Sunday, November 4

The Massacre Part 1/4: War of God

Hello! Welcome to Day Four of NatWhoWatMo (National Who Watching Month). I'm feeling much more enthusiastic about watching a Classic Who episode than I have been for the last few weeks. It's the beginning of a new serial and I have no idea what to expect! Some kind of war, maybe, going from the title. A bit of casual death here and there, but I'm HOPING that no one I care about is going to die. At the moment the list of surviving characters about whom I give a crap is limited to Steven, so. Surely the odds are in my favour?

I don't know how much time has passed since the Dalek Extravaganza; the TARDIS materialises in a courtyard and the Doctor and Steven emerge from it, fully recovered from the horrors of their past.

Oh, they're in France! The Doctor figures they're in the mid-sixteenth century, and gets excited about meeting the Famous Apothecary Charles Preslin, who I have just googled and I don't think he was a real person, but I may be wrong.

The Doctor's excitement was prompted by the appearance of a dude, Gaston, knocking on a door and asking for Nicholas Muss, who I again googled and who, it turns out, is now working as a dentist in Reston, Virginia. So I imagine, like, probably fictional. The Doctor recognises the name, though, and mentions a "strange brotherhood of apothecaries" who are "way ahead of their time". Nicholas appears and listens patiently while Gaston insults Catholics, before they both disappear off. The Doctor and Steven take this opportunity to go back into the TARDIS and change clothes.

Nicholas and Gaston make their way to a tavern where they meet up with some other dudes, one of whom is called Simon. Gaston proposes a toast to Henri of Navarre, the Protestant Prince (it's a religion episode, apparently), and Simon puts in that they should also toast to Henri's Catholic Princess. Gaston pointedly spits out his wine and has a loud and obnoxious conversation with the landlord about the quality of the alcohol in this joint. Nicholas, who is acting like Gaston's boyfriend/carer, tries to shut him up, with limited success.

Simon then pulls Gaston up and is all, 'Dude, come on, don't be insulting Princess Marguerite, now,' and Gaston is basically like, 'Shut up, I don't like you.' Simon sighs and has a quiet word with the landlord, asking him to keep an eye on the rowdy peasants, and leaves.

The Doctor and Steven pass him on the way in to have a quick dash of booze before exploring the city. Steven is complaining that he doesn't want to sit in the TARDIS while the Doctor goes off talking to his apothecary person, and the Doctor is adamant that Steven will just hold him back when he's talking science.

Steven then insists that he'll just explore the city, then, and after some heavy warnings not to get into trouble, Steven, and don't talk to strangers, Steven, and don't put your real name on the internet, Steven, the Doctor agrees that they'll meet back at the tavern that evening and jet off in their time machine again. He leaves, followed by a mysterious gentleman who had been waiting in the shadows. Steven notices this and moves to go after them, but the landlord holds him back because the Doctor walked off without paying for the wine. What a shit.

Steven confusedly presents the landlord with a big gold coin - I'm going to call it a galleon, for comprehension's sake - and the landlord is like, 'What the hell, dude, the wine is two sickles. I don't have change for this.' Steven gets nervous because the galleon is the only French money he has, but then boom, Nicholas, apparently a carer/boyfriend to everyone, appears and buys Steven the drinks.

Steven is duly charmed by this, and casually asks if Nicholas knows the way to Port St Martin, where the Doctor was headed. Nicholas tells him that if he's a tourist, there's pretty much no chance that he'll make it there alone. Steven gets out his puppy eyes and Nicholas, the charmer, invites Steven to have some wine with him and his buddies, and then afterwards the two of them can go on a little wander down the side streets, if you know what I mean (Steven does).

After quarter of an hour of awkwardly drinking wine and being interrogated by a jealous Gaston, Steven says that he really should be getting on now, actually. Nicholas stands up and says that they'll go see Paris together! But Steven notices Gaston's evil eye and assures Nicholas that he'll be able to find his way, if Nicholas just points him in the right direction.

Nicholas is disappointed, but agrees, but before Steven can go anywhere, a little girl runs past them into the tavern, followed by a bunch of cardinal guards. Gaston leaps up to confront the guards and refuses to let them further into the tavern because his defining character trait is apparently hating Catholics. They all exchange insults for a bit, then the guards give up and go away. Gaston, cheered by this run-in with the fuzz, tells Steven that it's dangerous for him to be outside alone, and invites him back for more booze.

Steven is concerned about the girl and wants to go look for her, but Gaston says she'll probs be fine. Weirdly, Steven isn't comforted by this, but the girl pokes her head out from where she was hiding and Gaston calls her over to show Steven just how very fine she is, Englishman, do not even worry. Steven gently asks her why she was frightened, and she doesn't answer. Gaston tells her that if she doesn't answer, they'll call the guards back (Nicholas hits him round the head), and she tells them that she used to be a servant working for the Catholics, and she overheard them saying that something that had happened at this place called Vase would happen again? And her father died there so she got scared and ran away. Or something.

Boyfriend/Carer Nicholas explains that about ten years ago, the Catholics slaughtered a bunch of Huguenots (I googled - they're basically just Protestants) in this little town Vase, a few miles south of Paris. He then handily explains a bunch more of the plot for us poor viewers while chatting up Steven a little more.

NICHOLAS: I'm afraid you have arrived in Paris at a most unfortunate time.
STEVEN: I wish I understood what was going on.
NICHOLAS: My dear English friend, it's really quite simple. Henri of Navarre is a Huguenot, a Protestant prince. Yesterday he married Marguerite of France, a Catholic. The marriage was arranged by the Queen Mother in the hope that it would heal the religious wound that is tearing France in two. But in the light of what that girl overheard, it looks as if the Catholics of France are plotting against Navarre's life. Do you understand?
STEVEN: You might need to go over it again. At your place. With coffee. Without your clothes on. I mean, what?

Meanwhile, the Doctor has found Charles Preslin, and Charles Preslin is doing some handy explaining of his own. There's this Abbot of Aboise, who hates the apothecaries, and is hunting them all down. He's the right-hand man to the Cardinal of Lorraine, who is in Rome. The Doctor is intrigued by this and wonders if there's any point going to go see the Abbot and having a chat. Preslin strongly advises against this, and the Doctor smiles and leaves for a super-secret undisclosed location, but I bet I know where he's gonna end up.

A while later, Steven is sitting on his own in the tavern, waiting for the Doctor to come back. Simon, the dude from the beginning of the episode, has come to the tavern to try to find the little girl who ran away, and he spots Steven and goes over to try and find out what his deal is. Steven tells him that he's waiting for a friend and he's not interested, thanks, and Simon huffily replies that the curfew is coming up, Steven should be leaving soon. Steven tells him that he'll be all right, thanks, and Simon stalks off.

Enter Nicholas who, I shit you not, invites Steven back to his place because the curfew is approaching and Steven shouldn't be out here alone. You can meet your friend in the morning, Nicholas says, it only makes sense for you to come back to mine. Steven, as you'd imagine, is well up for it, and follows him out of the tavern.

Cut to the cardinal residence where Roger, the shady guy who was the one who followed the Doctor out of the tavern, is telling the Abbot of Amboise about their balls-up of letting that little girl escape. The Abbot, who is hidden in the shadows all sinister-like, taps his cane impatiently. Roger begins to poop himself a little bit, but then Simon bursts in with information of where the girl is hiding that he learnt from his little trip to the tavern. The Abbot leans forward to reveal his face and OMG, IT'S THE DOCTOR. THE DOCTOR IS THE ABBOT. HOW IS THAT EVEN A THING?

His French accent really is terrible, but still. Cool plot twist, man. Did not see that coming.


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