Shows - Review
By the time I get to this point of the Hartnell years, I tend to lament the state of the historical stories, feeling they had become a bit stale by the third season of Doctor Who. And then, along comes a story, written by the master of the historical stories, John Lucarotti. Lucarotti, you may remember, also gave us Marco Polo and the Aztecs, two of the best historicals the series did--and in the case of the Aztecs, one of Who's best overall stories.
And here, Lucarotti gives us yet another great historical story. Part of this is that Lucarotti tries to get into the history lesson in a different way. Instead of looking a hugely famous people from history, Lucarotti examines the more common people that are affected by the sweeping changes of history. In the Aztecs, we saw a bit of the daily life of the Aztecs and with the Massacre, we see how the events of the massacre of St. Bartholomew's Eve were affecting not only the royalty, but also the common person. And it works very well.
The story is one that is interesting enough because it chooses a small focus--the days leading up to the massacre. We get some idea of the politics of the time and how the people might have been feeling. We see some of the power struggle at the top and how it affects all those under it. I admit that I'm not strong on the history surrounding the events portrayed here, but the story made me genuinely interested to want to find out more. Which is high praise for a historical story.
The story is pretty much carried by Peter Perves as Stephen since the Doctor vanishes mid-way through episode one and doesn't crop up again until episode four. But he does a great job and really runs with it. There are some great moments when Stephen wonders if he has been abadoned in time and space and Purves does a marvelous job with them. Also doing a good job is Hartnell, who gets to play a dual role as the Doctor and the Abbott. Indeed, one of the things that drives the story is wondering if the Doctor is the Abbott and vice versa. Of course, since the Abbot gets killed, we can assume the Doctor isn't--or can we? Looking back at this story through the prism of the McCoy era, we are left to wonder if this wasn't an early sign of the time's champion/manipulative Doctor that was yet to come. (I love it when you re-examine an old story in a new light). But whether or not that is true, all I can say is that Hartnell does a great job, creating two distinct characters.
But the real reason the story is successful is that it hinges a lot on the characters. There are some great moments in here for the regulars. I mentioned Stephen's concern that he is trapped in time and space. But there's also a long soliquoy by Hartnell at the though of Stephen's departure. Indeed, the historical aspect of the story ends early in episode four and we're treated to some great scenery chewing by Hartnell and Perves. We got some echoes of the Aztecs as we see Stephen frustrated that he couldn't change history and his lashing out at the Doctor for not doing something. And then the soliquoy of the Doctor, wondering how he will travel through space and time alone is nicely done.
So, the Massacre is an unexpected surprise in the third season of Doctor Who. I must admit I found myself enjoying it a lot more than I thought I would. It's one of the stories from the Hartnell era that has moved up on my wish list of stories I would like to see resurface.
Last Updated: 10/25/2006
Other Reviews by Michael Hickerson
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