Written by John Lucarotti and Donald Tosh
Directed by Paddy Russell
It is Saint Bartholomew’s Eve. Steven is trapped in Paris without the key to The TARDIS and The Massacre is just a few hours away.
No history lesson today. We know what is coming. De Coligny is resting at home, the King’s guards at his door to protect him, much to the dismay of his Huguenot followers. Steven has returned to Anne at Preslin’s shop. He managed to evade the guards, but curfew struck and he was forced to hide for the night. Believing The Doctor to be dead, Steven sets about searching Preslin’s shop for any sign of the TARDIS key. Thankfully, The Doctor arrives. It seems a bit odd that The Doctor hasn’t yet figured out what year it is, but once he does he urges Anne to go immediately to her aunt’s house and stay there. He then tells Steven that they must get back to The TARDIS. Naturally, he doesn’t have time to explain.
At the Abbot’s house, Marshall Tavanne (one of the conspirators) meets with The Queen Mother. She lets him know that the king approves of the execution of the Huguenots in Paris. However, Tavanne is not to have his soldiers do the deed. Instead, the people of Paris, now that they are significantly riled, will be the ones to slaughter the Huguenots. Tavanne pleads with The Queen Mother to spare Henri de Navarre. His reasoning is that if Navarre is killed, the violence would spread to surrounding kingdoms and war would ensue. The Queen Mother relents, so long as Tavanne gets Navarre out of Paris before morning. By then, it will be too late.
The Paris portion of this story ends with The Doctor and Steven arriving at The TARDIS and leaving as the bell tolls to signal the end of the curfew. De Coligny’s guards are relieved and the morning shift arrives, demanding entry. Unfortunately, any further action is only conveyed by the sounds of violence and screaming. For whatever reason, the audio does not have descriptions. Perhaps it was deemed too gruesome. Regardless, we know that carnage ensues.
Aboard The TARDIS, The Doctor has obviously told Steven about the massacre. Steven is angry. He is furious that the men he grew to respect would probably die. He is furious that Anne was left behind, her fate unknown. The possible deaths of all these people, and I suspect the deaths of Katarina, Brett, and Sara Kingdom in the previous story, lead Steven to decide to leave The TARDIS at the next stop. He cannot travel with The Doctor any longer if human life comes second to The Doctor’s researches.
When The TARDIS materializes, Steven makes good on his word, leaving The Doctor alone. What follows is one of my favorite speeches of William Hartnell’s era.
My dear Steven, history sometimes gives us a terrible shock, and that is because we don’t quite fully understand. Why should we? After all, we’re all too small to realise its final pattern. Therefore, don’t try and judge it from where you stand. I was right to do as I did. Yes, that I firmly believe.
Even after all this time he cannot understand. I dare not change the course of history. Well, at least I taught him to take some precautions. He did remember to look at the scanner before he opened the doors. Now they’re all gone. All gone. None of them could understand. Not even my little Susan, or Vicki. Yes. And there’s Barbara and Chatterton. Heh. Chesterton. They were all too impatient to get back to their own time. And now Steven. Perhaps I should go home, back to my own planet. But I can’t. I can’t.
It is sad, yet beautiful. If the episode ended here, it would be perfect. Sadly, there are four minutes left. In this time, we have a young woman rush in to the TARDIS as she avoids the police. We have no idea why (although later novels speculate). Steven also returns so he can warn The Doctor about the police approaching. The Doctor dematerializes The TARDIS and they are off. We learn that the woman’s name is Dorothea “Dodo” Chaplet. Is she a descendent of Anne Chaplet? The Doctor says it is possible. So all is right with the world once more.
Is the ending a bit tacked on? Yeah. However, I do like the idea of learning that a character survived a situation because we meet said character’s descendents. Not a bad idea, and it almost seems to me that the show will revisit this idea in the future, but I can’t for the life of me think of what story it might be. Sadly, this introduction of Dodo is somewhat characteristic of how she will be treated. Little characterization, little impact. I don’t have a particular dislike of the character, but I don’t really care for how she was introduced, used, and written out. She won’t be here long, though, so don’t worry.
Steven’s righteous indignation was also undermined by his returning to The TARDIS. Sure, it gave us a great speech by The Doctor, but are we really to believe he came back just to warn The Doctor about the police? Sounds a bit like he had second thoughts, but couldn’t admit why he really returned. This would have been a better ending than what he later gets, but I’ll admit I’m happy to have him for a few more episodes.
Okay, ending aside, the story itself was great. Up until now, I would say without a doubt that Marco Polo was my favorite historical. The Massacre, however, is beginning to challenge that. Cut the bit with Dodo out, and this story is practically perfect. The pace is great, the acting and writing are top-notch. There is a lot of intrigue and you can actually learn something. No one wrote historicals as well as Lucarotti, and it is clear that co-writing this had no detrimental effect at all. This is most-definitely another classic story from the William Hartnell era, one that even causes even the most critical fan to admit that William Hartnell could act. Many people have said it, and I add my voice to it: NOT ONE FLUBBED LINE!