Friday, 17 October 2014

037 The Reign of Terror Episode 1: A Land of Fear

EPISODE: The Reign of Terror Episode 1: A Land of Fear
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 08 August 1964
WRITER: Dennis Spooner
DIRECTOR: Henric Hirsch
SCRIPT EDITOR: David Whitaker
PRODUCER: Verity Lambert
RATINGS: 6.9 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who: The Reign of Terror

"The Doctor's put us down right in the middle of the French Revolution!"

We open in woods as the Tardis materialises. The Doctor believes he has brought Ian & Barbara home. The Doctor & Susan come with them, the Doctor accepting Ian's invitation of a drink. Leaving the Tardis they hear gunfire. Ian finds a boy in the woods: he tells the party they are in France near Paris. The boy returns to a house: it doesn't look like the modern day. The TARDIS party find the house, and speculate if they are before their own time. They sneak inside and find candles to help them look round.


They discover artifacts and clothes making them think they're in the 18th century, including a letter signed by Robspierre: The Doctor has landed them in the middle of the French Revolution. The Doctor is attacked and falls to the floor while the others change into the period clothes. They are held at gunpoint by two counter-revolutionaries, D'Argenson and Rouvray. Soldiers arrive, besieging the building and killing the revolutionaries. Ian, Barbara & Susan are captured and taken away while the house is set on fire with the Doctor trapped within.


Yeah, not bad at all if a bit lingering on the setup though. We'll forgive it that because it is the first episode of a six part story! But it's got a real cliffhanger ending with the Doctor trapped in the burning house. There's a real sense of dramatic peril there missing from some previous cliffhangers. Hartnell's on fine form right the way through. When I went through the episode hunting for images to use I kept being drawn to The Doctor doing stuff.

As promised we return to the story of Doctor Who's missing episodes. No episodes of The Reign of Terror was found to remain at the BBC during Ian Levine's visits in the Seventies. Episode 6 was recovered by Ian Levine & collector Bruce Campbell in May 1982. Episodes 1-3 were returned together, along with a second copy of episode 6 and duplicates of the existing stories The Aztecs (Episodes 1, 3 & 4) and The Sensorites (all six episodes) in 1984. Independent enquiries by Levine and Paul Vanezies (now of the BBC & Doctor Who restoration Team) at a Cyprus TV station turned these episodes up in December 1984. They had held Reign of Terror 4 & 5 (and Aztecs 2) as well, but these were destroyed in 1974 when a shelling during a coup destroyed the Cyprus National Film archive. A large number of other missing BBC programs were retrieved from the same Cyprus archive. Oddly enough, shortly afterwards in early 1985 the person who sold Bruce Campbell Reign of Terror 6 came forward again, now in possession of a copy of Reign of Terror 3!

This is the state of play with the story as it stands today. When we watched the story for the first run of the blog, Reign of Terror was our first mixed story made up of 3 episodes of video, two on CD and a final video episode. Since then there's been A DVD release of The Reign of Terror in January 2013 so this makes this the first story that we're watching now on a different format to what I watched it on the first time and the first story that I had seen between watching it for the blog the first time and this repeat visit. The Aztecs had received an upgraded DVD since I saw it for the blog but for reasons outlined when I reblogged that story I'd not seen the new version of the Aztecs!

The prints for episodes 1-3 of this story that were returned from Cyprus are Suppressed Field film recordings, whereas most of Season 1 of Doctor Who, bar episodes 5 & 7 of the Daleks and the end of Edge of Destruction part 2, exists as Stored Field film recordings. Click the link to find out more, but the gist of it is that this print has a reduced definition as you might be able to spot from some of the screen grabs I've used. Nowhere is it more noticeable then in this shot from towards the end of the episode:


If you look at the edges of Ian's top you can see that it's built up of lines rather than a smooth curve. A stored field recording has around 200 lines recorded rather than the 405 that were in use then, the 625 of BBC's colour transmissions or the 1025 of a high definition picture.

The higher quality Stored Field recordings of Season 1 and 2 which we have now would appear to have been made in 1967, as a second run of prints of these initial episodes. A season 2 episode, The Crusade part 1 The Lion, is also a Suppressed field recording but stored field prints are now believed to have been the standard from the start of the third season of Doctor Who as born out by the recent return of Galaxy Four episode 3 Airlock.

In the picture above the soldier with the eye patch, standing behind Ian, is James Hall who will return as Borkar in 1965's The Dalek Masterplan episodes 4 & 5, The Traitors and Counter Plot.

This first season of Doctor Who is the only point in the series entire history that the show was broadcast right the way through August with the Sensorites concluding on the first of August to be followed by the first four episodes of The Reign of Terror which continued into the first two Saturdays of September. Traditionally this time of year in the 1960s was when the series took it's annual holiday. Then in the 70s & 80s the series started either in January or in September. But I was surprised to find these episodes from the first year of the program weren't the only ones to air in August:

The Sensorites 6 01-Aug-1964
The Reign of Terror 1 08-Aug-1964
2 15-Aug-1964
3 22-Aug-1964
4 29-Aug-1964
The Dominators 1 10-Aug-1968
2 17-Aug-1968
3 24-Aug-1968
4 31-Aug-1968
The Leisure Hive 1 30-Aug-1980
Terror of the Zygons 1 30-Aug-1975

The Dominators is perhaps a slightly unusual case: the broadcast season started early due to a two week break later in the season for the Mexico Olympics between The Mind Robber 5 on 12-Oct-68 and The Invasion 1 on 02-Nov-68. Even so that would only account for the first two of the Saturdays broadcast in August....

The two later dates on the list correspond to the August bank holiday falling nearly at it's earliest and the Doctor Who season starting the Saturday after, as it tended to do with the coming of the Autumn scheduling.

To date just one new series episode has aired in August: Let's Kill Hitler on 27th August 2011 but the first two episodes featuring Peter Capaldi's Doctor are due to air on the 23rd & 30th August this month!

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