Doctor Doctor Who Guide

I always wondered why “The Massacre” was chosen to launch the BBC Radio Collection’s range of ‘lost’ stories on CD. Not only is it pretty awful, but it is completely and utterly dependent on the purely visual ploy of the Doctor and the Abbott of Amboise being almost physically identical! Perhaps the lack of telesnaps make this serial stand out as being ‘more lost’ than most others; in fact, “The Massacre” is one of the few Doctor Who TV serials (alongside “Galaxy 4” and “The Myth Makers”) that I have only been able to enjoy on audio CD.

Lucarotti and Tosh’s script tells an interesting tale set around a historical event that many people (myself included) know little of. The format of the serial is quite refreshing as for most of the story we do not see the Doctor; the story is told entirely from the viewpoint of his companion Steven. Peter Purves does a tremendous job of carrying the story almost single-handedly, so somehow it seems fitting that he should provide the linking narration. As “The Massacre” can now only be listened to, it is through Steven’s dialogue and Purves’ narration that we learn that the Abbott of Amboise is the Doctor’s double, and this works surprisingly well as the audience is unsure as to whether the Doctor really is the Abbott or not. Undoubtedly, on TV this would have been a far more effective gimmick, but thanks to Purves’ quite excellent narration at least the plot can be understood and followed on audio.

“I was right to do as I did… Even after all this time he cannot understand. I dare not change the course of history. Well at least I taught him to take some precautions. He did remember to look at the scanner before he opened the doors…”

I found the final episode to be the best of the four by far. “Bell of Doom” in a way mirrors the events of the earlier historical, “The Aztecs,” as the Doctor’s companion wants to change history. “The TARDIS leaves Paris as the carnage and the slaughter begins…”, and Steven is far from happy. He believes that makeshift companion Anne Chaplet will have been killed in the massacre, and blames the Doctor for not trying to save her, resulting in his decision to leave the TARDIS. As Steven disembarks in Wimbledon Common, we are treated to a rare Hartnell soliloquy (a la “The Dalek Invasion of Earth”) which highlights the more tragic side of the Doctor’s character – not Ian, nor Barbara, Vicki or even his “little Susan” could understand him, and now, like them, Steven has left him. The Doctor is so forlorn that he even contemplates returning to his home world, however, it is not to be as in one of the weirdest companion introductions ever Dodo Chaplet bursts into the TARDIS expecting to find a Policeman, Steven hot on her heels! It seems that Anne Chaplet may have survived after all… unfortunately. 

I say ‘unfortunately’ because I cannot stand Dodo. She’s horrible. She’s stupid. Really, really stupid! It takes her about five minutes to realise that she has wandered into a dimensionally transcendental time machine! “Where’s the telephone? There’s something odd going on here…” she eventually says. When the Doctor suddenly dematerialises the TARDIS, snatching her away from her customary time and place, likely never to return, she doesn’t even care! Steven is more annoyed with the Doctor than she is! I can understand the production team not wanting to re-hash the Ian and Barbara storyline, but this…

At the end of the day, “The Massacre” is certainly no lost classic, and if you never listen to it you aren’t really depriving yourself of a pivotal part of the Doctor Who canon. Generally speaking, I don’t think that the standard of Doctor Who’s (almost extinct) third season is up to the standards of seasons one and two; stories like “The Massacre” and companions like Dodo certainly not doing the show’s third run any favours!

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