Reign of Terror presents us with one of the most tragic examples of the wiping/junking of old stories. One can only imagine the lack of taste or any sense of televisual history of whoever decided to keep four episodes of this turkey and only junk two of them.
Just imagine – that’s another four episodes of Dalek Master Plan we could have in exchange for losing Reign of Terror completely. If they’d also junked any two surviving Dodo episodes, we could have got the full Power of the Daleks in exchange.
Episodes 5 and 6 of Reign of Terror are, of course, animated. The animation is fairly rudimentary (alas, we’re not talking “Ludwig” here) but that’s all I need. I’ve never been able to develop interest in the audio soundtrack CDs of missing Doctor Who stories which were written to go with video. I need a visual reference point, however basic. This was still a bit of a slog though. If only we’d been given some half-decent scripting or character interaction which can usually take our minds off the lack of anything actually happening in Classic Who. But the scripting in Reign of Terror is little more than stage directions and characterisation is restricted to Susan being on her default whiny setting. Oh, Grandfather, I’m so scared. Oh, Barbara, I’ve got a terrible headache. Oh, Ian, I can’t walk another step. Don’t tell me that the Doctor abandoned Susan at the end of Dalek Invasion of Earth in order to allow her a life of her own. He’d finally got fed up with her. “One day I will return”, my arse!
Susan is proof that it’s nonsense that children watching Doctor Who need a young companion to identify with. I’d be willing to bet that the kids of the Sixties saw Susan as the rest of us saw Adric in the Eighties – an embarrassing pain distracting us from the interesting grown-ups.
Reign of Terror would have fared much better if it had suffered the fate of the pre-rediscovery Tomb of the Cybermen. It could have gone down in legend as the lost classic of the French Revolution. The whole six episodes amount to little more than an exercise in banal tedium. For an historical, it doesn’t even have the redeeming quality of being educational. Any child of the Sixties would have been hard put to work out that it was even connected to the French Revolution. As a fictional historical, it could have had fun focusing on tale of Scarlet Pimpernelish derring-do. As a meaty historical, it could have concentrated on Robespierre and Napoleon. Unfortunately, they get sidelined in favour of six episodes of getting locked up, escaping, getting locked up again, escaping again, ad infinitum.