Friday, September 11, 2009

"A Change of Identity"

Hello all, the Historian here. Thanks for joining Ketina, Ronelyn, Schmallturm and myself for this third episode of the last story of the season. Let's get to the summary!

Episode Summary: First aired 22nd August, 1964. Ian, helpless in his cell, watched Barbara and Susan led away to the guillotine! The Doctor arrives in Paris, finally. As Barbara and Susan are taken to the execution place in a cart, two men, Jules and Jean, wait in an alley. They are planning to rescue the prisoners, but Jean is worried that the two will be outnumbered as their third compatriot, Leon, has not arrived. Jules tells Jean not to worry as surprise is on their side. In the prison, the jailer is taking food to the prisoners, beginning with Ian. As he is about to relock Ian's cell, he hears the voice of Lemaitre who demands his immediate attention. The jailer can't pull the keys out while managing two more bowls of food, so he leaves them in the lock and runs off. Lemaitre is there to look over the record of executions and to take them to Robespierre. The jailer assures him all the paperwork is in order. Meanwhile, Ian has noticed the keys in the door. He reaches through his window and manages to pull the keyring out. He takes the key to his door off the ring and replaces the other keys, sticking one of them in the lock. He takes his food off in a corner, biding his
time. Lemaitre finishes reading the list and tells the jailer he has done good work and his name will be mentioned "in the right circles," then leaves. The jailer, remembering the keys, runs out and is relieved to see them still in the lock to Ian's cell. He takes them, not noticing one is missing. The cart carrying Barbara and Susan stops, the horse having thrown a shoe. Barbara realizes this is their chance to escape, but Susan cannot. Her head is splitting and she feels faint. Barbara tries to comfort her, knowing they are missing their chance. But Jules and Jean take this moment to attack! After a short battle, the guards are killed and the two rescuers take the women off to a safe place. The Doctor, meanwhile, has found a tailors shop. He enters and begins to deal with the shopkeeper, a man who is both obsequious and a big supporter of Citizen Robespierre's policy of executing traitors. The Doctor finds an official-looking uniform as well as a sash identifying an official of a regional province. What a coincidence, the Doctor says, as that is exactly what he is! He wishes to purchase the uniform and sash, but has no money, so he offers to exchange his old clothes (which the tailor dismisses as "fancy dress") for them. The tailor gives only one condition: the trade must include the Doctor's ring! The Doctor agrees, but only if the deal includes a pen, ink and paper. Susan and Barbara, with their rescuers, arrive at Jules' house. Here they meet Jules' sister, Danielle, and are told to share only their Christian names--no last names, so none can be given up under torture. Jules tells the women he will help them get out of France, but they protest that they cannot leave without the Doctor and Ian. Back at the prison, Ian sees his chance as the jailer is called away. He uses the key and lets himself out, sneaking his way along, only to discover that the jailer has already been knocked out! Not stopping to reconsider his good fortune, Ian leaves the prison. Immediately after, Lemaitre steps out of the shadows and muses that now he will find out whether Webster told Ian anything or not. Jules gives Barbara a map and she and Susan locate the house where they "stopped to ask directions." Jules is stunned; the house they indicate is a safe house on the route he uses to help prisoners escape. He asks if they met two men and Barbara tells him of D'Argenson and Rouvray. When asked, she says that the two were killed by the soldiers before she and her friends were captured. Jules says he will send someone to the house, both to look for the Doctor and to find out what happened, as well as sending someone to the prison to inquire after Ian. He says he will not rest until the companions have been reunited. When Jean is told of the safe route's compromise, he is convinced that they must have an informant in their company. Susan becomes even more feverish and nearly faints as Danielle takes her to rest. Leon, the missing third companion arrives and is concerned when he is told of D'Argenson and Rouvray's deaths, but he also tells Jules that someone at an inn near the prison has been asking after him. Jules and Jean leave immediately to investigate, leaving Barbara and the charming Leon alone. At the prison, the jailer (nursing a headache now) is confronted by the spectacle of a Regional Official--the Doctor, of course, who demands information on three traitors from his province who have been taken to this prison. After looking over the Doctor's forged credentials, the jailer tells him that the two women were taken to be executed, but were rescued. The Doctor manages to just barely hide his relief. The man, the jailer says, has escaped. The Doctor agrees that none of this was the jailer's fault (he is "surrounded by idiots") and turns to go, only to be stopped by Lemaitre who demands to see his papers. He seems satisfied with them, but insists that the Doctor should wait until morning to set out back to his province. In fact, Lemaitre says, he was just on his way to Robespierre's to discuss things that, coincidently, relate to the Doctor's supposed province! Seeing no way out, the Doctor agrees to accompany the official. Back at the house, Leon is charming Barbara and asks her where she comes from. England, she tells him, adding that that must make them enemies. No, says Leon, for it means she has no stake in what happens in France. At the prison, meanwhile, the tailor has demanded his way in, telling the jailer he has news of a traitor. For proof, he produces the Doctor's ring....

Well. As has been the case a lot lately, this is a really difficult episode to critique, as it's just quite good. True, Jean came off as a bit overly anxious (a note regarding Jules and Jean's scene in the alley below) and the tailor was a bit over-the-toppish, but the whole thing felt very solid. The sets and costumes were what, at the time and for a long time after, the Beeb did very well: Costume Drama! The acting was quite good as well, especially that of William Russell (the scene with Ian getting and replacing the key was a wonderful bit of tension in the middle of the episode, and, after his escape, his moment of discovering the unconscious jailer, thinking for a moment and then saying to heck with it and running was great. That this was all seemingly a grand plan of Lemaitre makes everything even more interesting.

A note about the scene with Jules and Jean in the alley: Jean is worried they will be too outnumbered as Leon hasn't shown up and he expects between four and six guards. Leon replied that he shouldn't worry as "surprise is worth three men." To which Schmallturm responded, "Well, there are two of if there are six guards, we might be screwed anyway..."

Barbara and Susan's side of the plot was interesting. Not only do we find out more about the people who smuggled Rouvray and D'Argenson away, but we're given more mysteries: Is there a traitor? Is it Leon (the obvious suspect)? And is the man asking about Jules actually Ian, which could make Jules the elusive James Stirling? And, of course, what's wrong with Susan? Some of us suspect the Plague, given the appearance of rats last episode, but I'm not so sure. Will she just get more ill and, if so, can the crew get together and back to the TARDIS in time to help her?

The Doctor continues to be, or be surrounded by, most of the comic relief, which is just fine given the seriousness of the rest of the story. And leave it to the Doctor to pass himself off as a blustery official, a bit full of himself and commanding others around him. That he is a bit hamstrung by the appearance of Lemaitre (shaping up to be the true villain of this story), who uses the Doctor's own cover story against him, continuing the trend of having the Doctor (too clever by half at times) hoist by his own petard! Whether Lemaitre suspects or not is unclear, but we'll presumably find out next week.

I also want to put in a quick word for the music. I like it very much; it does a fine job of setting mood and helping maintain the tension. I know Ketina is less impressed, but I think it helps the episode (and, indeed, all the episodes thus far) to chug along nicely.

Before I close my portion of the review, I feel I need to mention that the next two episodes will be reconstructions. As before, I haven't pre-screened them, so I'll be looking forward to seeing what happens next and how well the recon presents it. And, as before, I will link to the scripts on the Doctor Who Script Project so you can follow along! Until next week, I remain



Ketina here,

Scary, scary rain!

Seriously though, good stuff. This story has been quite good so far, making it challenging to review. I especially enjoyed the bit with Ian escaping the prison. There was terrific tension just watching Ian reach through the bars of his cell to get the keys out of the lock, with the chance that he would drop them, make noise and then get caught. Cool stuff for such a simple scene. It worked well in the episodic format that I don't think would have gone nearly as well if this was viewed in "movie mode".
I also really loved the bit where the Doctor is in the shop getting a new outfit. Hartnell's Doctor portrays arrogance well. A few lines were a bit flubbed, but nothing serious.

Digging for criticism, I thought the "outdoor" sets that take place in the streets of Paris were too echo-y. It felt like they were on a set and not outdoors in a street. And a little bit of the acting from various bit characters felt stage play to me, once again. But this seems to be a common occurrence in most of these early Doctor Who stories, especially in the historicals. And Susan was too whiny, but she's probably dying from the plague or something. At least she wasn't screaming again. :o
I'm seriously nit picking pointing all this out.

The silly: Yes, we definitely had some this week. The Doctor's ginormous plumed hat! Awesome! And very, very silly. It made the entire scene between the Doctor and the Jailer completely giggle worthy, which I'm sure was it's intention. The Historian assures me that the hat was period, but that doesn't make it any less silly. :)

Lots of fun! I'm looking forward to next week. Well, it is a reconstructed episode, so maybe looking forward isn't quite the right word, but still great story.



Hi all, the Historian here again, reminding you that we need your help! There are still three weeks until the end of the first season and we really need to know how we're doing. Thus far, we've heard from only heard from one of you (Hi and thanks again, Robin!), but we really need feedback. This blog takes a lot of work and the idea that we're throwing it out into a (near) vacuum is very discouraging. Please, if you're reading this, take a few minutes and click this link to leave comments and/or shoot us an e-mail. Thanks very much and we'll see you next week!



Robin said...

The comments section seem to be working this time, so let's test this out.

You're doing a fantastic job, and, as said, I appreciate it very much!

I encourage anyone who can to take the time and drop a comment (or an e-mail) and let them know that you are reading. It would be a terrible shame if they decided to stop.

The Historian said...

Thanks Robin! Ketina and I really appreciate the support. (In fact, since your e-mail, we've used "We're blogging for Robin!" as our mantra.) :-)