C022 The Massacre of St Bartholomew’s Eve

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In addition to The Doctor, Hartnell plays a different character in this one, who also goes on holiday. And then we get a new, annoying companion.

The Doctor and Steven materialise in 16th century Paris, where catholics are hunting down protestants (and scientifically inclined ones, in particular, it seems) like there’s no tomorrow. They immediately split up, as Doc wants to meet with an apothecary named Preslin, and Steve wants to go sightseeing.

Instead, however, Doc goes on holiday and Steve makes friends with Nicholas and Gaston of the Huguenot resistance when he learns from a girl, Anne Chaplet, that the catholics are plotting another protestant massacre, and he decides to help his new friends thwart it. There is also, however, going to be a political assassination, and he’ll need to stop that as well. But he doesn’t know when that’s meant to happen, nor who the target is.

And just to make things extra weird, the massacre and the assassination are planned by, among other people, the Abbot of Amboise, who looks exactly like The Doctor and is in fact played by William Hartnell. Is it The Doctor in disguise? Steven certainly thinks so. Wonder if he’s right, if we’ll ever find out, or if indeed it even matters…

Here's what we think




Here's what you think

4 Responses to “C022 The Massacre of St Bartholomew’s Eve”

  1. Gallifreyan Buccaneer | @alunrtrussler

    Wrapping up what I like to call the First Doctor’s “Death and Loss” trilogy is The Massacre. Or, the Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Eve if you want to be pedantic!

    Another favourite of mine that has to be watched in sequence with both The Myth Makers and The Daleks’ Master Plan to truly be appreciated. At the end of DMP we have both The Doctor and Steven haunted by the loss of Katarina, Brett, and Sara. The TARDIS team has returned to two, not seen since we first met The Doctor and Susan.

    That sense of loss weighs over this story, but is also exacerbated by the events of that take place. After the first episode, Steven is left alone in a pub, in a foreign land and time, and won’t meet the Doctor again until episode four. Or will he? Enter: The Abbot of Amboise. With a striking similarity to the Doctor, we as fans can speculate that this is the time-stream being weird again. Salamander will be the spitting image of the Second Doctor in Enemy of the World; Commander Maxil, played by Colin Baker, shoots the Fifth Doctor in Arc of Infinity; and Caecilius in the Fires of Pompeii has the distinctive eyes of a future incarnation of a particular Time Lord…

    The problem with this serial being a recon, is that we are unsure if The Doctor is impersonating the Abbot, as Steven assumes, or that he’s a completely different individual. A good topic of discussion but irrelevant to the story in the end. The Doctor returns in episode four, telling Steven that they have to leave. Steven can’t decide whether to take his new friend and possible future companion Anne Chaplet with them, and in the end decides to abandon her to an ultimately grisly fate.

    Once again, we have the loss of potential of a future companion. And here, even more-so that the DMP, The Doctor has failed to save anyone. He states once more that you can’t change history, something I touched on in The Myth Makers, where he himself does so (admittedly, out of desperation but it leaves a bitterness against the Doctor; that he can change history to save his own skin, but Steven can’t save the innocent Anne). So when Steven is so disgusted with the Doctor’s actions, and threatens to leave this death-filled adventuring, it’s hard to argue with him.

    It’s all the more poigiant as we as viewers feel frustrated that after the event of the DMP, Steven decided to hold his trust in The Doctor throughout The Massacre. Friendship and trust is being broken and it’s heartbreaking.

    The contemplation of the Doctor, alone for the first time, in his TARDIS is one of my favourite scenes in all of Who. Hartnell’s acting is superb (as far as we can tell from the audio) and hammers home how alone he can feel away from his home and his race.

    So out of all this death and loss comes hope in the form of Dodo Chaplet. Her surname implying that Anne did survive the Massacre, coupled with her youthful energy and lack of puzzlement bring fresh air into the stagnant TARDIS. Steven returns to the TARDIS, The Doctor has a grand-daughter figure to dote upon again, and the team set off to a brighter future.

    The Massacre gets a 4.5 from me.

  2. Stephen | @sgamer82

    In “The Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Eve”, Steven is caught up in the middle of brewing conflict between Catholics and Protestants in 16th century France. This serial is Steven Taylor’s story, being the first serial to have only a single companion, and the Doctor being absent except for the very beginning and very end.

    Among the thoughts that came to mind as I listened to this serial’s audiobook are that this story probably shows us the biggest difference between Steven as a companion compared to his predecessors; especially Barbara. Steven was completely out of his depth as he bravely, but ineffectively tried to help the men who had shown him friendship. Barbara would likely have had enough knowledge to know what was coming from the outset (as the Doctor did once he realized the date) and recognize terms like “Sea Beggar.” And while Steven did the best he could, he was ultimately lost without the Doctor’s guidance. Compare this to Ian, who had consistently acquitted himself well on his own.

    Steven’s strength is perhaps in his morality. He genuinely wanted to help people he had befriended because it was right to do so. Learning they were doomed and that the Doctor could not or would not do anything about that for even just one potentially doomed person stretched his morals to the breaking point. Yet that same desire to help his friends urges him to return to the TARDIS to warn the Doctor about police coming to use the police box despite that breaking point.

    While the Doctor had little role in the story, the same can not be said of William Hartnell, as he portrayed the Abbot of Amboise. I enjoyed the tension caused by Steven not knowing whether the abbot was actually the Doctor in disguise. A reasonable assumption given the Doctor’s track record in pulling similar tricks, but in this case false. Something we the audience get early on when one of the Catholics reveals he’d seen the abbot before the story. Though not much comes of it as Steven only gets one very brief face-to-face with the Abbot.

    Another thought that occurred to me is that what is perhaps the biggest weakness of the Historicals is also their greatest strength. By weakness, I mean that someone who is unfamiliar with the period being visited, such as myself (I am by no means knowledgeable about French history) might find it hard to follow the history side of the plot. Compare that to a pure sci-fi story, where the locale visited is new to everyone. But that is also its strength, since these episodes were designed to EDUCATE the audience about these periods. I don’t know French history but I do know more now than I did going in.

    The one potential downside to this is that it is a particularly dark story. Perhaps not an issue when standing on its own merits, but after the so very costly victory achieved in “The Daleks Master Plan”, a story focusing on religious conflict may not have been the greatest of choices to make. On its own, however, the story stands decently strong and earns a 3.9 from me. The only true negative was that not much was made of the the Abbot’s looking like the Doctor in my opinion. The idea had potential and did create interesting tension, but in the end felt like it was only there to confuse Steven.

    One final point I wanted to mention in this review is not directly related to the episode itself but more of a general detail. Something I’ve come to enjoy in watching the Hartnell episodes is, once in a blue moon, I’ll see something that ends up fitting modern Doctor Who every bit as well with as it does with classic, despite the fact it could not possibly have been planned that way. My favorite such example is early in “The Space Museum”, where Barbara describes the Doctor with a line that fits everyone from Hartnell to Smith and very probably Capaldi: “The Doctor’s curious. That means we stay.”

    In this story, I refer to the Doctor’s ending monologue, which fits very well with modern Doctor Who’s interpretation of the Doctor as a very old but also very lonely being. He laments his past companions being unable to comprehend the nature of what they do (and, amusingly, still getting Ian’s name wrong in the process). Despite the usual outward grumpiness, he seems thrilled that Steven returns and that Dodo has gotten herself hijacked but has no issue with going back home anytime soon. I don’t know if the modern day showrunners drew anything from this scene or not. Regardless I’m sure there are modern Who fans will have seen their Doctors in that part of the episode.

  3. Peter Zunitch

    This one was rather enjoyable except for two points.

    First, I have no idea why there’s this whole sub-plot that the Dr. Looks like someone else. With the exception of one dramatic moment, it’s meaningless to the story. We barely even see the person he’s supposed to look like.

    Second, (admittedly the fault of my own ignorance), I know little of what went on in this era that many of the references, and indeed much of the plot is meaningless to me. For the most part I blame myself, but the writing leaves little room for someone not in the know to catch up. Past historicals did a better job at fulling in the background for the uninformed.

    Steven is phenomenal in this story, as are many of the supporters. The setting and costumes are great as is the mood. Pacing is overall good, except perhaps so,e of the “scheming” scenes with the royals, which went on for too long only to arrive at the same conclusions they started out with at the beginning of the scene.


    • Peter Zunitch

      (I accidentally wrote a review for this story twice. Without any editing I’m posting the 2nd one as well. It might be interesting to see if I feel the same way with my “from memory” as with my “first impression” which is above. One thing I did note is that the final rating is identical :))

      Last things first. The foiled departure of Steven was a stroke of genius! We won’t see that again until Tegan. You sit here annoyed that he’s leaving on such a sour note (and yet you understand, so you feel bad for it), and you miss him…and then he comes back. What a great character moment for both him and the Doctor that also shows that the doctor does indeed feel every loss, and gives a moment to remind the audience of the mystery around his character at the same time.
      The story could have, and indeed should have been written without the Doctor’s doppelganger. The story was just fine without that. I would have preferred to just see the actual doctor more often.
      This is another of episodes where Steven shines. He’s very resourceful on his own and makes it through this almost single handedly. The supporting cast here is phenomenal as well, and the conflicts, mistaken assumptions and redemptions are a thing of beauty to behold. It’s as if they’ve been working together for decades.
      I must say that I’m tired of the doctor just happening to look like someone. It’s been used too many times and we’re only on the first regeneration. What’s this, 3 now? And the dalek doctor makes a fourth. Once per regen is enough. Further this plot point goes nowhere and does nothing, save reminding us that this is a show about a guy who isn’t actually appearing this week. That part could have been dropped entirely and replaced with some great character revealing contrast scenes of the doctor in the countryside tinkering and kicking one back with his fellow scientist.
      Finally, I know this is my ignorance, but I keep getting confused by which queen is which and who is plotting what, and why doesn’t she talk, and oh how I wish that scene where they are all talking about exactly what we just watched was removed. I find this story a treasure to watch, brought down only by a slight lack of action and a few unnecessary moments that could have made way for more of the delicious ensemble acting throughout the rest of the piece. By far the best story for Steven’s character in his entire run. 3.7


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