…let us pray (that William Hartnell will remember his lines, if nothing else), it’s…
In which the Doctor goes to the pub and ends up with a double; Steven finds himself down and out in Paris (not London); while in the final few moments of the last episode a big lumbering gormless bird enters the ship.
- the Doctor immediately knows it’s France. No, not because there’s a half-eaten croissant lying on the pavement, but because there’s a French street sign on a nearby wall.
- ‘You’ll be surprised what I’ve got in my wardrobe’ says the Doctor when Steven asks him if he’s got the correct clothes for them to don. I’m guessing a couple of rubber wetsuits, a maids outfit and an enormous pile of “top shelf” magazines.
|Steven just wished the Doctor|
would sod off so he could
get on with some serious
|Anne still wasn't all that|
sure about the rules of
"soggy biscuit" but never
mind...she hadn't eaten for
three days, so at least
it would be a free meal
if she lost.
- Is the Doctor the Abbot of Amboise? - erm…well…um…your guess is as good as mine. In Episode One, Preslin fills him in on just who the Abbott is - the Cardinal of Lorraine’s right hand, visiting Paris while the Cardinal himself is in Rome. A man far more ruthless than his spiritual superior. This news is enough to whet the Doctor’s appetite and he instantly considers paying him a visit. Clearly, he doesn’t want the Abbott’s religious zeal to interfere in any way with the work being carried out by the likes of Preslin, who’s opposing beliefs may place them in great danger. His last words before he disappears until the final episode are ‘Hmm, I wonder’. Preslin, we learn, has a boy take him to some undisclosed destination and when the boy reports that he got there safely, Preslin wishes the Doctor luck, so something’s definitely afoot. But what? The mystery deepens in Episode Two when Steven and Nicholas, searching for the Doctor in the Port St. Martin, learn from an Old Lady that Preslin hasn't lived in his shop for around two years. Eh? So who was it the Doctor met? And why doesn’t anyone in the neighbourhood know that the building is once again occupied? (Or is she just a mad old bat who couldn’t tell the difference between a bucket of horse dung and a pair of slippers? Or possibly lies intentionally because of her dislike for Preslin over his religious differences?)
Meanwhile, Simon questions Roger about the Abbott, at which point Roger reveals he only met him for the first time proper the previous day. Prior to this he only glimpsed him on one previous occasion, so, due to everyone's unfamiliarity with him we’re obviously being encouraged to think that this is indeed the Doctor. Plus the Abbott is a recent arrival in Paris (he wasn’t in residence when Anne overheard the conversation about Vassy in the previous episode, for example). Marshal Tavannes is inherently suspicious of the Abbott and tells Simon to keep an eye on his every move, perhaps adding further weight to this theory. The conundrum deepens when the Abbott seemingly goes missing from his quarters towards the end of The Sea Beggar, much to Tavannes chagrin. Simon states they’ve looked everywhere for him. If it is the Doctor, has he either gone looking for Steven to let him know what he’s up to, or is he carrying out covert investigations of his own? If the former, then he’s unsuccessful as their first meeting is clearly in Priest of Death, whereupon Steven almost gives his game away by calling him Doctor as they're introduced, an exclamation which the Abbott immediately silences. Just as they’re on the verge of being left alone together, Tavannes enters, meaning that the only chance there is of the Doctor breaking his disguise, if indeed it is he, is frustratingly lost.
|You can rub that magic lamp|
all you like Bill, it's not going
to stop you getting fired a
few stories from now!
Ultimately there’s no explanation at all as to the Doctor’s whereabouts for the two episodes in which he goes missing, his only response to Steven’s questions when they're reunited being he was ‘unavoidably delayed’. If he was masquerading as the Abbott then you’d think it wouldn’t come as such a surprise to him to hear from Anne that tomorrow is St. Bartholomew’s Day; surely being in such a position, even temporarily, would’ve meant it would be nigh on impossible for him to have remained oblivious to the upcoming festivities. Perhaps his absence had something to do with removing Preslin - whose work after all held great importance to the future of mankind - to a place of safety?
|Steven had never been|
approached by a chap on the
street offering him money
for a "gob job" before...
however, £50 seemed
- Charles IX is more interested in tennis than being a bit of a git to a load of Huguenots. Must be Wimbledon fortnight. He’s a huge fan. I wonder if he’s got that poster of the female tennis player minus pants scratching her arse on his bedroom wall? The assassination attempt on de Coligny means his game is interrupted. With the episode lost, it’s hard to tell if he comes on from the court with a towel around his neck, drinking a glass of barley water. His character will be instantly recognisable to anyone who’s ever read Viz, being as he is a sort of sixteenth century version of Spoilt Bastard.
- in Priest of Death it gets a bit like Day of the Jackal, only in tights.
- when Bondot (the name’s Bondot, James Bondot…license to kill [Protestants]) fires his gun a dog starts yelping. Without moving pictures you could be forgiven for thinking he’s the crappest shot in Paris. Either that or a pet assassin trying to get a foot up the hired-killer ladder.
|Catherine de Medici is|
miffed in the extreme when
she discovers she
hasn't even made it into
the top two-hundred
of the "France's
Best Mother" competition.
- Is Dodo related to Steven? - or, to put it another way…do Steven and Anne have sex whilst taking shelter in Preslin’s shop? Possibly, although there’s very little evidence. Episode Three might be missing, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t begin with a close up of a used condom lying next to their makeshift bed, or indeed with a topless Steven tugging on a post-coital Marlboro Light. Steven is, however, a bit short with Anne the following morning when she inadvertently wakes him up with all the noise she’s making as she rummages through the cupboards (perhaps looking to see if Preslin has a supply of morning after pills?)…so much so it very much feels as if he’s doing that thing of dealing with the guilt over his actions of the night before by taking it out on her. Not that I’m suggesting he took advantage of her or anything. Good heavens, no! There’s no need to get Operation Yewtree involved. They’re both lost and lonely souls and a comforting cuddle in the middle of the night might’ve led to a mutual decision to take things further (to the accompaniment of a Murray Gold score I can imagine). And in Steven’s case, after spending so long in captivity he wouldn’t need much encouragement to “empty the tank” as ‘twere. Anne’s certainly much more chipper with the dawn of a new day…usually the sign of a good seeing-to the night before…certainly in my experience! And later on Steven appears to be extremely concerned over her future safety, walking out on the Doctor for abandoning her in the middle of an atrocity. So…they “did it”, Anne got preggers, Steven buggered off before she could hit him with the words ‘Child Support Agency’ and she was left to bring up a baby all alone in a country where she and her kind were reviled as dissenting religious scum. Bet she didn’t even get a council flat! It doesn’t seem very likely that a child born in such circumstances (if indeed her pregnancy lasted its full term) would stand much of a chance, does it? But stranger things have happened, and, after all, extreme adversity can do wonders for the survival spirit.
|Hmmm...not a good time to|
discover you have an
acute aversion to beards
I'd have thought!
- Dodo’s Accent of the Week - Steven asks her ‘but you're not French are you?’ Indeed not, in this her first episode she would appear to come from somewhere in the vicinity of Grimsby. I can almost smell the herring.
- Death-O-Meter: 170. Abbot of Amboise - murdered on the orders of Marshall Tavannes for being about as good at his job as Derek Nimmo’s character in Oh Brother!
(That’s the only on screen death this episode. You might think, ‘Gosh, with a story titled The Massacre of St Bartholomew’s Eve we got away fairly lightly as far as the old death-count is concerned'. However, about ten minutes before the episode ends the shit hits the fan in a rather large way and, although we may not see in real time the slaughter which befell Paris, we’re left in no doubt it wasn't a very pleasant sight thanks to the soundtrack and various woodcarvings utilised. An estimated 2000 Protestants were murdered in Paris [not, as the Doctor states, 10,000], with the total in the whole of France reaching as many as 10,000. De Coligny doesn’t fare too well. As if it wasn’t bad enough that they tried to shoot the poor old bugger, on the morning of 24th August the carnage kicked off when his lodgings were raided by a Catholic mob and he was thrown from a window into the street, mutilated, castrated, dragged through the mud, thrown in the river, suspended on a gallows and burned. After all that I’m guessing he’d have had more than just an annoying headache that wouldn’t go away. He doesn’t make the list though as we don’t see it happen, and bearing in mind what I’ve just said about the circumstances of his death, that’s probably just as well, otherwise it’d be more like watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre than Doctor Who.)
Score on the TARDIS Doors - 7 - just like a modern day Doctor-lite episode, this does for Peter Purves what Turn Left did for Catherine Tate and The Girl Who Waited for Karen Gillan - gives him the chance to show everyone at home just what it is he’s capable of. And he rises to the challenge superbly. In the old days when the Doctor buggered off for a few episodes there were three companions to help plug the William Hartnell shaped hole, but that’s not the case here and it’s to Peter P's credit that our attention doesn’t stray from the desperate and utterly confusing situation Steven suddenly finds himself in for a single second. Not that Mr H is off down the south-coast again, but, to be honest, he might as well be as the Abbott of Amboise does very little in the two episodes in which he appears (he’s no lines at all in The Sea Beggar). Rather we’re presented with the fact that the Doctor seemingly has a double and left to get on with it, much as Steven is. As a result we find ourselves sharing in his incomprehension and frustration, which in turn allows us a real insight into Steven the person rather than Steven the cipher. For the first time since Barbara left I found myself really empathising with a companion. His desperation when he thinks the Doctor is dead is palpable, and his search for the TARDIS key - his one last futile hope of getting away from a time and place which is more alien to him than the metal city of Mechanus is to us - agonising. The script is rich and complex and makes no concessions to the kiddies watching, or to the adults come to that, certainly not as far as its detailed depiction of a relatively obscure period of history in concerned. However, for me, it all falls apart in the last episode, with the lack of a definite answer as to the Doctor’s absence being its main downfall. It feels as though John Lucarotti is being deliberately vague because he didn’t really have the answer himself - I’m sorry but ‘unavoidably delayed’ just isn’t good enough. Also the ending is horrendously contrived. You can see what the production team were trying to do, but it’s a bit ham-fisted. It just comes across as a tacked on “happy ending”. However, if nothing else the whole Dodo bit does make for some interesting fan theories.
|Quick Doctor, lock the doors!|