Doctor Who – The Romans. Episode Three – Conspiracy


Conspiracy opens with another clandestine scene between the Doctor and Tavius.  The obvious joke is that the Doctor still has no idea what Tavius is talking about.  Tavius imparts the following vital information “I haven’t got long, so listen carefully. I’ve managed to get rid of that body and I don’t think anyone suspects. But if you delay your action, it will be safer.”

Every time that Tavius appears he hisses in a most unsubtle manner (in order to catch the Doctor’s attention).  It’s interesting that this bit of business wasn’t present in the script, so presumably Hartnell and Michael Peake worked it out in rehearsals.  Much later, Tom Baker’s willingness to treat the rehearsal script as simply a jumping off point for his own improvisations and suggestions would become legendary, but there’s no doubt that the four days rehearsal each episode was given during this period did allow for a certain leeway which sometimes benefited the story.

This episode sees the farce quotient ramped up another couple of notches as Barbara is presented to Nero’s wife Poppaea (Kay Patrick).  Poppaea’s not terribly impressed with Barbara, no doubt because she’s witnessed Nero’s instant attraction to her.  This wasn’t the first time that Barbara had found herself the object of male lust, although the others – Vasor in The Keys of Marinus and El Akir in The Crusade – weren’t played for laughs like Nero’s pursuit is here.

There’s a level of innuendo in the script for those who want to look for it (for example, Nero tells Barbara to “close your eyes and Nero will give you a big surprise”) and the farce element is at its most obvious as Nero pursues Barbara through the palace (she just avoids bumping into the Doctor or Vicki each time).  That Barbara remains unaware that the Doctor and Vicki are at court (and vice-versa) hardly seems credible – but that’s the whole joke and it’s delightful to see how the actors throw themselves wholeheartedly into the swing of things.

Derek Francis is a joy to behold in these scenes, he plays Nero as a little boy who’s anxious not to be found out.  But his other, more ruthless side, is demonstrated at the end of the episode as he watches Delos and Ian fight as gladiators.  Delos gains the upper hand and Nero has no hesitation in ordering Ian’s head to be cut off.  Whilst this seems at odds with the amiable, befuddled ruler we’ve previously seen, it actually fits in very well – Nero (like most Emperors) had lived so long with the gift of absolute power that he could be either cruel or compassionate, depending on his mood.  That so much power could be in the hands of such an unbalanced individual seems remarkable – but for all the comic stylings of the script, that part of The Romans is probably historically accurate.

Ian’s rather sidelined in this episode.  Locked up with Delos for most of the duration, he faces an uncertain future as a gladiator.  These scenes are most notable for the shots of two gladiators practising – unfortunately the way they fight is so feeble that it’s hard to imagine either would be capable of punching their way out of a paper bag …

Back at court, Vicki confesses to the Doctor that she might have poisoned Nero(!) which leads into another scene which is comic and dark at the same time.  The Doctor warns Nero and he passes his cup to the unfortunate Tigilinus (Brian Proudfoot).  Tigilinus drinks and plummets to the floor, dead.  “He was right” deadpans Nero as he shrugs and moves off.  What’s remarkable is that Vicki nevers seem to realise or indeed care that her actions cost the life of the court poisoner Locusta (Ann Tirard).

It’s finally time for the Doctor to demonstrate his non-existent skills as a lyre player.  “I would like to play my new composition in honour of this occasion. The music is so soft, so delicate, that only those with keen perceptive hearing, will be able to distinguish this melodious charm of music.”  Delightfully, he then proceed to play not a single note aloud, but since nobody wishes to admit that they lack the perceptive hearing required, everybody (including Nero) pretend to be entranced.  “He’s all right, but he’s not all that good” mutters Nero testily.  Brilliant!

Doctor Who – The Romans. Episode Two – All Roads Lead To Rome

Although the main plot of The Romans is straightforward enough, the various palace intrigues which bubble below the surface are slightly more opaque.  At the start of this episode it’s confirmed that the Centurion we met in the previous episode wanted Maximus Pettulian dead and he’d commissioned a mute assassin called Ascaris (Barry Jackson) to do the deed.  The joke being of course that Ascaris is unable to tell him that he’s already killed Pettulian once!

So he has to kill him again (in the shape of the Doctor) but the Doctor offers more evidence that he’s handy in a scrap.  The fight scene between Ascaris and the Doctor is a comic highlight of the episode and although it was designed to put as little stress onto Hartnell’s shoulders as possible, it still works very well.  When Vicki enters the room, Ascaris has clearly had enough and heads for the nearest window.  The Doctor’s rather disgruntled.  “Young lady, why did you have to come in and interrupt? Just as I’d got him all softened up and ready for the old one, two.”  Lovely stuff.

And what of Ian and Barbara?  Ian’s been sold as a galley-slave and quickly strikes up a friendship with Delos (Peter Diamond).  Although Diamond was a bit-part actor, he spent most of his time working as a stuntman/arranger (amongst his numerous film credits was the first Star Wars movie).  Delos performs much the same function as Larry did in The Dalek Invasion of Earth – he’s someone for Ian to talk to as he searches for the others.  Diamond’s a solid presence though and manages to be something more than just a line-feed.

Barbara’s landed on her feet as she’s been bought by Tavius (Michael Peake) and brought to the court of Caesar Nero.  Tavius is an interesting character – he’s someone who has an agenda of his own (which is connected to Maximus Pettulian) although his ultimate aims remain nebulous for a while.  And is he Barbara’s friend or foe?  Peake had an imposing physical presence and would clearly have found no difficulty playing the heavy, but we’ll see that there’s more to Tavius than meets the eye.

Nero (Derek Francis) makes an impressive entrance (he belches loudly).  “Royal felicitations” murmurs the Doctor.  Amongst a host of sparkling performances, Francis’ is the jewel in the crown and his byplay with Hartnell is delightful.  From their first meeting, the running gag of Maximus Pettulian’s skill (and the Doctor’s total lack of skill) as a lyre player is established.  Nero is keen to hear Pettulian play, but the Doctor manages to cleverly sidestep this potentially awkward moment by asking Nero to go first.  Another nice comic moment occurs when Nero calls for a stool – the Doctor begins to sit down on it, but it quickly becomes clear that Nero wanted it to balance his leg upon, causing the Doctor to rise again with a disgruntled expression!

Doctor Who – The Romans. Episode One – The Slave Traders

The literal cliffhanger from the previous episode (which saw a lovely model TARDIS falling down a ravine) is negated here in the most offhand way – although this very much fits in with the tone of the episode.  We open on a close-up of Ian, apparently unconscious, but it then becomes clear that he’s simply closed his eyes for a moment – he’s relaxing on a couch and is decadently maneuvering a whole bunch of grapes towards his mouth.

The Doctor has shamelessly moved into a villa on the outskirts on Imperial Rome (luckily for them, the owners are away).  It’s clear they’ve spent a few months here, doing nothing but overindulging in both food and drink (quite where all this comes from is a mystery that’s never solved – either the unfortunate householder had an extensive larder and wine-cellar which they’ve ruthlessly plundered or the Doctor has a large supply of Roman currency aboard the TARDIS).

Although Ian and Barbara are enjoying this unexpected lull, Vicki is bored. Vicki’s written here as rather more childlike than she’d later become – for example, she’s so keen to get to the market she tugs Barbara along and later reacts with glee when the Doctor agrees to take her to Rome – but as she’s such a novice time-traveller, that’s reasonable enough.

As for the Doctor, he also seems to be tiring of this inactive life and, with Vicki in tow, heads for Rome.  The Romans was Doctor Who‘s first overtly comic script and it’s clear that Hartnell’s in his element.  It would have been a story that demanded even more concentration from him than usual – the interplay between characters only works if the dialogue is delivered accurately (something that he sometimes had trouble with) but there’s no real problems in this episode.

After the Doctor and Vicki depart for Rome, Ian and Barbara remain behind at the villa.  William Russell has the chance to essay a few lines of Julius Caesar and narcissistically preen at his appearance, whilst Barbara is able to get in a few decent gags (like asking him to get some ice from the non-existent fridge).  As per the rest of the episode this chugs along comedically but events soon take a darker turn.

Two slave-traders, Sevcheria (Derek Francis) and Didius (Nicholas Evans), capture Ian and Barbara and intend to make a healthy profit out of them.  The fight scene is a comic one – Barbara accidentally knocks out Ian, rather than Sevcheria – but after that the reality of their situation hits home.  Chained up together, then separated, Ian and Barbara face an uncertain future.

Meanwhile the Doctor and Vicki find a murdered man in the bushes at the side of the road leading to Rome.  It clearly wasn’t robbery as his lyre wasn’t taken, so it remains a mystery (for a while at least) what the motive could have been.  The man was Maximus Pettulian from Corinth, whose skill as a musician was talked about even in Rome.  As luck would have it, he bore a certain resemblance to the Doctor and so the Doctor decides to assume his identity – since Pettulian was en-route to play for Nero, it’s a golden opportunity to meet the emperor.

Amongst the many nice little touches peppered throughout this episode, watch for the look between Hartnell and O’Brien after the Doctor confides to the Centurion (who’s appeared to escort Pettulian to Rome) that Vicki “keeps her eye on all the lyres”!

Until Nero appears in episode two the story never quite kicks into first gear, but there’s still plenty to enjoy in The Slave Traders.

Doctor Who – The Rescue. Episode Two – Desperate Measures

The Rescue was the first story of Doctor Who‘s second production block, but it was touch and go for a while as to whether the series would continue after The Dalek Invasion of Earth.  During the last twenty years or so a considerable amount of information has come to light concerning the lengthy birth pains of the series – most of which flatly contradicts the accepted view of Doctor Who‘s history which had formed during the 1970’s and 1980’s.

Back then it was generally believed that the success of the second serial, featuring the Daleks, had secured the series’ future, but the truth was rather more complicated.  To begin with, Verity Lambert was only offered a four week extension after DIOE.  She countered that if that was all that was on offer they might as well just go ahead and cancel the series.  Lambert wanted a firm commitment for thirteen weeks with an option for another thirteen.  This was eventually agreed and Doctor Who‘s future was further strengthened when Hartnell’s agent insisted on a confirmed twenty six weeks before his client would re-sign.  The BBC agreed again and so planning for series two could begin in earnest.

The most pressing requirement was for a story to introduce the new companion and that was The Rescue‘s main function.  There was also a minor mystery to be solved (Bennett = Koquillion and it’s revealed that he’d murdered all the inhabitants of the spaceship – including Vicki’s father – in order to escape justice) but Maureen O’Brien is the focus of the story.

In episode two we see some further examples of Vicki’s hysterics – especially when Barbara kills Sandy the Sand Beast.  Vicki’s penchant for giving things pet names was retained, although it’s just as well that her hysterical outbursts weren’t (Vicki certainly spends less time collapsing at the drop of a hat than Susan did).  Her anger with Barbara for killing Sandy allows her character to be developed a little further – Vicki’s extreme emotions demonstrate that she’s been isolated from human contact (apart from the surly Bennett) for too long.  It takes the gentle words of the Doctor (a lovely scene from Hartnell) to start to break down these self imposed barriers.

Although the focus of the story is on Vicki, the Doctor has a key scene as he confronts the mass-murderer Bennett.  It’s another opportunity to see an aggressive Doctor – although his fight with Bennett is naturally brief (and could be said to be motivated by self-defence, as it seems obvious that Bennett intends to murder the Doctor in order to preserve his secret).

Given the short running time, The Rescue is obviously not the most complex of stories, but the fact that there’s only five speaking parts means that each character has a decent amount of screen time.  Vicki and the Doctor come off best, although Ian and Barbara also enjoy some entertaining scenes (Ian gets to tussle with the unconvincing spikes of death whilst Barbara gets a little gung-ho with Sandy) and Ray Barrett is imposing in his duel role.

Doctor Who – The Rescue. Episode One – The Powerful Enemy

Following the epic nature of the previous serial, The Rescue is a much lower-key story.  The brief running time (two episodes) is one of the reasons why – a fifty minute slot doesn’t allow time to develop a particularly complex story.   But that doesn’t really matter as it mainly exists to introduce the new companion,  Vicki (Maureen O’Brien).

The initial shot of the model spaceship is impressive (even if it does look a little too much like a model).  We then get our first glimpse of Vicki – a young, eager and somewhat naive girl.  O’Brien would tone down this characterisation once she settled into the role, but based on what we see during this episode it does seem strange that the production team had decided to replace Susan with a character who’s so similar.

The moment when the Doctor asks Susan to open the TARDIS doors before remembering that they left her behind on Earth is a touching one, as is the way that Ian and Barbara rally round to subtly support and comfort him.  There’s also a lovely comedic feel to this opening TARDIS scene.  Barbara, referring to the ship, tells the Doctor that the trembling’s stopped and the Doctor, completely misunderstanding, pats her cheek and tells her he’s glad she’s feeling better!

Vicki and Bennett (Ray Barrett) are the only survivors from a crashed ship.  They live in fear from a mysterious creature called Koquillion.

Director Christopher Barry uses a similar inlay shot here to one he used in The Dead Planet.  Ian and Barbara look down from the caves and see the crashed ship in the valley below.  Although it’s a basic effect, it works very well.

Barbara meets Vicki.

BARBARA: Tell me more about this Koquillion .

VICKI: He just keeps us here, Bennett and me. There’s a rescue ship on the way. He doesn’t know about that. But he’ll find out. I know he will.

BARBARA: But why does he keep you here?

VICKI: They…they killed all the crew. We…when we landed we, we made contact here. Everyone on board was invited to a grand sort of meeting. I couldn’t go, I was ill, a fever or something. I stayed here that night. I remember waking up, a thunderstorm I thought, but is was an explosion. Bennett…Bennett…dragged himself back. I was ill for days, I didn’t know about it ‘til later. I came around and…found Bennett. He can’t walk.

There scenes almost play out as an audition piece for O’Brien.  It’s fairly overwrought stuff, but she handles it pretty well.

The Rescue is the first time we see the Doctor land on a planet that he’s visited before.  Last time he was here he was struck by the friendliness of the locals, so the bloodthirsty antics of Koquillion baffles him.

There’s a literal cliffhanger as the Doctor and Ian are trapped by some highly unconvincing metal spikes which emerge from the rockface.  It’s all good b-movie stuff.

Doctor Who – The Dalek Invasion of Earth. Episode Six – Flashpoint

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Flashpoint is an episode of two halves – the Daleks are defeated and the Doctor bids farewell to Susan.

After five episodes (and countless unseen years prior to the events of World’s End) it’s undeniable that the Daleks are dealt with rather quickly.  But the major niggle I have is how the destruction of the mine is assumed to signify the end of the Daleks’ rule.  This was an invasion of Earth, remember, nor just Britain.  So are there no Daleks in any other country?

It’s hard to be too critical of Nation though, since this would be a problem the series would encounter again and again over the years.  Subsequent invaders, be they Cybermen, Autons, etc would (for all their meticulous planning and strength in numbers) always have to be vanquished totally just before the end of the final episode.

When done badly it can feel like the Doctor’s simply flicked a switch to turn the story off.  Perhaps DIOE would have felt more satisfying had the Doctor left Earth with the humans holding the upper hand but still facing a long struggle to completely irradiate the Dalek menace.  But due to the way that stories tended to be neatly wrapped up by the concluding episode it’s not a surprise this option wasn’t taken.

There are a few bright spots during the first half though.  I love Barbara’s attempt to bamboozle the Black Dalek with news of a non-existent rebellion led by numerous famous figures from history!  She’s been rather sidelined during the last few episodes, so this was a nice moment.

A realistic touch is how shabby Ian’s clothes have become.  We’ve seen this before, An Unearthly Child for example, but it’s not something that would happen very often – later Doctors and companions would tend to look spotless, irrespective of the traumas they’d been through.

The Doctor’s in a proactive mood which is best demonstrated when he penetrates Dalek control.  His stand-off with a Dalek – seen from the eye-stalk of the metal meanie – is an impressive directorial flourish.  Hartnell, clutching his lapels, strikes a typically iconic pose.

The Dalek voices are rather inconsistent throughout the serial – at times it sounds like there’s little ring modulation used at all.  Most bizarrely, several times in this episode we hear Dalek voices over the tannoy and they sound for all the world like Peter Hawkins and David Graham have simply clamped a hand over their mouths!

The destruction of the mine is shown via stock footage, which is as convincing as stock footage usually is.  But the shot of Jenny, Tyler and the Doctor looking down on the devastation does almost makes up for this.  Both Ann Davies and Bernard Kay are immobile and expressionless as Jenny and Tyler begin to process the news that the war is over.  The joy of victory can come later, for now there’s just a weariness as they reflect how many lives have been lost over the years.

This still leaves ten minutes, which is a generous chunk of time to devote to Susan’s departure.  It’s interesting that neither Susan or David featured in the attack on the Dalek mine (was this an intentional sidelining of Susan?).  Given Ford’s unhappiness with the way Susan had been underused since the start of the series it’s ironic she wasn’t given a chance to shine against the Daleks in her last episode.

But at least she’s given a decent send-off (something that several future companions will be denied).  Grubby and tear-stained, we come to see that Susan loves David but can’t bear the thought of leaving her grandfather.  So the Doctor makes the decision for her and locks her out of the TARDIS.  Hartnell’s close relationship with Ford was well known (he’d come to look on her almost as his real granddaughter) and it’s plain that Hartnell, just as much as the Doctor, feels the pain of their separation.  Fifty plus years later it’s still touching stuff.

One day I shall come back. Yes I shall come back. Until then there must be no regrets, no tears, no anxieties.  Just go forward in all your beliefs and prove to me that I’m not mistaken in mine.

Doctor Who – The Dalek Invasion of Earth. Episode Five – The Waking Ally


We see a little more of the Slyther at the start of The Waking Ally, but not for long as Ian bashes it with a rock and sends it plummeting to its death down the mineshaft.  As it falls, it makes a rather pitiful cry.  Am I the only one to have a tinge of regret at the Slyther’s passing?

After spending the early episodes as exterminating baddies, the Daleks we see at the mines are slightly less exciting.  They come across as a group of middle-managers, worrying about work parties and the like.  It’s interesting that eight years later, in Day of the Daleks, they’re very similar.  Had Day been written by Nation it would have been an obvious retread, but that one was scripted by Louis Marks.  Possibly Marks had been influenced by these episodes or maybe he was just drawing on a similar theme.  After all, you can only exterminate so many people – if you kill them all then you’ll have no labour force left to carry out your nefarious plans.

Hartnell’s back and he’s in fine form – we see the Doctor give one of the Robomen a damn good thrashing.  For those who believe the Doctor is a pacifist it might be somewhat unexpected, but in reality he’s never been averse to using force.  It’s rarer that he actually gets physical (unless he’s being played by Jon Pertwee) but there’s countless occasions when the Doctor is shown to be quite happy to wipe out large numbers of whoever he considers to be the enemy that week.

Barbara and Jenny, whilst looking for shelter, find a tumbledown house in the middle of the woods.  The original plan had been for the house to contain three old women who would have resembled the witches from Macbeth (was it budget problems that ensured only two made it to screen?!)

One of the women reacts with polite pity to the news that London is no more.  “Destroyed? Well I never. Oh, when I went it was beautiful. There was the moving pavements and the shops and the astronaut fair.”  This sort of world-building via dialogue would later be a hallmark of Robert Holmes and although Nation’s brief effort is somewhat cruder it does give us a brief glimpse of 22nd Century life.  The women betray Barbara and Jenny to the Daleks.  In Nation’s first draft, one of them tells Barbara that “we’re old, child. Times are difficult. There’s only one law now – survive.”

Larry injures himself after he and Ian reach the bottom of the mine.  This is a sure sign that he won’t be around much longer, which is a shame as I’ve enjoyed Graham Rigby’s performance.  He manages to deliver lines like “who knows what the Daleks are up to? I told you what my brother Phil said – all they want is the magnetic core of Earth” with aplomb.  I like the contradiction inherent in this statement – who knows what they want? Oh, it’s the magnetic core of Earth that they want …

His death is so bleak.  He finds his brother, but discovers that he’s been turned into a Roboman.  Larry’s efforts to find some spark of humanity still remaining in his sibling (“Phil…it’s Larry, your brother Larry. Think Phil! Remember me! Angela…Your wife, Angela! I’ll take you to her”) comes to nothing and Robo Phil kills him.  As Larry dies, so does Robo Phil and the final (unscripted) recognition of Larry by Robo Phil just before he draws his final breath simply adds another level of tragedy to this scene.

How does the Doctor work out that the Daleks’ mine-works in Bedfordshire are the centre of their operations?  For all we know there could be similar Dalek mines dotted all around the globe.  The others ask the Doctor what the Daleks’ intention could be. He’s not sure, but the cat’s already been let out of the bag by Larry – his assertion that the Daleks are keen to extract the Earth’s core turns out to be 100% accurate. Perhaps it would have been better to snip this earlier line out, that way the mystery would have lasted a little longer.

Later on, the Black Dalek helpfully explains exactly what their ultimate plan is via the intercom. “This is the Supreme Controller. Our mission to Earth is nearly completed. We were sent here to remove the core of this planet. Once the core is removed, we can replace it with a power system that will enable us to pilot the planet anywhere in the universe.”  This is breathtakingly bonkers.

The scene with the Black Dalek is a good example of the chaos that can occur when you choose to pre-record Dalek dialogue. This didn’t happen that often – probably for the reasons you see here.  Mid-way through the scene, the cues begin to go hopelessly out of sync which gives us a bizarre moment when three Daleks are all taking at once and making very little sense!

Doctor Who – The Dalek Invasion of Earth. Episode Four – The End Of Tomorrow

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As previously discussed, Hartnell wasn’t able to take part in the recording of this episode, so his handful of lines had to be farmed out.  This occurs when David steps up to dismantle the Daleks’ firebomb (this would have been the Doctor’s only contribution to the episode).  It’s presumably a sign of the times that no thought was given to the possibility of Susan becoming the bomb expert.  It would have been a good reminder that whilst she looked like a fifteen-year old girl she possessed experience which belied her appearance.  But no, it has to be the man who takes charge, while Susan hovers anxiously in the background.

There’s a first in The End of Tomorrow – it’s the first time that Doctor Who filmed in a quarry (and this was one of those rare times when the location was actually shown to be a quarry and not an alien planet!)  John’s Hole at Stone, Kent has this singular honour.  And how well do the Daleks work in the quarry?  Answer, not very well.  We see one trundle a short distance rather slowly, but otherwise they wisely stay immobile.

The unmistakable Nicholas Smith, sporting an unexpected Mummerset accent, pops up as Wells.  He racked up numerous credits during the 1960’s but he’ll always be best remembered as Mr Rumbold from Are You Being Served?

Terry Nation has often been accused of being little more than a hack writer, churning out formulaic scripts at great speed.  His very brief original description of the Daleks is used as an example of this, but it’s fair to say that there were other times when he took more of an interest in detailing how his creations should be visualised.  His description of the Robomen is a good case in point.

“They are dressed in black from head to foot, high-necked, very utilitarian garb made from rough cloth. There is no expression on the face. The eyes stare unblinking. Their movements are a a little stiff, but not over-emphasized. They seem to have a slight mechanical quality about them.  Their voices are very mechanical and slow, like a child deaf from birth learning to make sounds.”

Maybe one of the reasons why Nation didn’t spend too long on descriptive passages is that he knew his ideas might not be adopted.  With the Robomen, some of his concepts were taken on board, but it’s notable that Nation didn’t specify that they should wear what appears to be wastepaper baskets on their heads.  The movie managed something more sleeker, but the concept of miniaturisation doesn’t seem to have been considered here.

With the Doctor unconscious, Susan and David are exploring the sewers.  In Nation’s original draft, David mentions that people moved underground to avoid the plague.  Their descendants are still there, but they’re no longer quite human.  Having adapted to living in total darkness, their “hair is matted and shoulder length and, like the face, it is totally white. Only the eyes make black circles. They are larger than human eyes, bulging and dark like those of a night creature. Canine teeth project over the lower lip.”  Instead we see Susan tangle with a friendly alligator.  Oh well, it was cheaper I guess.

We catch a brief glimpse of the Slyther.  It’s the sort of thing that defies description and you have to be impressed at how seriously William Russell reacts to it.  Later on there would have been the temptation to send it up (goodness knows what would have happened had Tom Baker met it – something along the lines of The Creature from the Pit no doubt) but Russell is rock solid.  The bizarre sounds it makes are also memorable.

There can be few odder cliffhangers than the sight of the Slyther advancing on Ian and Larry whilst it slowly waves a portion of itself.  Richard Martin might not be Doctor Who’s most highly-rated director, but at least he wisely chose to keep this shot as a close-up.

Doctor Who – The Dalek Invasion of Earth. Episode Three – Day Of Reckoning

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The relationship between Susan and David begins to deepen. In part this is due to their shared experiences – in this episode, the pair (in hiding) hear the Daleks exterminate a poor unfortunate.  “You killed my wife and my brothers, now you want to kill me, argh, get away from me! No, no, no…argh!”  Ford’s reaction sells the horror of the moment more powerfully than if we’d actually seen the man killed.  Following this disturbing moment, Susan wishes that they could simply leave.

SUSAN: If only we could go to the ship and get away from here.
DAVID CAMPBELL: Well, I couldn’t go anyway.
SUSAN: Oh, David, David! Perhaps you could! I…I..could ask Grandfather and I’m sure he’d let you come. Oh, we could go to place where they’d never even heard of Daleks.
DAVID CAMPBELL: And what happens if there’s something unpleasant in the new place?
SUSAN: We move on somewhere.
DAVID CAMPBELL: No Susan, that’s not for me.
SUSAN: Why not?
DAVID CAMPBELL: Look, things aren’t made better by running away.
SUSAN: Well its suicide to stay here.
DAVID CAMPBELL: This is my planet! I just can’t run off and see what it’s like i
SUSAN: I never felt that there was any time or place that I belonged to. I’ve never had any real identity.

The Doctor of S1 would have agreed with her and no doubt would have been just as keen to hot-foot it out of there, but Susan should know by now that the new, improved S2 Doctor is not going to leave until the Daleks are defeated.  It’s also notable that in the last few episodes Susan has begun to express a little dissatisfaction with life aboard the TARDIS.  This is something we’ll see repeated over the years and it usually happens just before a companion is due to leave.  Anytime a companion starts to complain more than they normally do (another obvious example is Victoria in Fury from the Deep) you know they’re heading for the exit door.

The various team-ups that will endure over the next few episodes are now falling into place.  Barbara and the balaclava-loving Jenny begin to head for the mines in Bedfordshire.  Coincidentally, Ian is trapped on the Daleks’ saucer which is also heading for the mines in Bedfordshire.  Also hiding on the saucer is Larry (Graham Rigby) who wants to get to the mines in order to find his brother.  Larry is one of those characters who appear again and again in Doctor Who – they exist partly to line feed other characters (in this case Ian) and once their usefulness comes to an end they tend to be killed off.  The Doctor is reunited with Susan and together with David they decide to head … north (I’ve got a feeling they’ll end up at the mines at Bedfordshire, don’t you?)

Day of Reckoning is notable for a major location sequence in which Barbara, Jenny and the doomed Dortmunn flee from the Daleks whilst passing as many well-known London locations as they can fit in.  Accompanied by Francis Chagrin’s unusual percussion-based incidental music it’s an iconic few minutes – not least for the Daleks waving their suckers in a Nazi-salute style.

Hartnell doesn’t have a great deal to do in this episode, which is just as well as he was injured during rehearsals (as he was being carried down the Dalek saucer’s ramp he was dropped on the floor).  This could have been a lot more serious – Hartnell was temporarily paralyzed – but he recovered well enough to record the episode in the evening.  But it was recommended that he spend a few subsequent days recovering in bed, so he was hastily written out of the following episode (although luckily he wasn’t a major figure in that one either).

Doctor Who – The Dalek Invasion of Earth. Episode Two – The Daleks

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After the Doctor and Ian (and no doubt the audience) were surprised by the Dalek emerging from the Thames, they’re taken to the Dalek saucer at Chelsea.  Another prisoner, Craddock (Michael Goldie) explains how the Daleks invaded.

CRADDOCK: Well, the meteorites came first. The Earth was bombarded with them about…ten years ago. ‘Cosmic storm’ the scientists called it! Well, the meteorites stopped, everything settled down, and then … people began to die of this new kind of plague.
DOCTOR: Yes, that explains your poster, dear boy. Germ bombs, hmm?
CRADDOCK: Yeah, the Daleks were up in the sky just waiting for Earth to get weaker. Whole continents of people were wiped out. Asia, Africa, South America. They used to say the Earth had a smell of death about it.
IAN: Why Craddock? What were the doctor’s and the scientists doing about it?
CRADDOCK: Ah, well, they came up with some new kind of drug, but it was too late then.

This scene intercuts with David Campbell (Peter Fraser) telling Susan and Barbara the same story.

SUSAN: What happened next?
DAVID CAMPBELL: Well, the plague had split the world into tiny little communities. Too far apart to combine and fight and too small individually to stand any chance against invasion.
BARBARA: Divide and conquer?
DAVID CAMPBELL: Mmm. About six months after the meteorite fall, that’s when the saucers landed.

Nation’s draft scripts gave a different version of events. In the late twentieth century, the world was at war – China, Russia and America were at loggerheads whilst Britain was in conflict with Europe. But the arrival of the Daleks meant that the world united to face this common threat and a world government was formed in Japan.  The main problem with this scenario is that it would have begged the question as to exactly what the Daleks had been up to on Earth for the past two hundred years!

When Nation started crafting a sequel to The Daleks, his first thought was about how he could raise the stakes.  Showing the Daleks as the masters of Earth was an obvious choice – Jon Pertwee’s oft repeated comment about finding a Yeti using a public convenience in Tooting Bec demonstrates how mixing the everyday with the unknown can be a powerful one.  The Dalek/Thal conflict on Skaro worked well, but juxtaposing the Daleks with the familiar Earth landscape offered many more dramatic possibilities.  Of course you have to find a good reason as to why the Daleks would travel across the universe to invade the Earth.  Did Nation succeed? Mmmm.

Over the decades Earth would find itself under attack from a whole host of marauding aliens – but it’s rather fitting that the Daleks, given their status in the series, were the first.  They’re also by far the most successful, since subsequent invasions almost always happen when the Doctor is around, meaning that he’s able to save the day before things get too far out of hand.  Here, the invasion’s over and the Daleks have achieved a complete victory.  Humanity has been decimated and the survivors have been reduced to living underground or on the run, waging a seemingly hopeless struggle against an all-powerful enemy.

Nation’s memories of WW2 come to the fore in this episode, especially with the Daleks’ radio broadcast. “Rebels of London. This is our last offer. Our final warning. Leave your hiding places. Show yourselves in the open streets. You will be fed and watered. Work is needed from you but the Daleks offer you life.”

Susan and Barbara have made contact with the rebels. They’re all fairly broad character types, but luckily Richard Martin found good actors who were able to put a little meat on their bones.  Dortmunn (Alan Judd) is the wheelchair bound inventor who’s convinced he’s developed a bomb to destroy the Daleks – we’ll shortly see how terribly wrong he is.  Jenny (Ann Davies) is a hard as nails survivor who, no surprise, becomes more human as the serial develops.  Tyler (Bernard Kay) doesn’t have a great deal to do in this episode, except argue with Dortmunn, but Kay (who would return to the several several times in the future) is always watchable.  And David Campbell will serve a very definite purpose in the story, although there’s no sign of that yet.

A late revision to the script concerned the intelligence test that the Daleks use to decide which humans are fit to be converted into Robomen.  In the first draft, the Daleks simply turned up and took their prisoners to be Robotised one by one.  This obviously wasn’t deemed to be satisfactory, so something more elaborate was created.  But it does beg the question as to why the Daleks bother with all this palaver – since the Robomen are seen to have no free will of their own, why do the Daleks need to select those of a certain intelligence?  This also means that a Dalek has to be present outside every cell, waiting for the prisoners to work out how to escape.  Surely this would tie up a lot of Daleks?  The Peter Cushing movie streamlined things considerably by showing Cushing’s Doctor using a comb to escape!

Technically, this episode is a little messy.  A member of the production team wanders in shot at one point and David Graham’s pre-recorded Dalek lines are cued in too early in one scene.  The rebels’ attack on the saucer doesn’t really convince either – had it been shot on film rather than VT then it could have been cut together more convincingly.

Doctor Who – The Dalek Invasion of Earth. Episode One – World’s End

The Dalek Invasion of Earth was where everything changed.  It’s the first time that an element from a previous story returned, so it can be said to be the beginning of Doctor Who continuity.  Whether you call it “continuity” or “kisses to the past” or something else, it’s a dirty word for some people.  Many considered 1980’s Doctor Who to be far too obsessed with its own past (and just to show that nothing changes, the modern series is the same for some people).

Maybe one of the reasons why I love 1960’s Doctor Who is because it’s fairly light on continuity.  There are returning monsters (Daleks, Cybermen, Yeti, Ice Warriors) but they’re the exceptions rather than the norm – a returning baddy was more of an event then, as it didn’t happen all the time.  The Doctor’s place in the universe is another reason why I like 1960’s Who.  He’s able to travel around in almost complete anonymity – compare this to the series from the 1970’s onwards, where he increasingly became someone that everyone in the universe seemed to know (and if they didn’t know him personally, they’d probably have heard of the Time Lords at least).  The trend continues to this very day, and modern Who feels even more constricted than the original series ever did.

True, we see a few examples of the Doctor’s fame during the Hartnell and Troughton eras (for example, there’s the frankly bizarre notion that the Doctor’s travels have been monitored in The Savages, making Jano and his friends the very first Doctor Who fansbut they’re rather an exception.  Hartnell’s Doctor never arrives somewhere and announces that he’s a Time Lord, or the most powerful being in the universe, or the thing that monsters are afraid of, etc, etc.  He has to gain people’s trust by his actions rather than simply relying on his reputation.

Turning back to DIOE,  Terry Nation had to do some frantic re-tooling in order to present the Daleks as a galactic force.  In The Daleks they seemed to have no ambition for conquest – they merely wanted to survive.  Later in this story we see the Doctor blithly tell Ian that the Daleks they encounter on Earth come from an earlier period, which suggests that Skaro’s Daleks had devolved (the Skaro Daleks couldn’t move outside of their city, whilst the Earth Daleks have no such trouble).  This might lead us into the murky world of Dalek continuity, so I think it’s best to leave it there.

As will be traditional with most Dalek stories, they only pop up right at the end of episode one.  It’s an obvious trick – hook the viewer in and then reward them with just a taste, thereby forcing the audience to return next week.  So if we don’t have the Daleks here, what do we have?

For starters, it’s the series’ first major location shoot and also the first time that the regulars were seen on location.  Having spent nine stories confined in the studio it’s a considerable novelty to see Billy and co. out in the open.  As with most stories to this point, Nation elects to block the entry to the TARDIS – this time via a collapsing girder – which forces the Doctor and his friends to venture further afield.  Given that the raison-d’etre of the series had subtly changed (the Doctor was now becoming more proactive in his desire to combat evil) it probably wasn’t required, but it’s always nice to see old plot favourites (Susan’s sprained ankle is another).

It slowly becomes clear that they haven’t returned to Ian and Barbara’s time (notices which state “It is forbidden to dump bodies in the river” are something of a giveaway).  The mystery is settled when Ian finds a calendar for 2164 (Doctor Who often liked to set stories exactly a few hundred years in the future).  Quite why 2164 looks a lot like 1964 is a mystery that’s never explained on screen (although in Terry Nation’s original drafts it was revealed that the Daleks had invaded in the 1970’s – so any technological or architectural progress would have been drastically curtailed from that point onwards).

The paper plate Dalek spaceship is priceless!  The CGI replacement on the DVD is very nice, but as with all the replacement effects I rarely use them – and if you’re the sort of person to be worried by the original effect you probably shouldn’t be watching the series anyway.  It’s not a case of being blind to the series’ numerous production faults and missteps, rather you just have to accept the production for what it was (true, sometimes you have to be very accepting!)

As we get further into the story, I’m sure we’ll find time to discuss the Daleks’ bizarre reasons for invading Earth, but for now let’s restrict ourselves to the underwater Dalek.  Why was it underwater?  Apart from providing a decent cliffhanger I can’t think of any other credible reason.  But that’s been a good enough reason for many Doctor Who cliffhangers down the ages, so let’s not carp too much.

Doctor Who – Planet of Giants. Episode Three – Crisis

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As is well known, Planet of Giants was originally a four part story before producer Verity Lambert, apparently on the orders of the head of serials Donald Wilson, opted to combine the last two episodes (Crisis, The Urge To Live) into one. It’s always slightly amazed me that this happened – for financial reasons, if nothing else. Merging two episodes together effectively meant that the budget for the transmitted Crisis doubled (in today’s terms it’s not a great deal of money, but Doctor Who, like every other BBC series of the time, was closely monitored to ensure that their budgets were adhered to).

The reason for the editing was twofold – it was believed that the four-parter was too slow and also that it wasn’t a sufficiently impressive season opener. Whether it’s slower than, say, The Sensorites is open to debate (and just consider if every Doctor Who producer who followed Lambert had been as ruthless – just how many more episodes would we have lost over the years?).

The notion that it would make a poor debut serial for Doctor Who‘s second season is a little odd – episode one was transmitted on the 31st of October 1964, whilst the last episode of season one was aired on the 12th of September 1964, a mere six weeks earlier. Since very little time had elapsed between Reign and Planet, most viewers probably wouldn’t have considered Planet to be the start of a new season anyway (back then, it was common for long-running series to take occasional breaks of a few weeks or months – it didn’t always signify that a new production block had started).

Douglas Camfield (who had directed the original Crisis, Mervyn Pinfield directed The Urge To Live) was given the task of editing the two episodes together. Overall he does pretty well, although there are a few signs that it’s something of a bodge-job (a handful of sudden fade to blacks, plus the odd scene ends fairly abruptly). Nothing too vital was lost (unless you’re a fan of Hilda and Bert) and there’s no doubt that the transmitted Crisis zips along nicely.

But even the more streamlined transmitted episode can’t hide the basic weakness of the story – the Doctor and his friends remain impotent characters, unable to prevent Forester and Smithers from carrying out their plans to introduce DN6 to an unsuspecting world. All their attempts to warn the authorities – using the phone, starting a fire – achieve nothing and it falls to the nosy telephone exchange operator Hilda (Rosemary Johnson) and her police-officer husband Bert (Fred Ferris) to save the day.

You have feel a little sorry for Forester – a master criminal he was not. After ringing up Whitehall and pretending to be Farrow by using the classic trick of placing a handkerchief over the receiver (he would have been better off attempting to imitate Farrow’s whistling speech impediment!) he immediately catches the interest of Hilda, who realises that the man on the phone wasn’t Farrow. Clearly, Hilda must spend all her time listening in on calls! It’s also a little bizarre that Forester made no attempt to change his voice when he pretended to be Farrow, obviously he felt that the handkerchief was doing all the work for him.

Hugh Greene, director general of the BBC, reported at the BBC’s regular programme review board that he felt Planet of Giants didn’t really work and also that he was looking forward to the return of the Daleks. No doubt his anticipation concerning the the Daleks was shared by most of the viewers at home, so it’s tempting to view Planet of Giants as little more than “filler” – just something to kill time before the next story. That’s a little unfair, as whilst Giants has some narrative problems it’s also a visual treat.

Doctor Who – Planet of Giants. Episode Two – Dangerous Journey

 

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At the start of Dangerous Journey there’s no real reason why the Doctor and his friends don’t return to the TARDIS and leave. Although they were concerned about Farrow’s dead body in the previous episode, the Doctor accepted that given their current size there’s nothing they can do to help. But the arrival of Forester and Smithers panics them and Ian and Barbara run straight into Farrow’s briefcase (another nicely designed prop). They could have hardly picked a worse place to hide in as it’s then taken into the house.

Smithers might be a blinkered scientist, but he’s not a a complete fool. He quickly ridicules Forester’s claim that Farrow was killed in self defence, pointing out that the unfortunate man was shot through the heart at point blank range. Smithers, unlike Forester, isn’t interested in profit – he’s motivated purely from a desire to save lives. “I’ve seen more death than you could imagine. People dying of starvation all over the world. What do you think I started on research for?”

But whilst he may have the best of intentions, he’s blinded to the issues with his formula. The misguided scientist would be a character who would feature numerous times in subsequent Doctor Who stories. Normally the Doctor would have a scene where he could explain to him or her the error of their ways. But due to the Doctor’s small stature this can’t be done here, so Smithers remains unenlightened until he reads Farrow’s notes in the next episode and finally understands just how flawed his work is.

One thing that’s always slightly irritated me about the story is the moment when Barbara touches some seeds which are coated with DN6. She mentions this in passing to Ian (who ignores her) but when she realises that she’s been infected, why doesn’t she tell Ian? Ian doesn’t come out of this very well either as he’s shown to be, once again, rather slow on the uptake.

But although the story isn’t quite gelling you can always just sit back and enjoy the visuals. The sink, complete with plug and plughole, is yet another wonderfully designed Raymond Cusick set and the animated fly is also stunning. Doctor Who had its fair share of design disasters (the paper-plate Dalek flying saucers in the very next story, say) but when things work they really work.

There’s a faint touch of the series’ original educational remit as the Doctor tells Susan that since they’re in the sink their voices will be magnified. Ian also explains why communication with the people in the house would be impossible. “Imagine a record played at the wrong speed. We’d sound like a little squeak to them and they’d sound like a low growl to us”.

The cliffhanger is a decent one – the Doctor and Susan shelter in the sink’s pipe as Smithers washes his hands. That such a mundane action could be fatal – they risk being swept away by the deluge of water – is one of the main strengths of the story.

Doctor Who – Planet of Giants. Episode One – Planet of Giants

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Planet of Giants opens with the Doctor fretting over the fact that the TARDIS doors opened just before the ship materalised.  He’s clearly extremely worried about this and it’s possible that the scripted anxiety seeped into Hartnell’s performance as he’s rather incoherent during the scene.  But once the Doctor calms down, Hartnell also seems to recover somewhat.

When they venture outside, the four split up (bad move, you’d think they’d have learned by now!) to explore and begin to puzzle over the strange things they see (such as giant earthworms and ants).  The audience, thanks to the episode title, is slightly ahead of the TARDIS crew but it takes the reveal of items like a huge matchbox to provide the final clues.  The Doctor has finally managed to steer the TARDIS back to Earth in the 1960’s but they’ve all been reduced to the size of an inch.

Ian’s slow to accept this, preferring to believe that what they’ve found are nothing more than advertising props, built for an exhibition.  Given all that he’s seen over the course of the first season it’s a little jarring that the rational Ian fails to grasp the truth.  However this does, for once, enable Susan to be shown to be the sensible one (although she still has her fair share of hysterical outbursts).

A minuscules story had been planned right from the beginning (originally it would have followed on directly from the first episode).  It’s a clear technical/design triumph – Raymond Cusick, on the show’s usual tight budget, works wonders (the glass-shot of the house is a stand-out shot).  The various dead insects are also impressive.

But the story tends to fall down with the sub-plot of the giants.  The trials and tribulations concerning the TARDIS crew’s attempts to return to the ship are fine, but they wouldn’t have been substantial enough to carry a four-parter by themselves.  So in this first episode we meet the single-minded businessman Forester (Alan Tilvern).  Forester has invested a great deal of money in a new insecticide called DN6 and he’s perturbed to learn that the man from the ministry, Arnold Farrow (Frank Crawshaw), is recommending that it doesn’t go into production.  The reason is quite simple – DN6 is an indiscriminate killer and wherever it’s applied nothing (not even insects) will survive.

Because the Doctor and his friends never directly interact with Forester and later on the deluded creator of DN6 (Smithers), there’s a disconnection between the two main plot-threads which is one reason why the story never quite satisfies.  But on a positive point, Tilvern is a suave villain who thinks nothing of shooting the unfortunate Farrow dead (which could be said to be a mercy killing, thanks to Crawshaw’s distracting speech impediment).

Doctor Who – The Reign of Terror. Episode Six – Prisoners of Conciergerie

 

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The final episode of The Reign of Terror is somewhat disconnected from the rest of the serial. There’s a couple of possibilities to consider – either Dennis Spooner ran out of plot and had to bolt this epilogue on or maybe it was felt that after five episodes of capture/escape/capture there should be an ending that looked ahead to France’s future.

Lemaitre reveals that he’s the English spy, James Stirling. Or at least he says he is – it’s rather remarkable that everybody takes this statement at face value without asking for any sort of proof. After the moral complexities of the previous episode it’s a little unimpressive – what better way could there be for an agent of the Revolution to infiltrate the rebels than by claiming he’s one of them? But thankfully Stirling is who he claims to be and quickly ropes Ian and Barbara into assisting him with a dangerous mission.

This is another strange development – out of all the people that he could have been chosen, why pick Ian and Barbara? But these scenes – the pair go undercover at a tavern to spy on a meeting between Paul Barrass and Napoleon Bonaparte – do help to give the story a wider scope (even if they’re historically very dubious). Still, we get to see Barbara as a serving wench, so it’s not all bad.

Robespierre’s final appearance is brief. He’s shot in the jaw (off-screen) and later finds himself incarcerated at the Conciergerie, where the jailer gleefully receives him. The turncoat nature of the jailer – he’s now happy to share in the derision heaped on Robespierre, whereas an hour earlier he had been his most loyal servant – stands in sharp contrast to the unswerving viewpoints held by the likes of Jules and Leon.

Even if this episode closes the story with something of a whimper rather than a bang, the final scene, set in the TARDIS, is interesting as it offers another restatement of the belief that Earth’s history is unalterable.

IAN: Supposing we had written Napoleon a letter, telling him, you know, some of the things that were going to happen to him.
SUSAN: It wouldn’t have made any difference, Ian. He’d have forgotten it, or lost it, or thought it was written by a maniac.
BARBARA: I suppose if we’d tried to kill him with a gun, the bullet would have missed him.
DOCTOR: Well, it’s hardly fair to speculate, is it? No, I’m afraid you belittle things. Our lives are important, at least to us. But as we see, so we learn.

It’s easy to believe that this scene was the handiwork of David Whitaker, as Dennis Spooner would soon gleefully prove that history could very easily be changed. In retrospect it’s clear to see why this was untenable – the concept that history (or at least, Earth history) was fixed whilst the future (or at least, the future as seen from a 1960’s Earth perspective) could be altered at will was a rather bizarre one.

Doctor Who – The Reign of Terror. Episode Five – A Bargain of Necessity

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At the end of the previous episode Ian was captured by Leon, who reveals that he’s an agent of the Revolution. “I’ve been loyal to the Revolution from the beginning. If you’d known what France was like six years ago, before the Bastille, you’d understand. France will never be anything until we’re rid of these high-born leeches who’ve been sucking the life-blood of France for so long.”

Although Leon could viewed as a villain, like Robespierre he’s convinced of the right of his actions. And whilst he chains and threatens Ian, there’s the sense that he does so reluctantly. This scene is open to various interpretations though – maybe Leon is a skilled manipulator and tells Ian exactly what he thinks he wants to hear. Or is his desire to spare his life genuine?

It’s no surprise that although Ian is restrained and several menacing guards are present, there’s no attempt to torture him for the information which Leon is convinced he has (Jules appears and kills Leon before this happens). Saturday tea-time back in 1964 wouldn’t have been the place for explicit scenes of suffering (which makes the subject matter of this serial an odd one to have chosen).

The dramatic highlight of the episode, indeed the entire serial, occurs when Barbara is told of Leon’s death.

IAN: It was the only way, Barbara.
JULES: He deserved to die. He was a traitor.
BARBARA: What do you mean, he was a traitor?
IAN: When I got to the church, he turned on me. He was going to kill me.
JULES: He betrayed us, Barbara.
BARBARA: He was a traitor to you. To his side he was a patriot.
IAN: Barbara, we’ve taken sides just by being here. Jules actually shot him. It could just as easily have been me.
JULES: And what about Robespierre? I suppose you think ….
BARBARA: Well just because an extremist like Robespierre
IAN: Oh, Barbara, Jules is our friend. He saved our lives!
BARBARA: I know all that! The revolution isn’t all bad, and neither are the people who support it. It changed things for the whole world, and good, honest people gave their lives for that change.
IAN: Well, he got what he deserved.
BARBARA: You check your history books, Ian, before you decide what people deserve.

It’s a sparkling scene for both William Russell and Jacqueline Hill and offers a rare opportunity to see Ian and Barbara at loggerheads. Although Barbara’s view of Leon is no doubt coloured by her appreciation of him as a man, the point she makes (Leon would have been viewed as a patriot by his own people) is a valid one. But Ian’s retort that they’ve chosen sides and Leon had to be viewed as an enemy is equally valid. By showing Leon to be a cultured, well-educated man who also happened to believe that the overthrow of the ruling elite was morally justified, Spooner’s script has a level of complexity which wasn’t always present in Doctor Who. Generally, during this era of the series goodies and baddies tended to be painted in broader brushstrokes (although the historical stories did seem to offer more scope for nuanced character studies).

The Doctor spends the episode manipulating the hapless jailer in order to obtain Barbara and Susan’s release from prison. It provides a spot of comic relief which counterpoints the darker theme of Leon’s death. But it looks as if the Doctor hasn’t quite been as clever as he thinks – as we see that Lemaitre is still the one pulling the strings ……

Doctor Who – The Reign of Terror. Episode Four – The Tyrant of France

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In 1990 I acquired pirate copies of the four existing episodes of The Reign of Terror on VHS and happily watched them for many years. Back then I didn’t have a great deal of interest in the  audios of the missing episodes. This was understandable in one way as I was keener to track down copies of all the episodes that did still exist (meaning that the audios were a much lower priority).

It wasn’t until the remastered soundtracks started to appear on CD that I began to plug the gaps (later on these missing episodes would be enhanced by various recons – both official and unofficial). With some stories, like The Invasion, I never felt that I’d missed too much by not having audios of the missing episodes back in the 1990’s, but it wasn’t until I had the chance to listen to the audios of episodes four and five of The Reign of Terror that I finally realised what I’d been missing all those years.

These two episodes contain the dramatic heart of the story. The first three episodes contain a great deal of interest, but in many ways they’re simply designed to get us to this point (episode six is a coda which has very little connection to the rest of the story).

The Doctor’s meeting with Robespierre (Keith Anderson) is a fascinating one. Robespierre isn’t presented as a cackling villain, but rather as a weary administrator who – whilst authorising carnage on a grand scale – is convinced that he’s doing it for the greater good. This is a much more interesting portrait than had he simply been shown as a stock, “evil”, character. Beware the man who knows he’s right.

ROBESPIERRE: I could, and I shall, do great things for France. For too long the Nobility have kept our people to heel. And now finally, my world is at power, what happens? My colleagues, my trusted friends, plot for power.
THE DOCTOR: Do they? Or is it just their wish to keep their heads, hmm?
ROBESPIERRE: Danton planned to restore the monarchy. I had the proof, I knew! I had to dispose of him. And the Girondins. Even now, convention members are at work, plotting my downfall. But I will triumph, even if I have to execute every last one of them! Death, always death. Do you think I want this carnage? Three hundred and forty two executions in nine days in Paris alone. What a memory I shall leave behind if this thing lasts.

Elsewhere, the spark that seems to exist between Barbara and Leon deepens a little (this pays off in spectacular fashion next time) and Ian finds himself reunited with Barbara and Susan, although in the capture/escape/capture nature of this serial it’s not for long as the girls once again find themselves back in the prison (and once again under the unforgiving eye of the jailer). Ian continues his hunt for the English spy called James Webster whilst Lemaitre has definite proof that the Doctor is an impostor. But still he doesn’t act on this information.

There’s at least three different ways to enjoy episodes four and five – the audios, the DVD animations or the Loose Cannon recons. I tend to favour the Loose Cannon recons, as the animations are rather too hyperactive for my tastes. It seems that the animation company, Planet 55, learnt a great deal from this commission as their later efforts (The Tenth Planet and The Moonbase) were much, much better.

Doctor Who – The Reign of Terror. Episode Three – A Change of Identity

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Given the cramped studios they had to record in, it’s remarkable just how much was achieved in the early years of Doctor Who.  A good example of the quality of Roderick Lang’s design work can be seen in the opening minutes of this episode – as Barbara and Susan are transported in a horse-drawn cart through the streets of Paris (all of which was created in the studio).  The fact they have a real horse – as well as small touches like the cackling women at their windows – helps to sell the illusion.

Barbara and Susan are rescued from the guillotine by Jules Renan (Donald Morley) and his friend Jean (Roy Herrick).  Many of the historical stories from this point on would freely plunder popular fiction and it’s easy to make a link between Jules and Jean and the adventures of the Scarlet Pimpernel.   Their arrival helps to move the story in a slightly different direction – we leave behind the squalor of the Conciergerie and the uncouth antics of the soldiers.

Meanwhile the Doctor has reached Paris and has gone shopping for some new clothes.  This is another scene that seems tailored (if you’ll excuse the pun!) to Hartnell’s comic strengths.  He sets his eye on a very impressive uniform and is informed by the shopkeeper that it signifies the position of regional officer of the provinces.

DOCTOR: Yes, I’m quite aware of that. Yes, quite aware. Yes. In fact, it’s a post that I myself personally occupy.
SHOPKEEPER: I see. I’m sorry, citizen.
DOCTOR: Don’t apologise. I want to try that on.
SHOPKEEPER: Certainly, citizen. The quality is unmatched, and in comparison, the price
DOCTOR: The price is of no matter. I haven’t any money.
SHOPKEEPER: No money?
DOCTOR: No. No, I though possibly we could arrange an exchange.
SHOPKEEPER: For this?
DOCTOR: What’s wrong with it?
SHOPKEEPER: Nay, it’s little better than a fancy dress outfit.
DOCTOR: A fancy dress? My dear sir, I doubt that you’ve seen a coat like it.
SHOPKEEPER: I agree.
DOCTOR: Am I correct to assume that you’re not interested?
SHOPKEEPER: You realise there is not much call for a
DOCTOR: Have you had a similar coat like this in your shop?
SHOPKEEPER: Never.
DOCTOR: Then I can understand why there has been no call.

You have to love the Doctor’s cheek, although we’ll later learn that he didn’t quite convince the shopkeeper of his bona fides. Which if you think about it isn’t that surprising – had the Doctor really had been a regional officer then surely his uniform would have been provided by the state.  And why was one hanging up in the tailor’s shop anyway?

The dashing Leon Colbert (Edward Brayshaw), a friend of Jules, is introduced to Barbara and makes an immediate impression.  If you’re a fan of 1970’s and 1980’s BBC children’s television it’s impossible to see Brayshaw as anybody other than the harassed Mr Meaker from Rentaghost.  But if you can push that to the back of your mind then you can enjoy Brayshaw’s fine performance.  It’s just a pity that all of his key scenes were in the forthcoming wiped episodes.

The Doctor (complete with the sort of hat that would have turned Troughton’s Doctor green with envy) makes his way to the prison and has his first meeting with the jailer.  It’s yet another dialogue-heavy scene that Hartnell and Cunningham play to perfection.   This is a good example of the first Doctor at his imposing best.

As I’ve touched on before, Hartnell was excellent at reacting to other actors. He never needed to overplay – he was able to express a world of emotions with just a few expressions.  This is notable at the point when the jailer tells him that Barbara and Susan have been taken for execution.  A spasm of pain crosses his face – which is quickly gone – and the news that they were rescued (and that Ian has also escaped) is quickly processed and digested before he moves on to the next topic.

But although Ian, Barbara and Susan are free, the Doctor now finds himself a prisoner of sorts.  Lemaitre (James Cairncross) is a key figure in the Revolution and after he meets the Doctor suggests that he joins him in a meeting with Robespierre.  This is the start of some cat-and-mouse games which play out over the following episodes. Is Lemaitre aware that the Doctor is an impostor, and if so what is his gameplan?

That the Doctor appears to be on shaky ground is strengthened when the shopkeeper comes to the prison to denounce him.  Quite why he would decide to come to the prison isn’t clear (except in story terms of course) but it sets us up nicely for the next episode.

Doctor Who – The Reign of Terror. Episode Two – Guests of Madame Guillotine

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Guests of Madame Guillotine neatly splits the narrative into three parts. Ian, Barbara and Susan have been taken to the Conciergerie Prison in Paris – Ian is put into one cell and Barbara and Susan are deposited in another. William Russell was the last of the four regulars to take his two-week holiday, so Ian only appears briefly on film for the next two episodes. Although his mission (entrusted to him by a dying prisoner) to find an English spy called James Stirling will prove to be significant later on.

Barbara and Susan are placed in the dingiest, most rat-infested cell, all because Barbara refused the lecherous attentions of the Jailer (Jack Cunningham). The Jailer is generally regarded as a humourous character (he’s later comprehensively bamboozled by the Doctor) but he’s a little more sinister and threatening to begin with. These early scenes at the Conceirgerie are a little grim anyway, since there seems to be no way that Barbara and Susan can avoid losing their heads.

SUSAN: Oh, what’s the use? We’ll never get out of this dreadful place.
BARBARA: Oh, you mustn’t lose heart, Susan.
SUSAN: I’m not going to fool myself.
BARBARA: Well, think of the times we’ve been in trouble before. We’ve always managed to get out of it in the end.
SUSAN: Oh, we’ve been lucky. We can’t go on being lucky. Things catch up with you.
BARBARA: I’ve never heard you talk like this before. You’re usually so optimistic.

Given that Susan is the much more experienced traveller it seems strange that she’s presented as the defeated one. Later on she reacts with terror at the sight of some rats – which stops Barbara from attempting to dig her way out of the cell. Although given the tools they had, it would have probably taken her years! These are further moments which probably wouldn’t have been viewed favourably by Carole Ann Ford, as they reinforce the notion that Susan is easily the least resourceful of the TARDIS crew.

Whilst the others face an anxious time in prison, the Doctor attempts to make his way to Paris. He’s rescued from the farmhouse by a young boy called Jean-Pierre (this is a touching scene with Hartnell and Peter Walker. As they part, the Doctor asks the boy his name. “I shall remember. Yes. Jean-Pierre. Au revoir, Monsieur Captain”).

We then see the first bit of location filming used in the series. It’s only a few scenes of Hartnell’s double strolling down some country lanes but it really helps to open things out. This then leads into one of the comic highlights of the story. Although Hartnell often referred to himself as a straight actor, he had a great flair for comedy (not really surprising since he started his career playing in stage farces). Spooner had obviously been quick to recognise this and gives him some first-rate material here.

The Doctor runs into a party of men toiling on the road, supervised by a brutal Overseer (Dallas Cavell). No surprise that the Doctor can’t resist sticking his oar in. “If you were to expend your energy helping with the road, instead of bawling and shouting at them every few seconds, you might be able to get somewhere. Good day to you, sir!” But when the Doctor is unable to produce any papers to prove his identity, he finds himself press-ganged into the working party.

The Doctor manages to effect his escape by convincing the Overseer that there’s buried treasure close at hand. When the Overseer bends down to take a closer look, the Doctor bashes him over the head with a shovel! The rest of the men are shocked (“sacre blue” they naturally say) and run off. As does the Doctor, once he’s mischievously put two gold pieces on the unconscious Overseer’s eyes. It’s highly entertaining stuff and was obviously a stepping-stone to the even broader comedy of Spooner’s next script, The Romans.

The time-scale for this episode is a little odd though. The others appear to arrive in Paris at the same time that the Doctor is extracted from the burning house. This clearly makes no sense, so it appears that Guests of Madame Guillotine is hopping backwards and forwards through time. Well, this is a time-travel series I guess ….

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Doctor Who – The Reign of Terror. Episode One – A Land of Fear

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The Doctor’s in a right old strop at the start of this episode (his bad mood carries over from the previous cliffhanger).  This feels a touch artificial and seems to have been done for two reasons – not only does it create a good hook into A Land of Fear (otherwise the last episode might have ended with the Doctor saying “oh look, a forest”) it also gives the regulars, especially Hartnell, some nice character moments in the opening few minutes of the story.

William Russell has spoken in the past about how the arrival of Dennis Spooner was greeted with enthusiasm by the main cast.  Spooner had a good ear for naturalistic dialogue and also liked to pepper his stories with humour.  And following the earnest and rather stilted dialogue which sometimes cropped up in The SensoritesThe Reign of Terror does come as a breath of fresh air.  However, it’s notable that Spooner’s scripts do feature various Americanisms, which feel strange coming from the mouths of the TARDIS crew, simply because they’ve never spoken like this before (Hartnell, for example, says “you don’t say” later this episode.  This feels jarring after watching the series in order).

The Doctor is convinced that he’s landed Ian and Barbara back in England 1963 and is keen drop them off and move on.  Not surprisingly, Ian and Barbara aren’t prepared just to take the Doctor’s word for it.  This infuriates the Doctor.  “I’m rather tired of your insinuations that I am not master of this craft. Oh, I admit, it did develop a fault, a minor fault on one occasion, perhaps twice, but nothing I couldn’t control.”

This is lovely stuff and Hartnell plays it to the hilt.  As we’ll see time and time again over the years, the joke’s on the Doctor since his confidence does turn out to be entirely misplaced.  They’re in France, not England, and a couple of hundred years back in time.  The TARDIS has set them down during the French Revolution (“the reign of terror”) which according to Susan is the Doctor’s favourite period in Earth history.  I wonder why. Does he enjoy the sight of all those French aristocrats being sent to the guillotine?  The Doctor never explains why he enjoys this time so much, so we’re left guessing.

The TARDIS crew meet Rouvray (Laidlaw Dalling) and D’Argenson (Neville Smith) at an abandoned farmhouse.  Both Frenchmen are on the run from the authorities and it seems  probable that they’ll be significant figures in the story.  Whilst D’Argenson is nervous and apprehensive, Rouvray is calm and still in total command.  He may be a hunted man but possesses an unbelieving belief in his own authority.  He bluntly tells Ian and Barbara that “in France now there are only two sides. You’re either with us or against us. Our sympathies are obvious. We want to know yours.”

The arrival of a group of soldiers immediately darkens the tone.  They’re depicted as a barely controllable rabble, with the common soldiers openly contemptuous of the Sergeant’s authority. The Sergeant (Robert Hunter) cleverly doesn’t attempt to browbeat his men into obeying his orders, instead he suggests that if they watch the back of the house they might have a chance to kill some royalists.  This meets with their approval and they move into position.

Whilst Robespierre might later claim this is a glorious and just revolution, the behavour of the soldiers is clearly designed to indicate otherwise.   And when Rouvray and D’Argenson are both brutally murdered it helps to reinforce the concept that life is now very cheap.  Since both characters seemed to have been set up to play a major part in the narrative, their sudden deaths are quite shocking.  It also serves as an early demonstration that the Doctor and his friends could also face death at any time.

Rouvray’s death is a noteworthy moment. He disarms one of the soldiers just by asking for his rifle and then comments that “you can give them uniforms, Lieutenant, but they remain peasants underneath.”  This is another example of Rouvray’s unshakable belief in his own authority, but it’s also a demonstration of the ruling elite’s unspoken arrogance.  Did this exchange led directly to his death?  It seems more than likely.

With the Doctor unconscious in the upstairs part of the house, the soldiers decide to take Ian, Barbara and Susan to Paris. Their motivation is not out of a sense of duty though – they believe there might be a reward and are keen to collect.  They torch the house before they depart, which means we conclude with a strong cliffhanger – the Doctor awakes to find himself trapped in a raging inferno ….

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