Doctor Who #41: A Bargain of Necessity

"There can be no loyalty or honour where anarchy prevails."TECHNICAL SPECS: Part 5 of The Reign of Terror. This episode is missing so I'll be watching Loose Cannon's reconstruction (Part 1, Part 2). First aired Sep.5 1964.

IN THIS ONE... Jules rescues Ian and kills that traitor Léon. The Doctor lets Barbara loose to return to Jules' place, but fails to free Susan. Lemaitre holds her hostage to force the Doctor to lead him to the rebels' hideout.

REVIEW: While SF adventures have presented the future as a morally black and white territory, the historicals have existed in a grayer zone, and it's most definitely the thesis of this episode. Its best scene has Barbara defend the French Revolution as a world-changing one that did a lot of good. And yet, we've also got the harsh evidence before our eyes - paranoia, massacre and betrayal - which Ian speaks to. Both characters have a personal bias - she had affection for Léon while Ian was tortured by him - but their fields of study also shine through. Barbara looks at the historical "big picture", while Ian, the scientist, puts more trust in experiential data. And to remind us that even history isn't cut and dried, Jules is presented as a student of Reason, advocating order over chaos. He isn't an aristocrat fighting to survive, but a man who believes the Revolution is wrong and dangerous.

Otherwise, it's another game of who's in prison and who isn't. The Doctor releases Barbara, but is held at ransom by Lemaitre through Susan. Lemaitre hasn't arrested the Doctor because he wants friends on all sides, and he may be right. The crap is about to hit the fan in Robespierre's camp, with the military possibly siding with one of their own against the present leadership. (Guess with whom?) I shouldn't want to be that poor jailer, only given partial information and meant to do the right thing by Lemaitre. Of course, it doesn't help that he's always drunk. Through the Doctor, Lemaitre hopes to ferret out Jules, and ultimately, the English spy James Sterling. This guy better be worth it, because we hear about him in every episode and yet don't really know a single thing about him. Episode 6, here we come.

THEORIES: Susan seems to have recovered from her illness without help. A 24-hour flu? That telepathic thing I mentioned a couple days ago? Or is it all psychosomatic and all she needed was to be reunited with her grandfather? (As a Time Lord, perhaps he supplies a certain level of telepathic activity, if one were inclined to submit to my theory.)

VERSIONS: As with the previous episode, the animation actually weakens the episode. The same tics are present, though this time, I was more disturbed by how the Doctor and Lemaitre are different from shot to shot. Quite obviously, different pictures were used (drawn over?), leading to them being "off-model" half the time. Lemaitre is the worst off, because he's not as familiar as the Doctor. Worse, the editing keeps cutting between angles of the same character looking different, which would be annoying even if they looked right. I was hopeful the animation would at least lend a choreography to the action scene, but even there, I'm not always sure who is who.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - That Barbara-Ian argument alone is worth the price of admission, but you also get a bit of action, the Doctor's fast talking, and some political intrigue with your ticket.


Anonymous said...

Hi, just wanted to thank you for doing this. One of the first things I do each morning is check your blog for the daily Doctor Who episode. This must be a lot of work and time on your part, and I just wanted to let you know it is appreciated and enjoyed. Love your blog in general!


Siskoid said...

Thanks Jason. It's work but it's fun too, so a pleasure really.


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