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Doctor Who: The Massacre

Doctor & Steven – goin' down th' pub
Double Trouble...

aka "The Massacre of St. Bartholomew's Eve"

Season Three, Story W

Starring William Hartnell as the Doctor and the Abbott of Amboise
With Peter Purves (Steven Taylor) and introducing Jackie Lane (Dodo Chaplet)
Written by John Lucarotti
Directed by Paddy Russell
Produced by John Wiles
Script Editor: Donald Tosh

Episode Titles and Broadcast Dates
  • War of God (5 Feb 1966) **MISSING**
  • The Sea Beggar (12 Feb 1966) **MISSING**
  • Priest of Death (19 Feb 1966) **MISSING**
  • Bell of Doom (26 Feb 1966) **MISSING**

How to Watch
  • Loose Cannon's reconstructions are available here. There were no Telesnaps taken for this story, nor any fan-recorded video, nor any surviving film extracts, only a handful of promotional photos, so the LC team created specially composed still images from multiple sources, with the extant audio.
  • No plans to animate the story as of Feb 2023.
  • A narrated version of the soundtrack is available on CD and LP.


The Doctor and Steven arrive in Paris, August 1572. The Doctor decides to visit Charles Preslin, noted apothecary, while Steven finds himself in a tavern amongst a group of Huguenots (French Protestants) at a time of rising tension with the Catholic establishment. Henri of Navarre, a Huguenot, has married Marguerite, sister of the young French king Charles IX, in an effort to placate both sides, but the arrival of numerous Huguenot and Catholic leaders has only increased mutual suspicion. A serving girl, Anne Chaplet, runs from guards and hides in the tavern, claiming she's heard plans of an upcoming action. Steven's friends hide her at the house of the Admiral de Coligny, an influential Huguenot, and news reaches the Abbott of Amboise, who happens to look exactly like the Doctor. Amboise and the Queen Mother plot to have the Admiral assassinated. When the attempt fails, the Abbott is murdered as a traitor to the Queen Mother; much to the chagrin of Steven, who assumes that it's the Doctor in disguise. News of the Abbott's death, blamed on the Huguenots, inspires a Catholic mob to fury. The Doctor, seemingly merely delayed, manages to rendezvous with Steven and get Anne into hiding before matters erupt into the infamous massacre, where Coligny and most if not all of the Huguenots that Steven met will perish.

Safe in the TARDIS, Steven is furious with the Doctor for letting the massacre happen, even as it was part of established history, and storms out of the TARDIS upon its next landing, which happens to be present-day Earth. The Doctor is momentarily alone to muse on the burden of having to watch history pass without interference, even wondering if he should return home. He is interrupted by a young woman who bursts into the TARDIS thinking it's an actual Police Box, as there's an injured boy nearby, and Steven runs back in warning the Doctor of approaching policemen, and they hastily take off again. The bewildered young woman's name is Dorothea "Dodo" Chaplet, which suggests that Anne may have survived after all.

Notes and Observations

If you want to learn more about the historical background for this story, here's some Wikipedia.

Most of the extant images

And right away we see one issue with this story: without a fairly firm grip on the events that provide the historical background, "The Massacre" can be rather difficult to follow, especially with a large list of characters, many of whom don't seem to directly impact the plot; this is kryptonite for ADHD folk like me. This might also be a factor of the reconstruction, as only a handful of photos exist and not a single scrap of video, so we don't see the characters as performed by the actors, but a series of composed images where the actors' heads, often taken from other television programs, are placed over images of people in period-appropriate costuming. As we have seen when old episodes are rediscovered, so much rich detail of the actors' performances is lost even in the best reconstructions. So for all I know, the story as broadcast was far easier to follow. In all likelihood, alas, we'll never know.

This is the first story in the series' long history to be a "Doctor Lite" story, effectively making Steven the main character. He does his best to avoid being drawn into the affairs of the people around him, but circumstances ensnare him nonetheless. He bonds with the serving girl Anne, and their interactions are quite sweet. She's drawn to him for no other reason that he treats her as a human being. At any rate, even playing two roles in this story, Hartnell's sidelining continues.

This is also the first occasion where the actor playing the Doctor plays another character in the story (the Daleks' robot duplicate in "The Chase" notwithstanding), giving Hartnell the opportunity to flex his acting chops in a different role. Since there is literally no visual record of what he looked like as the Abbott, we only have his voice to go by, and the difference is quite startling. Indeed, for episodes two and three Hartnell is credited as The Abbott rather than The Doctor, as far as I know the only occasion when no credit is listed for the Doctor in the entire history of the program.

Between Lucarotti's script, the re-writes by Donald Tosh (the amount of which is speculative), and a seeming endeavor to minimize the load on William Hartnell, there are some slapdash aspects to this story that undercut an otherwise excellent straight-faced historical drama:

Where does the Doctor go? After he splits to hang out with an obscure scientist who as best as I can determine was entirely fictional, he is utterly absent from the action until early in "Bell of Doom," and gives no account for his absence over those two-plus episodes other than "Yes, well, I was unavoidably delayed." That's literally all the explanation he gives. There's some indication that Preslin is a target of oppression, and perhaps the Doctor gets pulled into some sort of side adventure with him, but that is never mentioned at all. (Big Finish, if you're reading this, I CALL DIBS.)

What purpose does it serve for the Abbott to be identical to the Doctor? Compare and contrast with season five's "Enemy of the World," where Doctor #2's resemblance to Salamander is a central and crucial element of the plot. Here, the resemblance is equally coincidental, but it only serves to complicate the plot. Steven is convinced the Abbott is the Doctor, to his own detriment as it immediately places him in suspicion as a Catholic spy. Apart from this and the episode three cliffhanger, where we are led to believe that the Doctor, disguised as the Abbott, is dead, there's nothing that the physical similarity between the two characters adds to the story. We are led to believe, through Steven's assumption, that the Doctor has infiltrated the Louvre and is posing as the Abbott, but no, it's all apparently a coincidence, and for all we know the Doctor was just relaxing and enjoying Paris.

It does give an intriguing insight into the Doctor's past historical travels before Ian and Barbara blundered aboard. The Doctor and his granddaughter probably had a relatively leisurely time playing historical tourists. Seems like the Doctor thought he could do the same on his own, and for all we know, he did.

It's not implausible that the Doctor is posing as the Abbott; Tavannes notes that the most recent aspects of their scheme in which the Abbott is involved have gone wrong up to the attempted assassination of Coligny. Perhaps that is indeed the Doctor being dragged off to be executed, and he somehow escapes and the real Abbott ends up getting offed. Maybe the Doctor was trying, in his own way, to somehow mitigate the oncoming slaughter, and perhaps he even has to remind himself that in the end, depending on your theory of time travel to the past, he would create a temporal paradox, or no matter what he did, events would compensate so that the end result would've been the same. Maybe this is what the Doctor means when he says, in soliloquy, "Even after all this time he cannot understand. I dare not change the course of history..."

But in the end all that head-canon is exactly that, all in my head. (BIG FINISH, I CALL DIBS!!)

No jokes about "old queens" please.

These issues overshadow an otherwise strong script by Lucarotti, who had previously delivered with "Marco Polo" and "The Aztecs." With the (presumedly) sumptuous sets and costumes, this must've been an enormous shift in tone after twelve weeks of Daleks and crazy aliens. I would love to see this rediscovered, for many reasons. Are there indications that make it plausible that the Doctor is actually posing as the Abbott? How does Hartnell's performance differ physically as the Abbott? How close were the Loose Cannon team's composed images to the actual onscreen images?

In any case, Lucarotti adds dimension and depth to his characters, and that still translates even with the limitations of the reconstructions. The Queen Mother, Catherine de Medici, is one of the most chilling villains we've seen on the show, human or alien.
Catherine: I have it here, the order signed by the King. Our plans for tomorrow can go ahead.
Tavannes: Thank God.
Catherine: God had very little to do with it.
And the confrontation between Steven and the Doctor definitely evokes a New Series adventure like "Fires of Pompeii;" this is the cost of traveling through the past. People are going to die in very large numbers due to terrible events in history, be it natural or human-driven.

One could argue that the two subsequent 'pure' historicals, "The Smugglers" and "The Highlanders," are more swashbuckling adventure tales than deep, serious period pieces, so "The Massacre" seems to represent the end of an era in Doctor Who, albeit a brief one. It's a pity that it's missing.

Anne Chaplet was initially going to a new companion because apparently they learned nothing from the Katarina debacle, until they remembered, left her in France, and hastily came up with the insta-companion Dodo. To be fair, Jamie McCrimmon would go on to be an iconic and much-beloved companion, so there's nothing to say that a character from Earth's past would automatically not work. Perhaps the implication is that if the companion is male, they can still provide the brawn and fisticuffs after which the Doctor can explain what a train or a tape recorder is.

Cool trivia: As originally planned, Ian and Barbara were supposed to witness the TARDIS disappearing after scooping up Dodo, but they were not available.

On Dodo

Poor Jackie Lane. Dodo gets screwed over by the Doctor Who production team over and over again in her brief tenure on the TARDIS. The singularly worst introduction of any companion, one of the worst departures (wrote her out when her contracted run of episodes had ended), and her Cockney accent disappears almost as soon as it appears at the behest of the BBC. It's a shame, really, because she's a cool companion. It's just so credibility-stretching that she literally walks into the TARDIS, and when she gets scooped up into Time and Space, she's like, "Oh, OK, fine. My life kinda sucks anyway, so, great!" Jackie, who died in 2021, rarely participated in any fan events or conventions.

Haven't I Seen You...
  • Leonard Sachs (Coligny) returns as Lord President Borusa in "Arc of Infinity"
  • AndrĂ© Morell (Tavannes) was instrumental in the history of British TV sci-fi, appearing as O'Brien in the 1954 BBC adaptation of Orwell's 1984 and as arguably the definitive portrayal of Quatermass in the 1958-59 series Quatermass and the Pit
  • Michael Bilton (Teligny) also appeared as Collins the butler in "Pyramids of Mars" and a Time Lord in "The Deadly Assassin"
  • Eric Chitty (Preslin) also appeared in "Deadly Assassin" as Coordinator Engin
  • Eric Thompson (Gaston) is Emma's father.
  • David Weston (Muss) also appeared as Birok in "Warrior's Gate"
  • Christopher Tranchell (Colbert) also appeared as Jenkins in "The Faceless Ones" and Leela's future companion Andred in "The Invasion of Time."
  • Annette Robertson (Anne) was married to John Hurt from 1962-64
  • Reginald Jessup (servant) appeared as a Time Lord in "The Invasion of Time"
  • John Slavid (officer) would be a victim of the War Machines later this season
  • Leslie Bates (guard) appeared as an extra throughout the 60's and 70's.
Sausage Factor: counting Dodo, 81.8% (props to Paddy Russell, the first female Doctor Who director)

Rating: Three out of Four Sea Beggars
John Geoffrion is a semi-retired semi-professional thespian, a professional data guy, and a Dad. He usually falls asleep to the Classic Doctor Who channel on Pluto.tv


  1. Ooh, one thing I forgot... We'll never know for sure unless ep 4 is returned, but apparently the scene in the park on present-day Earth featured a TARDIS prop that was cobbled together quickly - apparently the TARDIS was also needed for studio scenes elsewhere, so the compromise was that they could use the front side (with the doors), and they had to hastily cobble together the other sides from plywood planks with the windows badly painted on.

  2. I do hope we get animations of all these, even the stories like this one that I'm not sure I'll really get into. These historicals never really grab my attention, barring the Aztecs which I quite enjoyed, although part of that was Barbara and how pivotal she was, and despite some of its issues with the subject matter as was covered here in that review.

    I do feel bad for Dodo as while I don't know this one well, I do have and enjoy the War Machines, and she's shuttled off and forgotten about a bit too quick, and off screen!

  3. I've been meaning to mention, not only does your inclusion of the sausage factor make me laugh every single time, but the fact that you legitimately do the math raises the bit to genius.


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