The Scarlet Pimpernel strikes to release those oppressed by The Reign of Terror! And, The Doctor buys some new clothes.
Okay, The Scarlet Pimpernel isn’t really in this episode, but we do have counter-revolutionaries attack the trundle carrying Barbara and Susan, releasing the prisoners. Our lead cast remains at four. Due to the incompetence of the jailer (and his fear of Robespierre), Ian is able to get the key to his cell. We also find that the distraction of the jailer was arranged by Le Maitre. The intrigue in this episode is already an improvement over the previous.
The heroic counter-revolutionaries are Jules and Jean. They rescue as many prisoners as they can and help smuggle them out of the country. Rouvray and D’Argenson had encountered Jules and Jean and sent to the farmhouse. We learn that there is a mole among the counter-revolutionaries. We also meet Leon, who brings word of a man asking after Jules (this man is Ian). Leon quickly charms Barbara, the cad.
The Doctor, donning the outfit of a Regional Officer of the Provinces, visit’s the jail to find his companions, but learns they are gone. He also meets Le Maitre, who invites The Doctor to accompany him to a meeting where this very province is to be discussed. The meeting is with Robespierre.
This episode had quite a bit of action and intrigue. It stands in stark contrast with the previous, which was largely scenes in prison or of travel. A Change of Identity moves back toward adventure with its Scarlet Pimpernel-inspired rescue. We learn of an underground movement of prisoners, a movement which has an informant giving information to The Committee of General Security.
Once more, the name of Robespierre hangs over this story, influencing and driving fear into people. Robespierre was one of the heads of The Committee of Public Safety, an committee that was formed after the fall of the French monarchy. The Committee of Public Safety intended to bring peace to the food riots and attacks against those considered traitors to the cause. Under Robespierre, The Reign of Terror began. Robespierre was an excellent orator and encouraged people to find traitors to The Revolution. He also encouraged the arrest and execution of moderates, some of which were the same people who helped instigate The Revolution in the first place. He believed punishment should be absolute and unquestionable. There has been some question as to how cruel Robespierre truly way. It is quite possible that his acts and ideas were exaggerated by his opponents and that even his allies may have blamed their acts on Robespierre to avoid their own punishment in the later days of The Revolution. Regardless, it seems obvious why Dennis Spooner would choose Robespierre as the villain of this piece. Or perhaps I should say ‘a villain’. We have an informant within the counter-revolutionaries who is ultimately responsible for the predicament in which our characters find themselves. Also of note is that this story takes place in 1794. This is the year of The Thermidorian Reaction, the revolt which led to the end of The Reign and saw the execution of Robespierre. Our characters are on the verge of witnessing even greater violence.
*Note: The Scarlet Pumpernickel, in case you were wondering.