Hello everyone, the Historian here. Joining me this week were Ketina, Ronelyn, Schmallturm, Spoo, MisterMother and Photobug. (Cz also joined us for the episode itself, but bowed out of the discussion afterwards.) Today we leave science fiction for seventeenth century France. Let's get to the summary!
Episode summary: First aired 5 February 1966. A boy kicks a paper ball down a street. He hears a strange wheezing, groaning sound coming from behind a gate and runs in fear. The gate opens and Steven and the Doctor walk out. The Doctor tells his friend that the TARDIS will be perfectly safe concealed behind the gate. Then he declares they have landed in France, proving it by pointing to a street sign reading "Rue de Bethisy." Very well, says Steven, but what's the date? The Doctor looks around at the buildings and guesses medieval, but just then a man, dressed in clothes of the period, walks up to a door and, when it opens, informs a servant that Nicholas Muss is expecting him. The man is admitted and the Doctor and Steven (who had been hiding) emerge. "You see that?" the Doctor says. "We've landed in the middle of the sixteenth century." He then thinks about going to visit a man named Preslin, apparently a famous apothecary and proto-scientist. Suddenly, the two dive back into cover as the man, along with a friend who he calls "Nicholas," walk back down the street. The two are discussing religious tensions. "The Catholics know of only one way to settle our differences," says the man, Gaston, but his friend tells him not to provoke more quarrels. "I?! Oh come, be fair! Paris hates our kind. It will do anything it can to provoke us," says Gaston. The two walk off, Nicholas still urging caution. Steven observes that they're in Paris and the Doctor hustles them both back inside the TARDIS to get proper clothes and so he can "turn over some papers."
Inside a tavern, Nicholas, Gaston and some of their friends are drinking. Gaston calls for a toast to "Henri of Navarre, our Protestant prince." They drink, but a man in another part of the bar, Simon Duvall, calls out, "And to his bride, our Catholic princess!" Gaston makes a show of choking on his wine, to Simon's anger. Gaston calls to the landlord, making several allusive insults to Catholics designed to provoke Simon. Nicholas cautions him, but Simon is angered. He claims that Gaston has insulted Princess Marguerite. Nicholas tries to claim it was an accident, so Simon says that he should drink again. They all do, but Gaston, behind Simon's back, spits the wine out and then looks innocent. Simon walks over to the landlord. "Most of them are in the service of the Admiral de Coligny?" he asks in a low tone. The Landlord is defensive; he must make a living, he has no choice but to serve these Huguenots. Simon calms the landlord and asks him to keep his eyes and ears open, passing over some coins. He then leaves, throwing an insulting quip to Gaston (referring to him as "Vicomte") as he goes. As he leaves, Steven and the Doctor enter the tavern. The Doctor is trying to convince his friend not to wander around Paris while he goes to see Preslin. Steven tries to say he'll go along, but the Doctor tells him he'd be incredibly bored. Steven just wants to wander around and see the sights, so the Doctor says he shouldn't go visit the apothecary after all. "You'll never forgive yourself," says Steven. Steven promises to not get into trouble and the Doctor asks him to try not to talk much to anyone, and they will meet in the tavern tonight to return to the TARDIS. He gives Steven some money and goes off to find Preslin, giving Steven the address just in case. "And don't cut yourself with that sword!" he jokes as he leaves. Steven notices that a man gets up and follows the Doctor out of the tavern. He gets up to follow just in case, but the Landlord calls to him to pay. But he refuses to change Steven's gold coin, an Ecu. Nicholas, overhearing, offers to help. He pays the Landlord two sous and stops the Landlord from walking off with both the sous and the ecu. Steven, after thanking Nicholas, asks if he knows how to get to the address the Doctor's gone to. He is worried about the "old man," thinking he may have been followed. Nicholas, however, is not sure the Doctor would be in serious trouble, and asks Steven to come share a drink with him and his friends. He will help Steven find his friend later. Steven doesn't want to intrude...but allows himself to be persuaded.
The Doctor arrives at Preslin's shop. It looks closed, so the Doctor knocks. There is no answer, but the door is unlocked, so he lets himself in. An old man asks him what he wants and tells him Preslin is gone. The Doctor says it is such a shame; he'd wanted to talk with the apothecary about his work. To make trouble? asks the old man. No, says the Doctor, revealing that he is also a scientist. He talks about how much he knows of Preslin's work, discovering "small creatures, which if attacking humanity could cause a very serious illness" (i.e. germs) and mentions that there is man in Germany working on an optical device that would let Preslin see the germs. "Is it so! Are they really doing this?" says the old man, excitedly. The Doctor smiles. "Yes," he says. "So now, doesn't this encourage you to continue with your theories, Monsieur Preslin?" The old man admits to being Preslin, explaining that "in these days, one has to be careful." The two scientists begin to discuss their work.
Back in the tavern, Gaston has just finished giving Steven a gentle interrogation. Nicholas says he would question his own shadow. "I'm in France to protect my master, Henri of Navarre," Gaston replies testily. "Just as you are to protect de Coligny." Nicholas mentions that Steven has just returned from abroad; Steven readily admits to knowing nothing about what's going on in Paris. "Yes, but if you come from England you must be for the Huguenot?" asks Gaston. "He is what you call a....a Protestant!" Yes, of course, says Steven (though it's not entirely clear he has any idea what this means). Gaston, delighted, asks Steven where he has been travelling. Steven thinks for a second and then replies, "Egypt." Nicholas is impressed. Steven, however, is still worried and asks again for directions to Preslin's shop. Nicholas offers to show him. Despite his attempts to demur, Steven agrees to let Nicholas at least show him on his way.
In the street, a guard and a guard captain chases a disheveled looking girl. She tries to hide behind a cart, but the guard continues to chase. Coming to the tavern, she bumps into Steven and Nicholas leaving as she runs inside. The two men decide to follow.
Inside the tavern, the guard captain looks around, but cannot find any trace of the girl. He sees only Gaston. "My Lord Cardinal's guard aren't you?" he asks. "What does he want with a wench?" She is a servant who ran away, says the captain. Gaston observes, with some insolence, that she doesn't appear to like the service. "She has chosen for the staff of the house of the Abbot of Amboise," replies the captain. It seems she likes that even less, says Gaston, and the captain, incensed, draws his sword...only to realize he is outnumbered by Gaston and his friends. He and his guard withdraw, saying, "My Lord Abbot shall hear of this when he arrives." Gaston merely throws out a quip, suggesting that the Cardinal (who is in Rome) should be told as well. The guards leave, and Gaston notices Steven. "Hey, come Mister Englishman. Join us again. Clearly not safe for you to walk alone." "What about the girl?" Steven asks. "Where is she?" "She's just a servant," replies Gaston.
In Preslin's shop, the Doctor is asking about the Abbot of Amboise. Preslin tells him that the Abbot "hates us all." "Yes, I suppose just now all churchmen are rather suspicious of your work," the Doctor says. "But surely you can carry on without his knowledge, hmm?" "You don't know the man!" says Preslin. "The Abbot of Amboise is the Cardinal of Lorraine's right hand. With the Cardinal in Rome the Abbot has decided to come to Paris. We shall be hunted down. That man is far more dangerous than the Cardinal." No point in going to see him, then? asks the Doctor. "None, unless you want to be thrown into prison for heresy!" says Preslin. Hmm, says the Doctor...
In the tavern, Steven is still worried about the girl. Gaston, however, is dismissive. Nicholas says that there are many things that frighten people in Paris these days. Seeing the girl on the other side of the room, Gaston loudly calls her over, but frightens her even more. At first, she does not want to tell them anything, but after Gaston pretends to call for the guards, she relents. In the Cardinal's house, she overheard the captain and another man talking. They mentioned "Vase" and said, "Something about it, er, about it happening before the week was past." Her father died at Vase, she says. Steven is confused until Nicholas explains, "Ten years ago at Vase, a small town some miles south of Paris, a hundred Huguenots were slaughtered by the Catholics." Steven is astounded and horrified. Nicholas asks the girl her name and she replies that it is Anne. They ask her to remember exactly what she overheard.
In the Cardinal's house, Simon berates the guard captain and another man--the man who tried to follow the Doctor from the tavern, one Roger Colbert. Simon is angry that the captain let Gaston (the Vicomte de Leran) stop him from finding the girl. "If she should remember what you said and should repeat it she could put our friend on his guard," he says. Roger insists that they did not speak of "him," and Simon asks what they did say. "I think we mentioned Vase and the celebrations here in Paris but nothing that anyone could've made head or tail of," says the captain. "Vase? That might have been it. That word alone is enough to put every Huguenot in Paris on his guard," says Simon thoughtfully. Roger offers to go look for the girl, but Simon tells him that he will stay and report this to the Abbot when he arrives. "I'm sure he will want to congratulate you himself," he says, threateningly. He turns to the captain. "And you, find out if she has any relations in Paris. If she has seek them out. And find if she's fled there. That girl must be found!"
Gaston, realizing Anne has told them all she knows, dismisses her. But Nicholas says, "No, wait! If the Catholics find her they can easily discover what she's told us. We must keep her out of sight." He suggests that she work in the Admiral de Coligny's kitchens and they send her there. "But what do they mean these things she overheard?" asks Steven. "A threat to Navarre. I must warn him. I'll see you later," says Gaston and leaves. Steven says to Nicholas that he wishes he could understand what was going on. "My English friend, it's really quite simple," says Nicholas. "Henri of Navarre is a Huguenot, a Protestant prince. Yesterday he married Marguerite of France, a Catholic. The marriage was arranged by the Queen Mother in the hope that it would heal the religious wound that is tearing France in two. But in the light of what that girl overheard, it looks as if the Catholics of France are plotting against Navarre's life. Do you understand?" Steven says he does. Nicholas apologizes, but he must go and tell the Admiral this news at once. Steven says not to worry; his friend should be back at the tavern soon anyway. They bid each other farewell and Nicholas leaves.
In Preslin's shop, the old man is talking to a boy. "You showed the old man the way?" says Preslin, and the boy nods assent. "Good, I only hope he succeeds. You were not seen? I should hope not?" The boy shakes his head. The old man thanks the boy, hands him a coin and lets him out of the shop. "Good luck, old man," Preslin says. "Good luck."
Simon bursts into the tavern. He walks over to the Landlord and demands to know where the girl is. "I don't know, I was down in the cellar and when I came up there she was being questioned by the Huguenots," says the Landlord. You mean Nicholas Muss and Gaston, Vicomte de Leran? Yes, says the Landlord, and another man, over there. He points to Steven, still waiting for the Doctor. Who is he? asks Simon. "I don't know," replies the Landlord. "A stranger. English, I think." He tells Simon that Gaston left quickly once they'd finished with the girl. Simon demands to know what happened to the girl. After some hemming and hawing, and more money changing hands, the Landlord says, "She was sent to the house of Admiral de Coligny." Simon thanks him and then walks over to Steven. Although he seems friendly, Steven recognizes the menace behind Simon's attention. Simon warns Steven that it is almost time for the curfew, "...an unfortunate necessity which even the marriage of protestant Henri to our great King's sister hasn't been able to rectify." "Look, I'm sorry, but I don't understand," Steven says. "I'm on my way back to England. I really know very little of what's been going on here." "I trust you've found yourself somewhere comfortable to stay while you're here," says Simon, with false good feeling. "Apartments are hard to find at this time, Paris being so full for the celebrations." Steven replies that he'll be fine; he's just waiting for a friend. "I hope he comes soon otherwise he won't be able to leave," says Simon. Simon goes over to the Landlord and says, "He's waiting for a friend. Watch and see who it is." Suddenly, the door opens and Nicholas walks in. Simon hides. Nicholas walks over to Steven. He is surprised to see him still there and asks what happened to his friend. "He said he'd meet here tonight. He hasn't arrived yet," says Steven. Nicholas warns Steven about the curfew and offers to put him up for the night. Steven can always come back in the morning. Nicholas calls to the Landlord. "If an old man arrives asking for the Englishman tell him he's lodging with the Admiral de Coligny, and will return here in the morning," he tells the Landlord. After some protests, Steven agrees and the two leave. Simon comes out of hiding. "English? I wonder what they're up to?" he says to himself, then turns to the Landlord. "I shall want a full report in the morning on all that happens," he says.
In the Cardinal's house, Roger Colbert is reporting to the currently unseen Abbot of Amboise. "And that is what happened," he says. "If it hadn't been for the Vicomte De Leran the Captain would almost certainly have caught her. It was pure mischance." The Abbot, still unseen, starts to angrily tap his stick on the floor. "I'm sure she couldn't have made any sense of what we said," Roger says, nervously. "Simon Duvall has gone to the inn where she escaped and the Captain has gone to find an aunt of hers. I'm certain it's only a matter of time. In fact one of them may be bringing her...back...here now." Suddenly, Simon bursts in. "Forgive me, Father Abbot, but the missing girl is at the house of Admiral de Coligny," he says. The Abbot says, "Fetch her tomorrow! Bring her to me." As he says this, he looks up...and it is revealed that the Abbot of Amboise seems to be...the Doctor....!
Whew, that was a rough summary! Hope you got all of it!
Ketina's Transcript Paraphrasey Thingy
R: So, apparently they didn't have the budget to move the TARDIS onto the actual set.
H: They did explain that. It is in the dialogue. The TARDIS is hidden behind a gate.
Sc: It could have been part of the recon.
M: The accents were quite interesting.
R: I think they're doing what often seems to be done...using English regional accents to approximate the appropriate social classes.
M: The girl from the French countryside who was either Irish or Cockney. I couldn't tell which. I just thought it was amusing. I particularly enjoyed the Inn-keeper's accent.
R: I agree with you there. That one was incomprehensible. “Joel, is this going to be one of those period dramas where the women wear longer skirts than the men?”
H: Yes, apparently it is. [Mystery Science Theater 3000 reference. --H]
R: This one does look like it's going to be kind of fun though. It's nice to see a period drama that I don't know anything about.
H: Interesting for Doctor Who, and almost unique, with the exception of the servant girl, the major characters are all real historical people. They've been shying away from that since "Marco Polo." Despite meeting Robespierre (for example), the Doctor and his companions didn't have any effect on any of the history in other stories. And, it's a John Lucarotti script--he wrote "Marco Polo" and "The Aztecs," both great stories.
K: The innkeeper is historical?
H: No, just the major characters.
M: I found Gaston delightful. A well portrayed character that you could get behind.
R: And, for that matter, Simon didn't gnaw up the scenery the way a lot of bad guys have. “So, you just insulted on my queen. I'd like to see you eat those words.” and instead of going “You will say bad things about the queen! I will destroy you!!” He's much more subtle. [Princess, of course, but Ronelyn has the idea. --H]
M: It's definitely more cloak and dagger.
H: One of the things I liked, and Lucarotti is a good writer so I liked a lot, is that it is a relatively obscure piece of history. And what he does is throw Steven in, who knows nothing, and uses Steven's ignorance in various scenes to do little tiny exposition dumps, instead of one big chunk.
S: That method also gave you a good running start to the plot. You enter in media res, and you get the feeling that everything is already going on.
H: Similar to what was done in the Aztecs, but this time more sophisticated.
Sc: I think what you're all trying to say is that the writing is good for this episode.
M: And there was some good acting too.
Sc: I actually want to find out next week what happens next.
K: Frankly, I was bored.
H: Historical not doing it for you?
M: But.. Gaston and the Huguenots!
K: I just wasn't really interested in the story.
S: Lots of talking, no imminent danger, no obvious bad guys.
K: There was no action, and I had a hard time hearing the dialogue.
M: There was almost several fights.
R: Several times people got angrily up on their feet.
H: So, you didn't dig the air of menace and paranoia?
K: I felt like they did such a better job in the Reign of Terror, that I'm not feeling it in this one. By this point in the Reign of Terror there was already a house burned down.
R: And two dead nitwits.
K: I guess I was disappointed that the girl didn't die.
S: Yeah, you've now got the expectation that there should be at least a body count of two by now, plus several explosions.
P: I thought the title was very deep. I saw “War of God” and I was instantly captivated.
M: But there was no god?
R: It's much punchier to say “War of God” than “Nitpicking about our rules over the deity”.
M: It was all very charming and wonderful...
S: But there's nothing really to comment on.
H: Charming and wonderful, huh? I like that. We haven't talked about Preslin the apothecary... That part is supposed to be educational, and the Doctor is discovering about people's ideas.
S: The Doctor is discovering people working on simultaneous discoveries, thus smashing them together and meddling in human history.
H: People did historically discover each other. [Although, surprisingly, Preslin is not a historical figure, but merely a representative of science of the time. --H]
S: Because of the Doctor's meddling.
H: I would say he's more encouraging.
S: Like the Meddling Monk.
H: But the Meddling Monk was trying to change the course of history to meet his own ends. The Doctor is just really interested in what's going on.
M: He's like “This is neat!”
R: He shows up and says “You're the guy! Don't give up on this idea. I can't tell you that I've seen what you're going to do, but it's so cool!”
H: Now, Loose Cannon spoiled the cliffhanger. [They included a sort-of credit sequence before the story started that listed William Hartnell as both the Doctor and the Abbot of Amboise. --H] Was anyone actually surprised by the ending?
P: Yes. I thought at first that when the Abbot was shown from behind, it was a picture of the Meddling Monk. And when it turned out to be the Doctor, and I was like, cool!
M: I don't know why the Doctor is there. But I wasn't surprised that he was. [Although it's worth noting that MisterMother missed the beginning, so was not spoiled for this plot development. --H]
S: I think it's just a cost cutting measure. They hid the TARDIS behind a gate.. they hid the Abbot behind some stunt casting.
R: And the princess is actually going to be played by Steven.
K: No female companion. Weird.
R: And, once again, we see Steven's delicate touch with the girls.
H: No, that was Gaston being obnoxious, not Steven. He actually seemed to care about her, even if she was a servant.
Sc: But there is only one female character in the whole episode.
H: It was medieval France. [No idea what Ketina is paraphrasing here, sorry! --H]
P: History wasn't really written much about women in this point in history, except for royals.
H: With some rare exceptions.
S: Well, Joan D'Arc was well done.
R: Instead of medium rare? What, too soon?
** groans **
H: Last thoughts?
M: Yeah, I'm back. More Doctor Who!
H: So, now that we're done with Terry Nation, you're back for this one.
M: Yeah, I'm back.
P: Okay, Steven says “How do you know we're in Paris” and I see this sign, and in my head I'm thinking that in French it must say “You're in Paris!”
H: There was almost nothing existing for this episode other than the audio. So a lot of the poses are the same and most of the pictures are composites.
K: Was Gaston's beard painted on?
H: I don't know.
S: Yeah, Doctor Who. Mr. Mother is back!
Sc: I liked it. I don't have much to say about it. But there were very few female characters.
K: Did the servant girl scream?
Sc: No, but she ran.
H: She was hiding, so she couldn't scream.
R: Sort of hoping they don't pick up a female companion in this one. If they pick up that poor girl and bring her into space, she's so going to die. Katarina flashbacks!
K: I really wanted a sword fight. Steven is wearing a sword, the Doctor pointed it out.
H: And the Doctor pointed out that Steven didn't know how to use it, too.
K: Ian figured out how to use a sword. If Ian could do it, Steven could do it.
H: Yeah, I suppose that's true.
K: Anyway, I'm looking forward to a sword fight next week.
S: It's too soon to have an opinion of this episode. I'll tell you more about this episode next week after I've seen next week's episode.
H: Well, I enjoyed it. I was worried about the recon, but I thought it moved pretty well. Lots of captions, but not overwhelming.
And there we have it. As always, I'll plug Loose Cannon Productions, for all your recon needs. As for what's next, is the Doctor the Abbot? If so, what's his plan? And what will happen "before the week is past?" We'll find out more next episode! Until then, I remain
NEXT WEEK: "THE SEA BEGGAR"