The wrapper-upper of The Black Guardian Trilogy, it’s hard not to view Enlightenment as anything other than a failure in the pay-off stakes. There’s no final, climactic confrontation between the Doctor and TBG, just Turdo telling TBG to stick his lightbulb of wisdom up his arse. Sorry JNT, are you telling me we’ve awaited twelve weeks for that?
Yes, sailing ships in space is an interesting concept, and gives you a nice visual image but that, by itself, isn’t enough to sustain four eps of Wacky Races In Space. Yes, Lynda Barron is on top form as Wrack, and it’s nice to see her as a baddie instead of her usual turn as Nurse Gladys Emmanuel from Open All Hours with Ronnie Barker. And there’s the added bonus of Janet Fielding’s cleavage – at last! – as well as Ms Barron’s own ample contribution in that department.
But in the end it’s all a bit inconsequential. And TBG comes out of this looking like even more of a rubbish villain than he did first time round. He’s not much of an enemy if he can’t actually do anything against the Doctor directly. If he can only work through willing accomplices he’s stuffed if they then turn round and tell him to bog off, as Turdo does here. The essential problem with the plot of Enlightenment is that there really isn’t one, at least not one that affects the Doctor directly, it’s one of those stories that’s more about exploring a concept than… well, telling a story.
The other problem is that the Doctor is backgrounded for most of it, and isn’t even involved in the climax. Turdough and Tegan are far too much to the fore and stories where it’s all about the companions instead of the Doctor are just dull. This is so slow and uneventful it could be a Hartnell story with Ian and Barbara.
The first thing to do was to put in the new opening and closing credits and combine all the eps together. Looking at the ending, I felt that the White Guardian’s last line “…until we are no longer needed”, combined with his fading away, never to be seen again, was a much stronger finish than Turdo’s bleating about going home, which, by comparison, is a rather flat ending to a rather flat story.
With that initial cut and a slight trim to the opening shot of the chessboard, we have a combined running time for the 71 Edit of one hour, 28 minutes. Then it was time to start cutting it back to a more watchable length, resulting in a final cut, 72 edit, that was a full episode length shorter than the original at one hour three minutes. One of the major casualties was creepy Mr Mariner, who is real stalker material, and as such, a real missed opportunity that’s not the fault of the actor but those who cast him.
It would have been much more interesting if Tegan had actually been attracted to Mariner, perhaps in spite of herself, but their tragedy is that she knows it can never be. But instead they make Mariner the kind of bloke who creeps you out every time you see him. A deliberate choice and, dramatically, the wrong one. Mind you, not the first time that’s happened is it… It would have been much better if Keith Barron had played Mariner instead of Striker, he would have been able to make Mariner a much more tragic, and thereby sympathetic character. As it is, he is wasted in a bland role that is beneath an actor of his considerable talent.
Like Fiona Cumming’s other effort, Planet of Fire, I had no intention of working from her own “fan edit” of this, ie the widescreen version she put together for the 2nd disc of the dvd. But I did have a look at her take on this one to see if any of the fx shots they replaced were worth using instead of the originals. But, apart from the problem of it being in widescreen, none of the new fx seemed to me to be worth the effort, in fact I found the new cgi ships to be less convincing than the original models.
Finally, once again, I changed JNT’s crap one word title to the much more interesting The Enlighteners, which was Barbara Clegg’s own original title anyway and one I much prefer to all the ones I tried to come up with!