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The Reign of Terror (Doctor Who)

The Reign of Terror is the partly missing eighth serial in the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in six weekly parts from 8 August to 12 September 1964. The story was set in France during the period of the French Revolution known as the Reign of Terror.

008 – The Reign of Terror
Doctor Who serial
Reign of Terror.jpg
Susan and Barbara take a journey to a possible painful end: Madame Guillotine
  • Keith AndersonRobespierre
  • Tony Wall — Napoleon
  • Jack Cunningham — Jailer
  • Jeffry Wickham — Webster
  • Neville Smith — D'Argenson
  • Laidlaw Dalling — Rouvray
  • Peter Walker — Small Boy
  • James Cairncross — Lemaitre
  • Roy Herrick — Jean
  • Donald Morley — Jules Renan
  • Caroline Hunt — Danielle
  • Edward Brayshaw — Léon Colbert
  • John Law — Paul Barras
  • Dallas Cavell — Road Work Overseer
  • Dennis Cleary — Peasant
  • John Barrard — Shopkeeper
  • Ronald Pickup — Physician
  • Howard Charlton — Judge
  • Robert Hunter — Sergeant
  • Ken Lawrence — Lieutenant
  • James Hall — Soldier
  • Patrick Marley — Soldier
  • Terry Bale — Soldier
Directed by Henric Hirsch
Written by Dennis Spooner
Script editor David Whitaker
Produced by Verity Lambert
Mervyn Pinfield (associate producer)
Executive producer(s) None
Incidental music composer Stanley Myers
Production code H
Series Season 1
Length 6 episodes, 25 minutes each
Episode(s) missing 2 episodes (4 and 5)
Date started 8 August 1964
Date ended 12 September 1964
← Preceded by Followed by →
The Sensorites Planet of Giants
Doctor Who episodes (1963–1989)
Doctor Who episodes (2005–present)

It was the second incomplete Doctor Who serial to be released with full-length animated reconstructions of its two missing episodes.



The Doctor, Ian, Barbara, and Susan arrive outside Paris in 18th-century France and venture to a nearby farmhouse. They find it is being used as a staging post in an escape chain for counter-revolutionaries during the Reign of Terror. They are discovered by two counter-revolutionaries, D'Argenson and Rouvray, who knock the Doctor unconscious and hold the others at gunpoint. A band of revolutionary soldiers surrounds the house and both D'Argenson and Rouvray are killed during the siege, but only after they have worked out that there must be a traitor in their escape chain. The soldiers capture Ian, Barbara, and Susan and march them to Paris to be guillotined. The soldiers set fire to the farmhouse – unaware of the Doctor inside.

The Doctor awakes the next morning to find he has been saved by a young boy, who tells him that his friends have been taken to the Conciergerie Prison in Paris. He sets off after them.

Ian, Barbara, and Susan are all sentenced to death as traitors. Ian is confined in one cell, while the women are taken to another. Ian's cellmate is an Englishman named Webster who only lives long enough to tell him there is another English spy, James Stirling, highly placed in the French Government, who is now being recalled to England. It was Webster's job to find him and he only knows that Stirling can be found through Jules Renan at the sign of "Le Chien Gris". Once Webster is dead, a government official named Lemaitre arrives and probes any conversation between Ian and the dead man. Lemaitre crosses Ian's name off the execution list.

En route to the guillotine, Barbara and Susan's transport is hijacked by two men, Jules and Jean, who take them to a safe house. They are told that they will be smuggled out of France through the escape chain. Jules and Jean reassure Barbara that they will try to reunite them with Ian and the Doctor. They are then joined by another counter-revolutionary, named Leon Colbert.

The Doctor reaches Paris and exchanges his clothes for those of a Regional Officer of the Provinces. He heads for the Conciergerie, but finds his companions gone. Ian has successfully stolen the key to his cell and escaped. Lemaitre arrives and takes the Doctor to visit Maximilien Robespierre to report on his province.

Ian follows Webster's words and finds Jules Renan, who turns out to be the man sheltering Barbara and Susan, who is ill in bed. When Barbara takes her to a physician they are recaptured by revolutionary police. Ian meets Leon Colbert only to find he is the mole in the escape chain and there are armed troops waiting for him. Jules Renan rescues Ian, killing Colbert in the process. They return to Jules' house and are stunned to meet Barbara.

The Doctor has returned to the Conciergerie, where Lemaitre reports that Robespierre wishes to see him again the following day. Lemaitre ensures that the Doctor spends the night in the Conciergerie in order that he remain in Paris for his second audience with Robespierre. He is still there when Barbara and Susan are brought in as prisoners. With Susan too weak to be moved, he engineers Barbara's release on the pretext that she can be trailed to lead the security forces to the core of the escape chain.

Robespierre suspects his deputy, Paul Barras, is conspiring against him and asks Lemaitre to track Barras to a secret assignation at an inn outside the city. When Lemaitre heads back to the Conciergerie he privately unmasks the Doctor as an impostor. Lemaitre insists that the Doctor help him find Jules Renan's house. With Susan held in the prison as a hostage, the Doctor takes him to Renan. Once there, Lemaitre reveals that he is in fact the English spy James Stirling. In response, Ian relays Webster's message about "Barras, meeting, 'The Sinking Ship'" and Stirling realises that the secret assignation at an inn on the Calais Road is where the conspiracy will take place. Jules, Ian and Barbara head to the inn and overhear Barras conspire with a young general, Napoleon Bonaparte, in the indictment and overthrow of Robespierre.

The following day Stirling arranges Susan's release from prison. The coup against Robespierre has begun. Stirling heads for Calais and England; Jules and Jean will lie low as they measure the future; and the Doctor and his companions are keen to return to the TARDIS.


In a number of 1970s listing guides, the story was called The French Revolution. This appears to derive from a promotional article in the BBC listings magazine Radio Times entitled Dr Who and the French Revolution.

Hungarian director Henric Hirsch, inexperienced in working for television, had difficulty coping with the cramped Lime Grove studios, out-of-order shooting sequences and William Hartnell's lack of respect for him. As a result, he collapsed during shooting of the third episode. As producer Verity Lambert and production assistant Tim Combe both felt unable to run a studio, a short term replacement for Hirsch was found; Combe believes this to have been John Gorrie, who previously directed The Keys of Marinus (although Gorrie stated in The Keys of Marinus DVD commentary that he has no memory of directing that Reign of Terror episode), or possibly associate producer Mervyn Pinfield. No additional director is credited on-screen. Hirsch recovered in time for the filming of episode four, with his troubles eased by the production moving to Television Centre, Combe taking on some of the director's duties and Hartnell being more considerate of his manner towards the director.[1]

William Russell was on holiday during filming for episodes two and three, and appears in pre-filmed inserts only. Further filmed inserts in episode two feature long shots of the Doctor walking across countryside towards Paris. Brian Proudfoot doubles for the Doctor in these scenes,[2] which marked the first ever location filming for Doctor Who.[3]

Cast notesEdit

Edward Brayshaw later featured in The War Games as the War Chief. Roy Herrick later provided one of the voices of Xoanon in The Face of Evil and appeared as Parsons in The Invisible Enemy. Ronald Pickup appeared in the audio play Time Works as Kestorian and Spaceport Fear as Elder Bones.

Missing episodesEdit

This Doctor Who story was bought and screened in 19 countries, starting with Australia in September 1965. The last known television broadcast of this story was in Ethiopia, which screened it over six weeks between 24 June and 29 July 1971. On the instructions of BBC Enterprises, the copies Ethiopia screened were returned to the BBC in London in April 1972.[citation needed]

All six episodes were lost in the BBC's stock clearance of the 1970s. However, a copy of "Prisoners of Conciergerie" was returned by a private collector in 1982. In October 1984, copies of "A Land of Fear", "Guests of Madame Guillotine", and "A Change of Identity", along with another copy of "Prisoners of Conciergerie", were found in Cyprus. They were duly returned early in 1985 and the recovery was formally announced in July of that year. Cyprus did not screen The Reign of Terror (broadcasts ended with the showing of episode six of The Sensorites on 25 November 1966); the prints that were screened had been sent to Cyprus from Malta.[citation needed]

As a result of these episode recoveries only two episodes (parts 4 and 5, "The Tyrant of France" and "A Bargain of Necessity") remain missing; although copies of these episodes had also been held in Cyprus, they were destroyed in the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus.[4] For the 2013 DVD release, episodes 4 and 5 were animated by Planet 55 Studios and Big Finish Productions.

Broadcast and receptionEdit

Episode Title Run time Original air date UK viewers
(millions) [5]
Archive [6]
1 "A Land of Fear" 24:24 8 August 1964 (1964-08-08) 6.9 16mm t/r
2 "Guests of Madame Guillotine" 24:04 15 August 1964 (1964-08-15) 6.9 16mm t/r
3 "A Change of Identity" 25:23 22 August 1964 (1964-08-22) 6.9 16mm t/r
4 "The Tyrant of France" 24:46 29 August 1964 (1964-08-29) 6.4 Only stills and/or fragments exist
5 "A Bargain of Necessity" 23:51 5 September 1964 (1964-09-05) 6.9 Only stills and/or fragments exist
6 "Prisoners of Conciergerie" 25:04 12 September 1964 (1964-09-12) 6.4 16mm t/r

^† Episode is missing

In 2008, Patrick Mulkern of Radio Times gave a positive review of the serial, despite noting an initial dislike for it. He wrote positively of the humour and Hartnell's increased role, but felt that Susan was "at her weakest".[7] SFX reviewer Ian Berriman gave the serial two and a half out of five stars, calling it "really rather dull" after the first episode and noting that it was assumed the audience knew the history of the French Revolution.[8] The A.V. Club's Christopher Bahn gave the serial a negative review stating that after a compelling beginning it " falls victim instead to the number one problem of all mediocre Who serials, stretching too little story over too many episodes, and worse, it keeps retreading the same basic plot of having the characters captured, thrown into the Conciergerie Prison, rescued, recaptured, then escape and be recaptured again."[3]

Commercial releasesEdit

In printEdit

The Reign of Terror
Author Ian Marter
Cover artist Tony Masero
Series Doctor Who book:
Target novelisations
Release number
Publisher Target Books
Publication date

March 1987 (Hardback)

20 August 1987 (Paperback)
ISBN 0-491-03702-3

A novelisation of this serial, written by Ian Marter, was published several months posthumously by Target Books in March 1987.

Home mediaEdit


An audio-only version of this serial was released on CD by BBC Audio in 2005, with linking narration by Carole Ann Ford. This edition was re-released in August 2010 as part of The Lost Episodes: Collection One 1964-1965.


In October 2003, this story was released in the US on VHS, as part of a "collector's set" meant to celebrate the show's 40th anniversary by releasing all previously unavailable serials. It was then released in the UK in November 2003 and was the last VHS release. In this edition the missing episodes were bridged with short video links by Carole Ann Ford.

In November 2004, existing clips from episodes 4 and 5 were released on Region 2 DVD in the three-disc Lost in Time set.

The full serial was released on DVD in region 2 on 28 January 2013 with the two missing episodes reconstructed through animation.[9][10] It was released in region 4 on 6 February 2013 and region 1 on 12 February 2013.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "Don't Lose Your Head", DVD extra for The Reign of Terror (2013)
  2. ^ 17.14.59 T/R DR. WHO - EPISODE 2: 'GUEST OF MADAME GUILLOTINE' (23/1/4/3160), Television Service- BBC1: Saturday: 15.8.1964, p. 2,, page 4/12, retrieved 11 March 2013.
  3. ^ a b Bahn, Christopher. "Doctor Who (Classic): "The Reign Of Terror"". Retrieved 18 December 2017. 
  4. ^ Molesworth, Richard (1998). "BBC Archive Holdings". Doctor Who Restoration Team Website. Archived from the original on 28 December 2012. Retrieved 17 February 2013. 
  5. ^ "Ratings Guide". Doctor Who News. Retrieved 28 May 2017. 
  6. ^ Shaun Lyon; et al. (2007-03-31). "The Reign of Terror". Outpost Gallifrey. Archived from the original on 2008-03-31. Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  7. ^ Mulkern, Patrick (7 November 2008). "Doctor Who: The Reign of Terror". Radio Times. Retrieved 2 December 2012. 
  8. ^ Berriman, Ian (25 January 2013). "Doctor Who: The Reign of Terror Review". SFX. Retrieved 28 January 2013. 
  9. ^ "The Reign Of Terror episodes to be animated". Doctor Who News Page. 2011-06-02. 
  10. ^ classicdw. "Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 2013-10-09. 

External linksEdit