Written by John Lucarotti and Donald Tosh
Directed by Paddy Russell
Determined to figure out what is going on, Steven decides to confront The Abbot and discover if he is merely The Doctor in disguise. Meanwhile, the assassination plans move forward, with mixed results.
And here is where it all gets a bit confusing. The religious and political climate in France and the surrounding kingdoms was a bit of a powder keg in the 1500s. Catholicism was the main religious power at the time, and it wielded much political power as well. Of course, Martin Luther started quite the revolution when he nailed his grievances to the door of Wittenberg, and things escalated. Throw John Calvin into the mix and this new Protestant movement becomes quite the powerful thorn in Catholicism’s side. The situation isn’t helped when Calvin publishes a translation of the Book of Daniel in which he posits that rulers who do not follow the will of God are not protected by God, and thus God’s people are not obligated to follow them. Tensions were escalating.
Keep in mind that France as we now know it was a collection of kingdoms in the 1500s. In 1562, The Duke of Guise discovered a Protestant service in the town of Vassy and a slaughter occurred and this resulted in a war. The Duke was killed. Queen Mother Catherine de Medici of France used this situation and the confusion around it to eliminate a few political rivals. She later married one of her daughters to the King of Spain, an action that was interpreted as anti-Protestant. Another war followed. Admiral De Coligny, a professed Protestant, was able to raise a large enough army to cause The Queen Mother to see peace as a more pleasant option than further Machiavellian tactics. The terms of the peace were two whole years of freedom of worship in specific towns. De Coligny, using his own political tactics, was able to arrange the marriage of Henri de Navarre to King Charles IX’s sister. Thus, the ruler of Navarre would be a stone’s throw from the French throne. If you cannot win people to your point of view, then put your people in power. Politics haven’t changed in 450 years.
All this to say, the council meeting in this episode deals directly with the counter-maneuverings of the Queen Mother and de Coligny. He supports France going to war with Spain, which not only would bring Protestant England in to the war to aid France, it would be a major slap in the face to The Queen Mother. Despite his love of de Coligny as his advisor, King Charles IX doesn’t care for war. This isn’t due to pacifism, but more that he can’t be bothered with it when he could be playing tennis instead. But de Coligny’s words and actions are not lost on The Queen Mother and the other Catholics at the meeting.
The Abbot and the other conspirators have planned the assassination to take place while de Coligny walks home from the meeting. The scene where the assassination takes place seems rather contemporary, a man taking a high-tech (for the time) gun from a case. A solitary gunman ready to take out a powerful leader who has been making suggestions for war. This entire scene seems very JFK. The major difference between this assassination and the one it attempts to invoke is that Admiral de Coligny survives. He bends down to pick up a piece of paper at just the right moment. He is seriously wounded instead. He stubbornly walks home rather than be supported by his men.
The failure of the assassination is blamed on The Abbot. It is believed that the plan was working quite well until he showed up. Now things are going wrong. Even the young Englishman (Steven) was able to get the identity of The Sea Beggar from The Abbot. This certainly sounds like something The Doctor would do if he was undercover. This piece of information puts Steven back into the good graces of the Huguenots, but he is soon shocked to discover that The Abbot has been murdered. The story indicates that he was killed by his fellow conspirators for the assassination failure, but his body is abandoned in the street and blamed on Huguenot reaction to the attempted assassination. Now that the Catholics in France are significantly rattled and threatened, and the Huguenots have seen their leader severely injured, we have the perfect climate for riots. The first target, the Englishman seen with the Huguenots.