Friday, September 18, 2009

"The Tyrant of France"

Hello everyone, the Historian here, along with Ketina and our regular team of Ronelyn and Schmallturm, bringing you a review of another episode of this last story of the first season. This time, our episode is a reconstruction, once again from the fine folks at Loose Cannon Productions. And now, on to the summary!

Episode summary: First aired 29 August, 1964. The tailor tells the jailer that he has evidence of a traitor...and produces the Doctor's ring! Lemaitre and the Doctor arrive at Robespierre's office. The First Citizen looks over the execution records and then asks to be introduced to the stranger. Lemaitre introduces the Doctor as a visitor from the province he and Robespierre were to discuss, and the tyrant says he is unsatisfied with the number of traitors reported from the Doctor's "province." The Doctor replies that perhaps it is the number to be found in Paris that is the problem. A discussion ensues wherein Robespierre inadvertently reveals himself (to us and the Doctor, of course, not to one of the faithful) as a man whose paranoia is driving him to see traitors and enemies all around him. The interview ends with the Doctor storming out, though Robespierre commands Lemaitre to bring the Doctor to him the next morning. Back at Jules' house, Susan is still suffering from a terrible fever, dozing on and off. Barbara and Leon talk about getting her to a Doctor. Leon says he will arrange it, but he must be off. He tells Barbara they will meet again, soon, and leaves. Jules and Jean, having waylayed the man who had been asking about Jules at the inn, arrive, bringing the unconscious body with him. It is Ian! Back at the prison, Lemaitre tells the Doctor he has made a very favorable impression with the First Citizen and must return for another meeting in the morning. When the Doctor tries to demur, he insists and tells the jailer to make up a room (one of the soldier's rooms) for the Doctor. The jailer tells Lemaitre that someone is waiting for him. After he leaves, the Doctor tries to bluff his way out, but the jailer pulls a pistol, with apologies, and takes the Doctor to his room. Meanwhile, Lemaitre is meeting with the tailor, who gives him the Doctor's ring and clothes and accepts money in return. Lemaitre tells the tailor to speak to no one else of any of this. Back at the house, Ian awakens and is delighted to see Barbara alive, but is concerned to hear of Susan's illness. Discovering that his host is named "Jules," Ian questions him about the whereabouts of James Stirling. Jules knows nothing of this, so Ian tells him the whole story about Webster's dying request. Jules believes that Webster would probably have known Stirling by sight, but (as he must be using a nom de plume), Stirling could be anyone. Jean is uncomfortable with being "used" by the English, but Jules says that once the tyranny, with which both they and the English are at war, is defeated, there will be peace between the two lands. Jean leaves to begin the search for the Doctor while Jules decides to try and set up a meeting between Ian and Leon; the latter moves in many circles and could well know who Stirling is. Who knows, he could be Stirling himself! Barbara comes back into the room to tell them that Susan is worse; she must see a doctor soon. The next morning, the Doctor meets Lemaitre in the prison and complains of the terrible conditions of his room. Lemaitre merely says that this should be an eventful day for the Doctor! At the house, Danielle brings a message from Leon saying the physician will not come to see Susan, they must go to him. After some discussion, Barbara and Susan are sent to see the physician; two women together being less conspicuous than a man and a woman. Ian worries though--can they trust this doctor? At his office, he examines Susan and pronounces the diagnosis that she has a bad chill. He questions how she could have gotten it, obviously fishing for the fact that they'd been in prison, but Barbara puts him off. He tells them he must go out to get supplies--leeches, specifically. Both Barbara and Susan sense there is something wrong and try to leave, only to find the door has been locked! The physician has, of course, gone straight to the prison, where the jailer sends soldiers with him back to his office. Once again, Barbara and Susan are captured. Jules, meanwhile, tells Ian he has gotten in touch with Leon, who has requested Ian meet him at an abandoned church. Leon's message says he is not Stirling, but he knows where to find the Englishman. Ian is frantic for Barbara and Susan, who have been gone for some time, but agrees to go to the meeting while Jules searches for the women. Barbara and Susan are brought back to the prison and separated; Susan is thrust into a cell while Barbara is taken to be interrogated on Lemaitre's orders. In fact, she is brought into a room with the Doctor! Both react in shock and joy...reactions which are watched by Lemaitre from the shadows. Ian, meanwhile, has arrived at the deserted church and, per instructions, descends into the crypt where he meets Leon. After a momentary exchange, Leon pulls a gun on Ian and soldiers file in to surround him. "You've fallen right into my trap," Leon says...

As always for reconstructed episodes, here's the transcript of the episode, thanks to the Doctor Who Scripts Project.

This episode continued the development of what the team has found to be a very good story thus far. Obviously, our reactions are probably a bit skewed by the recon aspect, but I think it did a good job of conveying the story and action. On a technical level, the pictures were a tiny bit grainy--entirely the fault of our copy, I think--but the sound was quite good.

As for the story itself, in some ways it was a classic "move the plot along" episode. It's fairly obvious that the ultimate goal of this week was to set up a situation that would reunite the TARDIS crew. At the same time, though, the episode was filled with all kinds of wonderful bits and bobs. The interweaving themes of paranoia and opportunism running throughout Paris are extremely effective, especially when they can be combined into one character. While the tailor is an opportunist through and through, the physician is obviously someone who is trying to keep in good graces with the authorities, who he fears (when he asks the jailer for assurances that, if his information is wrong, he will not be held accountable for it, you can hear the terror in his voice). Opportunity and placation. The jailer, too, is thrilled with the Doctor's praise, but terrified of Lemaitre's disfavor (even though they are supposedly "equal citizens"). But nowhere are the two themes expressed so firmly in one character than in the Tyrant of France himself, First Citizen Robespierre. His conversation with the Doctor reveals a deeply conflicted man, one who believes he is Absolutely Right and, because of that, everyone will turn on him eventually. Somewhat paradoxically, he must reveal and execute the "traitors" who stand in the way of his great work, because, if he is stopped, than all the carnage will have been for nothing. The Doctor's disgust and horror is palpable and it is no wonder he strides out of the room in deep anger. Robespierre ultimately comes off as a bit of a pathetic figure, determined to "do right by doing wrong," to quote Ronelyn, who also mentions that this is a theme we will revisit again and again in the programme. It also once again reveals the depth of the Doctor's contempt for those who use somewhat mythical ends to justify means, and specifically those who refuse to acknowledge that fact. Robespierre cannot acknowledge that his means are wrong, he simply believes they are inevitable. It's a short scene, but a powerful one, and one that is absolutely central to understanding both the story and the Reign of Terror in general.

What else to say? The acting was, as usual, quite good--at least vocally. (Though the small bits of actual film were quite exciting when they popped up!) The story continues to jog along nicely, though a couple of the team were amused by the return of the "captured--escaped--captured" idiom. I didn't mind it much, since it's the most obvious way of getting everyone back together. Leon being the traitor was, of course, pretty predictable (in fact, I predicted it last week), but Ian's surprise was played nicely. After all, not only had he not met the man, he hadn't even been told (on screen, anyway) that there might be a traitor! After their place in the spotlight while Ian was confined to pre-filmed inserts, Susan and Barbara fade a bit into the background this week, though they did have that quite good scene in the physician's office. Barbara's ultimately failed attempt at trying to fob off the physician as to how Susan caught her chill was fun. And Lemaitre is shaping up to be a villain of the mastermind school; though Robespierre is nominally the most dangerous man in the story, it is Citizen Lemaitre who moves the plots and stands as the true source of fear for our friends. (Ronelyn points out that "Lemaitre" translates, basically, as "The Master." Hmmm......nahhhh.)

Well, I've been a bit verbose, so I'll end my section here. I'm looking forward to next week and our next reconstructed episode--the last of this first season. Until then, I remain



Ketina here,

Well, we're back to viewing reconstructions this week. The poor audio quality and grainy photos makes it challenging to write an unbiased review. And for this episode they kept showing this tiny amount of footage of a door opening that was used anytime that, well, a door was opened. A lot of doors were opened and closed this week! I found that silly and distracting, especially during the more serious moments of the plot. But this is all critiquing the reconstruction, not the actual episode itself.

Let's see... I enjoyed the Doctor's scene with Robespierre. The way he managed to keep the conversation away from the topic of "his region" was quite clever, although I was wondering why Robespierre didn't just extended the meeting rather than have them reschedule the next day. Ian's plot, regarding the dead British guy [Historian's Edit: I think she means Webster] I also continue to find interesting. That the man Ian was told to meet couldn't actually immediately help him keeps things interesting. So why would Ian be told to meet with this guy [Jules] if he couldn't actually help? It was a wee bit of a coincidence that the contact was at the same place as Barbara and Susan, but I suppose there weren't too many folks helping political prisoners.

Towards the end of the episode I got a 100,000 BC flash back -- they've all escaped from the prison only to all be thrown back into it again this episode! I hope it's not the Cave of Skulls all over again.

The identity of the traitor to the underground was also pretty obvious. It's always the cute guy, isn't it? [Leon] Is he working with the guy [Lemaitre--honestly, she asked me to do these edits] who let Ian go from the prison and brought the Doctor to Robespierre? Hopefully we'll find out next week. I really hope the outcome of this fairly complicated plot is satisfying. I worry we're going to have lose threads and unexplained bits. :S

No serious screams this week. If the physician had actually showed up with the leeches I'm sure there would have been. :D

Until next time,


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