Which One : Stuffy period drama.
Cast : The Doctor : William Hartnell
Vicki : Maureen O’Brien
Ian : William Russell
Barbara : Jacqueline Hill
Nero : Derek Francis
Tavius : Michael Peake
Tigellinus : Brian Proudfoot
Poppaea Sabina : Kay Patrick
Delos : Peter Diamond
Sevcheria : Derek Sydney
Didius : Nicholas Evans
Ascaris : Barry Jackson
Locusta : Anne Tirard
Maximus Pettulian : Bart Allison
Written By : Dennis Spooner
Produced By : Verity Lamb
First UK Broadcast : 16 Jan – 6 Feb 1965.
Length : 4 x 25 minute parts.
1) “The Slave Traders”
2) “All Roads Lead To Rome ”
Plot : The First Doctor, Vicki, Ian and Barbara take a sabbatical in an empty Roman villa. The Doctor is mistaken for a famous musical bard and is sent to the court of Emperor Nero.
Whats good : They make good use of the Beeb’s period costume and prop department.
Whats bad : It’s really dull.
Review With Spoilers : Hartnell’s Who showcased some radically advanced science-fiction scripts, for the time. It peppered these with historical episodes, helped in part by free and easy access to the BBC’s huge period costume and prop department.
Within these historical pieces though, it was a mixed bag. The Aztecs was an enjoyable period episode, which managed to walk the line between talky historical and action/drama. As did Reign Of Terror amd The Crusade which was the best of the quartet. After all, the viewer wants to be entertained – aswell as informed.
The Romans on the other hand, sits firmly in the talky historical camp. At the shorter (than usual) running time of only 1 hour The Romans is still at least 30 minutes, too long!
The real issue with The Romans is that nothing of interest really happens in it. The Doctor is mistaken for a famous bard and is taken to Rome to be employed in the service of Emperor Nero.
There is little in the way of any real drama here, so some of the better production values are lost without a decent plot to push the story along, it’s all kind of dull.
“……and remember, we’re only here as observers! We must not interfere with the course of progress, or try to accelerate man’s achievements or progress!” The Doctor
There is alot of unusually enforced slapstick humour present here, which seems oddly out of place alongside the attempts to present a serious Roman drama. Not least the Doctor’s dispatching of an assassin sent to kill him with bizarrely uncharacteristic verve.
There are much better examples of fun Hartnell historical adventures out there, – The Aztecs and Reign Of Terrorfor example.
I wasn’t the only one who disliked The Romans and historically speaking, it wasn’t that popular with the Who fan base either. I would only bother watching The Romans if you were working your way through the entire available catalogue.
This is TV from a much slower age, so obviously shouldn’t be judged by todays standards but you can judge it by its own standards and when taken in constrast to one of the other better Who period numbers; it doesn’t stand up.