John Lucarotti and John Crockett combine again for a sublime piece of drama which at last tackles that Time Travelling conundrum that has reared its head in more modern stories – can the TARDIS crew change Time? Nowadays, it’s a bit vague. It seems the Doctor can, sometimes, when it suits him, but when River Song tries it it all goes wibbly wobbly. Is this the affect left over from the lack of Time Lords or is it just rewritten continuity? Whatever that debate thinks, here the Doctor is adamant – you can’t change history, not one second of it.
It’s a bold statement, and one everyone takes seriously, especially Hartnell, who is at last showing an authority and taking ownership of his travelling, something later Doctors would do as a matter of course.
The story itself is another fairly accurate historical romp, but not one that looks down on its teatime audience of children, dealing with love, death, sacrifice and consequences in an adult and sombre way without being dreary.
Jacqueline Hill of course steals the show in this adventure as Barbara, and, from her usual position as a slightly worried observer, realises that there is a chance to make a real difference. The debate between her and the Doctor is one that resonates to this day through the series and can be seen in the death of Adric and, even, the death of the Doctor himself.
As a purely historical story, after the machinations of the Daleks and the Keys of Marinus, this shows how, when done well and taken seriously, a historical serial can be just as powerful.
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