The Reign of Terror – Review

Prologue

I am a completest. I hate incomplete collections.

It might surprise you then to know that I have not watched every available episode of Dr Who. Oh no, in fact, it is that completest attitude that prevents me from watching the incomplete stories. Yes, they’re available on the Doctor Who, Missing in Time collection, but I’ve not watched them.

What this means in a practical way is that, when they “find” a lost episode that completes a story, I have “new” Dr Who to watch! Of course, that means new episodes of classic Dr Who are few and far between.

A year of so ago, they stumbled upon an extremely agreeable formula to me. For the classic second Doctor story, The Invasion, the two missing episodes were recreated using the original sound recording and full animation. It was a brilliant solution and I finally watched the Invasion. Then, things went quiet. There were rumors that it was too expensive and that the disc didn’t sell well enough to justify the cost. Whatever the reason, no subsequent animated recreations were announced – until recently.

Not only was the first Doctor story the Reign of Terror recently released, but the announcements of the release of the first Doctor’s final story, The Tenth Planet and the second Doctor story, The Ice Warriors have recently been made.

The suits have indicated that two animated episodes is the maximum they can afford per DVD release (although, one wonders how animated series like the Simpsons or Family Guy can even exist at that rate.)

If two is the limit per story, we can still hope to see the following stories

First Doctor

  1. The Crusade (2)
  2. Mission to the Unknown (1)

Second Doctor

  1. The Underwater Menace (2)
  2. The Moonbase (2)

It’s not as many as I could hope for, but perhaps they’ll get their costs down and be able to expand to 3 or 4 episodes per story.

The Reign of Terror

Reign of Terror is the eighth Dr Who story, set in a time when the Doctor is still a cantankerous almost anti-hero to Ian’s classical hero. Ian and Barbara are still very much the trapped and largely unwilling passengers aboard the TARDIS, the the show was still firmly trying to “teach” to younger audiences and still willing to produce “historical” episodes.

Summary

The Doctor returns Ian and Barbara to 1963 Earth only to discover it’s 18th century France during the (you guessed it) Reign of Terror. They soon run afoul of the revolutionary fervor and are separated (in the case of the Doctor) and sent to prison for beheading (everyone else.)

The story follows three plot lines. Ian makes his own attempts at escape, while Barbara and Susan are rescued on the way to the Guillotine and take up with anti-revolutionary conspirators. Meanwhile, the Doctor impersonates an important official in his efforts to rescue everyone else.

The story concludes with the end of the Reign of Terror and sets the stage for Napoleon’s ascension to ruler of France.

Analysis

Despite this being six-parts with a lot of “in jail, escape from jail, return to jail” action (or inaction) and having no aliens to battle, I rather surprisingly enjoyed this story. I was particularly pleased with parts of the story where the Doctor was manipulating other people to do his will. The story shows off well the first Doctor’s keen and devious mind.

Ian, and particularly Barbara fared less well and were basically bumped around from one capture situation to the next. Susan basically got sick and was nothing more than a hindrance during the episode. It’s no wonder Carole Ann Ford chose to leave the series first. Her character was wasted in this story.

The Animation

Finally, I would be remiss to fail to mention the animation. The previous animated story, The Invasion, was done by a completely different studio and was perfectly acceptable, if a bit stylized

There’s no good way to put it, this new animation style used in Reign creeps me out. The characters faces spend too much time moving needlessly. The features on the face are too shadowy around their features and most disturbingly, the large glassy, pool-like eyes move back and forth aimlessly like some evil doll.

To say that I’m not a fan of this animation style is an understatement; however, to have the story back once again, I wouldn’t trade it!

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