Wednesday, April 22, 2009

H2 - Guests of Madame Guillotine

With Ian, Barbara, and Susan taken off to Paris to languish in a dungeon before being executed, The Doctor is given a few scenes on his own in this episode where he walks down some nice country roads on his way to Paris to save his friends. On the way, he meets and thanks the boy who saved him from the burning house, and comes across a work party run by a crooked foreman. It gives William Hartnell a chance to shine, and his scenes in this episode are an unequaled delight. His scene with the boy, Jean-Pierre, is a hoot, in which he salutes and exits the scene by giving the strangest wave in television history. His duping of the foreman in the latter scene is, as the story goes, pointless, but worth it to see The Doctor whack the man over the head with a shovel (even though the direction of Henric Hirsch prevents of from seeing such a blow).

Meanwhile, in Paris, Barbara and Susan make a futile attempt to dig their way out of their prison cell while Ian, whose prison cell is encased in 16mm film, learns a secret from a dying fellow prisoner. It says something about the character of Ian that while Barbara, Susan, or even The Doctor were written out of the story for a couple episodes to grant their respective thespians who portray them a holiday, they are barely glimpsed in the episode they've missed (and, in the case of Barbara in The Sensorites and The Doctor in The Keys of Marinus, they are not seen at all), Ian still features on screen for a normal amount of time. Despite the increase in attention on The Doctor's character since the beginning of the season, it's quite apparent that Ian still carried a great deal of weight in the eyes of the storywriters. (And, looking back, you can probably tell that William Russell's scenes were shot during the rehearsals for episodes of The Sensorites where he was simply required to writhe back and forth on a bed for a week and a half).

As for the actual story - what of the message that the dying man told to Ian? And who is this mysterious man who came to see him in the prison? Will Barbara and Susan escape the guillotine? Will The Doctor go back to collect those gold coins? And was he lying about the impending eclipse? Was he???


chris burgess said...

Aww, and no mention of the first ever location filming being done in this episode? =)

Erik said...

Since none of the cast was actually there, I don't think it counts.

Steven said...

Take that, Chris from four years ago!

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