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THE REIGN OF TERROR


Chase - Posted on 08 December 2009

1

Whoever says this is a comedy didn't watch this episode first! That's to say that this is cracking good TV and cracking good DW to boot. I've said it before and I'll say it again---DW lost something when historicals like this one went out the window for monsters, monsters, monsters. Well, in fact, there are more monsters in this episode than in all of KEYS OF MARINUS and THE SENSORITES put together, they all happen to be human. If ANYONE can be really scared of ANYTHING in DW, then this should be it: mankind at its worst.

The tension takes time to build as Ian and Barbara are told they are home as the Doctor last ep had a hissy fit when Ian suggested he couldn't get them home. Barbara and Ian charm the Doctor into joining them for a goodbye drink, which cheers Susan up no end. The much heralded goodbye scenes and character interplay around such happens here first. Also of note: when TARDIS appears, we DO NOT hear the familiar wheezing and groaning sound, just the hum for the interior on the exterior. It is also a strange appearing but the copy of this ep is not the greatest so...

For the first half, it would be not knowing where the travellers are that would make the tension and excitement build. Now knowing in our own POV it takes something out of it but not much. The same excitement happens almost each week in THE TIME TUNNEL until you find out where they are and then the story has to keep your interest. Here, the French Revolution isn't found out about until maybe about 15 minutes in or so and until that we have a boy Jean Pierre who seems afraid, an old abandoned house that the travellers take their timne to explore, a feeling that they are in the past but where? ABOUT TIME suggests that as soon as Ian and Barbara found out they were in France, they should have guessed, "Christ, it's the French Revolution."  But all joking aside, this is quite good.

The music is one thing to notice. It has a special feel to it IMO and adds a sense of urgency to the entire thing. I don't understand why the travellers would want to change clothes in a house that might belong to spies. Or why the split up AGAIN but there you have it. The boy seems part of the people who are in the house and I don't believe this is ever discussed further. Is he a spy? A fugitive?  For once Hartnell's wig is very noticable.

This is quite grim with Rouvray shot first and on camera--of course we see no blood but his going down is quite grim and violent...and why he tried to insult them...then despite what THE DOCTOR WHO REFERENCE GUIDE says...and only then does D'Argenson get killed...and I don't think he's gunned down...it looks like he's beaten to death but I thought --perhaps in the novel...he's stabbed. He earlier talked of his entire family being executed, even his young sister...and all of it is quite scary and grim and sort of sad. Next we have the fire and it does on forever actually but it's also quite scary...with the Doctor trapped upstairs. Of course nowadays that would be penny ante stakes for the Doctor and he's leap out from the third window and unharmed but here...it's quite scary to see Hartnell's Doctor covered in smoke and the fire taking out almost all of the house, coming out of the windows...and the fire even goes on, licking the bottom of the credits  for half the end theme!

The solution to the cliffhanger is unfortunately spotlighted as Jean Pierre, the uncredited boy, is seen hiding in the bushes as Ian, Barbara and Susan are taken away by the Sergeant and his men but first we get an incredibly surreal look at Ian, Barbara and Susan as they look at the house burning for some time...worrying. Other than one lame unfunny joke about an eye patch wearing villain there is NO humor. Just a lot of talk of death, not finding home, being on one side or the other, and ...fire and more death. It is quite well done and scary and makes time travel not at all a happy affair.

One more thing that always struck me: WHY ON EARTH would the French Rev be the Doctor's favorite time period of Earth? Maybe he likes revolution? Maybe his people didn't really have any and he felt they needed to? Who knows but seeing all the death here makes one wonder if the DOctor is quite sane liking that time period?

A good ep and one that sets up the rest of the story well AND not the only grim ep of this story. It shows the historicals had merit as stories and adventures. Oh and THE TIME TUNNEL had a story called REIGN OF TERROR about Marie Antoinette.  

   

 

2

A strange ep. A little boy saves the Doctor. He's a farm boy and his mother will help him. His father was taken away, presumably for execution. Then the Doctor gets involved with a rail road type task master who makes him dig for...money? Here, it seems slapstickish and a lot like ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET THE KEYSTONE COPS! On the flip side of this we get Susan and Barbara besettled with a stinking dirty cell and it's not funny at all but makes you feel for the two. Despite this, they both try to find a way out, with Susan getting more and more despaired. Barbara puts down the advances of a jailer and when she digs a hole in the wall or starts to...Susan finds there are rats there. Which she hates.

At the same time Ian is in a cell--and at first, seemed to be apart from Susan and Barbara by a filmed insert early in the ep---with a dying man who passes on a secret. Ian keeps the secret and by being in the cell, his name is taken off the list, I think. He watches from his cell window as the girls are taken away...for execution.

We also get nice filmed inserts of someone dressed like Hartnell or Hartnell walking along outside location shoots. This is the first time this was done on DW. This reminds me of the first 9 months of DARK SHADOWS where filmed bits were done to give the outside feel and the outside look and it worked well there too.

This ep is still entertaining if a bit uneven. Hartnell excells with comedy and action, seriousness and slapstick. Oddly enough, the close up on the comrade's face as the Doctor hits the overseer with the shovel, makes this MORE violent than it might have done if done like THE THREE STOOGES. In any event, a good ep and with some of the same haunting feel of the first ep and some comedy...that's not really funny but only slightly amusing.   

3

This episode is another good one. Susan is sick, she and Barbara get saved. There's a man with them on the cart who I thought was a prisoner but I"m not sure and I"m not sure what happens to him either. The copy of these three recovered eps is not the greatest but the story moves along and introduces many, many new characters here, I had trouble keeping track. Of course, the girls are in one place, Ian another and the DOctor another, trying to get a disguise, which he does. It's not really funny but it does have some action during the rescue of Barbara and Susan by...who exactly, British? French? Both. The intrigue is here and the daring do at a few moments. The Ian escape is well handled and in fact, all of this is well written, well acted, and steeped in period piece. That Susan is sick is realistic. All in all, another good ep with everyone in top form. A lot of the time, DW stories start out great and sag, losing the premise of time travelling wanderers up to their necks in it. This does not do that and Barbara starts some kind of a something with Leon and even gets to drink or get offered wine.   

4

There doesn't seem to be much happening in this ep but if you look close you will find there is. There's a lot of back and forth and in and out of rooms and alot of characters moving about. I often feel when watching the historicals or the longer stories even the sci fi ones, that I need a character guide to keep everyone straight. Susan's sickness figures into it and it's interesting to note that Barbara tells us that she doesn't sleep long but has a voracious appetite, a bit like the Doctor and Adric in a way there. Ian gets his subplot tied into the others and remeets Barbara and Susan, but a day later, it seems he's walked into a cliffhanger trap with a traitor and they've been captured by the physician they've gone to--who wanted to use leeches on Susan--but who turned them in. The Doctor remeets Barbara  again. Oh and there's an awful lot of drinking of wine and brandy (and Danielle gives a brandy to Susan!). The threat is still palable and serious. The comedy is played down. And while a lot happens and it moves fast, there doesn't seem to be much to this ep. Still, all in all, it's a good one and well acted. But keep a character scorecard! This recon also has a few frame by frame scenes from the telly.    

 

5

The Doctor makes for Barbara to walk right out of the jail. Then he tries his hand at freeing Susan but that doesn't work. In the meantime, Ian is tortured on a wall by Leon. There's some action here and it's well done from what I can tell from the recon. Later, Barbara, Ian and Jules discuss Leon and the sides and the revolution and who looks like what from which side. Jules suprises us by telling us he's on the side of the revolution but not that it went this far. We also get another surprise when the Doctor is captured by Lemaitre and forced  to bring him to the hideout house! Has the Doc betrayed them all?

There's some snappy dialog here which includes, the Doctor saying, "You should know by now, you can't get rid of the old Doctor that easily my dear." and when Ian and Barbara discuss the Doctor seeming as if he's running the revolution and Ian saying, "How does he do it?"  Then Barbara telling Ian that the Doc didn't have time to explain it all to her but both agree that when he shows up later, they'll hear the story...many times. We also get the subplot of Robespierre.

Another good episode with a fair amount of action, some unfunny "comedy" complete with "comedy" music, most of it with the jailer, and a lot of talk but most of it character driven so quite good.   

6

 

A somewhat disturbing and scary episode. Not much comedy until the Doctor outwits the jailer but oddly enough I still care about Susan despite her being relegated to being locked up and whining and sickly. It's not hard to see why Carole Ann Ford wanted to leave but everyone else around her were getting more interesting things to do. The whole Ian and Barbara spying on Barras and Napelon thing feels like another whole story even though it is really short. Robepierre's fate is particularly nasty even though he's nasty even though here he's not really depicted as nasty. There's a tenseness about this ep as Barbara waits and watches alone as the crowd start to take Robepierre out, his jaw already shot and ABOUT TIME 1 tells us how nasty the real thing was. I like the travelouge feel at the end as the carriage takes the foursome back to where they are going and Lemaitre wonders about where the four are going...do they really know? Do any of us, he asks Jules. All in all a good story, a good ep, and a good ending to the story and the season with the over talk of the Doctor telling us their lives are important..at least to them he says and that gives the effect of us feeling that the travelers' lives aren't really important somehow.  It is as Ian will say aimless wandering. As t he Doc says their destiny is in the stars and they should go and find it. I also like the talk in the TARDIS about how they couldn't stop Napeleon and somehow time would have found a way to keep itself on track. I don't buy it but that is what they say: if they tried to shoot Napelon the bullet would have missed or written him a letter he would have lost it, etc. Earlier, too, Barbara laughs at how time is meant to go on the appointed track and Robespierre is to die. It's all very interesting and even now this is a time travel show and not so much what it will become later... a monster and outer space show rather than anything about time travel. The cast is still very strong and the guest stars are also. Jean and Danielle seem to be forgotten about although Jules mentions finding Jean in the end. Again, a good enjoyuable time travel story and not really a romp      

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