Doctor Who (1963–1989)
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Prisoners of Conciergerie 

Ian finally delivers his message to James Stirling but in order to secure Susan's release he and Barbara are forced into a dangerous spying mission.


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Episode cast overview:
James Cairncross ...
John Law ...
Paul Barrass
Tony Wall ...
Patrick Marley ...
Keith Anderson ...
Jack Cunningham ...


Ian finally delivers his message to James Stirling but in order to secure Susan's release he and Barbara are forced into a dangerous spying mission.

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Release Date:

12 September 1964 (UK)  »

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Technical Specs

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


This episode was watched by 6.4 million viewers on its original transmission. See more »


Paul Barras's name is misspelled in the closing credits. See more »


Dr. Who: Well, I can assure you, my dear Barbara, Napoleon would never have believed you.
Ian Chesterton: Yes, Doctor, but ah, supposing we had written Napoleon a letter, telling him, you know, some of the things that were going to happen to him.
Susan Foreman: It wouldn't have made any difference, Ian. He would have forgotten it, or lost it, or thought it was written by a maniac.
Barbara Wright: [wryly] I suppose if we'd tried to kill him with a gun, the bullet would have missed him.
Dr. Who: Well, it's hardly fair to speculate, is it? No, I'm afraid you ...
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Featured in Don't Lose Your Head (2012) See more »

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User Reviews

S1: The Reign of Terror: Needed more consistent tension and a bit of help with the historical context
16 August 2013 | by See all my reviews

Having thrown a strop at the end of the previous story, the Doctor decides to take Ian and Barbara back to where they came from and get shot of them. Landing in green fields everyone assumes they have done it aside from a bit of a train journey I suppose) but in reality they have missed their target physically and time-wise, landing in France in the middle of the French Revolution. A very small percentage error when viewed in the context of their whole journey, the Doctor rightly points out, but it doesn't change anything and soon enough the travelers are in trouble, separated and involved in another historical event that they cannot change but at least have to survive.

This story is missing two episodes, although this is only a third of the episodes so I decided to watch it anyway, since the middle episodes are the one missing so a plot summary online would carry me across to the conclusion. "Not following" was an issue sooner than I expected because, while I can understand the basic actions involving our quartet, I really didn't know who any of the other characters were. On one hand I appreciate the writers respecting my intelligence and assuming that I would know who Robespierre, Barras and others were but the reality is that they got it wrong because I do not deserve their respect and this is not a part of history I know really anything about. The better course would have been to introduce and explain the context without making me feel spoon fed, but as it was I felt I was missing things and not just because of the missing two episodes.

Perhaps due to this, the plot didn't quite grab me although I did appreciate the history and the well designed sets and costumes. I'm not sure why they bothered shooting outdoors just for the sake of a couple of shots of the Doctor walking, but I guess it is historically valuable since this is the first (or at least the first one I saw – some other episodes are lost too). The cliffhangers are a bit forced here and they feel too obvious, like they are replacing a more consistent sense of danger and tension – which they are I guess. The cast are roundly good though and I enjoyed that there was a nice edge of humor to the serial; Hartnell had the best of it in some of his interactions and I liked his playful dialogue which worked well with some of the incidental music being given a Gaelic touch. The rest are solid although again Ford is pushed into a blubbering mess again – the writers seem to struggle to find a good middle ground for her character, she seems to be wise and confident or totally losing her head, nothing in between.

The Reign of Terror was the final serial of the first series and, while it was not the best, it was pretty decent for what it did. I would have liked a more consistent sense of tension and danger and for sure I would have liked it to have helped me out a little bit with the historical context and not assume I understood everything simply from their names.

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