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Enlightenment, part one

May 12th, 2006 (12:33 am)

I've just watched this after catching sight of it on my shelf. I'd forgotten how good an episode this is. 'Enlightenment' is probably the last Doctor Who story of the 1980s to make effective use of low lighting; the sets are full of shadows, which became unheard of all the way through the rest of the decade, including, I'd argue, 'Ghost Light'. The episode sees one of Peter Davison's most authoritative performances; he manages to be commanding while still appearing put-upon, a trait demanding great skill and contrasting to the bombastic performance demanded of his successor. I hadn't understood the function of the sailors in the story when I first watched it, aged twelve; Jackson and Collier are well-established first as 'alien', in that they don't at first acknowledge the Doctor and Turlough and speak in incomprehensible navy jargon, but then become the audience's identification figures as we realise they are more baffled than we are by their surroundings, making Jackson's cry of terror, off-screen, when he goes aloft all the more chilling. As is customary in a script edited by Eric Saward, there is a lot of clunky descriptive dialogue - "Electronics! On an Edwardian sailing ship!" - but if you are told that Doctor Who didn't know how to develop interpersonal relationships before Russell T Davies came along, tell that person to look again at Barbara Clegg's script, and how Tegan's uneasy rapport with Marriner can be read as a commentary on how she relates to the Doctor.


Posted by: Delia (chainmailmaiden)
Posted at: May 12th, 2006 12:50 pm (UTC)

Enlightenment is one of the few of the Davidson era stories I don't own yet, which is a shame, because I really like it, particularly the eternal/ephemeral theme.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: May 12th, 2006 06:09 pm (UTC)

It's tempting to see the eternal/ephemeral dichotomy of this story as anticipating the 'everything ends' mantra of the RTD version of Who.