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.
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 moments. Has some nice dialogue, drama and action. Both Ian and Barbara have a solid roles – in this. Not much variety but the character drama keeps proceedings interesting (see bad).
Whats bad : Susan is (yet again) left out of much of the preceedings and is underdeveloped, compared to Ian and Barbara. Not much variety in proceedings (see good). The rules of meddling with history are slightly muddled, here.
Review With Spoilers : Historically, the Doctor Who fanbase never particularly enjoyed the historical period dramas and ratings were generally lower than the ‘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 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 and underlining feeling permeating the serial. In that, the Aztecs will work out that the Doctor and company are not gods and will sacrifice them. It helps give the story some useful underlying tension. Which is good considering there is little variety in sets, or story pace.
Also helping proceedings, is the memorable and nefarious high-priest 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. Barbara does (unsuccessfully) attempt to get the Aztecs to see the folly of their ways in sacrificing people – just 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. So the writing here, is a tad problematic. Especially after some good earlier moments when the Doctor later castigates Barbara for trying to prevent sacrifice.
That said, The Aztecs proves that period 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.
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