When this story was released on video in November 2003, I wonder just how many Doctor Who fans had actually ever seen it? It had never been released on video previously, or even broadcast on UK Gold because of the missing episodes. As I hadn't been born in the summer of �64, the anniversary release of �The Reign of Terror� box set was my first chance to get up to speed on the first Doctor�s exploits in revolutionary France. Whilst I can�t say that I was completely disappointed with it, as historical TV stories go I have to rank this as one of the worst.
The bad? Well, nothing really happens� at all. Capture, escape, rescue; capture, escape, rescue. Only the angle about Stirling, the spy, managed to really grab my attention and the pay off to that was predictable and disappointing. Barbara and Susan are both used appallingly; Susan is scared of rats for heaven�s sake! I know she�s supposed to be a young �teenage� girl, but c�mon! She�s faced Daleks and Sensorites! Most disappointing of all though is the reconstruction of the missing fourth and fifth episodes. To be fair, we�ve been spoiled of late with superb efforts like �The Tenth Planet� and �The Ice Warriors,� and of course the Restoration Team had far less to work with here. The existing clips are used well, and combined with Carol Anne Ford�s narration they do bridge the gap satisfactorily� but not amazingly. Animation looks like the way to go for stories like this where there just isn�t enough photographic material available to make a good reconstruction. Of course, we won�t get that until the BBC have also sold us the soundtrack CD�
The good? William Hartnell is superb, enjoying his own private little adventure in episodes two and three. The plot may be absolute pants, but the Doctor is a laugh a minute. The scenes with the slave driver, the shopkeeper and in the prison are all absolutely priceless. William Russell is also impressive, as always. He�s very Ivanhoe in the story, every bit the dashing Saturday afternoon hero in his big French shirt. Moreover, I particularly enjoyed the opening episode, �A Land of Fear,� as it dwelt on the rift that developed between the Doctor and Ian during �The Sensorites.� It�s tantamount to soap opera! I can see why so many fans say that the 2005 series is more similar to Season 1 than to any other. Interestingly, I love the little scene where Ian and Barbara are actually quite glad they haven�t landed in sixties England; it shows just how much they are enjoying their amazing travels even if they don�t always show it. The final episode also has a nice, rather sentimental ending; the regulars are all friends again and are shown heading off into time and space for more adventures�
The verdict? Quite a touching end to the season, but nevertheless an end which just doesn�t cut the mustard when compared to the rest of the season. Just about worth the �20 for the VHS box set� although this cynic wouldn�t recommend forking out another fifteen notes for the BBC Audio CD!