Number : Season 1, serial 6 of 8.

Which One : Aztec historical.

Cast : The Doctor : William Hartnell
Susan : Carol Ann Ford
Ian : William Russell
Barbara : Jacqueline Hill
Autloc : Keith Pyott
Tlotoxl : John Ringham
Ixta : Ian Cullen
Cameca : Margot Van Der Burgh
Aztec Victim : Tom Booth
Aztec Captain : David Anderson
Tonila : Walter Randall

Written By : John Lucarotti

Produced By : Verity Lambert

First UK Broadcast : 23 May 13 – June 1964.

Length : 4 x 25 minute episodes.

Episodes :
1) “The Temple Of Evil”
2) “The Warriors Of Death”
3) “The Bride Of Sacrifice”
4) “The Day Of Darkness”

Plot : The Doctor, Susan, Ian and Barbara travel back to the Aztec age. Where Barbara is mistaken for a reincarnated deity – and worshipped by the Aztecs.

Whats good : Another solid Beeb costume piece. Has some nice dialogue, drama and action. Both Ian and Barbara have a solid roles – in this.

Whats bad : Susan is (yet again) left out of much of the preceedings and is underdeveloped, compared to Ian and Barbara.

Review With Spoilers : Historically, the Doctor Who fanbase never particularly enjoyed the historical period dramas and ratings were generally lower than their ‘monster of the week’ or sci-fi counterparts.

After William Hartnell’s tenure ended, most of the historical dramas in Doctor Who were phased out – in favour of more sci-fi or monster episodes.

So what we are left with, is a mixed bag of period dramas. The crushing boredom of something like The Romans, was in sharp contrast to the surprising drama and humour of The Crusade or to a lesser degree; Reign Of Terror.

In terms of application; set design, costumes and acting – The Aztecs is easily one of lushest productions of the early Doctor Who years. Helped in part, again – by the Beeb’s bottomless period department.

There is plenty for the Doctor and companions to contend with, here. Barbara is mistaken for a reincarnanted deity, Ian is forced to prove himself in combat and Susan is forced into an attempted marriage. The Doctor even finds time to acquire an Aztec girlfriend of his own (of sorts) – and ‘invents’ the first wheel.

“What’s the point of travelling through time and space if we can’t change anything? Nothing. Tlotoxl had to win!” Barbara

There is always an uneasy underlining feeling here, that the Aztecs will work out that the Doctor and company are not gods and sacrifice them. It permeates the story and gives it some underlying level of tension. Especially, due to nefarious Tlotoxl, who mistrusts the new arrivals – and seeks to prove them as frauds.

Ian has a lot of fun in this one, swordfighting, fist-fighting and even knocking out an Aztec warrior; with a (Vulcan deathgrip!) blow – to the back of the neck.

Meanwhile, Barbara is in her own element here also; being a history teacher and an expert on Aztec culture. She does (unsuccessfully) attempt to get the Aztecs to see the folly of their ways in sacrificing people – to try and make it rain.

This is also, despite the Doctors assertions that she should not meddle in their belief systems. However, the Doctor does not follow his own guidance here. As he shows the Aztecs how to create a round wheel, which no doubt accerelates human technological advancement.

That said, The Aztecs proves that Who can be educational and fun – at the same time. Based on this turn, there is a place for the Doctor Who period drama – if it is done right.

????⚪ (4/5)

Old Doctor Who

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