- The core story is a race through space, with the prize being “enlightenment” for a group of Eternals, beings who live forever without really feeling anything. They use humans to help them to feel. The Fifth Doctor does not approve, and is particularly tetchy in this episode. I like a tetchy Fifth Doctor.
- It is the only story in Doctor Who history that is both written (Barbara Clegg) and directed (Fiona Cumming) by women.
- Much of the story is told from Tegan’s point of view, emphasized by Fiona Cumming’s direction. The consistent tension between Tegan and Marriner is told from both points of view: he views her as fascinating, but she sees his fascination with her as physically (and sexually) threatening, and makes her discomfort VERY clear to him (because she is Tegan, and she does not stand for that sort of behavior). He is often shot as though he physically looms over her, driving the point home. Marriner is deeply puzzled by Tegan’s fear, which emphasizes his alien nature (and his Eternal privilege).
- As a pseudo-historical episode, it has some of the best set design and costuming seen in the series, both among the space pirates and the Edwardian ship. Tegan’s Edwardian dress, in particular, is a beautiful piece of costuming work.
- Before Martha Jones, there was the Fifth Doctor / Tegan unrequited relationship. In Enlightenment, you don’t even have to look very hard to see it. The Doctor once again inspires mountains of fanfic through his inability to notice that Tegan is dressed up in the aforementioned Edwardian dress.
- We won’t, however, comment upon the sartorial choices of the White and Black Guardians. It’s better that way.
- …did I mention SPACE PIRATES? Even better, they are 1980s space pirates! So they are over the top in the most wonderfully kitsch sort of way.
- Lynda Barron plays one of the best pirate captains anywhere, Captain Wrack. Her performance is larger than life, but works well within the confines of the story. She’s one of the few credible female Doctor Who villains besides the Rani. (Her first appearance in Doctor Who was as the singer of the “Last Chance Saloon” song in The Gunfighters. That, too, was villainous, but only as an earworm).
- Turlough has a central role in the story as well, as the Black and White guardians fight over him, and Captain Wrack reverses gender roles and makes him deeply uncomfortable. It’s fun to watch Turlough squirm.
- The Doctor is smart enough to understand that Enlightenment is not a blessing, and refuses it, returning to rattling around the universe instead. Turlough’s reaction to the same lesson is to ask to go home. Awww.
Friday, October 14, 2011
Keys to the TARDIS: Ten Reasons Why Enlightenment is Underrated
We are thrilled to bring you this guest post by Lynne M. Thomas, who is, among other things, the co-editor of the Hugo Award-winning Chicks Dig Time Lords.