Wednesday 29 December 2010

037 The Reign of Terror Part 1: A Land of Fear

EPISODE: The Reign of Terror Part 1: A Land of Fear
TRANSMITTED: 08 August 1964
WRITER: Dennis Spooner
DIRECTOR: Henric Hirsch
SCRIPT EDITOR: David Whitaker
PRODUCER: Verity Lambert
FORMAT: VHS: Doctor Who - The Reign Of Terror

Onto The Reign of Terror, the last story in Doctor Who's first season. I bought the VHS set this was in, one of the last pair of releases the day it came out, in the shops the day it came out (Blackstar didn't find me a copy in time). The other tape in the box, the remaining orphaned Troughton episodes, went straight in the player and was loved & cherished. Reign of Terror however sat on the shelf. When I finished work due to ill health in 2005 one of the first things I did was polish off the last four Doctor Who stories that existed that I hadn't seen. Keys of Marinus was one, this was the second. The remaining two were the Romans, which we'll come to shortly, and the Dominators, which is some way in the future.

We open in woods as the Tardis materialises. The Doctor believes he has brought Ian & Barbara home. The Doctor & Susan come with them, the Doctor accepting Ian's invitation of a drink. Leaving the Tardis they hear gunfire. Ian finds a boy in the woods: he tells the party they are in France near Paris. The boy returns to a house: it doesn't look like the modern day. The TARDIS party find the house, and speculate if they are before their own time. They sneak inside and find candles to help them look round. They discover artefacts and clothes making them think they're in the 18th century, including a letter signed by Robspierre: The Doctor has landed them in the middle of the French Revolution. The Doctor is attacked and falls to the floor while the others change into the period clothes. They are held at gunpoint by two counter-revolutionaries, D'Argenson and Rouvray. Soldiers arrive, besieging the building and killing the revolutionaries. Ian, Barbara & Susan are captured and taken away while the house is set on fire with the Doctor trapped within.

Yeah, not bad, a bit lingering on the setup though. But a real cliffhanger ending with the Doctor trapped in the burning house. There's a real sense of dramatic peril there missing from some previous cliffhangers.

As promised we return to the story of Doctor Who's missing episodes. No episode of The Reign of Terror was found to remain at the BBC during Ian Levine's visits in the Seventies. Episode 6 was recovered by Ian Levine & collector Bruce Campbell in May 1982. Episodes 1-3 were returned together, along with a second copy of episode 6 and duplicates of the existing stories The Aztecs (Episodes 1, 3 & 4) and The Sensorites (all six episodes) in 1984. Independent enquiries by Levine and Paul Vanezies (now of the BBC & Doctor Who restoration Team) at a Cyprus TV station turned these episodes up in December 1984. They had held Reign of Terror 4 & 5 (and Aztecs 2) as well, but these were destroyed in 1974 when a shelling during a coup destroyed the Cyprus National Film archive. A large number of other missing BBC programs were retrieved from the same Cyprus archive. Oddly enough, shortly afterwards in early 1985 the person who sold Bruce Campbell Reign of Terror 6 came forward again, now in possession of a copy of Reign of Terror 3!

This is the state of play with the story as it stands today. Therefore Reign of Terror will be our first mixed story made up of 3 episodes of video, two on CD and a final video episode.

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