Friday, 29 April 2011

22: The Massacre (Of St. Bartholomew's Eve) - Trying To Ditch TheDoctor Or Trying Something Different? Either Way Steven Is Running TheShow.

Written by: John Lucarotti & Donald Tosh.
Companions: The Doctor & Steven Taylor.
Monsters/Villains: Catholics, Catherine de Medici.
Brief Synopsis: The TARDIS arrives in Paris in 1572 just in time for the Huguenot massacre.
Rating: 4/10.

Well, that was... interesting.

Perhaps the most notable thing about this story is it's incomprehensible title: The Massacre Of St. Bartholomew's Eve. This is historically a misnomer, as the actual massacre took place on St Bartholomew's Day. Some have noted that as the original French name for the event (Massacre de la Saint-Barthélemy) lacks a day, the title actually refers to the lead up to the massacre itself — however in that case the title should be, the "Eve of the Massacre of St Bartholomew." Let's just call it The Massacre.

When I popped the audio CD in for this one I was excited about another John Lucarotti story. However this was a bit on the disappointing side. There are some good moments but overall The Massacre doesn't live up to Lucarotti's previous stories. It's an oddly obscure and wholly violent period of history in which to set a children's TV serial. I can't imagine an episode of modern Doctor Who being about a religious culling. The Doctor barely appears and has no baring on the proceedings. Perhaps Hartnell had requested to have a go at something different or possibly the producers were starting to test the waters with removing Hartnell from the mix, giving Steven, a companion a chance to run the show.

Joan Young as Catherine de' Medici.
The TARDIS lands Steven and the Doctor in Paris, France 1572. We get no mention of the carnage that took place in The Daleks' Master Plan, (apart from a brief mention of Egypt from Steven) in fact the pair seem quite jolly. They get appropriately dolled up for the age and go to the pub. As in many early Doctor Who stories they decide to separate, the Doctor goes off to visit the famous apothecary Charles Preslin and Steven stays at the Inn where he meets the Huguenot (French Protestant) Admiral de Coligny and a group of his fellows. Steven, along with the Huguenots helps to rescue a young girl, Anne Chaplet, and get their first suspicion of the Catholic Queen Mother, Catherine de' Medici's plot to massacre all of the Huguenots in France. At the end of the first episode we see the Abbot of Amboise who appears to be the Doctor in disguise.

Congrats Wills and Kate.
Ironically there is mention of a recent Royal Wedding. Not between Wills and Kate, but the French Huguenot, Henry Navarre and Margaret of Valois, daughter of the Catholic Catherine de' Medici.

Henry Navarre & Margaret of Valois.
Steven is shocked to learn that the Abbot of Amboise, second in charge of the Catholic church in France is in fact the Doctor in disguise. The Abbot is killed by order of the Queen Mother when his plans to assassinate de Coligny fail; his death is blamed on the Huguenots.

Hartnell as the Abbot of Amboise.
Steven, who believe's the Doctor to be dead is on the run. Believed to be an ally of the Huguenots, he seeks out the help of Anne Chaplet once more to search for the TARDIS key. When the Doctor finally turns up, Steven is relieved to discover that the Abbot was not the Doctor after all, merely his doppleganger. Where exactly has he been all this time? Hartnell's Doctor is always disappearing and never has a real explanation as to where he's been when he returns. I'd like to think that he's gone off to have other adventures on his own or to manipulate events behind the scenes. Sadly I know his absence is due to his  increasing lack of reliability. That, or he's gone on holiday again! Before the TARDIS departs the Doctor sends Anne to her likely death. At this point I can't help but wish we were about to get Annette Robertson as Anne Chaplet as our new companion, but sadly not. Like Reinette in The Girl in The Fireplace, another French companion that never was.

Annette Robertson as Anne Chaplet.
The Doctor and Steven leave as the slaughter begins! 10,000 Huguenots were killed in Paris and the rest of France. Steven blames the Doctor for Anne Chaplet's probable death, and decides it's time to leave. It's unusual in Doctor Who for the Doctor to leave without having saved the day. The whole story builds to a climax and then the TARDIS occupants depart. We then get the best part of the story where Steven chastises the Doctor for his cavalier attitude, his reply is performed with elan.

The Doctor : "My dear Steven, history sometimes gives us a terrible shock, and that is because we don't quite fully understand. Why should we? After all, we're too small to realise its final pattern. Therefore don't try and judge it from where you stand. I was right to do as I did. Yes, that I firmly believe. " [Steven leaves the TARDIS] " Steven... Even after all this time, he cannot understand. I dare not change the course of history. Well, at least I taught him to take some precautions; he did remember to look at the scanner before he opened the doors. And now, they're all gone. All gone. None of them could understand. Not even my little Susan. Or Vicki. And as for Barbara and Chatterton - Chesterton - they were all too impatient to get back to their own time. And now, Steven. Perhaps I should go home. Back to my own planet. But I can't... I can't..."

Then, a girl comes into the TARDIS looking for help, this is Dodo. Steven returns and tells the Doctor he has to leave right away, two policemen are coming towards the TARDIS. Dodo has unwittingly joined the crew. She's an orphan (again), she looks like Susan (again), her grandfather was french and her surname is Chaplet. So we are meant to believe that Anne survived and Dodo is one of her descendants. However if Dodo is meant to be related to Ann Chaplet why is her surname the same? The name would have certainly changed through marriage, unless Anne happened to marry a man with the same name. Dodo's appearance doesn't prove Anne wasn't killed!

Jackie Lane as Dorothea "Dodo" Chaplet.
It's an odd choice to have the Abbot as the physical double of the Doctor. It's never explained and Hartnell doesn't appear anywhere near enough in the story to play one character never mind two. It's great to see Peter Purves as Steven get a chance to be the leading man. It's a shame he doesn't get a better story to prove himself, however he does a great job at believably portraying a man stuck in time. Seeing Hartnell play Amboise helps us to appreciate his characterisation of the Doctor, but that really is the only positive.

There are a lot of odd choices made in The Massacre, but the lack of music is not one. It gives each moment of suspense and the gradual build in tension the gravitas they deserve. As the video doesn't exist you really notice the lack of music.

Well, Steven survived The Massacre and we've got a new addition to the TARDIS crew, I wonder how she'll work out?? As the Doctor might say, "Hmmm?"

Join me next time for a story we can actually watch, The Ark.


Anonymous said...

All Anne Chaplet had to do was have an illegitimate male child who carried on her name...

Anonymous said...

What is a twenty-five year old woman, with large breasts, doing dressed as a schoolgirl and wandering around Wimbledon Common?

And why does Steven, pursued by two policemen, run into the Tardis and insist that they immediately take off?

This all sounds very dodgy to me.

Dodo's explanation that there's “been an accident. A little boy's been hurt and I've got to 'phone the police,” is clearly nonsense, as she never mentions this poor half dead sprog ever again, and Steven doesn't mention the incident at all.

And another thing, why would a real schoolgirl, whose first name is “Dorothea,” insist on being called “Dodo” instead? Surely, any playground bully worth his salt is immediately going to start calling her “Dildo”.

“Hey, Dildo! What have you got in that bag?”

"Hey, Dildo! Why are you walking funny today?”

"Hey Dildo! When are you going to upgrade to a Vibrator?”

And why is the Doctor, on meeting "Miss Dildo", immediately reminded of his Granddaughter, Susan? (And, come to think of it, why was Vicki found on a planet called “Dido,” which is just one letter off “Dildo”?)

Finally, why is it okay for the Doctor to pick-up prostitutes from 1966, but not from 1574?

The most obvious answer is that the Doctor, having discuss germinology with Charles Preslin, suspected Anne Chaplet of having the “French Disease,” and considered Dildo a better, cleaner, option. After all, they had penicillin 1966, and when was the last time someone caught syphilis from a phallus made of solid plastic?

However, by the very next episode, Dildo is feeling a bit ill, and suddenly the entire male population of the space Ark is infected, includes Steven (although it's possible that it was Steven who passed the infection onto Dildo from Dildo's great, great, great... etc. Grandmother, Anne Chaplet), and a number of Monoids.

Yes, Monoids. Imagine that. Dorothea "Dildo" Chaplet, dressed as a Knave, banging Monoids!

This also explains the idea behind all those publicity photos of Dildo being carried off by a Monoid into the jungle.

There are also photos of Dildo stroking an elephant's trunk, but I really don't think we should go there.

Lance Renetzke said...

No mystery about Dodo Chaplet being Annes descendant. Anne had an illegitimate son who took his mothers name and started the family line. Simples!