Sunday 18 December 2011

The Reign Of Terror

Doctors will have more lives to answer for in the next world than even we generals.
- Napoleon Bonaparte


Me:  This is another one that I’ve never seen.  Apart from when it’s set, I hardly know anything about this story at all.

Him:  When’s it set?

Me:  During the French Revolution.

Him:  Oh – I thought you actually knew which year.

The Reign of Terror starts wobbly.

Him:  It’s been auto-tuned.

Me:  This was the first Doctor Who story to have any location filming.

Him:  Right. 

The author’s credit comes up.

Him:  "Dennis Spooner?"

Me:  He's known for writing quite funny scripts.  He wrote The Romans and was also script editor for a bit too, kind of the Douglas Adams of his day.

Him:  So is this going to be The William Hartnell Half-Hour then?

Me:  I like that.  After The Sensorites, I hope so.

Some people wander suspiciously through a shrubbery.  The TARDIS lands stealthily.  In the TARDIS we seem to be following on almost exactly from the Doctor’s furious hissy-fit cum cliffhanger at the end of The Sensorites.

Him:  No noise for that landing.  So the Doctor’s just going to put them off wherever they are?

Me:  He seems remarkably certain that he’s got them to the right place.

Him:  This is the end of the first series isn’t it?

Me:  The next two stories were held over to the second series, so yes.

The Doctor’s still being grumpy about not being allowed to explore the universe.  Susan gets upset as the crew say their goodbyes.  The Doctor turns on the scanner.  They’ve landed in The Archers.

Me:  They could be anywhere.  It looks like The Visitation if anything.

Barbara says it looks like Somerset and the Doctor pounces on this affirmative statement.

The Doctor:  Then I expect it is Somerset, my dear.

There’s a nice bit of banter between the Doctor and Ian.  Marco Polo is mentioned amongst other things.

Him:  Basically Ian’s saying, “Let’s check out the pub.”

The Doctor opts to have a quick look about and our heroes step off the TARDIS.  Something moves in the foliage.  Susan gets frightened and Ian finds a boy.  The boy tells them that they’re in France and then runs off.

Him:  I notice they aren’t getting back into the TARDIS.

The Doctor and chums explore Not Far From Paris.  The music comes across as perhaps a touch more trad than in previous stories.

Him:  The Five Doctors should’ve been the first story.  Think about it, it’s set before Ian and Barbara join because it’s just the Doctor and Susan.

Me:  That’s a good point.  But, ignoring the fact that Susan’s noticeably older, imagine if they’d gone with something like that as the first story.  It would’ve been the maddest pilot episode in the history of television.  “I don’t care how cool you think bow-ties are, Syd, you can’t have five different people playing one character.  Now, please leave me alone.”

The boy scurries to a nearby farm.  Our friends follow his tracks. They find the farm and Ian suggests they should leave.  They don’t.

Him:  Wasn’t Susan given a book on the French Revolution in the first episode?

Me:  She was.  It was so she could look up continuity errors.

Inside the deserted farm the Doctor lights some candles so they can explore.  Looking at the lack of electricity and candlesticks, Ian’s spider-sense starts tingling.  Barbara suggests it’s Eighteenth Century.  They also find a lot of documents and a change of clothes. Not to mention Robespierre’s autograph.  Ian works out they’ve landed in the time of the French Revolution.

Him:  “As a history teacher, I should have figured that out before you did.”

Me:  I think she specialised in Aztec history.

Him:  But she gave Susan the book on the Revolution, so she must have at least been teaching it.

Me:  It’s a bit late for Susan to wake up and find it’s all been a dream.  “Grandfather!  I had this crazy dream!  And you were there, Miss Wright.  And you too, Mr Chesterton.  And Toto was mechanical for some reason…”

Him:  That candle the Doctor’s carrying isn’t casting any light at all.

Whilst Ian, Susan and Barbara steal – um - change clothes, someone hits the Doctor on the head.

Me:  I’m not sure that stealing stuff is the best idea.  Running away’s much better.

Him:  That’s what I would do.  I’d be back in the ship by now.

Our chums are confronted by two powdered dandies (Rouvray and d’Argenson), armed with muskets.  It’s a bit late to deny that they’re burglars.  Travelling burglars perhaps.  The Dandies are planning to escape France.  From outside comes the sound of a band and soldiers.  The Dandies panic.

Him:  Is it Napoleon?

Me:  Not yet.

The Marseillese parps out, unexpectedly.

Me:  Good Lord.

The soldiers wait outside the farm.

Me:  It’s all gone grim again.

Someone’s betrayed the Dandies.  Their nerve breaks and they try fleeing, unsuccessfully as it turns out.  There’s shooting.  The Doctor is still unconscious.  Ian, Susan and Barbara are captured and lined up in the courtyard.  It’s decided to take our chums to Paris for questioning and then guillotining.  The soldiers start to burn the house down.  The Doctor wakes up but the door’s locked.

Him:  “Chesterfield!”

Other appearances include Dr Who and the Daleks,
Casualty and The Bill.
There’s an audible smoke machine as the situation gets worse.

Me:  I wonder if Mark Ayres’ll fix that smoke machine.

Him:  The Doctor’ll need a lot of honey to sort his throat out after this.

The Doctor collapses.  The flames grow ever higher…

Him:  Turns out that the door needs to be pulled.

Me:  If only Tegan was there to help him.

Him:  Why?

Me:  The Doctor makes the same mistake in Warriors of the Deep and Tegan sorts it out.  And, of course, the First Doctor ends up paired-off with Tegan in the Five Doctors.

Him:  But, that’s not the First Doctor.

Me:  Moving swiftly on.


Recap of the house still in flames and then we’re in postcards of Olde Paris.

Him:  Is this a recon?

Me:  It shouldn’t be.

The guillotine falls.

Him:  No, it’s not.

In the Conciergerie prison, Barbara and Susan are to be guillotined whilst Ian is to be exiled to film.  The ladies are led to a grim cell.  The jailer quite fancies Barbara, but she’s having none of it.  Susan reminisces about the Cave of Skulls.

Susan:  But there was one very important difference: Grandfather and Ian were with us then.

Me:  And a fat lot of good they were – you came up with the burning skulls idea which got you all out of there.
Jean-Pierre Jovanka, July 1794

The boy saves the Doctor from the burning house.

The Doctor:  What’s your name?

Him:  “Tegan.”

Tegan:  Jean-Pierre.

The Doctor leaves and has a stroll through France.

Me:  Oh.  More location filming.

Him:  Are they in France?

Me:  No.  That doesn’t happen until City Of Death.  It’s not William Hartnell either.

Him:  Don’t tell me: he was on holiday when they filmed it.  In France.

Back in the jail, Barbara and Susan are a bit worried.  Ian and a dying MacGuffin named Webster make friends.  There’s more sumptuous location footage.

Him:  It’s really not William Hartnell, is it?

Me:  That is.

Him:  Yes.  But it’s now on a set rather than location filming.

The Doctor has joined a chain-gang by accident.  On the plus-side, there’s some sparkling Spooner dialogue.

Overseer:  I suppose you think you’re very clever.

The Doctor:  Well, without any undue modesty, yes.

This cracks us both up.  There’s a change of mood and we’re back in the jail with Barbara and Susan who are trying to escape.  Slowly.

Me:  It’s the realism that makes it so grim.

Elsewhere, Ian has been given a plot-point to aim for by the now-deceased Webster. 

Me:  This story’s got some real historical people in it – you were asking about that back in The Aztecs.

Him:  Oh.

Shortly after revealing how hungry she is, Barbara spots rats in the cell.  Although this solves the issue of lunch, Susan still becomes upset.  Back on the chain-gang, the Doctor comes up with a plan.  He pulls a coin-trick to distract the Overseer and then, in a somewhat unpredictable move – well – beats him to death with a shovel.

Me:  Um.

Him:  Did the Doctor…  Did the Doctor just kill someone?

He did.

Me:  No, he just knocked him out.

He didn’t.

Him:  He bashed his skull in.

He would’ve.

Me:  No, listen.  He’s snoring.

The Doctor covers the murder with ventriloquism.

Him:  Back on location.

Me:  It does add to it having locations though.

The Doctor passes a roadsign: Paris 4km.  Back in the jail, time’s run out for Barbara and Susan and they’re off to the guillotine.

Me:  That’s two heavy cliffhangers in a row.


Ian watches the girls trundling by on their visit to the guillotine – it’s not a cheerful moment.  Elsewhere, the Doctor enters Paris.

Me:  Hartnell’s very good in this.

Him:  Hmmm.

Two new Dandies are awaiting the ladies, scheming.  Back in the jail, distraction takes place – which gives Ian a bit of an opportunity.

Him:  You wouldn’t leave the keys in the door.  Come on, Ian.

Go on, Ian.  It’s quite tense.

Him:  You can do it, Chessington.  As long as the key doesn’t snap in the lock.  I could fit through those bars.

Me:  You’re quite a bit smaller than Ian.

Ian steals a key and returns to his soup to wait for an opportunity.

Him:  What did they feed the prisoners?

Me:  Rat soup.  Certainly not cake if there’s any truth to the quote.

Barbara and Susan are still on the way to the guillotine.  Our new Dandies cause a commotion and rescue occurs.

Him:  So, what is it then?  Top Hats versus Berets?

Me:  I think these guys are on the side of the English.  The aristocrats were overthrown by the common people – they were all French – and these guys are filling in for the Scarlet Pimpernel by saving people who need saving.  Unlike The Aztecs, which was a bit vaguer with dates, you could probably work out the actual days this takes place on.

Him:  What were they then?

Me:  Thursday.  A long time ago.

Him:  Why Thursday?

Me:  Why not?

Him:  What’s wrong with Friday?

Me:  Nothing.  I know that after the Revolution they changed the names of the months.

Him:  Interesting.

That was a lie, but I plough on unwittingly.

Me:  One of them was called Thermidor.

Him:  Thermidor?

Me:  Yeah, but I’m not sure about the others.

I’m not sure, because it’s been ages since I read Sandman, even though it’s cropped up twice in this blog so far even though we’re nowhere near Douglas Adams or Idris yet.  Although I read up on the Terror a few years ago, my brain seems to have wiped all the information.

Elsewhere, the Doctor and a Shopkeeper are engaged in haggling.  The Doctor selects a sash and outlines its meaning as relating to history.

Me:  That’ll be the Doctor knowing what the plot needs him to know.

The Doctor, not having even sentient cash on him, offers to swap clothes. 

Shopkeeper:  You’re offering the entire outfit?

Me:  "It’s worth 50 grand.  I’ll throw in a signed script."

The Shopkeeper settles for the Doctor’s ring instead.  Barbara and Susan have been taken to a safe house by their Dandy Highwaymen.  Susan’s got a migrane.

Me:  Susan almost opted for a radical headache remedy there.  I suppose she’s probably allergic to aspirin.

Him:  Why would she be allergic to aspirin?  Does it contain mercury?

Me:  I think everyone’s allergic to mercury.  The Doctor says that aspirin could kill him at one point.

Ian, having finished his soup, makes his move and escapes.  Barbara and Susan have settled in nicely.  After dinner they retrace their journey on a map.  It turns out that the new Dandies run the, already encountered, escape route – which is a handy coincidence.

Me:  Oh – they are French then.  And one of them’s a traitor.

Susan’s headache returns, as does another Dandy – this one’s called Leon.  Barbara’s quite taken with him.

Me:  Barbara’s made a friend.

Him:  Again?

Me:  Poor Ian.

"And later on, I'll be insulting Jon Pertwee's dress-sense."
The Doctor has disguised himself.

Me:  That’s a hat and a half.

Him:  Another chicken suit.

The Doctor visits the jail, chasing up the rest of the crew.  Naturally, they’ve all escaped.  The Doctor’s faked his identity papers, a deception which leads to him being taken to speak to Robespierre about the province he’s said he’s in charge of.

Me:  Psychic paper would come in quite handy here.

Barbara and Leon are getting along like a farmhouse on fire.  Back in the jail, the Shopkeeper has turned up with evidence against a traitor.

Him:  What is it?

Me:  It’s the Doctor’s ring.

Him:  The Doctor was wearing a ring?

Me:  It was like the sonic screwdriver back then.  Keep an eye out for it.

Him:  That’s right.  He could use it to open doors.


Following the recap - which moves - we’re into the episode proper - which doesn’t.  The Him’s opted to give the recons a shot, under the proviso that he can run screaming from the room at any point.  Robespierre and the Doctor meet.

Him:  What a great shot!
Winner of the 1964 World Staring Championship.

The two chat.  The Doctor uses this opportunity to mock Robespierre.

Me:  The Doctor not interfering with history there.  Not one line of it.

Him:  Robespierre’s only got one guillotine.

Me:  And it’s blunt.  You should see the queue.

Back with Barbara and Susan, medicinal brandy is doing the rounds.

Him:  Is Susan not too young for brandy?

A door opens.

Him:  Movement!

Me:  The door.  That’s weird, I’ll look it up.

Susan’s still ill.

Me:  And, on top of everything, Susan’s come down with a touch of plague.

The door closes.  We rejoin the two new Dandies, Jules et Jean, with a body.  It’s Ian.

Me:  It’s Ian!

The Doctor returns to the jail where he is exposed by the Shopkeeper.  The Doctor totally fails to escape.

Me:  “I was up all night bidding for this on eBay.”

Elsewhere, Ian wakes up and the door opens.

Me:  I think that’s a multi-purpose shot of the door.

Ian and Barbara are reunited.  Ian is so delighted he starts moving.

Me:  Poor Leon.

Over a glass of wine, the plot is discussed. 

Me:  “Fancy a pint?”

Him:  “Let’s try the pub.”

There’s more wine and more plot.  The door closes again.

Him:  Somewhere – in a galaxy far, far away – a door closes.

Ian calls for another drink.  The door opens.

Him:  Are you sure Ian isn’t being played by Tom Baker?

Back in the jail, the Doctor is complaining about the accommodation.

Me:  “Doctor Who and the Quite Eventful Day.”  The legendary missing story.

Ian and chums have finished the wine.  The door opens and we visit a physician as Susan’s developed a feverish chill.

Me:  “It’s just a touch of plague.”

"Send more Leech Physicians."
Him:  Urgh!  She hasn’t got any eyes!

Susan is so shocked at the thought of leeches, she becomes a lot more active for a second.

Him:  Movement!

Back in the jail - not much is happening.  The Leech Physician sells out Barbara and Susan and they are captured.  A door opens.  Ian’s spider-sense begins tingling.

Me:  It’s not dissimilar to watching the new series on iPlayer.

Him:  Just without the Maggot Of Patience.

The Maggot Of Patience will be familiar to anyone who’s attempted to watch an episode of New Who with a slow internet connection.  The Doctor and the ladies are reunited, but Ian walks innocently into a double-cross.  Leon must really like Barbara.


Ian remains captured.

Ian:  What do you want from me?

Leon:  Information.

Me:  “You won’t get it!”

Him:  “By hook or by crook, we will.”

Back in the jail, the Doctor and Barbara are catching up on events.  Susan’s feeling a lot better.  The Doctor comes up a plan and there’s-

Him:  Movement!

Me:  The Patrick Troughton years are going to be a challenge.

Barbara joins in moving with the Doctor.  Until he leaves.

Him:  “Would you like to earn some money?”
 “No, I would like other people to earn money and then give it to me.”

Me:  That very scene’s happening in Mrs Miggins’s as they speak.

Him:  Really?

Me:  Probably not, but you’re on the right lines.  It’s the BBC French Revolution.

Him:  This is a lot different to Blackadder.

A radio fight takes place during which Leon is killed.

Me:  That’s the first fight scene I’ve seen that’s played entirely through subtitles.

The Doctor and the jailer work on their double-act.  Elsewhere, Robespierre is pacing.  There’s a slightly unclear bit of dialogue at 12’ 40”.

Me:  Did he just go:  “Mumblmumblmumble…”?

Him:  No, it was French.

Me:  How’s the translator work when there’s no-one from the TARDIS in the scene?

Him:  It doesn’t matter!  Maybe they’re talking French and it’s just been translated for us so we can understand it.

Me:  Fair enough.

Ian and Barbara are reunited.  Ian tells her the sad news concerning Leon.

Me:  Sorry, Barbara.  You’re stuck with Ian.

Barbara says some interesting things about the Revolution.

Barbara:  You check your history books, Ian, before you decide what people deserve.

Me:  “Don’t lecture me, ‘Yetaxa’.”

Susan’s still in the jail and the Him’s begun singing the captions.  In keeping with this, the score gives a sense that the Doctor’s attempting a musical escape.  It doesn’t work.  The Doctor is captured and led away.

Me:  Can’t someone confiscate that trumpet or whatever it is?

Lemaitre shows the Doctor some of his memorabilia collection.

Lemaitre:  Do you recognise this, citizen?

Me:  “How about these three shoes.  This signed script.  This bow tie…”

Lemaitre and the Doctor have a stand-up confrontation.  Ian and Barbara are waiting for Susan, but instead the Doctor – and Lemaitre – open the door and everything starts moving again.  Can it be that the Doctor has betrayed them?


Naturally, the Doctor hasn’t betrayed them – Lemaitre’s the MacGuffin.

Lemaitre:  What were these mumblings about?

Me:  “Could’ve been French.”

The mumblings turn out to be directions.  Directions to a bar that would be ideal for a secret meeting.

Me:  “It’s rubbish.  No-one ever goes there.”

Our heroes begin scheming.  Suddenly a stock-footage storm begins.

Me:  It’s the start of The Prisoner.

Him:  That’s what you said in The Aztecs.

Our heroes have donned disguises.

Him:  What’s the link between Doctor Who, The Prisoner and Monty Python?

Me:  Tom Baker.  Or, they were all first made in the Sixties.

Barbara remembers mentioning Somerset a while back.

Me:  A West Country accent might not be the best way of disguising your voice in Revolutionary France.  At least Ian’s put on a French one.  And a hat.

Him:  “Even zo, none of ze pipple een ziz show zound as ztereotypical az zis.”

Me:  Look, it’s Napoleon.

The music parps a little.

Him:  Is that not All Things Bright And Beautiful?

Me:  No, it’s the Marseillese.

The Doctor continues scheming.  After a lot of talking everything is resolved. 

Him:  So the next one’ll be science-fiction and then it’s back to historical?

Me:  Sort of.

Him:  What’s after The Dalek Invasion Of Earth?

Me:  The Rescue.

Him:  And then it’s the film?

Me:  No.  Then it’s The Romans.  Are you looking forward to the film?

Him:  It’s in colour.  How much money did they get to spend on the film?

Me:  A lot more than was floating around for the series.

Susan is reunited with our heroes.

Me:  Susan’s been freed from her holiday.

Off-screen, thankfully, Robespierre gets shot in the jaw.  The Doctor leaves him to his fate.

Me:  Some rather callous non-interference there.

Ian and Jules are saying goodbye and Ian’s dropping spoilers casually into the conversation. 

Me:  Not from Ian though.

Our heroes leave Paris to its fate.

Him:  Is Planet of Giants set in London?  In the time that they’re trying to get back to?

Me:  I’m not sure.  It might well be, but it’s another one that I’ve never seen.

Our heroes return to the TARDIS – keeping the clothes as souvenirs.  Then there’s a surprising, to me, shot of stars and a brief, but lovely, speech by William Hartnell.

Me:  Oh – wow.  “Somewhere the tea’s getting cold…”

The credits roll.

Me:  And that’s us done with the first season of Doctor Who.  How much do you know about Planet Of Giants?

Him:  Nothing.  I thought that it had all been wiped.

Me:  It’s the one with big ant that isn’t The Web Planet.

Him:  I know that.

Me:  It’s 48 years to the day since The Cave Of Skulls was broadcast.

Him:  Really?  Today?

Me:  Yes.

"That's the last in the present series, but Doctor Who will return later in next month."

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