I’m always excited to hear that a classic Who episode is arriving on DVD. When the Doctor happens to be William Hartnell, I’m even happier. So few of his and Patrick Troughton’s episodes survived The Great Archive Wipe that any remaining episodes from Doctor Who‘s early years are always welcome. “The Reign of Terror” was one of the episodes that suffered from archive erasure back in the 1970’s, but various audio recordings survived, and the BBC took the audio and animated the missing episodes so that the serial is once more complete! How awesome is that? It’s a technique I hope they employ to replace the other missing episodes because very few things are better than watching an old black-and-white Who episode…especially the purely historical ones like “The Reign of Terror”. In my opinion, Doctor Who was at the top of its game in this story; the writing was outstanding, and the Doctor himself was in top form. When Ian and Barbara learn they have inadvertantly arrived in the middle of the French Revolution, they are keen to get back to the TARDIS immediately, but Susan cautions them that they probably won’t be leaving anytime soon because the French Revolution is the Doctor’s favorite period in Earth’s history. It was certainly easy to believe that, judging by the way the Doctor clearly enjoyed dressing up as a government official and ordering people around. He was in his element and loved every minute of it.
Something I found interesting to note, though, was the developing friendship between the Doctor and Barbara. Ever since the beginning, the Doctor had been protective of Susan and grudgingly tolerant of Ian (I think if he could have gotten away with stranding Ian on a deserted island, he would have), but he was more accepting of Barbara, perhaps because Barbara had been more open-minded about who and what the Doctor claimed to be. Barbara was never afraid of challenging the Doctor when she thought the situation required it, but they eventually developed a friendship of sorts. In fact, the Doctor seemed to regard Barbara as a sort of confidant, telling her things that he couldn’t trust with Susan or Ian.
Long story short: “The Reign of Terror” is a triumph of classic Who. Now go watch it.