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Lost Hartnell Stories: The Massacre

Although the episodes themselves no longer exist, I was able to listen to the audio of the lost Hartnell story “The Massacre” (originally called “The Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Eve”).  It was the fifth story of the third season and the Doctor’s only companion at this point is Steven (Peter Purves).  The final episode introduces the Doctor’s new companion, Dodo Chaplet (played by Jackie Lane).

The Doctor and Steven enjoy a drink in the tavern.

The Doctor and Steven enjoy a drink in the tavern.

The story takes place after the events of “The Daleks’ Master Plan.” The TARDIS materializes in Paris in 1572. When the Doctor figures out what time period he is in, he decides to visit the famous apothecary Charles Preslin.  After taking Steven to a tavern, the Doctor feels that there is no need for Steven to accompany him. He allows Steven to have some time to wander around Paris on his own, telling him that he is not to talk to anyone, lest he betray that he is not from the time period. They agree to meet back at the tavern in the evening.

Of course it does not take long for Steven to disobey the Doctor.  He does not have the money required to pay his bill, and a man steps in to help him.  The man is Nicholas Muss, and soon Steven has joined his group.  Nicholas and the others of his party are Huguenots, and it is through them that Steven becomes involved in the deadly conflict between the Huguenots and the Catholics.

A servant girl, Anne Chaplet runs into the tavern.  Since she is a fellow Huguenot, Nicholas and his friends hide her from the guards who are following her, but only Steven is curious as to why she is running. Thanks to Steven’s curiosity, the group learns that she works for the Abbot of Amboise and has overhead men discussing a Huguenot massacre.  Since the Doctor, who has been visiting with Preslin, has not returned, Steven agrees to spend the night in the home of the Admiral de Coligny, Nicholas’ master.

From there, Steven becomes involved in intrigues plotted by the Queen Mother, Catherine de Medici, and is suspected of being a spy by his Huguenot friends, while the Doctor is nowhere to be found.  Although the Abbot of Amboise does bear a striking resemblance to the Doctor…

I would imagine that Peter Purves is very disappointed that this story was lost, since this really is Steven’s big moment.  The Doctor is absent for parts two and three of this four part story, although he does play the evil Abbot of Amboise in several scenes (which I would love to be able to see).  The story really follows Steven’s adventures.  It actually allows Steven’s character to  develop more than any of the surviving episodes, as it becomes clear that Steven has a very strong sense of what is right and what is wrong and does not hesitate to become involved. In fact, Steven becomes so upset at the Doctor for not doing what he considers the right thing that he almost leaves at the end of the episode.

Steven and his Huguenot friends

Steven and his Huguenot friends

Steven’s anger is understandable when you remember that the previous adventure saw the first companion death on the show (Katrina) as well as the death of several other important characters.  Steven was already starting to question if stopping the Daleks was worth the cost in human lives.  Then, in this episode, the Doctor leaves, knowing that he cannot change the course of history, but all Steven sees is the Doctor doing nothing to prevent the slaughter of his newfound friends.  His anger is quite understandable, as he often does not seem to see the big picture.

The story is actually quite dark for a children’s program.  All of Steven’s friends are left to be slaughtered by the Catholics, although it is implied that Dodo is a descendant of Anne Chaplet, showing that she survived the massacre. There is also no comic relief to break the tension of the story.  I did, however, enjoy the mystery of whether the Doctor was impersonating the Abbot or if the Abbot just happened to look exactly like the Doctor.  That, along with the fact that these were historical events with which I was not terribly familiar, made it a rather suspenseful story.

When it comes to Dodo, I feel the less said, the better.   Seeing how she came to end up traveling with the Doctor did not make me like her any more.  In fact, it almost made me like her even less, as she seems to be the only companion not to notice that the TARDIS is larger on the inside.

Overall, however, I enjoyed the story.  It was a suspenseful, engaging tale, with many interesting supporting characters.  It’s incredibly well written. It also had a rare moment in which Hartnell shows a vulnerable side to the Doctor.  When he thinks that Steven has left him, leaving him to travel on his own, the Doctor takes a moment to reflect on all the companions he has lost.  It was a rather poignant moment, even if the appearance of Dodo did ruin the moment a bit.

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5 responses to “Lost Hartnell Stories: The Massacre

  1. Great write-up. I’ve read the novelization of this story, but I understand that it is rather different from the televised version. You do raise a very good point, that this was probably Steven’s big moment during the character’s time on the show, and it is a huge shame this is lost.

    Reading your review, it once again causes me to wish that Steven Moffat would have Matt Smith appear in a “pure historical,” i.e. one without any aliens or monsters. What would happen if the Eleventh Doctor was thrust into events like this, where he really could change very little?

    Makes me appreciate that we do have such Big Finish audios as The Marian Conspiracy, which follow in the tradition of stories such as this and The Aztecs.

    • I agree that I would love to see another “pure historical” Doctor Who episode. Those are some of my favorite episodes from the Hartnell era. I think it could be especially interesting to see with the Eleventh Doctor because he, unlike Hartnell, doesn’t usually respond well to not being in control of events. I’m looking forward to listening to the Big Finish audios, and I’m glad to know that they continue the historical tradition.

  2. Awix

    I think the problem with doing a ‘pure historical’ in the current show would be the expectations of the audience. Also, what kind of pure historical? Setting aside the first two Lucarotti scripts (which, as we’ve discussed, aren’t strictly ‘pure’ historicals at all), you either mean a story set during significant historical events (which basically reduces the Doctor to an ineffectual figure as he can’t be seen to change history, only protect it from alien menaces), or just an adventure set in the past – a rip-roaring pastiche like The Smugglers or The Highlanders. I’m not sure the BBC would go for either; they like monsters…

    • I know it won’t happen, for exactly the reasons you mention, but the historicals are some of my favorite stories (and their modern counterparts have been some of my favorites of its new run). An episode like “The Romans” or “The Crusade” wouldn’t work today, when the Doctor can sonic his way out of anything, but I enjoy seeing the Doctor deal with events and people in earth’s past, even when there is no alien threat.

      • Awix

        I agree, it’s nice to see a different style of storytelling sometimes. I have a recon of The Massacre somewhere, haven’t watched it in seven or eight years – my recollection is that it didn’t impress me nearly as much as – for example – Marco Polo.

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