Doctor Who (William Hartnell) – The Reign of Terror


“Have you met the French?”

The final story of the first season of Doctor Who was written by Dennis Spooner and aired its six parts from 8 August to 12 September, 1964.

The TARDIS arrives back on Earth, and The Doctor (Hartnell) seems eager to finally be rid of Ian Chesterton (William Russell) and Barbara (Jacqueline Hill), despite the fact that their departure clearly upsets Susan (Carole Ann Ford). Unfortunately, they are a few hundred miles off of their target of London, and a couple of centuries off of the 20th century. They’ve arrived in France during the revolution.

Susan cautions her fellow travels that this happens to be the Doctor’s favorite time period in Earth’s history, but that doesn’t keep them all from getting into trouble. A story in six parts, A Land of Fear, Guests of Madame Guillotine, A Change of Identity, The Tyrant of France, A Bargain of Necessity, and Prisoners of Conciergerie, it’s a season finale that outside of the TARDIS and its travellers, has no science fiction elements at all. It’s a straight forward tale of war and betrayal, and gets to see The Doctor pretending to be the Regional Officer of the Provinces, well after he escapes from a work gang.


On their arrival in France, they discover a deserted home that is being used to funnel escaped prisoners out of Paris and away from the guillotine, unfortunately, Ian, Susan and Barbara are taken prisoner, and the Doctor is left to burn as the house is set alight.

Susan falls ill, but she and Barbara are eventually rescued by two men Jules (Donald Morley) and Jean (Roy Herrick), who are the ones helping people escape from the tyrant’s in power.

Ian sneaks out of the prison, we only learn later that he was released by the prison’s governor, Lemaitre (James Cairncross), who has a secret of his own.

Barbara is given a bit of a romantic subplot, but has chosen the wrong man, or at least the wrong side of the fight.

Susan is sidelined for most of the episode with this recurring headache thing she has, apparently it’s so bad, that it hampers an opportunity for an escape… Hmmm.


I do like The Doctor is becoming more and more recognizable as a fully formed character and the same and different as those who follow him. He still lets Ian take over too much, he’s not at center stage like his later incarnations, but he’s definitely becoming more fun, though you wouldn’t want him angry at you. His confrontations with Ian at the end of the last story and the beginning of this one make that very clear.

Still, there are things we start to recognize.

So after 8 stories, some better than others, though as the series progressed the stories undeniably became stronger, we’ve come to the end of the first season.

Next week, we start Season 2 with the three-part tale, Planet of the Giants!

I can’t wait to see what new adventures and villains await me, The Doctor and the TARDIS as we continue our travels!!!


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