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?” 

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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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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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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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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. 

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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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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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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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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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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.

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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.”

The Doctor’s New Clothes

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 3: A Change of Identity

Last time, the majority of our cast got themselves shipped off to prison while the Doctor took a scenic walking tour of France. Then, in the episode’s final minutes, Barbara and Susan were led out to the guillotine, while Ian looked on helplessly from his cell.

We open this week on a shot of a city street as the Doctor finally makes his arrival in Paris.

Then it’s off to another part of the city, where a pair of young men hover in the shadows, waiting to ambush the prison caravan on its way to the guillotine.

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BBC

Meanwhile, back in the dungeons, everyone’s favorite Jailer shows up for his regular food delivery only to be by summoned by his Uniformed Superior. In his hurry, the jailer somehow manages to leave his entire ring of keys dangling from the keyhole of a nearby cell.

The Uniformed Man, who has been waiting all of twenty-three seconds, immediately snaps at the Jailer for taking so long.

When the Jailer points out that he was delivering food, Capt. Uniform screams and knocks the pair of bowls he’s holding to the floor, shouting, “The prisoner’s food is unimportant!”

So, what is important? Long lists of execution figures, which Uniform informs us will soon be examined by Robespierre himself. He’s also quick to add that if the records aren’t correct, the Jailer himself might find his way onto the list.

Now I’ve been fortunate enough to have never lived through a genocidal purge, so my knowledge in this area is somewhat lacking, but how exactly does one screw up a list of executions? Do you accidentally check the alive box by mistake? It seems pretty cut and dried.

While this is going on, we cut to inside of Ian’s cell, where everyone’s favorite man of action searches his surroundings for a way out. He notices the keys dangling from his cell door, steals the key to his individual cell, then sticks them back exactly as he found them.

Then, with that accomplished, he sits down to reward himself with a nice bowl of Parisian slop.

Back in the main area, Uniform is apparently pleased with the Jailer’s figures and promises to put a good word for him in higher circles.

Jailer’s feeling pretty good about himself. The right word in the right ear might mean bigger prisons and bigger prisons means bigger keychains. Oh, the possibilities.

Unfortunately that’s about the time he notices that his own keys are missing and races back to the cells. He finds them hanging from the door where he left them, never suspecting that they’re a single key short.

Well played Ian, well played.

Down in the streets, Susan and Barbara enjoy what may be the worst carriage ride of all time on their trip to the guillotine.

Fortunately, their journey is interrupted when one of the horses throws a shoe.  Barbara plans to make a break for it but Susan’s not feeling well enough to move, so they just stand there hugging instead.

But then the two rebels from earlier show up, kill all the guards, and whisk the two of them off to safety.

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With that settled, it’s back to the Doctor who continues wandering the streets. He stops in at a clothing shop and inquires where the newly arrested prisoners are taken.

Then, he starts rummaging through racks of clothes, discovering a Regional Officer’s uniform. Despite possessing no money whatsoever, he talks the shopkeep into giving it to him in exchange for the clothes on his back. The Shopkeep agrees on the condition that Doc throw in his ring. Doc agrees on the further condition that he be given parchment and writing materials.

Meanwhile, the rebels have succeeded in bringing Barbara and Susan to their safehouse. The lead rebel introduces himself as Jules and gives his partner’s name as Jean.

Jules says they’ll make arrangements to have the two of them smuggled out of France, but Barbara refuses until they’ve found the missing members of their group.

In the dungeon, Ian calls for the Jailer. When he doesn’t answer, Ian uses the key to unlock his cell and make a break for it.

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On his way out, he stumbles on the Jailer, who is passed out drunk along the floor. Strike two Jailer.

As he escapes, the Uniformed guy secretly watches, in the hope that Ian will lead him to the British spy mentioned last time.

Back at the safehouse, Barbara and Susan use a map to show Jules where they were captured.

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After hearing about the farmhouse, Jules asks them if they encountered two men and Barbara tells them of the two men that were shot during their capture.

Jean is worried about the soldiers discovered their escape route and believes there may be an informer in their group.

Then another rebel named Leon shows up with a message for Jule.

“There is a man. A stranger. He’s been asking for you.”

Which is apparently pretty important because Jules and Jean immediately head off to investigate, leaving Barbara alone with Leon.

Back at the prison, it’s dress-up time as the Doc strides into the dungeons wearing a full French uniform. And yes, it’s as fantastic as it sounds.

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Show of hands who thinks this should become his regular look? Doc storms in and immediately begins dressing down the jailer, berating him for not providing him with an escort through the city.

Then he asks about Ian, Susan and Barb and is told that the two women were rescued and that Ian escaped.

As he stands there conversing with the Jailer, the Uniformed Man shows up and demands to see his papers.

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After looking them over, Uniform says he’s going off to discuss execution figures and since the province Doc claimed to be from is going to be discussed, he should join him.

Then, a short time later, the shopkeeper shows up at the prison and gives the Doctor’s ring to the Jailer in order to rat him out.

Well, quite a contrast from last week’s snoozefest. There’s actually quite a bit going on here and the director does a solid job cutting between the various groups, while keeping the story moving. Plus, Hartnell with a cape! There might be hope for this storyline yet.

Tune in next time for episode 4, The Tyrant of France.

 

Doctor Who: Diggin’ and A-Walkin’

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 2: Guests of Madame Guillotine

So, I’m just going to come right out and say it; this is not the Doc’s finest hour. Despite possessing a title that sounds like an Iron Maiden song, this week’s episode is kind of a snooze. It’s remarkably light on action, but what it does have in spades is walking, oh, and digging. Lots and lots of digging. You’ve been warned.

We begin where we left off, with the spy house engulfed in flames.

From there, we cut to a map of Paris, then a shot of a guillotine slamming down. We get a few paintings from the period with audio of crowds jeering laid over the background.

It’s actually quite effective, using creative, low budget techniques to build atmosphere.

Eventually we end up at Conciergerie Prison where Barbara, Ian, and Susan have been paraded before a magistrate who charges them as traitors and immediately sentences them to death.

From there, they’re led into a dungeon where Ian is locked up. Then, with him out of the picture, the jailer immediately begins hitting on Barbara.

“A lady like you shouldn’t be kept in this pigsty. Or course I have the keys. It wouldn’t be very difficult to keep a few doors open now would it?”

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Then, in case she somehow missed the subtext, he adds, “It gets very lonely in here sometimes. Very lonely indeed.”

Having exhausted his charms he opts for some light groping, which earns him a nice slap across the face.

Needless to say, this doesn’t sit well with Mr. Jailer, who immediately locks both Barbara and Susan in a cell he keeps for his “special guests.”

Meanwhile, back at the burning house, we find the Doc laid out along the ground with the boy from last week leaning over him.

As the Doctor wakes up, we get some fantastic method acting from Hartnell who goes into a full-on hacking fit. He really sells it. It sounds so bad, I swear he was actually choking and they just began rolling cameras.

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With his lungs clear of all that pesky smoke, the boy tells the Doctor that his friends have been taken to Paris to await execution and this is where we begin one of the episode’s recurring highlights, shots of cross-country walking accompanied by wildly inappropriate music.

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Not exactly racing against the clock is he?

Back in the dungeon, Barbara finds some crowbars and starts trying to dig her way out, while Susan stands by as lookout.

Meanwhile, in an adjacent cell, Ian shares a conversation with his new roommate, who’s not doing well. It seems the dude went and got himself shot and now he’s slowly bleeding to death. Ugh, aren’t roommates just the worst?

The cellmate, who’s name is Webster, reveals that he is a British agent, dispatched to bring a fellow spy back with him to England and seeing as how he’s gutshot and all would Ian mind terribly taking over him?

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He manages to give Ian the spy’s name, James Sterling, then promptly dies.

But don’t worry, there’s no need to get depressed because it’s time for another nature walk.

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As he slooowly makes his way across a field, the Doctor comes upon a stout, bearded man overseeing a group of men breaking rocks. The overseer reveals that the workers are tax dodgers that have been put to work, then starts bitching about having to finish their digging project by tomorrow.

Despite the fact that he’s racing against time, Doc breaks out his legendary people skills, telling him, “If you were to expend your energy helping with the road instead of bawling and shouting at them every few seconds you might be able to get somewhere. Good day to you sir!”

Then the overseer, who is now thoroughly pissed, turns the situation back on the Doctor, demanding to see his papers. When he can’t produce any identification, the Overseer accuses him of tax dodging and puts him to work digging up rocks.

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And hey, can’t get enough digging? Don’t worry, because as luck would have it, Barbara’s doing the exact same thing, trying to tunnel her way out of her cell, barely escaping notice when the jailer steps in to bring them food.

He notices the blankets she’s draped over the tools and walks over to investigate only to be called off at the last second.

Back in Ian’s cell, a uniformed man walks in, pulls the blanket off of Webster and asks how long he’s been dead.

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When Ian doesn’t answer, Capt. Uniform gets rough, asking him if the man said anything before he died. Ian tells him no, but Uniform is skeptical and heads out to ask the jailer if he overhead them speaking. The Jailer says he heard voices, but couldn’t make out what they said.

Cut to, the Doctor digging through rocks with the other tax dodgers. But have no fear, ‘cause Doc’s got a plan and it goes like this.

Step One: Stare up into the sky and start freaking out over “an eclipse”.

Step Two: Steal a handful of coin’s from the overseer’s pockets when he comes over to investigate.

Step Three: Scatter coins in the area where you’re digging.

Step Four: Make an unconvincing claim that you’ve found treasure.

“I just found this coin down there. It must come from some hidden treasure.”

“More likely dropped by a passing traveler.”

“No, no definitely a hidden treasure.”

Step Five: “Discover” a second coin, causing the Overseer to start digging himself.

Step Five: And this is the important one. Grab a pick while the man’s back is turned, then use it to hit him over the head.

Standing over the now unconscious overseer, Doc retrieves his coat like a boss then engages in still more walking.

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BBC

Back in the dungeon, Barbara and Susan are led out of their cell with the other prisoners. Ian is strangely absent from the group and when they ask about him, the jailer tells them that he has been crossed off the executioner’s list.

Then, as they’re all led out to the guillotine, we cut to Ian in his cell peering through the bars as his friends are paraded by.

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BBC

I didn’t lie, did I? Lots of walking, digging, and very little else. I know you’re all as hooked as I am, so join me back here next time for episode 3, A Change of Identity.

Doctor Who: A Master of His Craft

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 1: A Land of Fear

So, you remember how at the end of last episode, Ian made an offhand remark about going home and the Doctor lost his mind? Well, it turns out that gonzo moment is the motivation behind this week’s story.

As we open, The Doctor’s still fuming from that perceived slight and has brought the TARDIS back to earth with the intention of kicking Ian and Barbara off his ship for good.

Ian is skeptical that they’re actually back home, having witnessed the Doctor’s none too impressive navigational skills in the past.

Doc is adamant, however, and fires up the ship’s external camera as proof.

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BBC

Yup, that’s definitely twentieth century London, all right. No way that could be happening anyplace else.

Unconvinced a few shots of trees, Ian insists on some actual hard proof before departing the ship. This succeeds in making The Doctor even angrier, shouting, “I’m rather tired of your insinuations that I’m not master of this craft.”

This pretty much sets the tone for the entire episode, with Ian and the Doctor sniping at one another like an old married couple.

Finally at around the five minute mark, Ian succeeds in convincing the Doctor to join them, meaning we’ve dedicated a full fifth of this thing’s run time to just getting them all off the ship.

With Susan in tow the group heads out into the forest, where Susan notices a distinct lack of external lighting for what is supposed to be 20th century London.

Then, after hearing what is obviously gunfire, the Doctor suggests, “Perhaps it was a rabbit. You know Chesterton’s getting quite jumpy these days.”

Ian heads into the bushes to investigate and comes out with…a filthy child.

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BBC

The kid is completely freaked out, which is pretty understandable reaction to being questioned by an angry William Hartnell. 

Ian tries pumping him for information. He asks if they’re in England and the kid tells them they’re in France.

Doc is quick to defend his calculations, saying, “A few hundred miles or so either way is to be expected, after all it’s only a fraction of the distance we’ve covered. It’s quite accurate in fact.” 

Ian takes another jab at the Doctor’s time travel skills, while the kid manages to run away. 

He makes it to a decrepit farmhouse, where he knocks on a thick door before disappearing inside.

After some wandering, the Doctor and crew arrive at the same battered home and engage in some light snooping.

After lighting a few candles, the Doctor decides to head upstairs.

Then Susan stumbles onto a chest containing 18th Century period clothing. There’s also a bunch of weird documents inside, including one with Robespierre’s signature. Which definitely cracks the list of worst things to discover while lost in the woods.

As Ian and friends grapple with that, we cut away to the Doctor just long enough to watch him get hit upside the head.

Then it’s back to Ian and friends, who are now squeezing into old-time clothing.

As they stand there changing, Susan says the Doctor might not want to return to the ship once he finds out where they are because the reign of terror is, “his favorite period in the history of earth.”

So, to review, given the opportunity to go anywhere in history, the Doctor’s favorite period is the Reign of Terror. Not the Renaissance, not ancient Greece, no sir, Doc’s excited by a place renowned for its frequent beheadings. Maybe not the guy you want blasting you around through time and space.

While the group lets that sink in, they’re interrupted suddenly by a pair of men with old school pistols.

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BBC

The men, named D’Argenson and Rouvray, begin questioning them about their loyalties, which quickly becomes moot when a group of soldiers show up and surround the place. This immediately sends D’Argenson into a full-scale breakdown in which he recounts the details of his family’s murder.

The TARDIS crew decides that you know what, maybe now might be a good time to head upstairs and check on our friend, which is a pretty smart move since seconds later D’Argenson throws open the door, revealing their position.

The leader of the soldiers orders them to open fire, but Rouvray steps up and orders them all to stop, which they surprisingly do. 

As they stand there embroiled in a standoff, Rouvray engages in a bit of 18th Century trash talk.  

“You can give them uniforms lieutenant, but they remain peasants underneath.”

It’s pretty great moment, with the rebel using his charisma to hold the soldiers at bay.

Sadly, it’s not long before one of those same “peasants” shoots him down.

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BBC

Then, having wetted their taste for murder, the entire detachment bulrushes D’Argenson, killing him too.

And what has become of Ian and company?

Well, having successfully made it to the second floor, they are immediately discovered by the Lieutenant and his eyepatch-wearing sidekick.

As they’re paraded outside, a fierce debate breaks out between those in favor of killing them now and those that want to kill them later. The laters win, when the lieutenant finally insists on bringing them to Paris, so they’ll receive credit for their prisoners.

So, with murder momentarily off the menu, old one-eye decides to burn down the house as an alternative.

Inside, the Doctor struggles valiantly to his feet, only to pass out again from smoke inhalation.

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BBC

Some days it really doesn’t pay to get out of bed.

As Ian and the others are led away, they notice the house engulfed in flame and come to the rather troubling realization that the Doctor is still inside.

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BBC

As the crew is led away, we pan over to find the frightened boy from earlier hiding behind a bush.

Well, after a brief adventure with the Sensorites, we’re back with another history episode. It’s a strange one to be sure, with the Doctor inexplicably reverting to his earlier, angrier persona while trying to rid of himself of his companions.

There’s also the unfortunate matter of that drawn out beginning. Once the writer’s finally get everyone off the ship though, it actually turns into a pretty decent first episode. There’s something genuinely disturbing about the threat this time around. I guess it’s a lot easier to take a battalion of soldiers seriously than an alien wearing a bodysock and the director manages to tap into the frightening qualities of mob mentality.

The ending with Hartnell trapped in the house is pretty effective too, with the building becoming completely engulfed in flames. Definitely one of the stronger cliffhangers the show has managed thus far.

 Well, that’s it for this week. Tune in again next time for the fantastically titled: Guests of Madame Guillotine.