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A Teenage boy with a passion for all things nerdy! Expect a lot of Doctor Who, Cult/Horror Movies, Literature and Novels, History, Comic Books and random thoughts. Posts published weekly on a Friday evening. DISCLAIMER: I do not own any of the items reviewed on this site and i also do not own of the pictures (unless stated so). If you own one of the photos and wish for it to be removed contact me at this adress: Super.pig@live.co.uk. However all of the written work is my own and is protected under copyright law.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Doctor Who at 50: The Massacre of St Bartholomew's Eve

I think the pure historical stories of the Hartnell era are either loved or hated by fans. To some they are viewed as simply a product of the shows early days before it became the sci-fi icon it is now, a novelty to be quickly forgotten. To others, and particularly to those with a fondness for the Hartnell era, they are a set of extremely intelligent tales that are a welcome break from the more hardcore science fiction episodes. Being a student of history I must confess to belonging to the latter fraction. The pure historical’s of the shows early days were designed to educate the public whilst also providing adventure and excitement. However a great many of these serials not only did this but we’re extremely powerful pieces of drama in their own right. The Massacre is probably one of the darkest of all the first Doctor’s stories, its final episode leaving a bitter taste in the viewer’s mouth. Sadly though it is also one of three serials (the others being Marco Polo and Mission to the Unknown) that has not one scrap of footage remaining.

The Massacre begins with the Doctor and Stephen landing in France in the 16th century. The Doctor is determined to go and visit Charles Preslin to discuss Germinology and convinces Stephen to see Paris on his own, saying they will meet back at a tavern in the evening. However when the Doctor fails to show up Stephen accidently becomes embroiled in the conflict between the Ugano’s and the Catholics whilst trying to find the Doctor. At the same time the mysterious Abbott of Amboise seems to be a spitting image of the Doctor and Stephen fails to realise that he is one day away from one of the worst atrocities in human history.
If you haven’t got the jist, I bloody love this story. I adore doctor who stories that push the limit of just how dark the stories can go and the massacre does this to great effect. There’s an incredible sense of bleakness about the whole thing, indeed throughout the whole four episodes there was very few comic moments. Indeed actually found the “viewing” experience to be an incredibly intense and unnerving one. I suspect this is down to the fact that the doctor appears very little and the story instead follows Stephen. To be stranded in another time, a violent one at that, without a hope of getting back to your own time unless you find the Doctor, would be a terrifying experience and indeed this episode presents it as such. The doctor himself is once again totally alien, perhaps this was something I missed out on, but we never find out what the connection is between him and the abbot or indeed what he was doing during the time he is absent.

Admittedly the greatest moments of this story come in episode 4. Here the Doctor takes Stephen away before the massacre occurs but leaving behind a young servant girl whom Stephen befriended. The doctor and Stephens argument in which Stephen decides to leave, followed by Hartnells' touching monologue are the crowning moments of the story. It’s a moment that fully defines the Doctor’s character, he is an alien and so has an alien philosophy but perhaps more than that to the extent that even Susan doesn’t understand. The doctor realises that it’s this that has left him alone. It’s a superb moment and were it not lost then it would probably be one of the greatest moments of the Hartnell era. Sadly however it’s all ruined a few seconds later when Dodo comes rushing through the door and ruins everything. But those last few seconds aside it’s not just this scene that makes episode 4 stand out from the rest but there’s also a great moment where Andre Morrell’s character, one of the chief antagonists throughout the whole story, is ordered to not only kill leaders of the protestant movement but innocents as well. In a few short minutes we see another side to his character that wasn’t even hinted at before. It’s a great short scene that not only brings out the horror of the massacre but shows us that even the cruellest of men have their limitations.

Speaking of Morrell he really is great in the role and it’s a shame that we just have to put up with hearing him as oppose to seeing him in action. Another great performance comes from Joan Young as Catherine De’ Medici who during the whole story says surprisingly little but manages to steal the show! However sadly I think that the Massacre will never be as appreciated as much as it should be. Partly due to the fact that it is a pure historical but also because no footage of the story remain.

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