Number : Season 1, episode 8 of 8.
Which One : French revolution.
Cast : The Doctor : William Hartnell
Susan : Carol Ann Ford
Ian : William Russell
Barbara : Jacqueline Hill
Robespierre : Keith Anderson
Napoleon : Tony Wall
Jailer : Jack Cunningham
Webster : Jeffry Wickham
D’Argenson : Neville Smith
Rouvray : Laidlaw Dalling
Lemaitre/James Stirling : James Cairncross
Jean : Roy Herrick
Jules Renan : Donald Morley
Danielle : Caroline Hunt
Léon Colbert : Edward Brayshaw
Paul Barras : John Law
Road Work Overseer : Dallas Cavell
Peasant : Dennis Cleary
Shopkeeper : John Barrard
Physician : Ronald Pickup
Written By : Dennis Spooner
Produced By : Verity Lamb
First UK Broadcast : 8 August – 12 September 1964.
Length : 6 x 25 minute parts.
1) “A Land of Fear”
2) “Guests of Madame Guillotine”
3) “A Change of Identity”
4) “The Tyrant of France”
5) “A Bargain of Necessity”
6) “Prisoners of Conciergerie”
Plot : The Doctor attempts to take Ian and Barbara home, to London 1963 -but winds up in 18th Century France – during the French Revolution.
Whats good : Quirky period piece. With enough twisty intrigue to keep proceedings interesting. Some clever humour premeates proceedings.
Whats bad : A little slow in places. Not really worthy of a season finale. The beeb, for wiping parts 4 & 5.
Review With Spoilers : Reign Of Terror is the eighth (and final) episode of season 1. It covers Doctor Who’s take on the French Revolution.
The Doctor accidentally pilots the Tardis to 18th-Century France, instead of 20th Century London. Whilst trying to take Ian & Barbara back to 1963. Once here, they become embroiled in the revolutionist fervour, which is sweeping the country and also meet its Chief-Architect; Robespierre.
Reign Of Terror can best be summed up, as one of the better period romps from Doctor Who’s (patchy) period-catalogue. Whilst it doesn’t quite have the action and immediacy of say; The Aztecs or The Crusade. It has enough political intrigue – in its own right and plotting – to make it a substantial enough education plod, through French history.
At times though, it does have the feel of an educational piece (rather than a drama about it). The kind they might show in school; as part of a history lesson. In that regard, you can feel that Doctor Who is trying to be authentic, as much as possible; to the events and characters – of history.
Doctor Who has to be commended here, for it’s ambitions. For attempting to present a picture of what 18th century France was like, whilst on a painfully limited budget. It’s clear, that using real Parisenne locations was out of the question – budget-wise; so we have to rely on some very generic-looking studio locations, to double for the real thing.
Although, we do have some actual exterior filmed (outside) scenes of the Doctor making his way to Paris, through the countryside. A rare thing, in an era when the logistics of moving heavy 1960’s camera equipment about, was factored in.
Reign Of Terror‘s main strength is, that it gives a good deal of memorable and fun moments, for Hartnell – to chew over. Aswell as a decent share of humourous setups to boot. The Doctor manipulating the Bastille Jailer and the roadside slaver; stand out – amongst others.
“We might not get back to the ship, if Grandfather hears we’re in the Reign Of Terror…. …..It’s his favourite period in the history of Earth!” Susan
Ian and Barbara get a fair share of the plotline but it is poor Susan who (yet again) is almost entirely written out of proceedings. Most of the serial, her character spends time off-screen – laid low, with flu.
Reign Of Terror is a reasonably entertaining period romp, through a bloody and unforgiving time in French history. However, it is a shame we don’t actually get to see “Madam Guillotine” in action, which is talked about frequently – but never seen.
What prevents Reign Of Terror from sinking into total ‘period drama’ hell – is Hartnell’s sparky and humourous turn.
Firstly as the Doctor and secondly, with all the pomp and regalia of a French General – whilst masquerading as a regional governor – in Paris.
Hartnell mostly carries and connects all of the proceedings and without him, Reign Of Terror wouldn’t have worked.
Whilst it can’t be considered a classic – or really even worthy of being a season finale. Reign Of Terror does mark a high-point in the Doctor Who period drama back-catalogue. To be fair though, it is not a high standard, to begin with.