Reviewed By: TCar96
Review Date: 2/9/17 10:42 pm
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One gorgeous serial - and a real gem that I was delighted to find I'd missed.
It's as another reviewer noted, a straight-forward traditional historical. The Doctor, Susan, Ian & Barbara find themselves in the Reign of Terror and gradually become embroiled in an exponential web of revolutionary turmoil. As the serial progresses we transition from comic scenes in rural France to ever violent and grandiose plot points - perfect storytelling! There's a genuine sense of things becoming ever more anarchic and claustrophobic and without hyperbole, I was finding myself recalling The Lives of Others. Maybe one day, my dream series of new who would dare to tackle a similair serial with regards to the Soviet Union!
It's certainly a valid critique that this leads to a relatively plot-less serial where our characters wander through events without much agency. That said, I particularly enjoy this in my Doctor Who - less huge pivotal moments (absurd given the 60's limitations) and more subtle atmosphere. I was reminded also of Big Finish's Other Lives, another comparison of praise! We meet a wide range of characters and explore various locales. One of my two gripes would be that in the fourth and fifth serial the dynamism tends to slow down and we rinse and repeat a few sets - but for the most part there's a great variety. From Doctor Who's first location work; seedy taverns; Parisian boudoirs; dingy prison cells and a middle-class sartorium, there's enough interesting locales to keep the viewer visually hooked.
It's also a real testament to the crew how well these sets work in 1964. Highlights including a horse-drawn cart and plenty of superb lighting, often with naked candle light. Very impressive for the era and certainly a step above the tail end of the Sensorites.
Of course, I mentioned gripes. In addition to a sag in episodes 4 and 5, Susan is woefully mistreated after a cracking step forward in the Sensorites. That acknowledged, there's plenty of character development that would put 2017's Who to shame. We tackle the issue of historical agency as with the Aztecs; Barbara's sexuality is allowed breathing space, with Susan engaging; there's delightfully subtle political commentary for those looking for it and of course, the coda - one of the most heart-warming, tear-inducing, 'why-I-love-Doctor-Who' moments the show has ever produced.