Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...
Day Forty - The Tyrant of France (The Reign of Terror, Episode Four)
Right then, let's get this bit out of the way first, shall we? I'm going to have to mention the animation. Of course I am, it's only been available on DVD for a couple of weeks, so it'll look a bit remiss if I just ignore it! Do bear in mind, though, that my episode score is based on the episode itself - not the animation.
It has to be said - I loved the look of it. The details on the faces (especially that of the Doctor) is gorgeous, and the movement is extremely fluid. It perhaps doesn't look so good when it cuts out to a wider shot - Barbara closing the door, for example, or another character putting on his coat. Without the emphasis on the faces, the detail gets rather lost in those moments.
The one thing that I've seen listed as the biggest complaint about the episodes is the style of the cutting back-and-forth between shots. I've seen it heavily argued that it's so out of keeping with the surrounding episodes as to be completely jarring to the experience. I can see where the argument comes from (though, really, the only time I found it noticeable was during the first wine-pouring scene), but I can't say it bothered me that much. Having just come from five weeks of 1963/64 vintage Doctor Who, this didn't feel too out of place.
In all, it's a great way of plugging the missing episode gaps, and at this stage, I'm really hoping that we'll see some more of the animations. I've enjoyed this one, so if they get even better with time, then that's only a bonus.
Anyway! The episode itself! Well, I've had plenty of opportunity to examine the animation because things plot-wise are all a bit boring, aren't they? It's a tricky one, because I'm liking the setting of the story, and it's great to have a number of well-sketched charters, but… well… the story itself just feels too bloated.
You've got the Doctor having an in-depth discussion with Robespierre about the state of Paris, Susan's illness getting progressively worse, and the situation between her, Barbara and the Physician (though it's nice to see, as I'd hoped yesterday, that Susan feeling unwell does have a bearing on the story), Ian being recovered and then led into a trap…
There's plenty going on, I just don't care about any of it. I'm hoping that it's merely a result of fourth-episode-sagging, which we had with The Sensorites, too. After that point, the story got better again.
I wonder if part of the problem here is that it feels too well researched. In Marco Polo, or The Aztecs, the history felt vivid and real - it was more than clear that Lucarotti knew his stuff about the two periods - but it was just sort of there in the background. Here, it feels like the hard work that has gone into researching the period is just being stuffed into the character's mouths.
Still, I'm crossing my fingers that things improve for me with Episode Five. Taking the beautiful visuals out of the equation, I'm going to have to give this one;
Next Episode: A Bargain of Necessity