February 21: "Destruction of Time" / "War of God"

(The Daleks' Master Plan episode 12 & The Massacre episode 1)

And so we come to "Destruction of Time"18, the final installment of The Daleks' Master Plan.  It starts with Mavic Chen, clearly unhinged, announcing his presence to the Daleks and demanding to be informed as to the latest developments of the invasion plans.  He seems utterly surprised that the Daleks have no more use for him, and he ultimately ends up dead, exterminated by them.  But meanwhile the Doctor has reappeared, having somehow gained control of the Time Destructor (maybe it was clear how on video), and thereafter the episode is a visual tour-de-force, showing the Doctor and Sara struggling to get back to the TARDIS as the Time Destructor accelerates time all around them.  It's a bit of shame, then, that we only have the soundtrack.  But based on the descriptions, and Douglas Camfield's direction on the episodes we can see, this was probably pretty impressive.  Certainly even with just Peter Purves' narration on the official CD release, Sara Kingdom's death, as she ages to death as a result of the Time Destructor, is very effective.  And when Steven ventures out of the TARDIS to help the Doctor, the Doctor's anguished cry of "No, don't touch me!" is powerful.  And in the end, all that's left on Kembel is dust, as time was accelerated and then reversed.  Steven's final line, as he remembers the dead, is also very well delivered.

Thus The Daleks' Master Plan comes to its conclusion.  It's been a huge epic, unlike anything Doctor Who had ever done before.  But, final episode not withstanding (and once again, this sounds like it was one of the best final episodes ever), it's not clear if this was really worth the length.  There are quite a few episodes that feel like they consist of one primary event surrounded by a lot of filler.  It's frequently very good filler, but it's still filler.  That said, there's a seriousness of tone here on display for most of the story that really helps convey the mood: the Daleks are the most dangerous threat the galaxy has ever faced, and everyone responds appropriately.  We're leagues ahead of The Chase, whose story structure The Daleks' Master Plan resembles in many respects.  But this treats its subjects with respect, and as a result things are improved dramatically.  I'm just not convinced that its 12 episode length (13 with "Mission to the Unknown") is justified.  It might be different if we could see the entire thing -- the visual elements might paper over any narrative longueurs.  But as it stands (and this has been said before about other stories), I think people are more entertained by the idea of a 12-part Dalek epic than what we actually get.  It's good, but it's not great.

Next up is "War of God", the first episode of The Massacre19, which sees Steven and the Doctor arrive in Paris in 1572.  The Doctor goes off to visit an apothecary named Charles Preslin (who doesn't appear to be a real historical figure) and warns Steven not to get into trouble while he's gone.  So Steven goes into a pub and learns about the high tensions that exist between the Catholic rulers and the Huguenot (Protestant) citizens, due to repeated religious wars.  Most of this episode is setting up the historical background for this story, with a discussion of the killings at Vassy ten years earlier, where Catholics killed a hundred Huguenots ("Because they were Huguenot", Gaston says), that led to the French Wars of Religion, with frequent flare-ups over the intervening decade.  And Steven encounters a serving girl named Anne Chaplet who overheard a conversation suggesting that another such event might happen.

And periodically throughout the episode, we hear of the cruelty of the Abbot of Amboise (also not a real historical figure), who is both virulently anti-Huguenot and anti-science (or, at least, the work of Charles Preslin).  Then the cliffhanger of "War of God" reveals that the Abbot of Amboise is...the Doctor?!

18 There appears to be slight confusion on whether this was called "The Destruction of Time" or just "Destruction of Time" -- one of the minor problems associated with missing episodes.  Most fans tend to use the former, but both the Radio Times and the BBC's Programme-as-Broadcast paperwork used the latter, which does suggest that there was no initial definite article on the broadcast title.
19 This is the last major title discrepancy we're going to get until season 23.  The Target novelization and the outside cover of the BBC soundtrack release refer to this story as The Massacre, while the inside of the BBC release and some contemporary documents called this The Massacre of St. Bartholomew's Eve -- which is both somewhat redundant (the word "massacre" was coined by Christopher Marlowe to refer to these events) and inaccurate (as the massacre occurred on St. Bartholomew's Day, not St. Bartholomew's Eve).  Note that some people have argued that, as this story is about the events leading up to the massacre, the title is actually referring to the [massacre of St. Bartholomew's] eve -- which both suggests a fundamental misunderstanding of how the English language generally works and is itself inaccurate, as this story takes place over the preceding four days, rather than just the one immediately before.  In any event, I'll be referring to this story simply as The Massacre.