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Doctor Who Original Series 08 - The Reign of Terror

1.37 The Reign of Terror Pt. 1 - A Land of Fear Written by Dennis Spooner, Directed by Henric Hirsch

The Doctor takes his companions to Earth, but where and when have they landed?

Very well written, the first half has the travellers treating it all as a bit of a lark. The Doctor sure he's brought them to the correct place, Ian and Barbara giving him a good natured ribbing. Then it turns serious as they realise they've landed during the French Revolution. What began as a light-hearted romp, suddenly turns dark, with soldiers laughing as they execute prisoners, and one of the best cliffhangers to date.


"I'm rather tired of your insinuations that I'm 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!" - William Hartnell (Doctor Who)

1.38 The Reign of Terror Pt. 2 - Guests of Madame Guillotine Written by Dennis Spooner, Directed by Henric Hirsch

Ian, Barbra and Susan are locked up, and the Doctor makes his way to Paris to find them.

Another mix of light and dark, with Hartnell carrying the humour. His run-in with the road gang is fun, with the Doctor getting himself into trouble with his big mouth.


"You have no rights! You will be guillotined as soon as it can be arranged. Take them to the cells!" - Howard Charlton (Judge).

1.39 The Reign of Terror Pt. 3 - A Change of Identity Written by Dennis Spooner, Directed by John Gorrie

The Doctor dons a disguise in order to help his friends.

This seems to be the story for Hartnell to be getting himself into trouble with his own cleverness, which is highly amusing to watch. It's also the most helpless we've seen the other companions, especially Barbara and Susan. And Ian only gets on better with a little help.


"Come. We must not keep Citizen Robespierre waiting." - James Cairncross (Lemaitre)

1.40 The Reign of Terror Pt. 4 - The Tyrant of France Written by Dennis Spooner, Directed by Henric Hirsch

The Doctor meets Robespierre, but how long can he maintain his disguise?

The short interaction between the Doctor and Robespierre is something of a highlight, as the Doctor tells the tyrant some much needed truths. Robespierre sounds well-played (this episode, and the next, only exist on audio) and gives a believable performance. I also rather like the cliffhanger.


"Death, always death. Do you think I want this carnage? 342 executions in nine days in Paris alone. What a memory I shall leave behind if this thing lasts!" - Keith Anderson (Robespierre)

1.41 The Reign of Terror Pt. 5 - A Bargain of Necessity Written by Dennis Spooner, Directed by Henric Hirsch

As the Doctor tries to secure the release of Susan, and Robespierre's fears grow, who can be trusted?

A set-up episode for the finale, but quite reasonable. A nice character moment between Ian and Barbara as they argue about what is happening around them.


"I'm so sick and tired of death, Ian. We never seem able to get away from it." - Jacqueline Hill (Barbara)

1.42 The Reign of Terror Pt. 6 - Prisoners of Conciergerie Written by Dennis Spooner, Directed by Timothy Combe, Henric Hirsch

Will the travellers escape the web of intrigue, betrayal, and violence that surrounds them?

A solid enough finish to the story, with some nice surpises for the viewer. Also a couple of good moments where discussion moves to history and their inability to change what is happening. The final moments for the episode, and the season, are nicely handled.


"The events will happen just as they are written... I'm afraid so, and we can't stem the tide. But at least we can stop being carried away with the flood!" - William Hartnell (Doctor Who)

The Reign of Terror 7.8/10

A good story and the first set during a known historical event. The crew get caught up in things and carried along, the Doctor spends a lot of time getting caught out by his own cleverness.

There's a lot a good character stuff through the story, including a great moment in part five when Ian and Barbara argue about the good and evil of what is happening, Barbara bringing in a historical perspective.

As Robert Shearman pointed out at Swancon, this is also the story that breaks the previous cycle of story-telling. In the previous stories, they get separated from the TARDIS, and all their efforts are about getting back to it so they can leave. In this story they get involved in what's happening, and it essentially sets the direction for many future stories.
Tags: doctor who story reviews

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