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Doctor Who story number 21

Er, look, the background gives away the plot for this one, so you should go read the summary first if you hate that sort of thing, okay?

The story is often referred to as The Massacre Of St Bartholomew's Eve, which was the title in the 60's, but the BBC is calling it The Massacre today because it fits on a CD case better, so that's what the title is here. It's also a lot easier to say....

William Hartnell had been keen to play a role other than the Doctor for some time. His idea was that he could play the Doctor's evil son - ugh. However the producer at the time saw the benefit to an evil double story, and in a rare act of kindness to Hartnell (they were not on good terms at all) they made a story where Hartnell would play a villain - and not just any villain, but one who helps organise mass murder....

This story focusses primarily on Steven, who spends most of the story running around thinking the Doctor is involved in the events. It's actually good to see a story like this, but knowing that Hartnell was written out of most of the story because the producer and story editor were punishing him for transgressions makes the effect less notable (he was also on holiday during filming of episode two, but that only covers part of it, and if there's a story where Hartnell is not present for large chunks at this point in the series it would have definitely been deliberate exclusion). Thankfully there were only two more stories where this would be a big issue - after that it becomes an issue of Hartnell's health.

The story also introduces the obligatory Teenage Girl Companion (my, doesn't that sound shady), who turns up at the end of the story in one of the most contrived manners. The idea was originally for the Doctor to save a girl from certain death by taking her from Paris, but the production team thought it would be against the Doctor's desires to not interfere with history to do this, so she stayed. Of course they then implied she didn't get killed, which was a stupid "we have to have a happy ending" decision. We're left not really knowing much about Dodo, which is, well, irritating.

The BBC novel Salvation by Steve Lyons expands on the events of The Massacre: The effects of the adventure on the Doctor and Steven and also giving a possible explanation for Dodo running to the TARDIS that ties in with the events of the novel. Of course it should be taken with a large grain of salt, as it contradicts what she says in The Massacre, and anything not part of the TV series doesn't have to count.

The Massacre is sometimes said to be the best historical story, the best Hartnell story, or the best Doctor Who story. It's certainly the most serious, but the opinions of the quality can only be vouched for by people old enough to have seen the original transmission and remember it exactly. From just reading the script there is that feeling you're not really watching a Doctor Who story as there's not enough Doctor in it, so it's hard to say the acclaim is justified without being able to see the acting.

The Massacre is lost, but the audio recording exists, with linking narration by Peter Purves. You can also read the script (down the bottom) here:

John Lucarotti, Donald Tosh (episode 4)

This story has 4 episodes with individual titles:

  • War of God
  • The Sea Beggar
  • Priest of Death
  • Bell of Doom

Plot Overview
The TARDIS lands in Paris, 1572, and the Doctor concludes that it's the 16th century and decides he simply must go and see the apothecary Charles Preslin. In a tavern nearby we learn about the political situation as Gaston de Leran insults the Catholic bride of Henry of Navarre and Simon Dubar calls him on it. Nicholas Muss smoothes things over, but Dubar tells the landlord, a Catholic, to tell him what goes on. The Doctor and Steven arrive, and we find Steven not wanting to wait in he TARDIS - The Doctor wants Preslin all to himself and thinks Steven will get into trouble wandering Paris. Steven insists he won't interfere or get into trouble, so the Doctor leaves him, giving him a gold coin. The landlord cannot change it, but Muss changes the coin for Steven, who then asks him where to find Preslin - the Doctor was followed out of the tavern. Muss says he can take Steven later and invites him to join the group. Steven does, realising the Doctor can take care of himself.

The Doctor meets Preslin, who pretends to be someone else until he's sure it's safe to talk about his work. Meanwhile Steven gets some directions from the men in the tavern, and tells them he is a Protestant (whether he is just saying this to befriend them or it is true isn't clear). As he is about to leave a girl is chased into the tavern by guards, and the Hugenots block them from getting her - she has run away from the house of the Abbot of Amboise, where she is a servant. The guards leave, and de Leran and Muss offer to take Steven to Preslin, as he may need help on the streets. Steven insists on finding out why the girl, Anne Chaplet, was running, and she tells them that she is from Vassi, and overheard someone mention the town and "It might happen again" and something about it happening before the week is past - Vassi being the town where (at least) a hundred Huguenots were massacred by Catholics ten years before.

Meanwhile Dubar is talking to the guard captain who was after Anne, and he gives orders to find out where the girl lives. However de Leran and Muss have sent her to the home of the Admiral de Coligny, and then leave Steven to wait for the Doctor.We get a brief cut to see Preslin asking someone if they showed the Doctor the way to... somewhere (no, I don't get it either). Later, at the tavern, Dubar turns up and is told that Steven was involved in talking to the girl, and so Dubar asks some casual questions and tells Seven of the curfew. Muss returns and offers Steven lodgings at the home of de Coligny, and so Steven leaves, knowing that the Doctor often gets sidetracked - but Steven's leaving for lodgings at one of he heads of the Huguenot movement only serves to make Dubar suspicious of him. Meanwhile the Doctor is ordering some men to capture Anne tomorrow and bring her to him....

The next day, at de Coligny's home, Muss and de Leran are exasperated - Henry Navarre will not take the warnings based on the words of a serving girl seriously (and is also not wanting to cause more trouble by seeming to distrust the Catholics). Muss is starting to think the girl made an association between Vassi and the massacre when the people she heard were talking about something else. Steven returns from looking for the Doctor, and de Leran beleives he's been taken by the Catholics (and Muss says that some of the Huguenots are just as bad, but de Leran doesn't accept that). Muss offers to take Steven to Preslin, but before they go Muss has to meet with Roger Colbert, secretary to the Abbot of Amboise. Colbert is there to take Anne back, but de Leran protects her. Steven notes that Colbert was the one who followed the Doctor out of the tavern, and when Muss looks out and sees the Abbot himself has come looking for the servant Steven is shocked - the Abbot is the Doctor.

Stevens friends are appalled that they have befriended someone working for the Abbot, but Steven insists that it's a coincidence they look so alike, and offers to take Muss to the Doctor to prove it. In the palace Dubar is talking to Marshal Tavannes, who believes the Abbot has foolishly raised suspicion by going to de Coligny's home looking for the girl. Tavannes sets Dubar to watch the Abbot, and also see what he can learn about the English agent. de Coligny turns up just as Tavannes refers to "The Sea Beggar", and thinks he means the Dutch - Aid against Spain hinges not so much on whether the Dutch need it as to what religion is prominent in Holland. In Port st Martin teven and Muss search for Preslin, only to learn he was taken away two years ago,and probably burnt for heresy. Muss is more convinced Steven works for the Abbot, but Steven suddenly thinks that the Doctor is pretending to be the Abbot and escapes to try and reach the Abbot to see what's really going on.

Dubar ries to track down the Abbot, but Colbert hasn't seen him since they were at de Coligny's house. Colbert has only met the Abbot once, and seen him once before that. Dubar sends him to keep an eye on Steven. Back at de Coligny's home Anne is convinced Steven is not a spy but Muss returns and tells de Leran that he lost Steven, so they go to find him by looking for the Abbot. Back at the palace Tavannes gives orders for Dubar to pass on, the Sea Beggar is to die tomorrow when he returns from the Louvre. As Tavannes leaves Dubar remarks to Colbert that the order for the assassination came from the Queen Mother, Catherine de Medici. Steven is caught by de Leran while waiting to pass news to Muss, and they fight. Steven leaves just as Muss enters, and Muss is disspointed, he's still prepared to give Steven the benefit of the doubt. Out on the street Steven jumps out and surprises Anne who had been trying to follow him, she says she will be safer with him. Steven wants to know who the "Sea Beggar" is, and they go to spend the night at Preslin's abandoned shop as no one will be looking for her there. Back at de Coligny's home the Admiral remarks to Muss that if they ally with the Dutch he will be referred to as the Sea Beggar....

The next day Steven decides to sneak into the Abbot's home, and Anne tries to mess with his head by refusing to stay, wanting to go with him, but not to the Abbot's home. Geeez, she's only known him one day and she starts that crap already. Meanwhile de Coligny discusses aiding the Dutch in the Louvre. Charles IX is not keen to get involved, and de Coligny privately wishes for a war the king cannot renouce, not realising that by the end of the day this will come to pass. Charles refuses to allow a proper discussion of religious differences, and de Coligny remarks that he's too much under the thumb of his mother.

Steven meets the Abbot, thinking it's the Doctor. He and Anne overhear the Abbot discussing the assassination of de Coligny, and leave to warn someone. The Abbot sends men after them, just in case they overheard. Steven makes it to Muss and tells him where the assassination will take place, though how he knew is beyond he audience. The assassin shoots de Coligny but fails to kill him, and Tavannes blames the Abbot for the failure of all the plans and has him killed. Steven is with Muss and the wounded Admiral, and fully believes that the Abbot is the Doctor, but news comes to then that the Abbot has been killed - and the Huguenots are to blame.

Charles ries to have the streets cleared of Catholics around de Coligny's home (how exactly do they tell anyway), despite protests from one of the Huguenot councillors that it will make the Catholics hate his people more. Catherine comes in and admits to arranging the assassination, and tells Charles that because Henry of Navare is in the city the Huguenots want to remove Charles so a king more to their liking can be on the throne. In the streets people suround the Abbot's body and speak out against the Huguenot population. Steven finds the body and must flee from a mob when he is blamed for the death.

Back at Preslin's shop Steven tells Anne that he must find the TARDIS key, though she has no idea what he's talking about. They find the Doctor's cane and Steven wonders where the Doctor is, and then he turns up (about bloody time). At the Louvre Tavanne and Dubar plot to find Steven and kill him before he can disrupt their cover. When Steven tells the Doctor about the asassination attempt and Anne mentions that tomorrow is St. Batholomew's Day the Doctor suddenly orders her to return to her aunt's house and stay indoors tomorrow. He sweeps her out and tells Steven they have to get going, refusing to explain what's going on. Back at the Louvre Catherine passes the order from Charles to Tavannes, who has compiled a list of people to have killed, but Catherine doesn't care for the list, and doesn't care about his protests that the mob will kill people first and worry about their religion later. She does agree to get Henry out of the city to prevent a large scare holy war, and orders the gates of the city closed.

The Doctor and Steven rush to the TARDIS, passing soldiers raiding de Coligny's home, and leave as the slaughter starts. The Doctor tells Steven what just happened, and he's apalled at the Doctor's unwillingness to save anyone, and especially the way he sent Anne home. The Doctor says that if she died he was not reponsible, and Steven says he will leave when they next land. They land, Steven leaves, and the Doctor pauses to reflect how none of his travelling companions ever seem to understand the need to remain one step removed from events, and wishes he could return home. While he muses over this a girl runs in looking for the phone (police boxes had telephones for emergency use, remember?), and the Doctor tells her rather casually that she's in a time machine, not a police box, and she needs to look elsewhere. Steven comes back to tell he Doctor to take off as two policemen are coming to use the phone, and so he quickly does so - quite forgetting to let the girl out....

Seven notices the girl, and points out that the Doctor just abducted her, and the Doctor tells him he's being quite inconsistent - after all, Steven was just telling him off for not taking Anne in the TARDIS. Oh but what a happy ending, it's quite possible Dodo is a decendant of Anne, so it wasn't quite so bad leaving Anne behind.

So, with the audience feeling rather cheated, we go on to the next adventure....

Main Cast

  • Eric Thompson - Gaston de Leran
  • David Weston - Nicholas Muss
  • John Tillinger - Simon Dubar
  • Edwin Fenn - Landlord
  • Christopher Tanchell - Roger Colbert
  • Erik Chitty - Charles Preslin
  • Annette Robertson - Anne Chaplett
  • Clive Cazes - Captain
  • Reginald Jessup - Servant
  • Andre Morell - Tavannes
  • Leonard Sachs - Admiral de Coligny
  • Cynthia Etherington - Old Lady
  • Barry Justice - Charles IX
  • Joan Young - Chetherine de Medici
  • Michael Bilton - Toligny
  • Norman Claridge - Priest
  • Juba Kennelly - Old Man
  • Hugh Cecil - Priest
  • George Romane - Usher
  • John Slavid - Officer
  • Jack Tarran, Leslic Bates - Guards
  • Roy Denton, Ernest Smith, Will Stampe - Men
  • Notes

    • The end of each episode was to feature a print of 16th century Paris overlaid with the credits
    • The rewrites to this story were so extensive that John Lucarotti wanted his name removed from the credits, but that didn't happen.
    • While no actual deaths were featured, they played screams over illustrations of the massacre in the final episode

    The Catholics know of only one way to settle our differences. - de Leran

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