Well, that was rubbish. After the high-concept and high-octane of Master Plan, we’re given a painfully slow and straightforward historical, where our heroes do precisely nothing of any consequence. It’s reminiscent of Reign of Terror, but lacking even the fleeting excitement of a big fire.
The Doctor is barely in it, due to a combination of Hartnell being on holiday for a week and him playing a different character for two episodes. I like Steven, but he’s not smart or interesting enough to carry a story on his own. I’m still pining for Chesterton. But still, I spent the whole of parts two and three looking forward to the explanation of whether The Doctor is posing as The Abbot, or whether it’s some kind of clone or double. If the latter, why and how?
Well, it was the latter, but we weren’t treated to the why and how. And there was also no explanation for what The Doctor had been doing off-screen for all this time, while Steven had been busy running back and forth between the city and an abandoned shop, for no reason. What a swizz.
There are so many scenes without Steven or The Doctor that it feels like you’re watching a documentary that’s just bookended by the characters arriving and departing. But then the “departing” bookend takes you by surprise. The last ten minutes are great, with a big old discussion about the morality of time travel, which culminates in Steven going off in a huff. The highlight is The Doctor’s solemn speech when he’s left alone, remembering his past companions and lamenting his lack of a home. It’s brief, but it’s amongst Hartnell’s best and most emotional performances so far.
In the end, Steven comes back, and in all the confusion, The Doctor accidentally kidnaps another confused passer-by. I’m looking forward to seeing Dodo in action, even though she has a stupid name, but I’m even more excited about getting to see a full serial of actual episodes.