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Case Number 20335

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Enemy At The Door: Series 2

Acorn Media // 1980 // 660 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart (Retired) // December 16th, 2010

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All Rise...

If there's an enemy at the door, Appellate Judge James A. Stewart isn't at home.

Editor's Note

Our review of Enemy At The Door: Series 1, published February 11th, 2009, is also available.

The Charge

"In war, there is no such thing as a game."—Reinecke

Opening Statement

It's 1942 in Guernsey, which means that the Germans are occupying the Channel Islands. Enemy at the Door: Series 2 continues the British drama that examined that chilling aspect of World War II history.

The first series of Enemy at the Door ended on a tragic note, so there are some new regulars to introduce, most notably Capt. Foster-Smythe (David Ryall, The Singing Detective), an ex-military man who's determined to do everything he can to resist the Nazi takeover of the islands. He's taken over Dr. Philip Martel's spot as the leader of the Guernsey Control Committee.

Facts of the Case

There are 13 episodes in Series 2 on four discs:

Disc One
• "Call of the Dead"
Olive Martel (Antonia Pemberton, A Passage to India) is worried about her daughter Clare (Emily Richard, Lorna Doone), who is haunted by a strange vision. Clare has a breakdown after a confrontation with the Germans.

• "Reception for the General"
Capt. Foster-Smythe clashes with the Germans over their efforts to organize food production. Richter (Alfred Burke, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) visits Clare in the hospital.

• "Angels that Soar Above"
Martel (Bernard Horsfall, On Her Majesty's Secret Service) is brought to a meeting with Richter. Meanwhile, a German officer is accused of sharing information with a Guernsey woman.

• "No Quarter Given"
The Germans confiscate residents' wireless sets. Foster-Smythe's black housekeeper is run down by a German vehicle after an altercation.

Disc Two
• "Committee Man"
Martel is invited back onto the Controlling Committee. He doesn't think he should accept, but his wife Olive disagrees; so does Richter.

• "Post Mortem"
Peter Porteous (Richard Heffer, Night of the Fox) has a confrontation with a German informant shortly before the man is found murdered. Peter swears he's innocent, but the task of proving it falls to Martel.

• "The Raid"
Allies, including a Guernsey fisherman, plan a raid on ground control interception station on Sark. Meanwhile, romance blossoms between a Sark woman and a German soldier.

Disc Three
• "Jealousy"
Reinecke (Simon Cadell, Edward & Mrs. Simpson) is upset because a German officer is taking piano lessons. The German-born piano teacher isn't getting along with her sister-in-law, either.

• "War Game"
Richter thinks a chess tournament, with Muller (David Waller, Cribb) among the entrants, will help ease tensions between the Germans and the islanders. However, Reinecke plans to fix the final match with SS tactics.

• "The Right Blood"
Betty, the mother of a half-German son, is having trouble with the islanders, but the arrival of the father's brother, a high-ranking German officer, could make things worse.

Disc Four
• "From a View to a Death"
A Russian prisoner in a labor gang clubs a German guard with a shovel and flees. A Guernsey family hides him, which could be deadly.

"The Education of Nils Borg": A Swedish reporter is literally in bed with his German censor, which could be a problem for Martel, who's taken on the cause of the prison laborers, and the local newspaper editor, who's running an underground sheet which tells islanders what's really going on.

• "Escape"
A farmer runs a pitchfork through a German who's been robbing his farm. For a restless Peter, this looks like an opportunity.

The Evidence

Series 1 of Enemy at the Door introduced the various Guernsey residents: Dr. Philip Martel, the reluctant head of the Controlling Committee, whose goal is to keep the peace with both the Germans and the Guernsey islanders in hopes of making the everyday lives of his neighbors better; Olive Martel, his supportive wife; Claire Martel, his daughter, who wants to disrupt the German activity; and Peter Porteous, a landowner who itches to get off Guernsey so he can enlist in the British military.

Series 2 seems to spend more time with the Germans, following the growing conflict between Richter, the island boss, and Reinecke, the SS commander. Richter and Kluge (John Malcolm, War and Remembrance), the German police chief, find themselves dodging Reinecke and his reports back to Berlin. Richter is generally horrified by the treatment of the prison laborers but powerless, and by the end of the series, pressure on his wife back in Germany could tie his hands even more. Reinecke is an enthuastic Nazi whose tactics in questioning scare his German colleagues as much as they do the islanders. This increasing shift in the storyline does involve Martel, who Richter seems to see as necessary in alternately calming things and taking the heat, but other characters, mainly Claire and Peter, appear less in the second season.

Although relations between Richter and Martel seem almost friendly, Enemy at the Door is a story about wartime occupation, so death and prison loom constantly for the Guernsey islanders, a point made even more regularly in this season than in the first. Gradually, viewers will realize that even piano lessons and chess tournaments could have deadly consequences under Nazi occupation. The shocking twists, including an especially sad one in the finale, will come as less surprising by the end of this season, but no less horrible. The general tone of Enemy at the Door is grimmer in Series 2, which likely reflects the real-life situation in the Channel Islands. The first few episodes detour into the consequences of the actions toward the end of Series 1, making the regular storyline for Martel and his family particularly serious.

Series 2 features one unusual episode, "The Raid," which mostly ignores the regulars to follow the course of a raid on a German installation on Sark, expanding the show's scope a bit.

The series is around thirty years old, which means the prints aren't in tip-top condition, but there weren't any glitches or problems that stood out with the picture or the sound.

As with the first series, a text feature on the actual occupation is included.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

I'd suggest starting with Enemy at the Door: Series 1 if you're interested. Some of the character and plot development in Series 1 is rather important in following Series 2.

Closing Statement

In Series 2, Enemy at the Door goes further into showing how the horrors of war and occupation landed on British territory. I suspect that if the series had continued beyond this point, it could only have gotten grimmer as the war progressed and conditions got worse. Taken as a whole, these two series make for a dramatic history lesson, rather than the story of espionage and resistance you'd normally expect. The small deprivations such as shortages, contrasted with the ever-present danger, combine for an unnerving portrait of life under occupation.

The Verdict

Not guilty.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 87
Audio: 87
Extras: 60
Acting: 90
Story: 90
Judgment: 90

Perp Profile

Studio: Acorn Media
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
• None
Running Time: 660 Minutes
Release Year: 1980
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Drama
• Foreign
• Historical
• Television
• War

Distinguishing Marks

• Text History


• IMDb

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