Sunday, 7 October 2012

Story 22 - The Massacre of St. Bartholomew's Eve

In which the TARDIS materialises in Paris in August 1572. The Doctor and Steven visit a tavern where they witness an example of the tensions which are building in the city - an argument between a Catholic and a Protestant Huguenot. The Doctor decides to pay a visit to the renowned apothecary Charles Preslin in order to discuss his work. He warns Steven to keep out of trouble. Steven is invited to join a group of young Huguenots. Nicholas Muss informs him of the background to the tensions. Many Huguenots have come to the city from all over France for the wedding celebrations of Protestant Prince Henri of Navarre and the Catholic Princess Marguerite of Valois - sister of King Charles IX. The marriage has been arranged by the Queen Mother, Catherine de' Medici, in an attempt to reconcile the two faiths.

Later that night Steven, Nicholas and another young Huguenot called Gaston, meet a Protestant serving girl named Anne Chaplet. She is trying to avoid being sent to the household of the Catholic Abbot of Amboise. She has overheard some soldiers discussing a possible attack upon the Huguenots in the city. Nicholas sends her to the household of his employer, Admiral de Coligny, who is very close to the King, even though a Protestant.
de Coligny has a political, and spiritual, rival in Tavannes, Marshal of France.
The following day, the Abbot sends his secretary Colbert to see Nicholas - claiming that Anne is unreliable. Steven later sees Colbert talking to the Abbot - and is shocked to discover that he looks and sounds exactly like the Doctor. He has Nicholas guide him to Preslin's shop to find the Doctor. Nicholas becomes suspicious when it appears the shop has been deserted for some time. He begins to suspect Steven may be a Catholic agent. The two argue and Nicholas storms off.

Tavannes and other Catholic nobles convince the King and his mother that the Huguenots must be exterminated. A massacre is planned for the forthcoming Feast Day of St Bartholomew - the 23rd. It is this plot which Anne has heard about. de Coligny refuses to believe his friend the King would sanction such an act. He is unaware that his death is already planned. Anne knows that someone known as "the Sea Beggar" is to die - and this is the Admiral. He is shot, but survives, badly wounded. Tavannes blames the Abbot for the failure and has him killed. Steven is unsure that it is not the Doctor that has died - perhaps he had been in disguise. However, he is reunited with the Doctor back at Preslin's shop. They hurry back to the TARDIS as the massacre begins. Steven is angry that they have made no effort to save Anne and the others whom he had befriended. He decides to quit the TARDIS when it next lands. This proves to be Wimbledon Common, 1966. A young woman named Dodo (short for Dorothea) enters the Police Box as she needs to report an accident. Steven returns and learns that Dodo's surname is Chaplet. Perhaps Anne survived after all. Dodo is an orphan who lives with an aunt whom she loathes. The Doctor makes a hurried dematerialisation as two policemen approach - with Dodo still onboard.

This four part story was written by John Lucarotti, apart from episode 4 which was co-written with Donald Tosh. It was broadcast between 5th and 26th of February, 1966. Lucarotti may have gotten the credit, but it is actually Donald Tosh throughout. Lucarotti was so angry at having his own script ideas turned down that he demanded his name be taken off the whole programme, though this did not happen in the end. Tosh ended his tenure as story editor with part three - hence why he could only get a credit for part four. Incoming story editor Gerry Davis also had a hand in the fourth part. It is the first Doctor Who story to be directed by a woman - Paddy Russell. Sadly, it is missing from the archives, though we do have the soundtrack to enjoy.

The choice of subject matter is a brave one - a period of history which most viewers would have known little or nothing about. For most people, the Reformation means Martin Luther and Henry VIII, but religious wars and persecutions lasted almost continuously for a century or more across Europe. The massacre lasted many days, and triggered further atrocities in other French cities. Henri of Navarre was spared, and he would actually go on to become King of France - as Henri IV - but only after converting to Catholicism. He was assassinated in 1610 by a Catholic fanatic.
The bleak subject matter permeates the whole story. It's a dark and sombre tale. Peter Purves has cited it as his favourite story. This is partly because he gets so much to do. The Doctor only appears at the beginning and end of the story. The Abbot is also played by Hartnell. We never see both of them together. Like Steven, we do not know if this is a double of the Doctor - or the Doctor in disguise. Thus his death comes as quite a shock. Hartnell plays the Abbot absolutely straight, without any of the vocal mannerisms he gives to the Doctor - showing just how much of his Doctor is performance.
As with the previous story, the viewers at the time might have thought they were seeing the new female companion in Anne (Annette Robinson). Instead, we get introduced to her possible descendant Dodo (Jackie Lane) at the end of the story. Lane had been under consideration for the role of Susan back in 1963.

There is a very strong supporting cast - of special mention are Andre Morrell (TV's third Quatermass) as Tavannes and Leonard Sachs as de Coligny. He will return to the programme as President Borusa in Arc of Infinity. Christopher Tranchell makes the first of three appearances in the programme. He plays Colbert. He also appears in The Faceless Ones and returns to sweep Leela off her feet at the end of The Invasion of Time.
Episode endings are:

  1. War of God - We see the Abbot for the first time - and he appears to be the Doctor in disguise.
  2. The Sea Beggar - de Coligny tells Nicholas that the King has given him the title of "Sea Beggar". He doesn't realise that Tavannes has just ordered the assassination of someone with this title.
  3. Priest of Death - As the Abbot lies dead, Colbert incites the crowd against Steven - accusing him of being involved. Steven runs for his life.
  4. Bell of Doom - The Doctor dematerialises the TARDIS with Dodo still onboard. 

Arguably the best of the historical stories, and one of the best Hartnell stories overall. Strong performances and a dark and sombre theme. One of the most adult Doctor Who stories. Such a pity it is one of the missing ones.
Things you might like to know:

  • Jackie Lane quit acting to become a theatrical agent. Amongst her clients were Tom Baker and Janet Fielding.
  • There was a planned cameo appearance for Ian and Barbara at the conclusion of the story. They would have spotted the TARDIS on Wimbledon Common just as it dematerialised. Whilst scheduled, it was never filmed.
  • It is highly unlikely that Dodo is a direct descendant of Anne - unless she had an illegitimate son. In the Target novelisation (by Lucarotti) Anne is given a brother who might be Dodo's forebear. 
  • The "Eve" of the title must refer to the build up to the massacre - as the actual event took place on St Bartholomew's Day. 
  • Some BBC materials have the shorter title of "The Massacre", but the full title predominates.

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