Recap / Doctor Who S1 E8 "The Reign of Terror"
Death, always death! Do you think I want this carnage?
Robespierre protests too much

For the last story of Season One, we're back in history land with this adventure in Revolutionary France.

Moments after Ian offends the Doctor's Hair-Trigger Temper in the last episode, the Doctor unceremoniously parks the TARDIS and kicks Ian and Barbara out, despite Susan's protests. The two humans insist on at the very least checking to see if they're in contemporary England. As it turns out, they're not. It's 1794 during the eponymous Reign of Terror, and the TARDIS crew quickly find themselves involved in a Scarlet Pimpernel-style escape committee saving aristocrats from the guillotine, and are then captured by the French army. The Doctor is locked in a burning farmhouse, while Ian, Barbara and Susan are taken to the Conciergerie Prison, the first stop before the guillotine.

While Barbara and Susan are rescued en route the the guillotine, (after Barbara refuses to do you-know-what with the jailor in exchange for their safety), Ian is trapped in a cell with a dying member of La Résistance. He promises to honour the man's last wish to relay a message, and spends a few more hours locked up with a corpse before successfully stealing a key and escaping.

The Doctor, having been rescued from the fire by a young boy, walks to Paris from the nearby woods (briefly getting sidetracked by a random villain, whom he brains with a shovel) and barters his clothes and ring for an impeccable French official's outfit. Now armed with a silly hat and sash, he barges into the jail and starts a grand Bavarian Fire Drill. After a few episodes of involvement with the rescue group, the traitor among them is exposed, and all that's left is to help English spy James Stirling with a final piece of intelligence gathering before they can all escape. Ian and Barbara pose as innkeepers and bump into a young artillery officer by the name of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Much of the plot turns out to be a setup, and the Doctor quickly realizes that they're in the middle of history and that they can't interfere at all. They find themselves forced to stand by while Maximilien Robespierre gets violently shot in the jaw. The group retreats to the TARDIS, silly hat and all.

And thus ends Season One, with a nice view of the galaxy...

Ian Chesterton : "What are we going to see and learn next, Doctor?"
The Doctor : "Well, unlike the old adage, my boy, our destiny is in the stars, so let's go and search for it..."

The DVD release reconstructed the episodes with off-air recordings of the original soundtracks and new animated visuals.


  • Bavarian Fire Drill: The Doctor, of course, with enough plumes in his hat to overshadow all of Broadway.
  • Changed My Jumper: The Doctor goes out of his way to obtain a policeman's outfit as part of a bluff, attempting to trade his own clothes for one. He insists his clothes are more than high enough quality to swap, but the clothes merchant is incredibly confused by the style of them, calling them worthless and admitting he assumed they were cheap fancy dress. He does eventually get a fabulous gendarme outfit complete with a feathery hat and spends the rest of the episode wearing it and ordering people about — a comment by Susan implies that this may be because he has a Foreign Culture Fetish for the French Revolution.
  • Cliffhanger: The first episode ends with the Doctor trapped in a burning building, fire licking the bottom of the credit scroll all the while.
  • Darker and Edgier: A very violent serial, with plenty of on-screen death, and Barbara being asked to have sex in exchange for her freedom (she's not impressed with the idea).
  • Failed a Spot Check: The physician does not notice Susan's Bizarre Alien Biology. YMMV, but considering that he sells she and Barbara out, maybe he wasn't giving her his full attention?...
  • Fake Shemp: The Doctor is played by a stand-in for the location shots of Paris. According to Carole Anne Ford, the man actually tailed William Hartnell to try and emulate him, much to the actor's annoyance.
  • Faking the Dead: The Doctor reports Lemaître, aka Stirling, shot.
  • Family-Unfriendly Violence: Robespierre gets shot in the jaw, and spends the next few scenes being dragged around by his soldiers in absolute agony with one hand covering his face.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: After the companions have been captured, one guard basically offers Barbara freedom in exchange for sex. For his troubles, he gets a slap to the face.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Robespierre is shot in the jaw offscreen (in mid-sentence, even), and is seen clutching his jaw with his hand covered in blood for the next few scenes as he is dragged off by the mob who came to arrest him.
  • Historical-Domain Character: Robespierre, Napoleon Bonaparte.
  • Hitler's Time Travel Exemption Act: Not said by name of course, but the four speculate what would have happened if they had tried to warn Napoleon about the future.
    Doctor: Well, I can assure you, my dear Barbara, Napoleon would never have believed you.
    Ian: Yes, Doctor, but supposing we had written Napoleon a letter, telling him, you know, some of the things that were going to happen to him.
    Susan: It wouldn't have made any difference, Ian. He'd have forgotten it, or lost it, or thought it was written by a maniac.
    Barbara: I suppose if we'd tried to kill him with a gun, the bullet would have missed him.
  • Ignored Epiphany: Robespierre has one in Episode 4.
  • Leitmotif: The obligatory first few bars of La Marseillaise.
  • The Mole:
    • M. Colbert
    • The physician, too.
  • Nice Hat: The Doctor has one. Susan keeps it in the end.
  • Reign of Terror
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: Naturally given the time period.
  • Reverse Mole: Stirling.
  • Rotoscoping: Used in some scenes of the animated episodes 4 and 5 on the DVD release.
  • Sarcastic Confession:
    Ian: I flew here with three friends in a small box. When I left England it was 1963.
  • Smug Snake: The jailer, the road construction overseer...
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: One of the men come to arrest Robespierre shoots Robespierre in the jaw when he tries breaking him by talking.
  • Sociopathic Soldier: The soldiers who pursue Rouvray and D'Argenson are little more than murderous thugs.
  • Sound-Only Death: D'Argenson is shot off-screen after he tried to run and the mob of soldiers surrounded him. This trope is averted with Rouvray.
  • Stock Episode Titles: 10 uses. Justified, in that this episode is about, well, the Reign of Terror.
  • Talking Your Way Out: The Doctor, posing as a regional official from a southern province, is taken to meet Robespierre. Robespierre asks him for a report on his region, but the Doctor turns the question aside by offering his thoughts on the situation in Paris first. Time for the meeting runs out before the conversation can come back to the original subject.
  • Title Drop: When Barbara and Ian realize they're in the middle of The French Revolution.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Robespierre.
  • The X of Y