So, it’s been less than two days since Enemy of the World and Web of Fear were released to iTunes, and I’m already seeing people posting about how they’ve watched both stories already. And unsurprisingly, some of these folks are saying, “Well, they’re good, but not that good.”
Now everyone is entitled to their opinion, but that opinion has to be fairly arrived at. And I maintain my stance that especially on a first watch, spreading out Classic Who episodes, rather than watching them together in clumps, is the way to do it.
Watching them in a single sitting does not show them in their best light. They were written and filmed to be seen individually, they weren’t made to be consumed all at once.
Watched one episode a day (or two a day with a nice big gap in the middle), means you get to watch each episode on its own terms, and properly appreciate its place as a part of the whole. It also allows you to more easily spot the one or two rubbish episodes in an otherwise terrific story, and vice versa.
I remember my first viewing of The Web Planet, a story that many of my friends said was dull. They had all watched it in a single sitting, I watched it one episode a night. I rate that story much better than many of my friends. I don’t find it dull. It certainly has its weak points, and there’s an episode or two where not much happens, but taken individually those elements don’t hurt the story much. But I can easily see where, if I’d watched it all in one chunk, I would find it a terribly hard watch.
My second example is The Macra Terror. I have friends who raved about this story. About how creepy and scary it was. The first two episodes are indeed intense, surreal, and creepy. It’s like Doctor Who does The Prisoner, and I rate them very highly. The second half of Macra Terror falls down. Bad writing, poor resolution, even some of the acting triumphs from the first couple of episodes (Ben’s mind-controlled betrayal of the Doctor) fall back onto the worst associated tropes.
And in most cases, the friends who championed this story listened to it in a single sitting, and talk almost exclusively about bits from the first two episodes. So, in my not-so-terribly-humble-opinion, they’re ignoring the poor second-half because the first is so amazing it carries them through.
I’m not saying that if you watch Enemy or Web one episode a night that you’ll come away with a different opinion. You may hate them, and that’s fine. I’m saying that if you watch them one episode a night, you’re giving them the best chance to show you what they can do, and yourself the best chance to judge the stories properly.
For myself, I watched part 1 of Enemy of the World last night, and it’s been killing me having to wait until tonight to watch part 2. And that’s the other joy. Getting to the end of an episode and being desperate to see the next one. It adds a unique feel when you finally sit down to watch the next part, and starts you off aware and attentive, meaning you take in both the bad and the good that is on offer.
So, if you haven’t already watched one or both of the stories, try one a night. The same goes for any other Classic Who you try to watch for the first time. Give them a chance to win you over, rather than trying to absorb the parts all at once.
And if you do, love or hate them, let me know how you get on.