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William Hartnell: The Lost Stories - THE REIGN OF TERROR

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Author Topic: William Hartnell: The Lost Stories - THE REIGN OF TERROR  (Read 438 times)
Vampyros Adric
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« on: January 01, 2011, 12:00:05 pm »

After a short break I am back and continuing my review of the missing episodes from the earliest reaches of Doctor Who. Having looked at the first 'missing' episode, Marco Polo, we now fast-forward to the final story transmitted in that magical first season of William Hartnell....



THE REIGN OF TERROR

The blurb on the back of the BBC Audio released in 2006 provides a nice summary of the plot and I shall crib shamelessly from that...

Materialising in a forest, the Doctor and his three companions discover themselves to be 12km from Paris in the last part of the 18th Century. The French Revolution is in full flow and France is the scene of bloody battles between royalists and revolutionaries. Following a blaze at a rural farmhouse, Ian, Barbara and Susan are separated from the Doctor and arrested as traitors.

Ian receives information about an English spy with information vital to the revolution. No one knows the location of this spy and Ian embarks on a quest to find him. The Doctor, meanwhile, arrives in Paris disguised as a Regional Officer and before long has a meeting with the leader of the revolution himself: Robespierre!

With Robespierre's downfall imminent, the Doctor and his friends must extricate themselves from Paris, before events overtake them and they too become victims of Mme Guillotine...


Written by future script editor Dennis Spooner, and following on immediately from events at the end of the previous story (The Sensorites) the first episode starts with the Doctor somewhat grumpily granting Ian and Barbara's request to return to their home. It becomes apparent however, that once again, the TARDIS has brought the travellers to the right planet but in the time of the French Revolution.

The story employs the classical plot device of splitting the companions up and giving them each a little sub-story. Essentially, however, the central aim of this story is all of the companions trying to reunite and get out of the French Revolution without getting in the way of history.

Unlike other stories in this season, the pacing is a little more leisurely (one gets the distinct feeling that this could have worked even better as a four part story) however, despite the pacing issues, the story managed to keep the listeners interest and never really drags. The acting is wonderful, with Hartnell in particular ripping chunks out of the script and showing a wonderful joie de vivre as the Doctor. William Russell's Ian is very credible as a 'heroic' male lead. In particular though, the performance of Jacqueline Hill really stands out. Barbara is a strong, intelligent and worthy lead female character. She exudes strength and vulnerability without falling into any of the stereotypes that would befall later companions. The music and sound quality are wonderful - a real testament to the amazing work undertaken by Mark Ayres and the restoration team. Mention should also be made of the linking narration, which is provided by Carole Ann Ford (who plays Susan in the story) and her mellifluous tones really help keep the story on track.

In conclusion, the story lacks the dramatic punch of others in this season, yet good acting and a solid script means that The Reign of Terror is still very much worth a listen and shows Doctor Who, as a serial, very much finding its feet and growing in confidence.
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« Reply #1 on: January 01, 2011, 06:52:54 pm »

I've heard some of the lost serials but this isnt one of them so I need to get around to it soon. Ive got them so I've no excuse really
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« Reply #2 on: January 02, 2011, 01:01:26 am »

I really enjoyed this. Although a visual would be great, the audio itself and the linking naration more than make up for the lack of a picture and give you just enough to imagine how it would all look. At times it seems very breezy, like the story is being told very casually between friends, but as Chris said the acting is top notch and it is in all, a very easy listen
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« Reply #3 on: January 02, 2011, 02:39:58 am »

Wasnt so much a fan of this one. Though the acting is good enough, I found the story a tad boring and thought it dragged on far longer than it needed to. It could have been cut down and tightened up a fair bit which would have made a large improvement
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« Reply #4 on: January 18, 2011, 01:10:10 am »

Four of the six episodes have survived in full, so it's really one of the "partly-lost" stories.  I'd agree this might have benefited from being a four-parter, but I found it an enjoyable story, if not one of the most memorable.
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« Reply #5 on: January 19, 2011, 11:17:22 am »

Just popping in here to read up about this because it is up against An Unearthly Child in TheFifthDoctors classic battle today. Glad I went with AUC Smiley
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