January 19: "A Land of Fear" / "Guests of Madame Guillotine"

(The Reign of Terror episodes 1 & 2)

When we left the Sense-Sphere last time, there was a cozy sort of feeling to everything (the Doctor's ill-tempered outburst at the cliffhanger not withstanding).  That sense continues in "A Land of Fear" for a bit, as Ian convinces the Doctor to come get a drink with him before he leaves forever (also allowing Ian and Barbara to make certain that they're actually back on 20th-century Earth).  But that atmosphere is steadily eroded away as the episode progresses, ending with two people dead and the Doctor lying unconscious inside a locked room in a burning building, while Ian, Barbara, and Susan are forcibly escorted to Paris, to be executed by the guillotine.  Yes, it's the French Revolution story.

What's remarkable about these two episodes is how brutal everything feels.  The soldiers are shown to be harsh and crude peasants, with the suggestion that they're acting out of feelings of vengeance and retaliation rather than any sense of duty.  We meet two aristocrats fleeing from Paris, both shown sympathetically, and they're both shot dead before the end of the first episode.  The cells are dark and dingy, and the jailer7 is vile and visibly fragrant (no mean feat to show in a purely visual medium), even as he describes himself as "an intelligent man" while leering after Barbara.  Barbara and Susan are stuck in a rat-infested cell after she slaps the jailer, so he's clearly not above retaliation either.  Meanwhile the Doctor's encounter with the overseer of a road crew along the way to Paris is also remarkably dark, even if it's largely played for laughs; only the sight of the overseer snoring at the end of the scene suggests that the Doctor has done anything other than kill a man to escape -- and note the relish with which the Doctor seems to bean the man with a shovel.  We're a long way from traveling with Marco Polo in his caravan.

But look! It's Doctor Who's first location footage ever, with Brian Proudfoot stepping in for William Hartnell, showing the Doctor striding across the countryside on his way to Paris.  It's not a huge moment, but it's noteworthy and does start to open the show up a bit, so that it doesn't feel quite as claustrophobic as it occasionally has in the past.  And Ian's entirely on film for "Guests of Madame Guillotine" -- looks like it's William Russell's turn to take two weeks off.  He gets to interact with dying British men and Citizens of the Revolution, while Barbara and Susan get readied for the guillotine -- another brutal moment, but an effective cliffhanger.

7 The Target novelizations were designed primarily for a British audience, with British spellings.  It usually didn't cause problems, but I had no idea what the gaoler described in Ian Marter's version of The Reign of Terror was, other than that he must be important.