Number : Season 2, Serial 4 of 9.
Which One : Stuffy Roman 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 Lambert
First UK Broadcast : 16 Jan – 6 Feb 1965.
Length : 4 x 25 minute episodes.
1) “The Slave Traders”
2) “All Roads Lead To Rome”
Plot : The First Doctor, Vicki, Ian and Barbara take a well-earned sabbatical in an empty Roman villa. The Doctor is then 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 era can be credited with show-casing some rich and inspired science-fiction stories. It peppered these, with historical period dramas. Helped in part by free and easy access to the BBC’s huge period costume and prop department, which no doubt kept the budget costs down.
Within these historical pieces though, it was a mixed bag. The Aztecs was an enjoyable period story, which managed to walk the line between talky historical and action/drama. As did Reign Of Terror. The Crusade which was the best of the quartet – in terms of blending drama and action.
The Romans on the other hand, sits firmly in the character-driven camp. Which wouldn’t be a problem. As Hartnell Who generally excelled at developing characters.
However, even 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 simply – that nothing of any interest happens. Despite the rich setting of ancient Rome, to work with.
The Doctor is mistaken for a famous travelling bard and is forcibly 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 effort in the production values is lost, without a decent plot to push the story along – it’s just all a little too 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, aswell. 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 period adventures out there, – The Aztecs and Reign Of Terrorfor example.
I wasn’t the only one who disliked The Romans and (more recently) historically speaking, it wasn’t that popular with the Doctor Who fan base either.
I would only bother watching The Romans if you were working your way through the entire available catalogue and wanted to watch everything – at least once.
This is TV from a much slower age, so obviously shouldn’t be judged too harshly – by todays standards. However, you can judge it by the standards of better serials and when constrasted to one of the other better serials; it doesn’t stand up – at all.
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