The Reign of Terror (1964)

EPISODE 1 – A LAND OF FEAR

The Reign of Terror is the final story of the first series and its another pure historical adventure. It’s the most recent historical story that the TARDIS has visited so far. It’s also the one where there is a greater sense that the regulars are in peril. In the previous episode, the Doctor was throwing a hissy fit after Ian cracked a joke. The opening scene sees Susan get over emotional about the impending departure and whilst its obviously sad that they would be apart it seems that Susan forgot that Ian and Barbara didn’t plan on being a part of the TARDIS crew and all the adventures that they have been on was never going to change that.

I like how confident the Doctor is about getting the TARDIS back to earth considering that its taken 37 episodes to get even this close to 1963. Even Ian isn’t getting his hopes up. It’s nice that once Ian realises that they aren’t where the Doctor thought they were, he isn’t disappointed. Though thatt’s short lived when he realises that they are in the middle of the French Revolution or The Reign of Terror as Barbara calls it. The Reign of Terorr is the Doctor’s favourite period in Earth’s history. Not quite sure why but everyone has their quirks.

To me the best performances came from William Russell and Jacqueline Hill. Individually they are strong but when they are working together then they are even better. I like how they work together to manipulate the Doctor to come out with them instead of just leaving them and going off into time and space. Then they are simply great throughout the episode. Carole Ann Ford has a ropey start but once they are at the house then she improves greatly whilst William Hartnell doesn’t really do much in this episode and his best contribution comes when he gets knocked out.

The boy that Ian grabs sees some unusual reactions from Barbara and Susan. Barbara reckons Ian is hurting the boy by just grabbing him by his shirt and Susan has a go at the Doctor for scaring him. I don’t think that Ian was particularly hard with him and the Doctor was just been himself yet that didn’t seem to make any difference to the ladies.

The sets are a mixed lot. The woodland scenes at the beginning are somewhat disappointing yet the abandoned house they come across is very impressive. Obviously they decided to spend the money where it would be of most use. The house looks exactly as it is meant to and yet it still looks quite spacious in what was probably a tiny studio. Credit to Roderick Laing for what he has done here.

It’s not long before they are captured and they are separated with the Doctor being knocked out whilst the others are taken away. The cliffhanger is a good one as it sees the Doctor in the strange position of being burned to death. It’s made even more effective with the camera focusing in on the flames of the house before panning upwards with the highest flames appearing on screen just to remind us of the Doctor’s peril. It’s directed rather well by Henric Hirsch. There are some interesting shots and the story moves along at a snappy pace considering that the story takes place in just the one location but its still very enjoyable and it sets up the rest of the serial very well.

EPISODE 2 – GUESTS OF MADAME GUILLOTINE

We get a map and a caption to indicate we are in Paris and a brief cliff of the guillotine and another picture to show us some more. Sometimes the small budget is evident and in this brief moment it shows. This is the first of two episodes where William Russell doesn’t appear except in pre-filmed scenes as he was on holiday during this time. His scene in this episode was very good and he and Jeffrey Wickham (Webster) should be applauded for this all too short moment. This is where all the regulars are split up and this is where they have to go on their various plot strands.

There is a weird scene where someone of authority is talking directly to the camera as if Barbara and Susan are in front of him. It’s another quite good piece of directing from Henric Hirsch. It then leads to them being put into prison where Ian has been put in a cell just moments earlier. The Doctor was last seen in the house burning and somehow he was rescued by the young boy that he was a bit rude to in the previous episode. He goes on his journey to Paris and gets caught up in a little bit of drama where he is force to work mending the road. Thankfully it just takes place in this episode and doesn’t spill into the next one. The way that the Doctor bashes the Road Works overseer (as he’s credited) is quite a surprising moment and one that I wouldn’t have expected from the Doctor. It must have been someone in the production office to make sure that the guy was just sleeping as it was quite a violent moment.

This episode is sees another first as its the first time that there has been some outside location. It is of the Doctor walking through a field and along a path going to Paris. It isn’t William Hartnell of course (its Brian Proudfoot) but its still a nice moment in the shows history as it. It’s complimented by some music that sounds like its from the period.

Barbara and Susan are locked together whilst Ian gets a cell to himself. They really get the lions share of the stuff to do in this 25 minutes. They notice how they have always managed to get out and Susan rather pessimistically notes that they always had Ian and/or the Doctor with them. Susan talks about things catching up with you and it hindsight it seems like it’s another indication of Susan’s impending departure and even though I know this isn’t the case it’s still fun to think of RTD or Steven Moffat style story arc in action here. Susan is all doom and gloom in this episode though despite this they are a very good double act and Jacqueline Hill puts in another great performance.

The jailer is a comedy character as despite how rough he looks he is still quite an amusing sight in this episode. Even when he’s sending Barbara and Susan to the guillotine it doesn’t quite carry the menace that it could and maybe should have done. We get more of him and its Dennis Spooner’s comedic writing that has meant we get a slightly comedic figure in what is a very dark and grim story.

The cliffhanger is simply Ian reacting to seeing Barbara and Susan at the gallows. It’s a bit understated and I think it could be been handled better. It’s not William Russell’s fault as he did the best that he could but its wasn’t the most exciting ending to an episode that there has ever been.

EPISODE 3 – A CHANGE OF IDENTITY

I commented on the poor cliffhanger from ‘Guests of Madame Guillotine’ where Ian looks slightly shocked to see Barbara and Suasn on their way to the guillotine. The directors have a choice of either replaying the cliffhanger or do it again live but give it a slightly different emphasis to it and it would have been nice if Henric Hirsch had done this but no we don’t get that we get to see the lacklustre ending. The Doctor finally reaches Paris which is a good studio set. Whilst Ian is in a cell and Barbara and Susan are being taken from pillar to post, the Doctor spends a lot of time in this episode to walking around and getting dressed. He walks into a clothes shop and despite having no money, he arranges for a clothes swap. Hartnell really goes for 11 on the comedy front when he goes into the conciergerie as a regency officer. It’s the first time that Hartnell has had a change of costumes in 39 episodes. It’s a fantastic costume and Hartnell plays the role well

This is the second week that William Russell is on holiday and his presence – is maintained by some more pre-filmed stuff. He uses his chance to breakout by removing the key from the big set that the jailer left when it got stuck and his attention was diverted. All his scenes don’t actually have any dialogue which I think is a bit strange but Russell does well with them and manages to make them fit in what the rest of the story. There’s a nice shoot-out that takes place and despite it being brief it was rather well done and it leads to Barbara and Susan being freed/captured again.

Danielle is the first female supporting character that we have encountered in this story which is strange considering we are into episode 3 of this story. She is the person who seems to be more of friend to Susan and Barbara. Susan becomes ill in this episode and it at first looks like fatigue but by the end of the episode it looks like it’s something a bit more serious. Carole Ann Ford has been allowed to settle down after her hysterics from ‘A Land of Fear’ and Ford puts in a good performance in this episode. Jacqueline Hill doesn’t really do very much in the story as she is playing mother to Susan and it’s a shame really because Hill deserves better.

Jules (played by Donald Morely) is a very likeable person and vows to Barbara to get Ian out of the Conciergerie. It shows the despite the possibility of being killed, he is willing to get people out even when he doesn’t know them and must know that they aren’t French. Jean (Roy Herrick) is also a likeable person but is outshone by Jules. It’s good to have characters in this story that are nice and are there to be supportive to the regulars as it makes the story less bleak than it could have been.

The sets are really good in this episode and again Roderick Laing has done a good job. I thought that the home of Jules and Jean was lit in a good way as it wasn’t overdone and the candles help create the right atmosphere. It’s a very small set and almost has a theatre feel to it. After the

The cliffhanger is very interesting. The shopkeeper shows the Doctors ring and says that its evidence against the traitor. It’s much better than the one we got in the Guests of Madame Guillotine. The whole episode felt better than the previous two. If you watch the documentary about this story you will know that this is the episode that there was a bit of a problem with the director Henric Hirsch who became ill during the recording and none of that shows in the story and the story continues to tick along nicely.

EPISODE 4 – THE TYRANT OF FRANCE

The fourth episode of this story is the first animated one of the release. Up until this was released on DVD, all we had was the audio version and a narrated version on VHS. So this was the first time that we would get to see what this episode was like when it was first transmitted in August 1964. The cliffhanger from the previous episode saw the shopkeeper say that he’s got evidence of the traitor and shows the Doctor’s ring. The Doctor tries a nice bit if diplomatic diplomacy with Robespierre (Keith Anderson). It’s good how Hartnell seems to be having fun in this episode and its good how despite Robespierre being quite an important part of the story, the Doctor doesn’t really have much respect for him.

William Russell has come off holiday so he is back to being in the thick of the action. His return is rather dramatic after being bought in by Jules. After being out of it pretty much for a fortnight, it’s a shame that he doesn’t really do much except talk and sit down or the course of this episode.

Susan is getting worse and its deducted that Susan caught something whilst in prison. This means that Carole Ann Ford’s involvement is somewhat limited. The partnership between Carole Ann Ford and Jacqueline Hill is again quite good in this episode. Carole Ann Ford has been given a nice run of episodes where she hasn’t been a whiney schoolkid. Ok so she’s playing been unwell but its better than acting like a four year old. When the Psychian is treating Susan its clear that he’s making a quick exit so that he can report them to the Jailer. At least Susan and Barbara saw it coming straight away and were hampered by a locked door. However they are soon caught and end up back in prison. It seems like it’s a way of extending the story a bit because the whole thing about this episode is that it’s a lot of nothing happening. There’s a nice moment when Barbara and the Doctor are reunited. It’s a lovely little moment and a rare one of happiness. I always think about the early episodes of this series when the relationship as a lot more frosty than it is now and how they have all mellowed and become friends over the course of the series.

The shopkeeper who has news about the traitor is in one cell whilst the Doctor manages to dodge him (unknowingly). It creates a bit of tension about whether the keeper will be able to point out the Doctor as the traitor. Just as it looks like he is about to leave he is stopped by the jailer. It would be rude not to mention something about the animation. It’s the second story so far that has had lost episodes animated and this one was several years after the last lot and the style of the drawing matches the mood of the story and was very good to watch.

The cliffhanger was rather good as Ian was being set up and ended up being captured by Leon and his guards. With Barbara and the Doctor being reunited and Susan bound to get better its just typical that someone is prevented from making it a proper reunion. It’s not been the most exciting episode as it was a lot of sitting down and talking and not much else happening. The only thing that makes this episode worth watching is seeing the very good animation.

EPISODE 5 – A BARGAIN OF NECESSITY

This is the second episode to be animated. I’m still impressed with how good the animation looks and how it feels part of the episode. It’s great to see how this episode would have looked up. Obviously there are some things that they have probably had to make up but its still animation wise a good episode.

Ian spends the first few minutes of the story tied up after being fooled by Leon there is quite an exciting moment when Ian is saved and it’s a problem with this episode is that its not a particularly memorable episode. After the initial couple of episodes, it’s a shame that this latter part of the story has essentially been about standing in rooms and trying to win this battle. It’s the problem that comes with historical stories because there is only so much that can be done and when it’s a historical story with aliens then its different but with a pure historical there is a pretty strict course of events and you cant really do much.

Another problem with this story is that there is a lot of nothing happening. The best that we get is Leon’s death leading to a moral debate between Ian and Barbara and their difference of opinion about how to feel about Leon. It’s different from what they were like in the early part of this story. Carole Ann Ford may as well have not bothered turning up because she wasn’t given very much to do as all we do see of her is her face through the bars of the cell door and then she tries to escape the jail and gets stopped. In fact this episode sees the lion share of the action given to the supporting cast which isn’t something that has happened before but the performances were all quite good.

The title refers to the deal that the Doctor does with Lemaitre. He has to as he says otherwise Susan wont be released and that would be the only reason that the Doctor would help him. Hartnell seems to be still having fun in his current role. It’s a shame that he will have to go back to his old garb because it’s a brilliant site and seems more eccentric than his old one and more in line with the other outfits.

The cliffhanger was another good one and was probably the most exciting part of the episode. The Doctor arrives back at Jules Renan’s house accompanied with Lemaitre and Renan claims that the Doctor has betrayed them. It’s a fair assumption based on what they see and it will be interesting to see how the Doctor gets himself out of this. Hopefully the final episode will redeem this because the last couple of episodes have felt a bit stagnant and what this story deserves is a cracking finale because its not just the final episode of the story but it’s the final episode of the season.

EPISODE 6 – PRISONERS OF CONCIERGERIE
The final episode of Doctor Who’s first season. It wasn’t the final story to be filmed in this production block but it’s the first season finale in Doctor Who. There’s an awkward moment when they stand around waiting for the captions appear on screen. It could only happen in 1960’s TV. When they do eventually get started its not quite the getting out of the blocks that I would expect from the final part of the story. The first six minutes are made up of just standing around and talking about things that cropped up in the first episode. Once the story gets going the action moves to a pub where Barbara is dressed like a maid and Ian looks like….well I don’t know what like but it’s a funny look.

Napoleon Bonaparte is possibly the biggest historical figure that the show has encountered. It seems like a late addition to include him in as when he does get introduced then the shift of the story seems to change. It’s almost like Dennis Spooner has thrown this in at the last minute because they were worried that the story needed something to keep the story going for 20 minutes.

It’s 20 minutes before Susan appears and its another episode where Susan seems to be given a redundant role. She cant really do much in five minutes and it would have been nice if they had done something else or re-written the script to have Susan at least appear instead of just stagger into the story. Barbara and Ian get the most amount of the action and the Doctor seems to be getting more and more impatient as he waits for Susan to be freed. It’s another episode where the regulars seem to be passengers in the story and allowing the historical figures to do what they need to do.

There is a rather crude map of what I think is France but could have been designed by a five year old. It’s then mixed in with stock footage of a horse and carriage. It seems to be a theme of this story where the production values aren’t quite as good as they normally would be. Even when you consider that the budget wouldn’t have been there even at this stage of the production process, you think that professional integrity was sacrificed

The Destiny is in the stars speech was a lovely way to end the episode. It would be seven weeks before the show returns and I suppose there is no point in doing a cliffhanger because people would have forgotten after nearly two months. As an episode it was slightly better than the previous one because there seemed to be bit more of people moving around. It seems to have halted the decline that there was over the last couple of episodes. As a story it was quite a good one. The first half of the story is stronger because it seemed more active whereas the latter half was just people standing around talking about French politics which with the best will in the world isn’t something that really excities me.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s