Note: the blog / script below has some differences from what was featured in the video, as you know I have a tendency to go off my own script.
We are now at the final story of the first season of Doctor Who, The Reign of Terror, a story set during the French Revolution without a single French actor in the cast… well as far as I can tell anyway based on the accents… or lack their of… of the natives The Doctor and company encounter, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
The episode opens with The TARDIS landing in the middle of a forest, and The Doctor, still in a bit of a huff is eager to get Barbara and Ian off of his ship following Ian’s remarks at the end of the Sensorites. Susan is trying to convince him not to boot them out of the TARDIS, but at the same time Ian and Barbara remind her that they did want to go home… and this might be for the best… but there is some doubt on if The Doctor actually succeeded in getting them back home… and if he did, they don’t want to part on the worst of terms, so Ian invites the Doctor out for a drink and to explore the area.
One thing that is instantly noted that while they are on Earth, there is no street lighting of any kind, granted some areas of the countryside may not be lit… but then they encounter a boy whose terrified and dressed in rags… he informs them they are 12 kilometers away from Paris, France… which leads The Doctor to deliver a great line about being only a 100 miles off the mark is still pretty good. The boy runs off and our heroes end up finding an abandoned farm house which they promptly explore Scooby-Doo style by splitting up, The Doctor looking upstairs while the rest explore downstairs..
On a side note: Ian is coughing a few times, not sure if he’s still selling the illness he suffered on the Sense Sphere or the house is incredibly dusty. Also upon realizing they are not in the year 1963, Ian and Barbara are okay with being with The Doctor and Susan for a while longer.
Anyway, they and Susan ended up finding a trunk filled with 18th Century clothes, some random supplies and documents signed by Maximilien Robespierre, who was… not a nice dude…. In fact the phrase the ends justifies the means can be a great way to describe him since he was at the head of a period of time in French History called the ‘Reign of Terror’, where actual terror, executions were used by the post French Revolution government to try and restore order and control…
In fact here’s a quote he said: ... If the basis of popular government in peacetime is virtue, the basis of popular government during a revolution is both virtue and terror; virtue, without which terror is baneful; terror, without which virtue is powerless. Terror is nothing more than speedy, severe and inflexible justice; it is thus an emanation of virtue; it is less a principle in itself, than a consequence of the general principle of democracy, applied to the most pressing needs of the country”
Now to be fair, Robespierre wasn’t all bad… he was in favor of helping the poor , and at one point in time against the death penalty (even pushing for the execution of the piss boy… I mean King Louis XVI… he was a proponent of equal rights, price control on food and general goods as as the successful abolishing of slavery…. But it is the reign of terror that really cemented his place in the history books.
But I digress, upon realizing they are in France in the 1790s, Ian Barbara and Susan realize that the house they are in is a ‘way station’, a place for people fleeing to stop off, get some rest, change clothes and move on. They change in the clothes they found to blend in… and end up encountering two revolutionaries that are on the run named D’Argenson and Rouvray who want to know if they are friends or enemies… and that they knocked out the Doctor upstairs. While Rouvray is understanding and wants to know the truth, D’Argenson is very much paranoid and worried as the French soldiers could come any minute… and they do so… surrounding the house in a tactic to try break those inside mentally, which is quite successful as D’Argenson rushes outside… Rouvray follows and they are both killed
The soldiers capture Ian, Barbara and Susan with the plan to take them to Paris to introduce their heads to Le Rasoir National… while also choosing to burn the house down with the Doctor trapped inside as he recovers from being knocked earlier in the episode… in a memorable closing climax, the roof caves in as the flames engulf the structure, leading right into the closing credits.
This episode is in many ways a great opening chapter for a story, it continues from where we left off, obviously some time has passed, some great character moments that calls back to something viewers may have forgotten that Ian and Barbara want to go home, that Susan doesn’t want them to leave…. Plus we get the great introduction for the plot of this story with it being Ian, Barbara and Susan are now prisoners on a date with Madame Guillotine… and The Doctor’s status on if he can survive a burning house is a great cliffhanger.
Really you can’t ask for more than that in an episode of Doctor Who in the classic era. So on that note my friends, and you are my friends, it’s time for close up shop. Next week we’re going over part two of this story with Guests of Madame Guillotine