Monday, April 27, 2009

H6 - Prisoners of Conciergerie

And so the first season of Doctor Who comes to and end with a bit of a whimper, storywise, but the final scene in this, the final installment of The Reign of Terror, is a magical and important scene. The travelers, now back in the TARDIS and safely on their way, reflect on the history that they have witnessed during their time in post-Revolutionary France. The Doctor and Susan, experienced time travelers both, insist to Ian and Barbara that the events they saw would have played out whether they would have been there or not, whether they would have tried to interfere or not.

It's an interesting change from just a few weeks before in The Aztecs when The Doctor explicitly states to Barbara that she "can't change history. Not one line!" That line of dialogue had always been implied as meaning that someone (perhaps The Doctor himself) was forbidden to change history (presumably by the Time Lords, about whom we'll hear a great deal in the months to come). But, in The Reign of Terror, the implication is that to change history is physically impossible, the thinking being that if it did happen, it will happen. Was this intentional on the part of the show's creators? Or was it the 60's version of destroying their own established continuity, a la Mawdryn Undead?

Then there's that superb final shot of a starfield with The Doctor's words echoing out through the cosmos - "Our destiny is in the stars, so let's go and search for it." The line is meant to wrap up the first season before it went into a (then epic length) 10-week summer hiatus. But it really sets the stage for the programme's future. The main theme of Season 1 was of characters trying to find their way home. The Doctor and Susan often lamented about not being able to return home, Ian and Barbara wishing and hoping that The Doctor will be able to take them back to their own time and place, and even guest characters such as Marco Polo were a long way from home, looking to get back.

This conservative approach was also reflected in the stories of the first season and the place of The Doctor and his companions in them. Throughout the stories in this season, the main story thrust was the travelers getting separated from the safety of the TARDIS, and fighting desperately to get back there. With The Doctor's final line in this episode, it sets a new course for the programme. This quartet are now content as travelers, not wanderers in search of a home, and they are eager to see what awaits them on their further adventures.


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