Hello everyone. The Historian here, along with the normal crew of Ketina, Ronelyn and Schmallturm, for another reconstructed episode from Revolutionary France. One more week to go until the end of season one! Now, let’s get to the summary!
Episode summary: First aired 5 September, 1964.
Leon levels a pistol at Ian as soldiers file into the crypt. Ian tries to escape, but is cut off. Leon has him chained to a wall and demands to know what Webster told him. Ian refuses, and Leon goes away to give Ian “time to think.”
At the prison, the Doctor and Barbara are still delighted to see each other. Barbara asks how he escaped the farmhouse, but the Doctor tells her it would take too much time and asks how Ian and Susan are. She tells him Susan is also captive in the prison, and is recovering from her fever. Ian, she says, is back at the house of a man named Jules. She explains the situation with Jules, Jean and Leon, but we only hear this from the other side of the door where Lemaitre waits, listening. He is interrupted, just before he can hear anything important, by the Jailer, who tells him that Robespierre has sent word for Lemaitre to come immediately. On the other side of the door, the Doctor has come up with a plan and tells Barbara not to worry–his plans always work!
The Doctor leaves and goes to the Jailer, discovering that Lemaitre is gone. He explains that he has found out that Barbara is a dangerous traitor and knows the identity of every other traitor in the country! If only they could get her to talk, but she would sooner die! He leads the Jailer to the idea (making it seem as if the thought had originated from the Jailer’s mind) of leaving the doors open, hiding and letting Barbara escape. They will then follow her and arrest her. The Doctor is delighted with this idea!
Some time later, Barbara does indeed wander out. Strangely, no one follows…
Meanwhile, at the house, Jules arrives and discovers all three of his friends still gone. Distraught, he leaves again.
In the crypt, Ian is still refusing to talk, although the guards threaten violence. Leon returns and tries to reason with Ian. The Revolution has known of Stirling’s existence for weeks, though they don’t know what he looks like or his alias, and Leon believes Ian has information that will help (though he also believes Ian doesn’t know what Stirling looks like either). To try to get Ian to understand his apparent treachery, Leon explains how the Revolution has rid France of the “leeches” of the upper class. He is a true believer. Ian, however, still refuses to talk, so Leon resorts to threats of the guillotine. He demands Ian tell him how he arrived from England and who else he is working with.
Warning Leon that he wouldn’t believe it, Ian tells the man he flew to the country with his three friends in a little box and that when he left England it was 1963. Leon’s temper frays and he pulls a gun…just as Jules bursts in and shoots a soldier down! A fight ensues, resulting in Jules shooting Leon down. He frees Ian and they flee the crypt.
The Doctor, meanwhile, has found Susan’s cell and the two have a joyful reunion through the door. It’s curtailed when the Jailer approaches, shocked. He’d thought the Doctor was going to take soldiers and follow Barbara! Why my dear man, the Doctor says, I thought you would do that! The Jailer is terrified, believing Lemaitre will be furious that he’d let the woman go. Not only that, but the Doctor reminds the Jailer it was all his idea in the first place! Still, said the Doctor, it was a good plan. Perhaps if they were to release the girl…but no, the Jailer replies. Lemaitre gave specific instructions that if the girl’s cell door was even simply opened, the Jailer would be for the chop.
Meanwhile, Lemaitre arrives at Robespierre’s office where the the statesman tells Lemaitre that he believes a prominent Deputy will be indicted the next day–27th July, 1794. He charges Lemaitre with spying on a certain Deputy, Paul Barras, who would be leaving Paris that night. When Lemaitre asks which Deputy might be indicted the next day, Robespierre reveals he believes it to be himself! On his way out of Robespierre’s house, Lemaitre stops to say something very softly (which the viewers cannot hear) to a guard.
Back at the house, Ian and Jules realize that they haven’t much time; Leon would probably have told someone how to find Jules’ house. Just then, Barbara bursts in and the three have a joyful reunion. Barbara tells Ian that the Doctor is at the prison, dressed as an official and ordering everyone about. Susan is still trapped there, but the Doctor has a plan to get her out. Then they must leave as soon as they can.
Jules and Ian explain about Leon’s death and Barbara does not take it well. She had obviously developed feelings for him. She exclaims that Leon was no traitor, he was simply on the other side. Waving aside Ian and Jules’ explanations of the situation and of the Terror, she says that the Revolution is not all bad and tells Ian to read history sometime. Good people die on both sides and Leon was one of them. She then storms upstairs.
Back at the prison, the Doctor tells Susan to crouch on the floor behind her door and not to move until it is time. He then calls to the Jailer, exclaiming that the girl is gone! The Jailer looks into the cell and unlocks the door. Not seeing Susan through the window, and at the Doctor’s urging, he simply takes off looking for her. Susan opens the door and she and the Doctor start to escape…but are stopped by Lemaitre, appearing from the shadows! He has the returning Jailer (who tells him that all had happened as Lemaitre had foreseen) lock Susan back in her cell and takes the Doctor into the next room.
The Doctor tries to bluster, but Lemaitre shows the Doctor a ring–the Doctor’s ring, which the tailor had given to Lemaitre. The man reveals that he had known for some time that the Doctor was an imposter. The Doctor asks why he had not been arrested then, and Lemaitre replies that it is good to be able to call for favors, even from enemies. He has had something on the Doctor and he means to use it. The Doctor realizes this is why he had not been allowed to leave the prison the night before, but why had he been given his liberty that day? Because Lemaitre knew he would not leave the girl–his granddaughter, perhaps? The Doctor demands her release, but this Lemaitre will not do unless the Doctor takes him to Jules Renan’s house. Realizing he is beaten, the Doctor agrees.
At the house, meanwhile, Barbara has calmed down and wishes to apologize to Jules for her harsh words, but he is out looking for the Doctor and Susan. She understands that he had no choice in killing Leon, but tells Ian she is tired of always being surrounded by death.
Jules returns, having found no sign of them, but he has left the door unlatched so they might come right in. Barbara tries to apologize, but Jules stops her. He understands, he says; he too admired Leon as a man, if not a comrade. The sides, he says, are so nebulous; he himself is no aristocrat, just a man of the “middle” who despises the idea of all order being thrown out. His fight is against the anarchy brought by the Reign of Terror. Still, he says, there are really only two sides, and he would hate anyone who betrayed his trust “like the devil.”
Just then, they hear the door open. It is the Doctor, but he has brought Lemaitre with him! Has he betrayed them?….
First thing’s first: Here is the transcript for this episode.
Let me take a moment, before I get into the story, to talk a bit about the reconstruction. Something I find wonderful in a recon are the brief moments of actual footage and this episode had several, very obviously relics of someone pointing a camera (super8?) at a television screen. Just neat! And the syncing up with the audio was perfect. The only really weakness of this reconstruction, which couldn’t have been avoided, was the fight scene in the crypt. This was, by necessity, conveyed with a lot of scrolling text. Even that, though, was impressive, since the team had almost no sound to build on beyond scuffling, a grunt or two and a shot, basically. I kept muttering, “Thank goodness for camera scripts, eh?” Some of the stills were also a bit overused, but I’d imagine the recon team didn’t exactly have a choice about that either. (I believe Ketina has something to say below about Leon’s still, for example.) Still, a very impressive job and one that helped us see the episode as best we could.
As for the story…well, let me start with the observation that just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you, as Robespierre proves here. Yes, he was indicted on 27th April, 1794–his fall from power. On the one hand, you could look at what I wrote last week and say, but wasn’t he justified in worrying about those around him? I’d still say no, since it was his repressive and bloody policies that had everyone in terror and led him to this point anyway. Still, something to think about, isn’t it?
And speaking of something to think about, how about Barbara, huh? In her anger at Leon’s death, she touches on something interesting: the difference between what one might call the short view (or, perhaps, living in the moment) with the long view of history. Because, by the latter, she is absolutely right, of course. Not everyone who supported the Revolutionary council/commune was evil, far from it! Leon was, as he reveals in his speech to Ian, a passionate patriot…from his point of view, just as much as “James Stirling,” somewhere undercover, is for the British, or Jules is for his side. Ian, though, realizes that they are in the thick of things and can’t really afford the long view at this point; in his words, they have “chosen sides,” like it or not. I think, in a programme that deals with time travel, this is an important discussion to have, or important ideas to keep in mind at least. (Well, at least while we still have true historicals!) It’s similar to Ian and Barbara’s discussion in “The Aztecs,” except there Ian was the one who could see the long view. In this case, I come down on the side of the short view, if only because our friends must, as Barbara herself realizes. Even though everything she says is right, she doesn’t have the luxury to stand above the fray until she is back in her own time. (Or at least the TARDIS!)
And finally, after episodes of stalking in the shadows manipulating everyone, Lemaitre begins to play his hand! I’m reconsidering my view of the man; perhaps he is not the villain we took him for. Schmallturm, who has an interesting theory about his true motives, is pretty persuasive, especially since (as Schmallturm pointed out) we’re almost out of characters who James Stirling might be. And Webster did say he would be found undercover in the government…and Lemaitre is Robespierre’s confidant…it’s possible, and it does make almost all of Lemaitre’s actions make sense….
It seems needless to say, but we’re all still really enjoying this story. The writing is crisp, the tension (so important in a story set in this period) is palpable and the acting–in this episode at the least–is uniformly excellent. Well, verbally at least, since we had very little movement. And the end, with Jules’ speech about traitors followed immediately by the Doctor’s apparent betrayal, worked perfectly. It does, however, lead to my only quibble about this episode: how did the Doctor know how to find Jules’ house? I suppose Barbara could have told him where it was during the part of their conversation that we didn’t hear, but still. On the other hand, if that’s my only quibble, you know this was a good episode indeed!
And next week, back to moving pictures, as we close out the first season of Doctor Who in style! Dennis Spooner Historical style, that is! Until then, I remain
Reconstruction again this week, which once again makes doing a review rather challenging. Let’s see…
The big tense scene at the beginning, where Ian was being tortured, was completely ruined by the repeated picture shown of Leon – Yes, Ian was tortured by Liberace!
We also commented quite a bit on the jailer being from the “north” part of France (heavy Northern English accent).
And The Doctor’s fabulous outfit continues to be in play, but is not nearly as awesome due to the reconstruction aspect this week.
What probably should have been good, but was completely lost on me:
Robespierre’s big announcement regarding the upcoming date, and his apparently accurate prediction that he would be indicted. As I know very little French history (Napoleon was the short guy, right?), I could only guess it was some big important event. As everyone in the room watching with me nodded at that point, I’m guessing it was indeed some big important historical moment. This is why I’m NOT The Historian, just the companion. 😀
The big reveal of regarding who exactly is James Stirling. Okay, so it hasn’t quite been revealed yet, but (thank you clever Smallturm) we’re pretty sure we’ve got it figured out. And knowing that, it’s cool to look back on the entire story and have everything (or at least nearly everything) suddenly make sense. I don’t want to say anything now, for the sake of spoilers and in case we are totally wrong about this. It would be so lame if we’re wrong.
Scream count this week: Big fat zero. Susan, you’re beginning to disappoint me.
Until next time,
The Historian again, with a quick note. We’re almost to the end of the first season and, since I posted it, we have received exactly ONE response to our request for feedback. This is, to say the least, very discouraging. As I’ve said before, we put a lot of work into this blog and I know we have more than one reader. Please, please and please again, if you are reading this, take a moment and comment on this post or drop us an e-mail. (The address is in that post.) Love us, hate us, like us, loathe us, we want to know!
NEXT WEEK: THE CONCLUSION OF SEASON ONE! “PRISONERS OF CONCIERGERIE”