Click here to return to the main site.

DVD Review

DVD cover

Doctor Who
Reign of Terror


Starring: William Hartnell
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: PG
Available 28 January 2012

Having travelled with his companions for one season, the Doctor attempts to return Ian and Barbara back to their original time and space. Although he successfully returns them to Earth, it is in 18th century France that they land, the time of vicious political fighting, and the reign of terror. Mistaken for rebels, the Doctor is separated from his companions and must journey into Paris, the heart of power and the most dangerous place in France...

The Reign of Terror is the story which closed William Harnell's first season as the Doctor. Written by Dennis Spoone and mostly directed by Henric Hirsch.

The early days of Doctor Who continued to fulfil its educational remit by putting on historical stories. Of course, there had to be some dramatic content and what better time to place the Doctor in danger than 1794 France, during the bloodiest year of the French revolution, which was to see the fall of Robespierre and the rise of Napoleon.

Once the party land they stumble across a cottage which holds clothes for them to change into. The building is being used by an underground organisation which is rescuing victims from madam guillotine. Laudable though this seems, the local authorities take a different view. They capture Susan (Carole Ann Ford), Ian (William Russell) and Barbara (Jacqueline Hill) and leave the Doctor, apparently dead in a burning building. The group is taken to the Conciergerie Prison, headed by Lemaitre, who is in reality James Stirling, a British spy.

Posing as a Regional Officer of the Provinces the Doctor discovers that his companions, Susan, Ian and Barbara have already successfully escaped the prison, with the aid of Lemaitre and his disguise gains him access to the highest offices of power, including Robespierre.

One of the things which a modern audience will notice, certainly one brought up on the more action orientated new incarnation of the show, is just how slow some of the old stories seem. This one certainly bowls along at an overly leisurely pace. When the DVD box says: "mild peril" they're not kidding. The story was another victim of the Beebs short-sighted destruction of shows, with two of the episodes still missing. In order to overcome this little problem episodes four and five have been replaced with animation married to an off-air audio recording.

While not the best historical drama, from the Who stable, Reign, nonetheless has reasonable production values, great costumes, the colour photographs makes not being able to see the show in colour a real crying shame, and a high quality of acting from all concerned.

The picture is pretty good with a mono audio track and a full length commentary with Toby Hadoke, Tim Coombe, Carol Ann Ford, Ronald Pickup, Patrick Marley and Neville Smith, although not all together or in all the episodes.

The age of the show and lack of surviving actors and production staff means that the extras are a little thin on the ground. We start with Don’t Lose Your Head (25 min, 05 sec) which is the documentary about the show's making. The most interesting aspect is the story of the director’s meltdown during recording. Robespierre’s Domain Set Tour (2 min, 45 sec) is a look at the animated sections backgrounds. The pictures are rendered in black, white and grey scale to blend in with the original show. There is a self-playing photo gallery (4 min, 11 sec) and one for the animated sequences (3 min, 40 sec). The disc wraps with the usual PDF materials and info text.

Ultimately, it’s not a bad story, although not one of the greats, with well-drawn characters, who do lean towards stereotypes. It should appeal to those who feel that original Who was at its best when the stories were set on Earth.


Charles Packer

Buy this item online

We compare prices online so you get the cheapest deal
Click on the logo of the desired store below to purchase this item.

£14.99 (
£19.99 (

All prices correct at time of going to press.