Doctor Who: Escape From Paris

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 6: Prisoners of Concierge

Welcome back everybody. Today’s episode is something of a special occasion, marking not only the end of this story arc, but of the entire first season as well. Plus, as an added bonus, the animation portions are done for the time being, giving us a welcome return to live action. 

So, without further adieu, let’s jump right in.

As you may remember, last time the Doctor made a deal with French officer Lemaitre in order to save Susan’s life. This involved Doc taking him to the safehouse where his friends are currently residing.

As Doc strolls in to the safehouse with Lemaitre, we get a pretty fantastic moment where Jules yells out, “Your friend has betrayed us!” before everyone stands there silently, waiting for the onscreen credits to roll. 

With the cameraman properly credited, the characters come to life again and Lemaitre surprises everyone by insisting that he has come to them as a friend and that Ian will back him up on that.

Ian’s responses is a confused, “I will?” 

BBC

BBC

Then Lemaitre reveals that he is, in fact, the long pursued James Sterling. Everyone’s pretty stunned by this, but considering our list of potential candidates included him and the idiot jailer, this doesn’t strike me as that big of a shock. 

Everyone’s also pretty pissed off that he didn’t reveal this sooner–and you can go ahead and include me in that group—but Lemaitre/Sterling (LeSterling?) tells them he needed to be sure that he could trust Ian before approaching him. 

Then the Doctor breaks in with the best line of the episode, “That’s all very well Lemaitre or whatever your name is but the only reason I brought you here was to help Susan.” 

Doc’s on the verge of one of his famous tantrums, but LeSterling offers to use his position to give them all safe passage. 

With the Doc momentarily pacified, LeSterling asks Ian to give him the message that he received in jail.

Ian tells him that he is to return to England, because the intel he’s collected is needed urgently. 

Lemaitre insists there should be more to the message. Ian thinks that over for a moment, then tells him the prisoner also mumbled a bunch of nonsense as he died. 

While they try wrapping their head around that, LeSterling reveals to them what Robespierre told him last episode about shadowing Paul Barras. That sufficiently jobs Ian’s memory and he recalls the prisoner mentioning something about Barras and a sinking ship. 

But wait, what’s this? It just so happen that there’s an inn called The Sinking Ship, which would make an ideal location for a secret meeting. 

Since Barras knows Lemaitre’s face, he suggests that Ian and Barbara show up instead.  

Then, in one of the episode’s many awkward transitions, we’re given a brief shot of the inn’s exterior before cutting inside where Barbara, dressed as a barmaid, serves wine to their friend Jules.

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BBC

Jules tells her that he has bound and gagged the innkeeper and left him in the wine cellar, so I guess it’s safe to say that some time has passed.  

Barbara heads into a back room where Ian stands there punching a peephole into the wall. 

Eventually, Barras shows up, only to be joined a few minutes later by his mysterious guest, who turns out to be none other than Napoleon Bonaparte himself. 

Barras tells Napoleon that Robespierre is to be arrested the next day and proposes joining forces to establish a new government.

As this is going on, Barbara and Ian stand there at the peephole, listening in on them like a couple of pervs. 

Napoleon thinks that’s a mighty fine idea and takes Barras up on his offer. 

Then the cameraman treats us to an extreme close-up of Napoleon’s face, which transitions into an equally crazy shot of Lemaitre staring into the camera yelling, “Napoleon? Napoleon as ruler of France?”

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BBC

Needless to say, Lemaitre is not pleased by this latest turn of events. 

The Doc, however, doesn’t give one whit about any of this and takes off with Barbara to go rescue Susan, while Lemaitre and Ian go to the palace for news of Robespierre.

In the palace itself, Robespierre locks himself in his office as a bunch of soldiers show up and break down the door.

Ian and Lematire show up just in time to see Robespierre get shot, then hauled away off to prison.

Meanwhile, back at Concierge Prison, the Doctor walks in on the jailer who is currently engaged in the 18th Century equivalent of a raging kegger.

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BBC

Doc tells them that Lemaitre has been shot as a traitor and that he is there to round up the man’s accomplices. 

He orders the Jailer’s drinking buddies to arrest him, then feigns a change of heart and allows him to remain on as jailer after getting the key to Susan’s cell. 

As Doc frees Susan, Robespierre is led inside. 

Jules, who plays a remarkably small role in this episode, wonders aloud who will be the next ruler of France and, for some reason, Ian tells him to remember the name Napoleon. 

Then Doc shows up with Susan and the whole gang leaves Paris by carriage. They hop aboard the TARDIS and the Doctor makes a grand speech about how “Our destiny is in the starts,” over footage of outer space. 

And with that, we bring our coverage of season one to a close. That’s one whole season down, can you believe it? Don’t worry, I’m not quite done talking about this season, so join me next time for my definitive Season One wrap-up. 

Doctor Who: What? The Doctor’s Alive!

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.

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BBC

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.

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BBC

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.

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BBC

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.

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BBC

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. 

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BBC

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.

Doctor Who: The Animated Series

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 4: The Tyrant of France

Unfortunately, this week we’ve run up against the BBC’s regrettable junking policy once again, meaning that the video footage for this episode has been completely lost. The original audio survives though, so in lieu of the original video we have the next best thing…creepy ass animation.

BBC

BBC

That’s right, the entire episode has been recreated in animated form, which is a rather ingenious, if slightly off-putting, way of watching these missing episodes.

Apparently this is the standard BBC policy on serials missing two episodes or less, so we might as well get used to it since we’ll be running up against it a lot going forward.

With that out of the way, let’s rejoin the Doctor as he’s paraded before French Revolutionary figure and murder-enthusiast Maximilien Francois Marie Isidore de Robespierre.

The Uniformed Man presiding over Concierge Prison (who we FINALLY learn is named Lemaitre) presents Robespierre with the latest list of execution stats, which proves that, even in a state of homicidal anarchy, paperwork is still very important.

After approving the latest kill stats, Robespierre begins laying into the Doctor regarding the low execution numbers coming out of the province he is pretending to represent.

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BBC

Now, nobody likes rudeness less than me, but considering Robespierre is the Casanova of killing, you might want to just shut and take the insult. The Doc, however, opts for a different strategy and immediately begins wising off.

“Oh you’ve reached that conclusion? Well, perhaps we have fewer enemies in our region and it may be that Paris can take an example from us.”

Then, as if that wasn’t enough, he begins questioning Robespierre’s entire methodology.

“What can this reign of terror possibly gain? For every opponent you put to the guillotine, two more will spring up.”

That’s about the time Lemaitre jumps in and points out that maybe now might be a good time for him to keep his mouth shut.

Strangely enough, Robespierre takes the Doctor’s side, insisting, “He is only warning me of the dangers I face.”

It seems that Robespierre, notorious tyrant, was strangely open to personal criticism. You learned it here first kids.

Then, as if to prove that he’s not THAT stable, he launches into a prolonged paranoid rant ending with a strange bout of self-pity.

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BBC

Aww. Poor guy just needs a hug.

Lemaitre immediately jumps on the opportunity to leave, but Robespierre insists that Lematire bring the Doctor by the next day.

Meanwhile, back in the rebel’s safe house, Susan has been transformed into a Renaissance painting.

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BBC

Whoops, seems to have mixed up my notes. Actually, she’s taken sick after her stint in the local jail.

Their rebel companion Leon suggests the possibility of bringing a doctor in to see her, but he says that it would be very risky.

Barbara insists that it’s a risk they’ll have to take.

Then Leon leaves to check on one of his fellow rebels, who is long overdue to return. As he departs, Susan wakes up long enough to point out that Barbara has the hots for him.

As Barbara takes Susan off to bed, two more of the rebels, Jules and Jean climb in through the window, lugging another man after them with a hood over his face.

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BBC

They set their captive in a chair, then yank back the hood to reveal an unconscious Ian.

Back in prison, Lemaitre congratulates the Doctor on the positive impression he somehow managed to make on Robespierre.

Doc thanks him, then immediately tries to duck out of further engagements, insisting that he needs to return home.

Lemaitre won’t hear of it though and demands that the Doc remain onsite for their visit tomorrow.

Lemaitre gets the jailer (who is straight up asleep at his post) to make up a room for the Doctor, but before he leaves, the jailer tells Lemaitre there’s someone waiting to speak with him.

Lemaitre steps into one of the prison’s dark rooms for a meeting with the Shopkeeper who sold the Doc his fancy duds.

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BBC

The shopkeeper reveals that the Doctor is a fraud. For some reason, Lemaitre insists on seizing the Doc’s old set of clothes before paying the man off and insisting he keep quiet.

Back at the safehouse, Barbara walks in on Jules and Jean and recognizes Ian seated in the chair

Ian is pretty shocked that she’s alive, given that last time he saw her she was being carted off to the guillotine.

Ian is also introduced to Jules, who questions Ian as to why he was wandering the streets looking for him. Ian tells him about his one-time cellmate Webster’s quest to find a British spy named James Sterling and mentions that the man dropped Jules name.

Unfortunately, Jules has no idea who Sterling is, but says that their friend Leon might know him.

We cut back to prison just long enough for the Doc to wake up and start bitching at the jailer about his room, before returning to the safehouse, where Jules receives a message stating that the physician refuses to visit them.

With Susan seemingly getting worse, the group decides that Barbara will take her to meet the physician at his offices in the city.

After looking her over, the Doctor (not be confused with the REAL Doctor) says Susan is simply suffering from a simple chill, then immediately begins asking questions about how she caught it. He notices the blisters on their hands, but Barbara manages to sidetrack him, asking if there’s anything he can give her.

The physician mutters something about “bloodletting”, then heads out into the city to pick up some leeches.

With him gone, Barb and Susan begin to feel suspicious. Plus, you know there’s that whole leeches thing. Yuck. They try to leave, only to find that the physician has locked the door from the outside, leaving them trapped inside his office.

The physician shows up at the jail where he immediately rats the two women out. The Jailer dispatches a bunch of troops to accompany him to the office, where they take the two of them back into custody.

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BBC

At the safehouse Ian is getting worried about how long the two women have been gone. Jules promises to go check in on them, while Ian heads off for a late night meeting with Leon.

Back at the prison, Susan is placed in one of the cells, while Barbara is hauled off for questioning. She’s placed in a room where she finds herself face to face with the Doctor (the real one, not the one that gave her up. God, we really need to give this lead character a first name).

As the two of them begin talking, Lemaitre is shown listening outside the cell door.

Meanwhile, in another part of the city, Ian heads to an old church for his rendezvous with Leon.

After briefly introducing himself, Leon pulls a gun and signals for a detachment of soldiers to step out and take Ian back into custody.

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BBC

Which means that after all that chasing around we’ve essentially ended up right back where we started. This arc’s on something of an unusual track, but I still kind of like it. This episode’s got a real crazy energy to it, with the cast escaping and reuniting, only to get themselves recaptured again. The script also does a solid job of selling the distrust permeating 18th Century France, where everyone is a potential informer.

As far as the animation goes, it certainly takes some getting used to. It heavily references the actor’s faces, so the likenesses are dead on, but it gets noticeably stiffer any time the characters start moving. Fortunately though, this is a pretty low-energy show, so it’s not terribly noticeable, plus, it does let them throw in some stylistic tricks like the light rays streaming in when Barb and Susan are arrested. Overall, it’s a pretty good workaround and a definite improvement over sitting through a  naked audio recording.

Well, it seems like everyone’s in a pretty bad place right now, so tune in next time when the crew is forced to make “A Bargain of Necessity.”