Season 20 – Story 127


“Parasites! That’s what Eternals are. You feed on living minds, you use them as blueprints” – the Doctor

The White Guardian makes the Tardis land on what looks like an Edwardian sailing yacht but is in fact a spaceship taking part in a race using planets as marker buoys. The competitors are Eternals who draw creative thoughts from their human crews. Turlough tries to escape the Black Guardian’s influence but is taken aboard the vessel of Captain Wrack, who is destroying other ships using focused mental energy. The Doctor boards Wrack’s ship and, with Turlough’s help, ejects her into space. The prize for winning the race is Enlightenment; the White and Black Guardians offer Turlough a choice…

First transmissions
Part 1 - Tuesday 1 March 1983
Part 2 - Wednesday 2 March 1983
Part 3 - Tuesday 8 March 1983
Part 4 - Wednesday 9 March 1983

Filming: November 1982 at Ealing Studios
Model work: November 1982 at BBC Visual Effects Workshop
Studio recording: January/February 1983 in TC1

The Doctor - Peter Davison
Tegan - Janet Fielding
Turlough - Mark Strickson
Captain Striker - Keith Barron
Captain Wrack - Lynda Baron
Black Guardian - Valentine Dyall
White Guardian - Cyril Luckham
Marriner - Christopher Brown
Collier - Clive Kneller
Jackson - Tony Caunter
First officer - James McClure
Mansell - Leee John

Writer - Barbara Clegg
Incidental music - Malcolm Clarke
Designer - Colin Green
Script editor - Eric Saward
Producer - John Nathan-Turner
Director - Fiona Cumming

RT Review by Mark Braxton
An early 20th-century yacht that isn’t what it seems – it’s a ripping premise and one that kick-started a classic in 1973. But could the trick that worked for Carnival of Monsters meet with similar success in Enlightenment? They’re vastly different stories, of course. Where the Jon Pertwee tale was essentially a travelling freak circus, this elegant essay on mortality and the imagination is more ideas-driven. But does it work?

To put things in context, the age of Enlightenment was one of big hair (the Doctor looks especially unruly), a confident, mid-period Davison and amusing stunt-casting. Even from this distance it’s hard not to double-take when seeing Leee John. Maybe it’s just an illusion after all. Bless him, he really makes heavy weather over the simplest activities: helming a ship seems to require the most bizarre posturing.

Enlightenment also continues the John Nathan-Turner tradition of securing work for comedy actresses: Nerys Hughes in Kinda, Beryl Reid in Earthshock, Liza Goddard in Terminus and now Lynda Baron as the up-front Captain Wrack. She certainly gives it her all, frequently exposing every single one of her teeth and putting villainous emphases on her vowels.

It’s a tale of two “barons”: Keith Barron shows the eerie stillness that earned him a lot of work in the 70s and 80s, as criminal masterminds or hitmen. But best of all is Mark Kermode-alike Christopher Brown as the creepily insistent Marriner. His courtship of a harassed Tegan is unnervingly anti-romantic.

The Black Guardian elements feel as grafted on as in Terminus. And Valentine Dyall’s ham-flavoured excesses really should have been reined. His moist fruitcake of a voice is drama enough without the old chap resorting to the most wretched “Nya-ha-ha-ha” after throttling Turlough. It’s a relief the walking crow’s nest is finally dispatched by bonfire after a tug of war with his opposite number over Turlough.

More like this

Despite the weaknesses of the Guardian arc, I’m rather sad Mark Strickson’s angsty close-ups are coming to an end. I was fond of his tortured crystal-starings. But the moment in which he hurls himself off the Shadow, supposedly by way of self-destruction, doesn’t carry the impact that it should. Thank goodness the Buccaneer nets him like a haddock and slaps him down for such histrionics.

There’s a grandeur and intelligence to the ideas of Barbara Clegg. The tension between Eternal and Ephemeral is succinctly conveyed, even if the ships in space conceit is poorly realised. But as we’ve already seen, a good basic idea is worth recycling, and Russell T Davies revived it for Voyage of the Damned (2007).

The piratical motifs go too far, however, especially that ghastly bit of Captain Pugwashery on the soundtrack. Other barnacles that should have been scraped from the bottom include the superfluous space helmets, idiot-proof vacuum shield and cringe-worthy plank sequence.

An entertaining example of what could have been. Enlightenment has promising components that come together and briefly create a little magic, then vanish again, like ships that pass in the night.


Radio Times archive material

[Available on BBC DVD]