The Reign of Terror
First Doctor - 8th Serial
6 Episodes, Companions: Ian, Barbara, Susan, as before
Summary: Immediately following the events of The Sensorites, the Doctor angrily drops Ian and Barbara off on what he thinks is their home - and while it is Earth, once again it is the wrong time. Their squabble quickly forgotten in the urge to commit breaking and entering at a chateau in the French countryside, where they discover they are in the French Revolution, and quickly become entangled in the intrigue and horror of the era. They are discovered by a pair of rebels (although in this era, everyone's a rebel right? Rebelling against the crown, the church, the rebellion itself) and then captured by French soldiers. The Doctor is nearly killed when the soldiers randomly decide to burn the chateau, and the others are sentenced to death by guillotine. Before long, they are all captured and released and captured again, taking sides in the Revolution and even becoming involved in the drama of espionage during the bloodiest era in France's history.
The Doctor: The Doctor is very prideful again, although he soon gets his comeuppance when he is forced to work in a peasant work crew. He soon gets the finery of a nobleman, and spends the rest of the Serial with his nose on the air, even in prison. He plays the part really well, though. Without the companions at his side for most of the entire Serial, he shines. He's quite likable here, after watching him get the comeuppance he needed to put him back down from his snooty treatment of Ian. He maintains strength of character and wit throughout the remaining 5 episodes, a hopeful sign of the writing we are likely to see from him in the future!
Companions: None of them are bad, or given to useless roles, but this one was odd in it's handling of the companions. Most of the time, the story focused on the Frenchmen, revolutionaries or otherwise, and I felt that the companions and the doctor were once again involved observers, with occasional threats of death. There's not really anything of note to call for any of them - Ian remains steadfast, clever, and loyal, Barbara continues to be strong and in control. Susan continues to be a victim, unfortunately. I liked watching Ian and Barbara squabble about morality and treason in the fifth episode, it's good to see the group disagreeing with someone other than the Doctor. Just like a real family!
Continuity: We see once again that while the Doctor has all of time and space at his command, locating a specific point in space-time is pretty darn hard. It is the first time we see the TARDIS materialize, instead of simply jump-cutting to where it was, BUT it does so without the (soon to become) familiar WHOOSH WHOOSH sound. In fact, it's completely silent, which is kind of jarring, in perspective. I suppose at this time it's nothing unusual at all. Actually, given the materialization, I'm reminded of the references in Marco Polo to the TARDIS flying through the air, and note here that it absolutely does not. The references to meddling in history at the beginning hearken back to The Aztecs. And here, while the company become involved, and theoretically affect things (telling people Napoleon will become ruler, for example), they do not try to actively steer things the way Barbara did back then. Susan started the series borrowing a Book on the French Revolution, noting it was inaccurate, which probably explains how the Doctor could go incognito so well - they had been to this era (Historically the Revolution was itself technically over at this point) so they knew the customs. Ending the Season near the French Revolution is a nice bookend.
Rating: Bear it. Using the Keys of Marinus as a benchmark, this wasn't that bad. I really don't like seeing the companions and the Doctor being observers, though, and that's most of this Serial. By the time they do get involved with the actual story, beyond getting captured and escaping and getting recaptured, I've long since lost interest. Still, it ends well, and the Doctor is worth watching in this Serial. Skip it if you like, but if you watched Keys of Marinus, Watch this one, so that you can see that that one truly was the worst of the Season. If you do want to skip the first 5, go ahead. The last one of the Serial is pretty good.