I suppose ever since it was originally broadcast towards the end of the twentieth anniversary season Ive been rather taken with the enchanting and imaginative tale of Enlightenment.
With the establishing TARDIS shots concluded we have the Doctor and Turlough exploring the darkened recesses of what they soon realise is the hold of a sailing ship which does rather echo the opening scenes of Carnival of Monsters. Thankfully this shipboard mystery steers another path with our duo moving onward and upward to encounter the boisterous, down-to-earth crew. Decked out in appropriate Edwardian sailors outfits their good heated banter is temporarily cut short by the strangers arrival. However following some relatively simple persuasion, the Doctor and Turlough are soon accepted as merely members of the crew, they even consider the Doctor to be the ships cook! The ease of their acceptance is in no small part due to a lack of money on the part of all the men the Doctor and Turlough encounter in the cramped living quarters. Whilst Turlough, typically for his character is more content to remain the Doctor is later escorted to meet the Captain by one of his junior officers.
Turloughs decision is all the more understandable when the Doctor, and later Tegan, meet Captain Striker and his senior officers in the state room for what appears to be a light meal, something that is, apparently appreciated greatly by the Doctor. At first the cold emotionless state of the SS Shadows officers could merely be attributed to the responsibilities that their respective positions demand. It is however the interaction between the Doctor and Striker (played with an excellent cool detached demeanour by Keith Barron) as well as the Tegan and Marriner exchanges which helps us gain the clearest insight into these alien beings, now identified as Eternals. In episode two during an impressive emotionally heated exchange the Doctor learns from Striker much including that the Eternals are feeding on the minds of living beings to allow them to exist. Whilst Striker is able to suitably restrain his interest in the minds of the three travellers it is clearly more evident in the scenes with Marriner and Tegan. We, like Tegan, could assume this was merely romantic infatuation on the part of the ships First Mate but when confronted Marriners reply is that he does not know the emotion of love, he is merely seeking existence from Tegan. I find their relationship similar to a cat playing with a mouse, the cat enjoying its captive prey, the mouse longing to be free from the constant attention. With, as the Doctor discovers, heightened emotional states causing a barrier Marriner further attempts to calm his prey by furnishing some quarters with familiar items taken from both Tegans room on the TARDIS and home in Brisbane. A cursory glance around the room reveals, we observe, a silver framed picture of her Aunt Vanessa, airline stewardess uniform plus the skirt/costume featured in the Black Orchid story. When he escorts her there after she experiences a feeling of sea sickness Marriner tires to ply her with the suspicious tot of rum more commonly given to the crew prior to their donning wetsuits and helmets prior to scaling the ships rigging.
It is Tegans discovery, on her first tentative venture from the TARDIS, of those wetsuits hanging up in a corridor near to stairs ascending to the deck that leads up to the memorable climatic ending of the first episode. With the Doctor, Tegan and Turlough in attendance in the ships wheelhouse Striker orders the activation of a viewing port by use of a series of buttons located under a wooden cover. First Tegans exclamation of Electronics on an Edwardian sailing yacht and then to see that the vessel is actually not navigating a course through an ocean but is infact sailing with other vessels through space! Classic cliffhanger stuff!
Having established the general atmosphere of life on the SS Shadow we then gain another perspective on the race following Turloughs apparent suicide attempt at the conclusion of the second episode. The space-suited boy is taken aboard the seventeenth century Spanish pirate ship, the Buccaneer where he encounters the scheming Captain Wrack (played with enthusiastic gusto by Lynda Barron). Now it has been said that as an Eternal Wrack shows far too much emotion when compared to the stoic Striker. I take the view that the minds of her crew contain far stronger emotions for her to feed off plus, of course, she is acting on behalf of the Black Guardian which might have affected her. I am also aware that criticism has been levelled towards singer and Imagination (80s pop group (not really my type of music but Im sure they had their fans in their day)) frontman Leee John for his portrayal of Wracks assistant Mansell. Whilst Id admit he is not noted for possessing acting skills the part is such that it allows some allowance for his inexperience and his scenes and lines are fairly limited. As a seventeenth century Spanish pirate I personally feel he meets the requirements in a physical if, possibly not verbal sense.
As if the persuasive powers of Marriner were not enough Tegan is soon hypnotised by Wrack during their invited visit to the Buccaneer. Once again I recognised a similarity between this and the apparent ease with which the Master had hypnotised Jo Grant (Terror of the Autons). It is understandable that Tegan would be the most susceptible of the three TARDIS crew as I believe she represents the audiences closest link to humanity. Whilst both Striker and Wrack are able to reach both the Doctor and Turloughs minds their wills are not so susceptible to the Eternals control as the Australian stewardess.
I think its worth glossing over the Doctors desperate attempt to smash Tegans tiara containing the focusing jewel that Wrack had placed in it during her hypnotised state. Although it is inexcusable that he did not pick up the entire sheepskin rug rather than vainly claw at the pieces with Marriner and Tegan. I also feel its better to also forget the scenes in the grid rooms ion chamber and Turlough vainly attempting to pull away from the centre of the grid.
I do, however, appreciate the period detail in the ships and costumes, most notably those for Lynda Barron and the flowing feminine gown for Janet Fielding. The incidental music particularly in Wracks state room when officers, the Doctor, Tegan and Marriner were enjoying Wracks hospitality, was very pleasant adding to the stories appeal. Also I find it rather amusing that when the main cast members don the shiny black wetsuits and blobby red helmets of the second/third episode cross over they rather closely resemble, possibly unintentionally, some form of ant.
During this review I most managed to avoid commenting on the Guardian trilogy to which this is the concluding part. My reason for this is that I find it rather secondary to the main dynamic of the story although I do recognise its importance especially for Mark Stricksons character. Although changing allegiances during the race from Striker to Wrack he ultimately realises that this Captain is merely an instrument of the Black Guardian and she does not offer a way to break the contract he has with him. The contract, (of killing the Doctor in exchange for his freedom from Earth exile) was rather forced on him and it was a welcome character development that through his relationship with the Doctor, this was finally dissolved at the conclusion of the story. Whilst I grudgingly accept the enjoyment on offer in Mawdryn Undead, I do find very little to enjoy in the subsequent middle story of the trilogy. Apart from the guest cast the story of Terminus I fins is extremely slow and uninvolving. If it were not for the appearances of Andrew Burt (a regular cast member of the 70s BBC naval drama series Warship (the jovial Navigating Officer Paul Peak) and Lisa Goddard (her four appearances as small time criminal Phillipa Vale in the sleepy but surprisingly still popular Bergerac series were the only must see episodes IMO) Id probably wouldnt bother with this story.
I find that the main plot of the race rather overshadows the return appearances of both Valentine Dyall and Cyril Luckham reprising their roles as the all powerful Black and White Guardians. Having said that Valentine certainly gives a convincing portrayal of a cackling evil entity during his scenes persecuting Mark Stricksons Turlough. Strickson himself rises to the challenge his character initially provides admirably, Turlough is clearly a tortured sole throughout all stories in the trilogy.
Maybe this is merely my opinion but I thought Id just throw in that you could almost call this a story for the ladies (writer, director, leading cast member and now reviewer) but dont let that prejudice your opinion of this story. Apart from that personal observation I would say that Enlightenment is worthy of re-examination and maybe more people will realise what a neglected jewel it is nestled in the later stages of the twentieth season.