The TARDIS lands in post-Revolutionary France. Susan, Barbara and Ian are captured by revolutionaries, sentenced to be guillotined and taken to prison. The Doctor meanwhile ends up posing as a regional official and meeting the tyrant Robespierre himself. Will the TARDIS crew escape with their heads?
The deeper dive:
• The Reign of Terror was the final adventure of Doctor Who’s triumphant first season.
• Watch out for some uncharacteristically violent scenes: in episode two, where the Doctor knocks out the works overseer with a shovel, and in episode six, when Robespierre is shot in the jaw off-screen.
• It features the first location filming in Doctor Who’s history, as the First Doctor wanders the French countryside. As William Hartnell was busy filming in studio, a double was used.
• The serial is missing its fourth and fifth episodes. These have been reconstructed using “Thetamation” – a combination of traditional line-drawing and CGI – and coupled with off-air audio recordings. See some exclusive clips of the animated episodes here.
Don’t Lose You Head tells the troubled story of producing this adventure, complete with the physical collapse of its director during a studio recording session. Robespierre’s Domain Set Tour lets you have a look at some of the beautiful set animations.
The Reign of Terror is a good, solid First Doctor story, with lots of fun historical adventure to it. William Hartnell shines as the Doctor, clearly feeling comfortable in his role by the end of the first year. The joy he takes in causing trouble on the work gang, his growing affection for Barbara and Ian, and his turn as a terse regional official all give him fantastic scope to play. It’s also a great example of how Doctor Who adventures with missing episodes can be restored their former glory.
The bottom line:
A pleasingly reconstructed slice of historical Who.