall (The Black Guardian), Cyril Luckham (The White Guardian), Christopher Brown (Marriner), Clive Keeler (Collier), James McClure (First Officer), Tony Caunter (Jackson), Lynda Baron (Wrack) & Leee John (Mansell).
Writer: Barbara Clegg
Director: Fiona Cumming
Broadcast Dates: 1 – 9 March 1983
Behind the Scenes
- The original title for this story was The Enlighteners, which was changed as Eric Saward believed that it would confuse the audience as the enlighteners only appeared at the end.
- This was the first story to be written and directed by a woman, Barbara Clegg and Fiona Cumming respectively. The next time this would happen would be The Witchfinders, in which the actor playing the Doctor was also a woman.
- Peter Sallis was previously booked to play Captain Striker, however, was unable to appear due to industrial action and when production resumed, filming dates clashed with a Last of the Summer Wine special. David Rhule was originally cast as Mansell, only to be replaced by Leee John.
- During filming, industrial action by the electricians’ union (the EEPTU) meant that production on the final three stories could have had to be abandoned. When the strike was resolved, The Kings’ Demons was able to film in its originally allocated production block but only left one remaining production block for Enlightenment, which was partially filmed, and The Return, the season finale. Due to the importance of Enlightenment to the conclusion of an ongoing storyline, that story took precedence and The Return was abandoned.
- Keith Barron would go on to appear as Isaac Bradley in Plague of the Daleks and Lord Tulip in The Bad Penny.
- Cyril Luckham reprises his role of the White Guardian from The Ribos Operation.
- Tony Caunter had previously appeared as Thatcher in The Crusade and Morgan in Colony in Space.
- Lynda Baron would go on to play Val in the Eleventh Doctor story Closing Time. She also recorded the original song The Ballad of the Last Chance Saloon for The Gunfighters.
I think that this story has some great cliffhangers in it, but there is none better than the one at the end of Part One, with the reveal that the ship is in fact in space rather than at sea.
You are not an Ephemeral. You are a…a time dweller. You travel in time.
You’re reading my thoughts.
You are a Time Lord. A lord of time. Are there lords in such a small domain?
And where do you function?
Eternity. The endless wastes of eternity.Striker and the Fifth Doctor
Previous Fifth Doctor review: Terminus