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Customer Review

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A piece of television history, 21 Aug. 2013
This review is from: Doctor Who: The Reign of Terror [DVD] (DVD)
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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