So no, the fall out between the Doctor and Ian at the end of the last episode wasn’t there for any good reason. As all of the stories used to link together in the early days, they just couldn’t think of a way to shoehorn in a cliffhanger, other than for the Doctor to get annoyed with Ian for…reasons.
As soon as the Tardis lands everybody forgets about the fallout completely and they get on with the adventure. Speaking of the story, there actually isn’t much of one in my opinion. When they explore revolting France a bit more (and I can say that), they find an old farm house with some revolutionaries inside. They get killed by soldiers and Ian, Barbara and Susan are taken with them, the Doctor being left to burn alive in the house. Incidentally, the model work for the burning house took me aback by the detail for 1964.
Anyway, the Doctor is saved by a small boy who they met earlier, and he sets off to Paris to find them before they get guillotined. The footage of the Doctor walking merrily through the countryside is reportedly the first location filming ever on Doctor Who, even though the Doctor is played by a double in these scenes.
Before he reaches Paris, he comes across some road workers with pick-axes and shovels. The overseer is a cruel, grotesque man that the Doctor pisses off and so he has to assist with the road works. The Reign of Terror really does kind of do anything to fill it’s running time. However I did find it quite fun to watch the Doctor collaborate with the workers to escape.
As soon as the Doctor arrives in Paris, he blags his way into getting a uniform intended for officials and high ups. After this the remaining 4 episodes or so basically result in all of the main characters getting put in prison, then escaping, then caught and put back in prison again. It did make for tedious viewing in some parts. However I did enjoy seeing Barbara and Susan work together to try and dig their way out of a cell, but unfortunately for them it doesn’t work too well. Incidentally, the jailer is definitely the comic relief of the story. He gets to waddle around and leave keys in places where prisoners can get them and is very incompetent. Well I hope that he is supposed to be the comedic element, because if he isn’t; I find him laughable anyway. He is also a creep, and offers to make Barbara a deal; although only a deal with money is mentioned, he does linger while looking at her cleavage.
While Ian is in prison, he meets a dying revolutionary who begs him to take a message to James Stirling, an English spy. This sets off the main motivation for the rest of the story, other than being caught and escaping again, obviously.
As I have mentioned, the Doctor does get to dress up for most of this story, making a change to see him out of his usual costume, although just sometimes looking like his head is on fire.
I think that the main problem with pure historical stories in Doctor Who, especially longer ones, is that with a limited budget and more time to fill; plot gets stretched out very thinly. Tending to result in lots of cat and mouse episodes.
Susan disappears for a couple of episode in this story, and Ian only appears in short segments in episodes 2 and 3. This is because, like Jacqueline Hill in the last story, William Russell was on holiday while these episodes were being filmed. And so he only appears in pre-recorded sections. As I mentioned in my mini review of The Sensorites; I had really felt that Ian and the Doctor had been growing an especially strong bond, rescuing each other repeatedly. Maybe the writers realised that this had been the case, and so Susan reverted back to being the one who kept on getting caught.
Out of the five or six sets that were made for this story, the prison cells were particularly strong, with the walls looking as though they were dripping with damp and grime. The posh government building interiors also shone through, though it was obvious how small the set was. The costume design was completely accurate as far as I am aware, and my fiancée noted that it was good to see the leading ladies get to dress up in period clothing as well as Ian and the Doctor.
At the end of the final episode, the gang return to the Tardis and discuss that even if they had tried to stop people getting killed, it wouldn’t work because technically it had always already happened. I like how these historical stories are already setting down the rules for time travel within the universe of the show. Apart from a cameo from Napolion, the story is brought to an end.
I found it a huge shame that I didn’t enjoy this story as much as I had enjoyed previous historical stories. It is probably because this story was written by Dennis Spooner, whereas Marco Polo and The Aztecs; which I both strongly liked, were written by John Lucarotti. I wonder what Lucarotti would have done differently if he had been commissioned to write the story instead of Spooner.
My final observation on this story, is that the screen doesn’t fade to black as normal; it fades into an image full of stars, with the Doctor suggesting to go and find their destiny in the stars. It is a lovely closing moment, especially as it is the first episode so far, (I think,) to not end on a cliff-hanger of sorts for the end of the first full season of the show.
Although there are a lot of redeeming features in The Reign of Terror, the fact that I didn’t enjoy it as much as previous stories, and that at least 2 or 3 episodes stood out as being purely for filler; I would rate the story four poncy hats out of ten.