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Doctor Who story number 8

The final story in the first season of Doctor Who takes place during the reign of terror, when Paris was ruled by fear as the controlling parties have their opposition executed (oh, and some enemies of the state and horrible aristocrats).

This story has the first location filming used in Doctor Who, scenes of the Doctor walking along a road - played by a double. Brian Proudfoot came to the studio for he taping of the third episode of The Sensorites to study Hartnells mannerisms and walk as Harnell was too busy making The Sensorites to be taken out for filming, which should give us an idea of how busy the schedules were.

The story was directed by Henric Hirsch, who was a refugee from Hungary - he was mainly a theatre director and had no interest in Doctor Who, it was just a job. The pressure of work (and William Hartnel's demeanour) was reportedly a lot for him, and he collapsed outside the studio. The director from The Keys of Marinus was brought in for one episode, and he stayed on when Hirsch returned because he got on with Hartnel better.

Episodes four and five are sadly missing, but their scripts are available online:

I've just read it and it's quite a good story, though I can't for the life of me remember if the history is correct or not.

Dennis Spooner

This story has 6 episodes with individual titles:

  • A Land of Fear
  • Guests of Madame Guillotine
  • A Change of Identity
  • The Tyrant of France
  • A Bargain of Necessity
  • Prisoners of Conciergerie

Plot Overview
The TARDIS materialises in a clearing, with the Doctor rather grumpy about having to return the two humans home. Unsure they are in the right time and not wanting to be stranded, Ian convinces the Doctor and Susan to come out of the TARDIS. They meet a small boy who informs them they are in France and then runs away. They proceed to a farmhouse and find eighteenth century clothing (realising they are in the middle of The French Revolution, the Doctors favourite period of Earth history), and a pair of men on the run.

The Doctor is knocked unconscious by the men, and then soldiers attack the farmhouse, taking everyone else to prison in Paris. The Doctor is rescued from the burning house by the boy from the start of the story who tells him the way to Paris. In the meantime Barbara has managed to anger the jailer and Ian has been asked by a dying man to find the English spy James Stirling and tell him to return home.

The Doctor arrives in Paris as Barbara and Susan are taken to be executed. Ian has managed to get one of the jailers keys as he waits in his cell - Lemaitre has given him a stay of execution because he believes Ian has information he wants. The Doctor trades his coat and ring for the outfit of a regional provincial deputy, while Barbara and Susan are rescued. Lemaitre knocks the jailer out so that Ian can escape and lead him to Stirling, and the Doctor arrives at the prison a little later, acting imperious and arrogant (not hard for the Doctor).

After the Doctor bluffs the jailer he is about to leave when Lemaitre arrives, who decides that he should meet Robespierre - There is going to be a discussion about the province the doctor is claiming to administer. After they leave we see the shopkeeper passing the Doctors ring to the jailer, claiming the Doctor is a traitor.

When the Doctor meets Robispierre he takes the dangerous path of questioning his practises, so as to avoid being outed. He succeeds, but is to meet him again the next day. In the meantime, Susan is feverish and Barbara wants a physician to see her, which their rescuers agree to. Later they bring in an unconscious man who turns out to be Ian. By chance he has been captured by the people he was looking for, and now they are searching for the Doctor. In conversation Ian and one of the rescuers come to the conclusion that another of their number, Leon, is in fact Stirling.

The Doctor has been outed as a traitor to Lemaitre, who had him stay at the prison in one of the soldiers rooms, and is to meet Robespierre again later that day. Susan and Barbara are taken to a physician, who locks them in as he leaves to get some leeches. He really betrays them to the jailer, and they are recaptured. Lemaitre has the jailer take Barbara to see the Doctor, and so they are reunited. In the meantime Ian is sent to an old church to meet Leon, who has soldiers with him.

As the Doctor and Barbara catch up Lemaitre listens, and Ian is meanwhile being interrogated by Leon. He is saved by Jules, the man who mistakenly sent him to meet Leon. Lemaitre is called away to meet Robespierre, and the Doctor fools the jailer into letting Barbara go, but is unable to perform the same trick with Susan. Barbara meets Ian at the safehouse as the Doctor is caught trying to free Susan. Lemaitre demands the Doctor take him to the house of Jules Renan, trying to use Susan as leverage. As Ian and Barbara wait for the Doctor, he arrives - with Lemaitre.

Leamitre reveals himself to be Stirling. He needs to return to England, but wants to find out what the people plotting against Robespierre are up to. Since he can give them safe passage back to the TARDIS Ian and Barbara agree to do his spying for him. They go with Jules to an inn and wait for Paul Barrass and whoever he is meeting to arrive. Barrass is meeting with Napoleon. When he learns of the plot to usurp Robespierre Stirling wants to stop them, but he is too late. As the travellers know, Robespierre is shot in the jaw and taken to prison.

As Robespierre is taken to jail the Doctor rescues Susan from her cell, and they leave for the TARDIS, travelling part of the way with Stirling. As they leave they reflect on the inability to change history, and the story closes with the characters talking over a starfield.

Main Cast

  • Peter Walker - Jean-Pierre
  • Laidlaw Dalling - Rouvray
  • Neville Smith - d'Argenson
  • Robert Hunter - Sergeant
  • Ken Lawrence - Lieutennant
  • James Hall - Soldier
  • Howard Charlton - Judge
  • Jack Cunningham - Jailer
  • Jeffry Wickham - Webster
  • Dallas Cavell - Overseer
  • Dennis Cleary - Peasant
  • James Cairncross - Lemaitre/Stirling
  • Roy Herrick - Jean
  • Donald Morely - Jules Renan
  • John Barrard - Shopkeeper
  • Caroline Hunt - Danielle
  • Edward Brayshaw - Colbert
  • Keith Anderson - Maximilien Robespierre
  • Donald Pickup - Physician
  • Terry Bale - Soldier
  • John Law - Paul Barrass
  • Tony Wall - Napoleon Bonaparte
  • Patrick Marley - Soldier


  • William Russell suggested the setting for this story to the script editor, David Whitaker, who then passed the idea on to Dennis Spooner
  • Ian's time in prison in episodes two and three are convenient because - you guessed it - William Russell was on holiday

A Corsican? Ruling France? - Jules Renan


On April 6, 1793, the First French Republic, after less than one year of life, was superseded by the rule of the Committee of Public Safety, led by one Maximilien Robespierre. The weak National Convention could not stand alone against the forces gathering in Europe to destroy it, and in the end became powerless. The Committee was installed, to a large degree, by the support of the people of Paris, traditionally the centers of revolutionary sentiment. Although the National Convention did still exist, until the anti-Robespierre "coalition of rivals", it wielded almost no power during the Reign.

The Early Days of the Committee

The initial stated goals of the CPS were the purging of the Girondists from the Convention, and the formation of stronger armed forces, both to protect France's unsteady position on the Continent and to ensure that counterrevolutionary views were not allowed to take hold among the people. The CPS's fight with counterrevolution soon became Robespierre's focus; eventually, as many as 200,000 arrests were made (estimates vary due to poor records) of those suspected of not supporting the Revolution. Many suspects were quietly killed, and Robespierre began to battle his political enemies through his executioners. While Robespierre's rule was tyrannical, it was noted for demonstrating the fact that a strong executive was not the driving force behind a republic, as well as the need for checks and balances. The radical politics of eighteenth-century France made no allowances for peaceful solutions, however, instead opting to end the rule of monarchy once and for all. The people were forced into desperate measures by the complete lack of support from their neighbors and the threat of military action by the European regents.

The Law of Suspects and the Tribunal

In September of 1793, the Committee produced the "Law Of Suspects", which more clearly defined which French citizens could be held under charge of treason. It also laid the groundwork for the Revolutionary Tribunal, which held final say over the lives and deaths of the accused. As "traitors" began to pile up in France's prisons, Robespierre forced the Tribunal to choose between innocence or death for anyone accused of treason against the French state. While public sentiment was strongly against the vast majority of these deaths, two factors kept the people quiet. The most obvious was Robespierre's stranglehold over the French authorities, who had the power to imprison and execute without trial anyone who opposed his policies and decisions. France's military victories provided the second incentive for a lack of revolt; Robespierre's rule had ensured the independence of the nation, at the cost of individual rights. As the French army's victories waned, so did Robespierre's support. This would eventually become his downfall.

The End of the Reign of Terror

Eventually, Robespierre's creation turned on him; he too was guillotined for crimes against the nation. In July of 1794, the National Convention managed to coalesce against Robespierre's rule and restore a semblance of democratic order to the nation. Later periods such as the White Terror completed the purging of Robespierre's supporters, as hundreds of officials from the Reign of Terror were executed for crimes against the nation. This final strike ended the period of France's rule by fear, as the nation returned to the imperial system; the Convention soon formed the Directory, a smaller, corrupt ruling body. The struggling Directory gave way to the rule of Napoleon Bonaparte after a series of spectacular military failures.


Cody, David. "French Revolution". 1987-1999. "The French Revolution". 2002.
Halsall, Paul. The Modern History Sourcebook: "Robespierre: Terror and Virtue, 1794"
Hooker, Richgard. "The Radical Revolution". 1996-1999.

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