The Massacre

Doctor WhoThe Doctor and Steven arrive in Paris, 1572. The Doctor is eager to visit apothecary and scientist Charles Preslin, whose early research into germs fascinates him, but doesn’t want to bring Steven along. Steven is loathe to stay in the TARDIS, and promises not to mingle with the locals, but is alarmed when he thinks he sees a man following the Doctor. Steven tries to follow, but runs afoul of the tavern keep (whom he has forgotten to pay). A man helps Steven out of his predicament and then brings him up to speed on the events into which the time travelers have emerged: the bloody fighting between Catholics and Protestants. Steven becomes very worried indeed when the Doctor vanishes, and is even more alarmed when a servant girl named Anne Chaplet bursts into the home of Admiral de Coligny, where he is staying. Anne claims to have overheard what could be a large-scale plot to rid Paris of all Protestants by any means necessary. Steven sees a man he believes to be the Doctor, but his new friends suddenly regard him coldly – they know this man as the Abbot of Amboise, one of the most fanatical Catholic crusaders in France. Not only does Steven not know whether the Doctor is safe, but he now has no backup. He’s a foreigner in a decidedly hostile situation, trapped between fanatical elements among both the Catholics and the Hugenots, and if he can’t find the Doctor, he’ll be stuck there.

Order this story on audio CDwritten by John Lucarotti
directed by Paddy Russell
music not credited

Guest Cast: Eric Thompson (Gaston), David Weston (Nicholas), John Tillinger (Simon), Edwin Fenn (Landlord), Christopher Tranchell (Roger), Eric Chitty (Preslin), Annette Robertson (Anne Chaplet), Clive Cazes (Captain), Reginald Jessup (Servant), William Hartnell (Abbot of Amboise), Andre Morell (Tavannes), Leonard Sachs (Admiral de Coligny), Cynthia Etherington (Old Lady), Barry Justice (Charles IX), Joan Young (Catherine de Medici)

Notes: The master tapes of this episode were destroyed by the BBC in the early 1970’s, and no video copies exist.

Broadcast from February 5 through 26, 1966

LogBook entry & review by Earl Green

The MassacreOne of the final “historicals” in the first half of Doctor Who’s televised existence, this period adventure is pretty sophisticated fare. By comparison, it makes The Marian Conspiracy, an Audio Adventure set during the English Catholic-Protestant conflicts of Queen Mary’s reign, seem simplistic. The story is complicated and densely layered, and if you don’t already have a passing acquaintance with the historical events portrayed, you’d do well to gain one soon afterward.

The Massacre, or The Massacre Of St. Bartholomew’s Eve as it’s more formally known, is a true rarity: a story that makes good use of the dreaded “evil twin” plot device. The Abbot of Amboise is the first Doctor’s exact double, and is played with chilling precision by William Hartnell. However, Steven is dead certain that the Abbot is the Doctor in disguise – after all, as Steven rationalizes, this is exactly the sort of thing the Doctor would do if there was a good reason. That reasoning quickly causes Steven’s allies to turn their backs on him – and puts him in a position where he could easily get himself killed.

The climax of this four-parter is grisly, and is the hardest-hitting example of the Doctor’s insistence that history must run its course. Steven’s rage that the Doctor left a girl who helped them both results in his pledge to leave the Doctor at the TARDIS’ next stop – which, in fact, he does. This leads into a somber and eloquent soliloquoy delivered by Hartnell. It’s a very nice piece – the Doctor reflects on how all of his companions have left, going down a laundry list all the way back to his granddaughter Susan, and even contemplates “going back home, back to my own planet.” But this most interesting moment is brought to an abrupt end when a young woman named Dodo Chaplet – possibly a descendant of the girl who helped the Doctor and Steven in 16th-century France – bolts into the TARDIS, thinking it to be a real police box. Thus we are introduced to a new female companion in what has to be the most inelegant and arbitrary introduction of a new lead actor in the series until the introduction-less introduction of Bonnie Langford as Melanie in 1986 – and just when I was enjoying Hartnell’s impassioned performance, too.

Despite the awkwardness of the ending, The Massacre is a fascinating adventure that bears more than one listen. I would say viewing, but all four episodes comprising this 1966 story have gone missing on film, and it exists only in audio form. The Massacre was the first of the BBC’s new range of CD releases of vintage TV Doctor Who whose visual components have gone missing. Peter Purves, who played Steven in The Massacre and several other stories, narrates the visual elements that would otherwise be lost or simply confusing in the audio version. Despite the fact that some 34 years have passed since Purves exited the series, he doesn’t sound appreciably older! But with The Massacre‘s densely-written dialogue and concentration on acting over any kind of visual effects, it makes an ideal story to survive in aural form.