Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...
Day Forty-Two: Prisoners of the Conceiergerie (The Reign of Terror, Episode Six)
I thought it was going to be a bit of a culture shock to go from two day's worth on animated episodes back to the regular live-action footage, but I'm glad to say that it doesn't jar at all. It feels perfectly natural, and the story still just carries on through.
Unfortunately for me… I'm still just not taken by the story itself. There's still a few nice moments (which I'll get to in a moment), but as a whole it's really just dragging for me.
Reign of Terror has very much been the most overtly 'educational' story from this first season, but whereas others have relied on giving history in odd drips, here it feels almost as though you need to have a working knowledge of the French Revolution in order to follow what's going on.
There's several moments where they reference other events and other people, seemingly assuming that we're going to pick up on them and know the context, but it's just not there for me, I'm afraid. I know enough to get by, but not enough to follow the plot as well as I'd like. Frankly, I've lost track.
What I have enjoyed, though, is the way that this episode examines the extent to which you can't change time. It's lovely when Barbara laughs with the Doctor that they're having to try and stop events that they know are going to happen, but that they have to go through the motions anyway, in order to get Susan back and return to the TARDIS.
Equally nice is the discussion once they have reached the ship, where Ian speculates on what would happen if they tried to alter things. I love all the little suggestions that if they'd written Napoleon a letter then he would have lost it, or forgotten it, or thought it fantasy. Even Barbara's suggestion that if they'd tried to shoot him, then the bullet would have missed… It's stuff that's not really new coming to sci-fi from a 2013 perspective, but it's nice to see it cropping up in the early days of Doctor Who.
It's also good to see that the show is sticking to its own internal logic on the subject for now. In The Aztecs, much of the story hinges around the inability to change history, no matter how much you try, and it's good to see that referenced here. 50 years on, and history has become far more malleable (perhaps as the Doctor has learnt more about the hows and whys of the Web of TIme?), but it's good to see it being held firm at the beginning.
It's another situation where I won't spend much time summing up - I've discussed my thoughts on the story as a whole over the last couple of days, so I'll leave you with the final score;
Next Episode: The Hanging Gardens of Babylon