Friday, 17 October 2014

038 The Reign of Terror Episode 2: Guests of Madame Guillotine

EPISODE: The Reign of Terror Episode 2: Guests of Madame Guillotine
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 15 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

"Oh, we've been lucky. We can't go on being lucky. Things catch up with you. "

Before we kick off: what's significant about this episode of Doctor Who? The answer will follow after I watch it!

Actually the very start of the episode is a bit odd because the title of the episode isn't the first wording we see on the screen, which would be the usual convention, it's preceded by the caption Paris appears before episode title Guests of Madam Guillotine appears:

vlcsnap-2014-06-04-09h56m50s210 vlcsnap-2014-06-04-09h57m06s123

The Doctor is unconscious and trapped in the blazing house. We cut to pictures of Paris and a dropping guillotine. The other three Travellers are taken to court where they are sentenced to death and taken to the cells to await execution by guillotine. Barbara attracts the attention of the Jailer but spurns him so ends up in the cell with Susan while Ian is held separately, The Doctor has been rescued by the boy we saw in the previous episode, who tells him the soldiers have taken his friends. The Doctor leaves on foot for Paris to rescue his friends walking through the fields till he finds a road. Susan is worried about the Doctor and hopes he has survived. Barbara wants to escape, but attempts are thwarted by the return of the guards. Ian shares a cell with another Englishman, Webster, who is dying from his wounds, who tells him war between England & France is near. He tells Ian to find James Stirling and get him to return to England with the information he possesses. He says Stirling may be found through Jules Renan at the sign of "Le Chien Gris" and dies. The Doctor encounters a chain gang of tax dodgers on the road. Antagonising the gangmaster and being unable to produce papers, the Doctor is forced into working with them digging a road.


Barbara's attempts at levering a block out the cell wall aren't going well, and Susan fares no better. They are about to be discovered by the jailer when Citizen Lemaitre, his superior, arrives to see Webster's body. The jailer tells Lemaitre he heard the prisoners speak, and while Webster's body is being removed Susan is scared by the rats in her cell! The Doctor & the chain gang distract the gang master with talk of an eclipse so the Doctor can steel his keys. Duping the gang master again with a coin they've found the chain gang knock him out with a spade and escape allowing the Doctor to continue his journey to Paris. He stops to rest on a Paris 5km marker. As Susan & Barbara are brought from their cells they discover Ian has been crossed off the death list by Lemaitre. Ian watches from his cell window as the women are taken away to the guillotine.


Wow, that's top stuff. Probably the best episode of the series since the first. Hartnell is on towering form throughout - the scene with Hartnell & the boy is wonderful: Jean Pierre played by Peter Walker is the only guest actor in both of the first and second episodes!


Then we get the comedy business with the chain gang which is very well done allowing Hartnell to bring his comic talents, honed over the years in film, to the fore. Interestingly this is the first time we've seen The Doctor by himself for an extended period of time! The rest of the Tardis crew are imprisoned throughout, with the hint of a quest for Ian and another wonderfully imperilled cliffhanger making this a great episode.

So what's significant about this episode? Well the scenes of the Doctor walking along the roads and in the fields are the very first location filming undertaken by the team. Ok, it's not William Hartnell being filmed, but his double Brian Proudfoot, who later returns as the cup bearer Tigilinus in The Romans episodes Two: All Roads Lead to Rome and Three: Conspiracy.

vlcsnap-2014-06-04-10h03m18s255 vlcsnap-2014-06-04-10h03m56s137
vlcsnap-2014-06-04-10h10m07s1 vlcsnap-2014-06-04-10h20m46s237

Even so it adds some nice detail to the episode. Details of the locations in Buckinghamshire can be found on It's a small start, but much location work will follow including some splendid stuff in just two stories time. For more information on the locations used in Doctor Who visit the website linked above or track down a copy of Doctor Who on Location by Richard Bignell.

While we get a real world location appearing as French countryside in this episode, Paris is recreated in the studio. It's particularly worth drawing attention to The Conciergerie Prison depicted here which is a real life building in Paris that was used to house prisoners during the French Revolution!

I mentioned last episodes that the first three episodes of this series are preserved in the lower definition Suppressed Field format: here The Doctor's checked trousers cause it no end of problems with the pattern appearing to move about on screen as you're watching!


The Road Work Overseer is played by Dallas Cavell who is a frequent returnee to Doctor Who appearing in The Dalek Masterplan 3: Devil's Planet as Bors, The Highlanders: Episode 2-as Captain Jebb Trask, The Ambassadors of Death: Episode 2-5 as Quinlan and Castrovalva: Part One as the Head of Security. James Cairncross appears here as Lemaitre and he'll be back as Beta in the Krotons while both Jack Cunningham, the Jailer, and Jeffrey Wickham, a former Equity president who died recently who is playing Webster here, have impressive TV acting CVs.

No comments:

Post a Comment