104 – The Sea Beggar (The Massacre Part 2)

Written by John Lucarotti and Donald Tosh
Directed by Paddy Russell

Steven’s friendship with The Huguenots is called into question when he mistakes The Abbot of Amboise for The Doctor.  Meanwhile, assassins begin plotting the death of a person they refer to as The Sea Beggar.

The Sea Beggar

“You see shadows where there is no sun.”

One reason I wish this story remained in the BBC archives is due to the companion-centric nature of the story.  Steven is the lead here.  More than that, however, doesn’t know much more than us about what is going on.  The story, quite brilliantly, plays on the resemblance of The Doctor and The Abbot.  When Steven realizes that the man he mistakes for The Doctor is, in fact, The Abbot, he concludes that The Doctor is impersonating The Abbot for reasons unknown.  This is certainly plausible as The Doctor has impersonated people in the past.  This episode doesn’t contradict this theory.  The Abbot only appears once, and The Doctor not at all.  In fact, the revelation of the Abbot in the previous episode occurred after The Doctor disappeared.  Thus, the viewers are supposed to be in just as much confusion as Steven.  As mysteries go, this one is very well done.

The entire story, thus far, has been well-written and well acted.  This is truly one of the best historicals, and the script shows a powerful command of pacing and revelation.  All throughout there is mention of ‘The Sea Beggar’ by the Catholic assassins, but we know that is merely a code name for their target.  We don’t get the identity until the end of the episode when Admiral de Coligny reveals that in his discussions with King Henri, an alliance with the Dutch is proposed.  The King tells de Coligny that if this alliance happened, then The Admiral would go down in history as ‘The Sea Beggar’.  This name, bandied about all episode, revealed in the last few seconds.  The Huguenots were afraid King Henri was to be assassinated, but we, the audience, know that it is to be de Coligny.

The only problem is that Steven has the missing pieces of information that The Huguenots need.  Nicholas and the others no longer trust Steven, fearing him to be a Catholic spy.  Steven escapes, making his way to The Abbot’s residence in the hope of getting at the truth.  Is The Doctor masquerading as The Abbot?  While there, Steven hears plans for The Sea Beggar.  He tries to get this information to Nicholas, but is chased away.  Finding himself out as curfew approaches, he takes refuge in Preslin’s abandoned shop with Anne Chaplet, the serving girl from the previous episode.  Anne believes Steven is not a spy.  So, we have a Catholic plot to assassinate The Sea Beggar.  Steven knows the code-name Sea Beggar, but cannot get the information to The Huguenots because they do not trust him, and The Huguenots believe the Catholics will kill King Henri.  This is one well-crafted story.

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