Doctor Who – The Massacre. Part Four – Bell of Doom

History continues to proceed in an inexorable fashion, with Steven and the Doctor caught in its flow. To begin with though, Steven is convinced that the Doctor is dead – so his sudden reappearance comes as something of a shock.

He doesn’t explain where he’s been, only mentioning that he was unavoidably delayed. This is something of a plot-flaw – bad enough that the Doctor decided to head off on his own, but it’s even worse that he now swans back without a care in the world.

It’s only when he realises the date and the year that it suddenly becomes clear to him just how much trouble they’re in (and also for those at home with a decent knowledge of French history). Was it assumed that the audience watching in 1966 would have been easily able to put two and two together? If so it implies that the (largely) child viewership must have been very historically literate.

The Doctor is keen to pack Anne off as soon as possible, but the girl has nowhere to go.

DOCTOR:  Now, my dear, there must be somewhere you can stay in Paris.
ANNE:  No, there’s only my aunt’s place, and they’ll kill me there.
DOCTOR:  Oh, nonsense. Tonight, you will be quite safe. Now you go carefully through the streets, hmm?

And that’s the last we see of her. When Steven later learns that thousands of Hugenots were massacred that day he’s convinced that she too must have died and that the Doctor was culpable. “You just sent her back to her aunt’s house where the guards were waiting to catch her. I tell you this much, Doctor, wherever this machine of yours lands next I’m getting off. If your researches have so little regard for human life then I want no part.”

Could the Doctor have saved her? Of course and they could all have left in the TARDIS together. We’ve seen the Doctor pluck people from many different periods of history, so it’s hard to see why Anne would have been any different. Indeed, it’s possible to believe earlier in the story that she was being groomed as possible companion material, but the events of The Daleks Master Plan should have taught us to take nothing for granted ….

If Hartnell’s been taking it easy for the last few weeks, then this episode gives him one of his signature moments. After Steven storms out of the TARDIS, the Doctor is left all alone. “Even after all this time he cannot understand. I dare not change the course of history. Well, at least I taught him to take some precautions. He did remember to look at the scanner before he opened the doors. Now they’re all gone. All gone. None of them could understand. Not even my little Susan, or Vicki. Yes. And there’s Barbara and Chatterton… Chesterton! They were all too impatient to get back to their own time. And now Steven. Perhaps I should go home, back to my own planet. But I can’t. I can’t”

It’s a lovely moment, although given Hartnell’s reluctance to learn lengthy speeches it can’t have been easy for him. Interesting that the Doctor here still seems wedded to the S1 concept of not interfering in history. This ties in with Lucarotti’s previous stories (notably The Aztecs) but the series, notably under the influence of Dennis Spooner, had somewhat moved on since then.

What’s disappointing is the way that the power of this scene is negated by what happens next. A young girl, Dodo Chaplet (Jackie Lane) bursts into the TARDIS, followed by Steven, and the Doctor is forced to take off immediately. This therefore not only cancels out Steven’s anger with the Doctor, it also provides us with the most perfunctory introduction possible for Dodo, the new companion.

That the Doctor tries to pour oil on troubled waters by pointing out that Dodo’s surname is similar to Anne’s, which maybe suggests than Anne survived after all, feels like little more than an exercise in straw-clutching.

This whole section seems rather bolted on (and was surely contributed by Donald Tosh, rather than John Lucarotti). But even allowing for the way that The Massacre rather dribbles to a halt, the bulk of the story is so strong that this isn’t really an issue.

It might not always feel like Doctor Who, but it’s still excellent drama. Let’s close with a line from Tavannes, a chilling proclamation that sums up the serial perfectly. “Tomorrow this city will weep tears of blood.”

6 thoughts on “Doctor Who – The Massacre. Part Four – Bell of Doom

  1. Years later Donna berates the Doctor for leaving Caecillius and his family to die in Pompeii, so he goes back and rescues them.

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  2. I recall there being a fan theory that Steven and Anne consummated their relationship during this story, hence his strength of feeling towards her in particular. The theory also supports why Dodo and Anne may have the same surname. The consummation resulted in Anne falling pregnant and the resultant fatherless child, a boy, bearing the mothers name. Skip forward a few generations and Dodo is a direct descendant from this trist, making Steven her great x grandfather.

    Bell of Doom is my number 1 wish of an episode returning to the archive.

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  3. This seems as good a time and place as any to talk about the late Jackie Lane.

    Jackie was the victim of too much chopping and changing of Doctor Who assistants in 1965-66. Vicki was abruptly dropped at the end of the Myth Makers. Katarina joined the Doctor only to be killed off a few episodes later, and Sara Kingdom was only in the one serial.

    Jackie Lane played Dodo in only six stories, and only four full stories as she only appeared at the end of the last episode of the Massacre and disappeared halfway through her last story with no proper last scene. And only half of her stories exist, including the one where she only appears in the first two episodes.

    In an interview in Doctor Who magazine Peter Purves said that Maureen O’Brien came back from holiday and was told that she was being written out of Doctor Who. (In a more recent, and more frank, interview in DWM Peter said that John was was not a good producer or a good person.) And he said the same thing happened to him when he was on Stopwatch (the sports programme for children which he presented after he left Blue Peter.) His agent phoned him and told him that the good news was that there was going to be another series of Stopwatch, and the bad news was that he wasn’t going to be in it. He said he wouldn’t do that to his worst enemy.

    But later Peter Purves got sacked from Doctor Who by Innes Lloyd who he respected. And he fired Jackie as well. Many years later Jackie Lane was running an agency for actors doing voice-overs (and one of her clients was Tom Baker). Innes Lloyd contacted her because he needed someone to do some voice-over for one of his productions, and she replied that twenty years earlier she fired him from Doctor Who, so she would not be helping him.

    She only appeared at one Doctor Who convention. When she agreed to do it she said she would just be doing the one. I read a report of that convention, and the writer said that during her interview the microphone didn’t work properly and some of the audience couldn’t her her. He said iit was “a tragic shame”, and it was given that this was her only convention appearance.

    At one of the Cult TV Weekends organizer Alex Geirns saud that he did invite Jackie to Cult TV Weekend, and she was very pleasant about but she declined. They did manage to get Tome Baker to come to one of the Cult TV Weekends. Alex Geirns said that they tried to get Tom by contacting his acting agent, and his lierary agent, but without success. But they did manage to get him after speaking to his voice-over agent. I asked Alex if that was Jackie Lane, and he said “You may think that, but I couldn’t possibly comment.”.

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    • I believe it’s on record that John Wiles didn’t think he was a particular good producer either and felt more of a writer who didn’t fit the producer model which in that form was still quite a new concept at the BBC. It’s notable he was replaced by Innes Lloyd whose background was very firmly on the implementation side rather than the creative.

      New producers on many series often do shake things up on their arrival and make brutal cast changes but some are better at implementing them than others. Wiles seems to have been struggling all round and never built a rapport with the existing cast.

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