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4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 1 February 2013
This story in itself is very good, fairly simplistic and padded with capture/escape/capture routines but the production design and (first time) location filming are excellent. Although the plot is straight forward there are a couple of twists and character reveals that keep the interest. The editing in the live action segments is clever and I didn't realise until the documentary that William Russell was on holiday for two episodes. (His scenes were pre-recoreded on film). Check out "The Book of Lists" for a full list of cast holidays/illnesses and how they were 'explained' in the corresponding episodes. After all they couldn't just replace an actor with another when they had chicken-pox (I think it was) for one week. Oh, what ? See "The Mind Robber"?

The animation is a mixed bag I'm afraid. Firstly, I am more than happy it's here. I want to see as complete a story as possible and as I watched I was already imagining how The Tenth Planet pt 4 might look or Power of the Daleks. I even thought about even animating existing episodes using the original soundtracks the we could see Wirrn that don't bounce on their bums.

The problem lies here. Unless you have the money (I'm not going to say 'animating skills' cos this is still animation under a tight budget)of Disney or Dreamworks, the realism is going to be limited. I don't mind this. The Invasion episodes, Scream of the Shalka, Shada, Infinite Quest and Dreamland all have their pros and cons as animated Who but all are watchable. Here it is the same.

Firstly, I found a dip in sound quality in these animated episodes and that knocked me before any animation. After a couple of minutes however, I acclimatised and it was no longer a problem.

Where my gripe starts is the changing character likenesses between shots (hence "the Regenerating Doctor"). It's not just a case of, for example, the Doctor not looking like William Hartnell.... It's that sometimes he does (usally head on) and then from another angle he looks like someone else (with a fat chin). Susan suffers with this also (different hairstyles) as do most of the other cast members. It is a little jarring. The quick cuts also stand out at times but they do help the episodes flow. The animation is sometimes simple eyebrow raising contrasted with what I believe were rotoscoped actions which become very fluid. The other thing the animation emphasises more than live action is how limited the range of sets are. (Yes it's due to budget) One set in the prison, one set in a big(ish) room for the most of the two episodes. That's NOT the fault of the animation in this case but just emphasises the budget limits of the show. It is redeemed with a trip to Television Studios (see the documentary)for the final part.

So, in summary, a good episode, well acted and nicely restored. An informative documentary. The animation is mixed, never bad, sometimes very impressive, but a bit inconsistent. I'm not going to compare it to other animated Who because that boils down to your own taste and suspension of belief. Loved the spiders walking on the web tho.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 21 March 2016
William Hartnell excels in a ‘Scarlet Pimpernel’ historical tale of spies, disguise, double-agents and treachery during the bloodiest period of the French Revolution. With his companions destined for Madame Guillotine, with only his wits to rely on, can the Doctor keep his head “when all around are losing theirs”…? 5*

Greetings, Citizen! Which side are you on – historicals or monsters? The monsters are always with us but I’ve discovered I especially enjoy the First Doctor’s detours into history, because they are such a unique feature of his era that would get the chop (if I can put it like that…) soon after he regenerated. Citizen Dennis Spooner’s first script for ‘Doctor Who’ may not quite have the fame of ‘The Romans’ or John Lucarotti’s stories, but it’s a Gallic treat for fans of the original TARDIS crew’s historical adventures.

“They seek him here, they seek him there”, but too many of the Doctor’s early stories are still incomplete, despite the best efforts of the diligent episode hunters. As the Special Features and commentary explain, most of this six-part story was recovered from Cyprus in the 1980s. Episodes 1 & 2 look rather faded in places compared with the much brighter, crisper Episodes 3 & 6, but we’re lucky to have them at all. Episodes 4 & 5 are still missing, so here we have two animated episodes created around the soundtrack, which survived thanks to dedicated fans making audio recordings off-air.

This story’s animation has divided fan opinion and it’s true that some of the character faces do appear unusually different when viewed from different angles. The style uses quite heavy shading in depicting their features, but I thought that was appropriate because most of the animated scenes are of shadowy, candle or torch-lit interiors which reproduce the real sets well.

Unfortunately, the jump-cutting style of the animation is not always faithful to the theatrical style of long, continuous camera shots and character groupings used (very effectively) by Henric Hirsch in the original production. Sometimes, while characters talked, there were enough cuts in one sentence to please the most guillotine-happy Revolutionary judge! An early animated scene with Barbara was the worst for this; there were later examples too although the style did seem to calm down.

But there are many details to enjoy in the animations, with character movements and actions that seem perfect for the characters and situations. Presumably this was inspired deduction by the animators, as the details are the type that would have come from the actors in rehearsal rather than the script and aren’t usually revealed by the soundtrack. So, once I got past the unexpected jump-cutting, I enjoyed the animations and was very pleased to be able to watch the complete adventure.

My much-read 1976 copy of ‘The Making of Doctor Who’ calls this adventure ‘The French Revolution’, but in fact it’s not the story of the overthrow of the authoritarian absolute monarchy (an event which was widely welcomed at the time, including by the British Parliament), but the story of the appalling events that followed a few years later. By the time the TARDIS lands in July 1794, the original ideals of the Revolution have been corrupted into ‘The Reign of Terror’ - the tyranny of ‘Citizen’ Robespierre, a time when having the ‘wrong’ ideas proved swiftly fatal for tens of thousands of people, most of them French and mostly *not* aristocrats.

This is a generally serious story, but while his companions have a suitably grim time, the Doctor has some of Dennis Spooner’s trademark comic moments too. William Hartnell is magnificent in both the serious drama and the comedy, whether verbally fencing with Robespierre or dealing firmly with a bullying roadworks overseer during his journey to Paris. (“Sacre Bleu!” says one of the road workers before scarpering, and it’s a fair comment – white hair or not, no-one should mess with the Doctor!)

Much of his time is spent in a spectacular disguise as a Deputy from one of the provinces. It’s in this character that the Doctor has a long and mostly one-sided comic battle of wits with the Jailer at the Conciergerie prison, brilliantly played by Jack Cunningham. Much more serious is his evenly-matched duel of intrigue with clever, devious Lemaître (coincidentally meaning “The Master”! – a name any ‘Doctor Who’ villain should be proud of !), a great classical performance by James Cairncross.

There’s far more going on in this adventure than meets the eye; with the advantage of DVDs we can watch again once we know who was up to what, but on a first viewing the mystery will probably fool you as it did me. The spirit of ‘The Scarlet Pimpernel’ is very active here, as Ian receives a message for a mysterious English spy and Barbara narrowly escapes the guillotine and a revolutionary romance. William Russell and Jacqueline Hill are superb as always; between their two storylines we explore the romantic (in every sense) intrigues and personal tragedies of the Revolution. William Russell was on holiday for two weeks during production (en France, naturellement!), but thanks to pre-filmed inserts his strong story continues throughout. Unfortunately, Carole Ann Ford is hardly given anything to do as Susan except be ill and held prisoner, so she practically disappears for the last two episodes.

Dennis Spooner’s script is rich in strong, varied characters, cleverly using many of them in just one or two episodes – which of course kept the total actors’ fees within the ‘Doctor Who’ limit, but gives a much bigger feel of scale to the overall production. The excellent supporting cast is too large to name, but none of them ever seem minor characters; each one seems as if they could have gone on to develop in further episodes – two fugitive aristocrats, a farm boy, the road-workers, a tailor, a physician, revolutionaries of varying types, politicians… and two very, very famous names as the Doctor and his friends come literally face to face with real (and concocted) history in action.

I was interested to learn from the commentary that director Henric Hirsch had escaped his native Hungary after their pro-democracy revolution of 1956 was crushed by the Soviet communist terror. He was new to the difficulties of ‘Doctor Who’ (small studios, small budgets and little time) but he was experienced in theatre work and that shows in the presentation of this story, which is theatrical in the very best sense, recorded almost ‘as live’, with Roderick Laing’s sets making great use of the small studios and excellent, atmospheric lighting by Howard King.

The Special Features of this DVD talk at length about the production difficulties that temporarily proved too stressful for the director, including some fairly grim studio facilities and friction with some of the cast. Happily, in this case there was no revolution and, after a little diplomacy, with more liberty from a larger studio and more equality between the star and his director, all the Citizens of the cast and crew reunited in fraternity to produce a great story.

Episode 5 contains some of the best dialogue on the conflicted nature of the Revolution at this time and the time travellers’ place in history, with a great scene between Barbara, Ian and their host Jules (Donald Morley). This story isn’t ‘propaganda’ for one side or the other; the complex plot of the last three episodes illustrates how many ‘sides’ there were, as well as the tensions between stability and anarchy, tyranny and freedom - plus the required ‘escape’ story to take our friends safely away to their “destinies … in the stars”…

Early ‘Doctor Who’ and History itself were both rich in nuance and colour – even if we sometimes see them in black and white!

Citizen, merci for reading. Vive les Historicals! Vive le Docteur!! 5*

DVD Special Features:
An entertaining and informative commentary with Carole Ann Ford and Tim Combe (Assistant Director) joined for the episodes in which they appeared by Neville Smith, Jeffry Wickham, Caroline Hunt and Patrick Marley (moderated by Toby Hadoke.) For animated episode 4, Toby Hadoke interviews Ronald Pickup, who played the physician as the very first role of his distinguished career. Animated episode 5 has a fascinating interview with ‘missing episode’ hunters Philip Morris and Paul Vanezis.
‘Don’t Lose Your Head’ (25 min) - a very good (and rather cheekily titled!) feature about the less-than-smooth making of this story, with William Russell, Carole Ann Ford and Tim Combe – who went on to direct the Pertwee-era classics ‘The Silurians’ and ‘The Mind of Evil’.
‘Photo Gallery’ (4 min) – an excellent gallery with some vibrant colour pictures that show just what we were missing during the black-and-white era, backed by a jaunty arrangement of tunes including ‘La Marseillaise’.
Virtual tours of the animated ‘sets’ and character design gallery complete the DVD.
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on 4 December 2012
I must confess, I have never been a fan of "The Reign of Terror", it has always in my eyes been 2 episodes too long and really could have been edited better to make the adventure an adventure. The Hartnell historical's have the distinction of being less popular than the future serials, well, in my opinion, that's utter tosh as serials like "Marco Polo", "The Aztecs" and "The Myth Makers" are timeless classics and were very well received at the time of broadcast and hence forth. I will admit, however, that some historical's are poorer than others, like "The Reign of Terror", and "The Gunfighters", and on the whole, The Reign of Terror is the worst of the lot {maybe barring Gunfighters, depends on how I feel on the Day, but Gun is 2 parts shorter, so, yes, Reign is worst}. The story suffers from what 90% of 6 part Doctor Who serials suffered from, filler material, running around and overall padding, at least the 4 part serials are quick and sharp and generally easy to follow, but the 6 part "Reign" really is a drag.

Anyway on to the positives - William Hartnell, now well established in the part he was born to create, is a joy to watch, and is one of the serials saving graces. His comic bantering with the drunken jailer is most amusing, even his scenes with Lemaitre and Dallas Cavell's Tax enforcer are a gem to behold. I can't say the same for Susan however. Apparently, even death is not enough for that foolish child to get her lazy butt in gear and stop being such a wining little fairy. Out of all her appalling scenes, she aggravates me the most during the early part of this story. Beware, you may want to keep the volume muted. Full stop.

It is a shame the story doesn't enthrall because the plot is great, the actors are on fine form, but the execution is standard. Henric Hirsch is not the most gifted or creative director, and Doctor Who was certainly not his cup of tea, glad he only directed this one. Waris would have done better. It is a marathon sitting through all 6 parts of this serial. I usually watch this story 3 episodes over 2 nights and even that is pushing it. I will say however that the costumes are fantastic and this certainly had a lot of effort put in to it. The story's 1 disc DVD release shows this serial in a better light for me, with missing episodes 4 + 5 being reconstructed via animation, it also boasts a making of doco and a couple of other tit-bits. It's interesting to view the story with a fresh opinion as I've actually enjoyed the positives alot more this time around. Padding and Susan aside, this is a classy humour heavy story from the experimental season 1. Good stuff.

Many thanks for your time, it's greatly appreciated.

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This story was a first for me, and was glad to have seen the DVD featuring the vid-fired and lovingly restored version, with animation to complete the serial. I've come to realise I really like the early Hartnell historicals (well, I can't be the only one), so I may be a bit biased. I had high hopes for it and was not disappointed. Basically, if you enjoyed The Aztecs this will be a welcome addition. The production values are wonderful considering the use of the more cramped Lime Grove studios circa 1963, but there's a lot of attention to detail, something talked about by Carol Ann-Ford on the main DVD making of extra. Considering the director of this story didn't speak great English, collapsed during the making of ep 3 due to stress, and would never work on Doctor Who (or I think, BBC) again, this is a very accomplished story. All actors do there jobs pretty well, and there are a lot of dark moments as well as a bit of humour, though never over the top. Series 1 of classic Doctor Who was just that: 'classic' in my book and I am happy that with this release we have all of it on DVD, and that it survived the early 70's BBC tape junking fun to a large degree.

I found the animation of ep 4 and 5 very watchable. There was a lot to commend about the sets and the facial design, and for me felt like as good, if not better than The Invasion. I found some of the quick cutting a little jarring early on during ep 4, which was quite noticeable, but this improved and although some have complained a lot about the animation and some of the short comings, I don't see it! I think for a first attempt the animation studio have done Doctor Who proud. For the uninitiated the same animation house are doing 'Tenth Planet' ep 4 to finish up the Hartnell era on DVD. And another studio are doing a similar thing to the 'Ice Warriors' release due a little later in the year. All told it's a very good year to be a classic Who fan, and buy this release as soon as you can it's great!
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Broadcast in August/September 1964, The Reign of Terror brought the first season of Doctor Who to a close. Landing in Revolutionary France, the Doctor and his companions find themselves in danger as soon as they step from the safety of the TARDIS. Ian, Barbara and Susan are captured and taken to Paris where they are thrown into the Conciergerie prison. All they have to look forward to is a visit to the guillotine.

The Doctor, meantime, makes his own way to Paris and decides that the best way to effect the release of his friends is to pose as an important local official. This he does, but he's under suspicion almost straight away, and there are many dangers to overcome before the four time-travellers can escape this land of fear ....

Dennis Spooner's six part story is a deft mixture of historical colour with the odd comic touch. It anticipates the lighter tone that Spooner would take with his two historical stories in the second season, The Romans and The Time Meddler, although The Reign of Terror is a tad more serious than both of those. Hartnell is on fine form, as by all accounts he preferred the historical stories as this gave him a chance to bounce off other actors, rather than monsters or aliens. If you want to see Hartnell somewhat adrift in a land of strange creatures then pick up The Web Planet. But don't blame me ....

Although most of the first season of Doctor Who exists in the BBC archives, episodes four and five of this story are missing. This is a shame, as they contain the heart of the story. The VHS release contained the four existing episodes with a brief summary of the two missing episodes, but the DVD has something considerably better - four and five are animated, synchronized with the original audio soundtrack.

Although there has been some criticism of the animation, it looks pretty good to me. There's some nice visual touches, and overall the two episodes are certainly better than the static fan-produced recons that have been produced in the past. There are some jarring quick cuts, and the characters don't always look the same when viewed at different angles, but on the whole it's a good effort. There's room for improvement though, so hopefully the style can be refined for future releases.

Features wise, there's an entertaining documentary with some amusing and interesting anecdotes from the likes of Timothy Coombe and Carol Ann Ford. And there's the usual good-quality commentary track with a mixture of contributors swapping stories of a production that happened almost half a century ago.

Although it's taken a long time to appear on DVD, it's been worth the wait, as the story - thanks to the two animated episodes - is now as complete as it can be. Supplemented by a good package of features this is a fine example of early Doctor Who and a great showcase for the man who nearly fifty years ago started it all - William Hartnell.
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on 22 March 2013
This review won't focus on the story, as it's been discussed before. But, I will say that I've always liked the story. Slow and leisurely to start with, but it quickly picks up and keeps you interested.

I want to focus on the DVD. This much anticipated release doesn't disappoint. It's been restored wonderfully and looks great. Considering I first saw this on a dubbed VHS tape that was copied multiple times (let's just say that visually it was almost unwatchable - it jumped all over the place!) - this DVD looks great! Episode One's film print isn't so good, but the rest look great.

When I saw this on the commercial VHS release I was always frustrated. By the end of episode 3 the intrigue starts to develop but then you get the 2 episode gap. Episode 6 is fun, but you couldn't help but be confused about a few points. So, the fact that Big Finish have animated Episodes 4&5 with the original audio, finally makes this good story complete. The audio on the missing episodes seems faint in comparison to the existing episodes, but you adapt to them easily. You need to turn the volume up a little.

As for the animation? The quality may be slightly lower than The Invasion, but really, it's quite good. The animated sets look great and they do a decent job on the character's faces. In the end, the important thing is this - after watching the complete version of The Reign of Terror, by the end, did I feel like I fully understood the story? Did the story flow? Does Episode 6 make more sense and does it all make it 'connect'? The answer is yes. The animators have done a great job of staging the action and keeping true to the original vision of how this story would have looked, as far as one can. The extras are a little thin, but the 'Don't Lose your Head', (a pun used here considering the dirctor's issues when making the story!), 'making of' special is great. If you love old Doctor Who, the Hartnell era and his Historicals, then you won't be disappointed with this DVD. The last story of the first season is finally complete and that's wonderful!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 21 August 2013
If you buy this DVD, it is probably because you are a Dr Who fan with fond memories of the earliest days of this great series. I watched these episodes with my parents when they first aired and found the whole concept of the programme captivating. Watching this original story now reminds me that the production standards were those of the day: the camera angles are inflexible, the budget is low, there are very few special effects. It cannot be judged by modern-day production standards.

But the magic is there. In the early days, Doctor Who alternated between 'future' stories and historical ones. This is the latter, set at the time of the French Revolution when Robespierre was about to fall and Napoleon was about to rise to power. In those days, as the attached documentary says, young people would be expected to be familiar with the story and this re-imagining, reasonably faithful; to the historical facts, would bring the history to life for them. The BBC bosses had a thing about science fiction (they were very suspicious) and wanted this type of story to 'keep the standards of the drama up'.

A lot of the story is dialogue rather action or special-effects based. The plot is complex with shades of the Scarlet Pimpernel - who are the good guys and who are the traitors? The plot twists and turns through six episodes, with episodes four and five being faithful-to-the-original animations. They work well: the characters are well drawn.

I found the incidental music to have aged badly, to the point of being intrusive. But hey - that's how things were back in the sixties.

This is the last story of the first series. William Hartnell is still playing the Doctor as a somewhat sinister character: the softening has started but it only really completes in later stories.

The accompanying documentary is very good: there were lots of troubles behind the scenes on this story, which no viewer could have suspected. Fascinating!

So how to score this? Being fifty years old, it is not made to modern-day standards. But that's not the point: these early outings are where the longest running sci-fi show started. It is a piece of television history. Four stars is fair, I think.
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After the successful animating of the missing chunks from Patrick Troughton serial The Invasion by Cosgrove Hall some years ago, this method seems to have become de rigeur as a way of presenting whole stories that only exist in partial form due to the BBC’s dunderheaded junking of transmitted serials throughout the sixties and early seventies. This time the animation is much less flat than in The Invasion say, and in some ways this makes it more realistic, fitting in nicely with the established filmed episodes, despite some lack of syncing and the occasionally less than fluid detail of expression. The story itself was the last of the early-sixties ‘pure historicals’, and as such can seem a trifle dull to modern viewers – lacking the now requisite alien invasion and instead plumping for the time travellers becoming embroiled in the events leading up to Robespierre’s capture and execution. Despite this, the whole thing stands up rather well in my opinion, and serves as a reminder of how the founding fathers of the show created a solid platform from which their successors who soar into the skies.
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on 27 March 2014
As a life-long Doctor Who fan I had only seen the four surviving episodes of The Reign of Terror via a rather poor quality video tape around twenty years ago. This DVD release with episodes 4 and 5 restored with original soundtrack and animation far exceeded my expectations.

The drama is fast paced, with the four main characters The Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Susan all getting a piece of the action. Note how The Doctor even resorts to violence twice in order to get an end result!

I quite enjoy these early historical stories, particularly with the non-interference line The Doctor and his friends have to take but somehow still manage to get carried along with historical events.

There are several criticisms aimed at this release particularly at the animation of episodes 4 and 5, personally i found them watchable and did well to follow on as linking material between episodes 3 and 6. Personally I'm glad someone has taken time out to do these, a real labour of love!
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on 4 October 2013
I did not really enjoy the animated episodes - would prefer all original television eps but it bridged the story I suppose. Really enjoyed this story - THE best season of Dr Who in my opinion. Jackie Hill, William Russell and Hartnell are great but I can see why Carol Ann Ford decided to leave the series - what a waste of potential the character of Susan could have been especially when you hear Ford talk about her expectations of the role and her subsequent disappointment - but I love the first series and this story has a lot of charm, the plot allowed to evolve and atmosphere and the dynamic between the four travellers. Can you imagine this being done in new Who? Overall a good adventure to end the first series of Who on a high. I love the spirit of this story and this season generally. Fifty years on and it stands up pretty well.
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