Weighing in at an impressive 800 episodes, Doctor Who has been entertaining audiences for the past 50 years. Yet, despite this vast backlog of content, I know next to nothing about the actual series. For that reason, I’ve decided to watch this unusual show from the beginning, to discover the source of its unique appeal. Come with me as I tackle this daunting sci-fi phenomena from the very beginning in The Complete Doctor Who.
Warning: the following contains spoilers.
Doctor Who: Serial 7 The Reign of Terror, Episode 5: A Bargain of Necessity
This week we take another trip to Toon Town as the crew of the TARDIS fights to stay alive in 18th Century France.
We pick up where we left off, with Ian walking into an ambush set by traitorous revolutionary Leon.
As his soldiers place Ian in some wicked looking irons, Leon reveals that what he’s really after is information.
Before we get into that though, we’re whisked off to the prison, where Barbara has been placed in a cell for questioning. It’s looking pretty dire, but, as luck would have it, her interrogator turns out to be none other than the Doctor himself.
Barbara is overjoyed to see him on account of that whole thinking he was dead thing. Oh, and get comfortable with characters reacting to his non-death because before this thing’s over you’ll get to see the exact same scene play out twice more.
So, being alive and all, the Doctor shares with Barbara his elaborate escape plot. And what is the Doc’s big plan? Well, it seems he’s going to open the door so that Barbara can walk out of the prison.
Barbara is understandably critical of this idea, but Doc reassures her, “You know my plans always work out perfectly.”
With that settled, Doc heads over to the jailer and tells him that Barbara is an important member of the underground resistance.
The jailer, in one of his more lucid moments, suggests letting her go and then following her to the other members of the resistance.
Meanwhile, back at the old church, Leon continues trying to make Ian talk. So, you remember that subplot introduced about a billions years ago where Ian was asked by a fellow prisoner to locate a British spy named James Sterling? Yeah, me neither. But as luck would have it, Leon is far better at remembering extraneous plots than I am, assumes Ian himself is working with England, and wants to know the names of his superiors.
After asking him for something like the twentieth time, Ian starts laughing and tells him, “I flew here with three friends in a small box. When I left England it was 1963.”
Unfortunately, Leon is not as amused by that as I am and signals his soldiers to kill him.
Before they can act though, Jules storms the building in full 18th Century action mode, shooting one of the guards, then hurling his empty pistol at Leon’s face.
As Leon crumbles to the ground, the final soldier takes aim at Jules, until a well-placed kick from Ian sends him sprawling into Jules’ arms, who uses him as a human shield, blocking a shot from Leon’s pistol, then shooting Leon dead with the fallen soldier’s own musket. It’s all pretty badass.
As Jules frees Ian, he reveals to him that Barbara and Susan have been imprisoned again, bringing their arrest count up to two.
Meanwhile back at the prison, the Doctor finally gets around to putting in an appearance at Susan’s cell, revealing to her that he is still very much still alive.
Remember that scene between him and Barbara? Well, here it is all over again.
While this is going on, the Jailer walks by, notices the Doctor standing there, and pretty much loses his mind. He asks him why he isn’t out following Barbara, but the Doctor turns it around on him saying, I thought you were going to do it.
Jailer’s pretty freaked out, so Doc suggests, hey, since we’ve already lost one prisoner, let’s just go ahead and let the second one go too, then follow her instead.”
The Jailer refuses though, on account of Lemaitre’s orders.
In the middle of all this, we cut in on a meeting between Lemaitre and Robespierre, which is as interesting as it sounds. It seems there is a political convention coming up and Robespierre’s heard rumors of a potential political motion to be taken against him by his deputy Paul Barras, a character who has been neither seen nor mentioned prior to this, but you know, history. Robespierre asks Lemaitre to shadow Barras as a means of keeping an eye on him.
From there, we travel back to the safehouse where Jules and Ian run into the recently escaped Barbara who tells them that the Doctor is stationed at the prison, where he is masquerading as an officer, giving Ian his moment to react to news of the Doctor’s survival.
Back at the prison again, the Doctor concocts a new plot to free Susan, which involves having her hide out of sight, then conking the Jailer over the head when he moves in to investigate.
With the jailer unconscious and Susan free, the two of them get ready to escape, only to walk right into Lemaitre and his soldiers.
As Susan is arrested for the third time, Lemaitre then pulls the Doctor aside for a private conference.
He pulls out the Doctor’s real clothes and reveals he’s well aware that the Doctor is a fake. Given the current political turmoil, however, he is eager to score a few quick, political points and tells the Doctor that if he reveals the destination of Jules’ safehouse, his granddaughter will be released.
From there, we cut back to Jules’ safehouse where a conversation between Ian, Barbara, and Jules is interrupted when the Doc and Lemaitre storm in with an attachment of soldiers, assumably to arrest them yet again.
I think it’s safe to say this story wore out its welcome some time ago. The past three episodes in particular feel like they’re stuck on autopilot, with the same characters getting arrested, then escaping, only to be arrested yet again. It’s also the second time in 4 episodes that we’ve seen the Doctor escape from a situation by basically going, “What’s that over there?” then hitting someone over the head.
About the only notable inclusion here are a few moments of creative gunplay, but that isn’t nearly enough to elevate the rest of the material. Luckily it’s almost over, so with that glowing endorsement, tune in next time for episode 6: Prisoners of Conciergerie.