Four episodes of a 1966 Doctor Who story based on Catherine de Medici and the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre in France.
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As well as doing all the linking narration he also gets to shine in the show itself, because the Doctor is missing for almost the entire story. William Hartnell has to play the role of the Abbot in the story, as well as playing the Doctor, and the restrictions of early 1960s television mean he therefore is not able to appear as the Doctor for entire episodes at a time.
The plot is driven by his disappearance, and by the attempts of Stephen - played by Peter Purves - to discover whether the Abbot (who is an exact likeness of the missing Doctor) is really the Doctor or not, against a background of terror and sudden death in the religious wars of the 16th century.
The exact details of who is doing what to whom, and why, do not really seem to matter. In his search for the Doctor Stephen is forced to accept help where he can, and his obvious ignorance of the politics of the age into which he's been catapulted tends to work in his favour, as for the most part no one is really disposed to treat him as an enemy.
The historical background is carefully woven, with regular appearances by the famous Queen Mother, Catherine de Medici. A detailed account of the religious wars then dividing her country emerges from her confrontations with the other players, including the King, her son. She is planning a massacre of all the Protestants in the city, and Stephen realises that unless he can find the Doctor before the deadline they will both perish.
This is an unusual Dr Who story, in that events are not controlled by the Doctor, who is mostly absent.... Read more ›
"The Massacre" is one of these releases. This story is a historical, set in Paris in 1572. The entire tone of the story is dark, with doom hanging over the proceedings as the story moves towards the Massacre of St. Bartholomew's Day.
The Doctor and his companion, Steven Taylor, are separated in the first episode and Steven becomes the main character in the story. This is fairly unusual as, since, apart from the first few stories, it is the Doctor and not his companions who are firmly placed on centre stage. This situation leads to a twist: another character, the Abbot of Amboise, looks exactly like the Doctor. Steven is believes he is the Doctor in disguise, but the people around Steven regard his as a villain. Who is correct?
This makes "The Massacre" an odd choice to release on CD. The first appearance of the Abbot is a non-vocal one, so unlike the television watchers at the time of its release, we only know this thanks to the linking narration (provided by Peter Purves, who plays Steven). Given the very different approach that William Hartnell takes for the Doctor and the Abbot, the lack of visuals to emphasise this detracts from the story.
For people not used to Doctor Who's early historical stories, this one is perhaps a little grim. However, as a story showing the power of events and their capacity to crush whoever gets in their way, it is excellent.... Read more ›
This lost Hartnell story is set in Paris during 1572, the time of the Massacre of the French Protestants. The Doctor disappears to speak to an apothecary, Charles Preslin, leaving Steven to his own devices - which quickly embroil him in political and religious intrigues, giving his character a rare chance to shine on his own. Things get even more complicated when he discovers that the mysterious Abbott of Amboise may or may not be the Doctor himself!
This is a fine example of early Doctor Who, and the audio sounds great, but strangely, the narration falls a little short of excellent - there are a few large patches where the listener just can't tell what's going on, and sometimes the characters are a little difficult to differentiate from each other, but all in all an excellent effort and one which should keep you coming back for future releases!
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