The Aztecs
Originally aired 23 May 1964 through 13 June 1964

Episode 1 reviewed 01 Sep 09
Episode 2 reviewed 02 Sep 09
Episode 3 reviewed 03 Sep 09
Episode 4 reviewed 04 Sep 09

Episode 1
The Aztecs, episode 1 - "The Temple of Evil"
Written by John Lucarotti
Directed by John Crockett

We open on an Aztec mask with the Tardis already materialized. Barbara and Susan come out and explore. Susan talks about how barbaric they were, while Barbara says that's only part of their story, there's a lot more to them than that.

Barbara goes outside the tomb and is confronted by a priest who calls in the guards. Susan goes for help and out comes Ian and the Doctor, with Susan trailing behind.

Eventually, they find Barbara. She has been taken by the priest and given the title of the reincarnated high priest, and she is sitting on a throne.

Barbara lets herself get caught up in the priest's wishes. They tell her she is a goddess, and she lets them believe it, eventually believing it herself. She starts going power-mad, deciding that she can and should change history. Nothing anyone says can change her mind.

At a ceremony with a human sacrifice, she stops it and frees the man - who takes it as an insult on his honor and commits suicide. We end with another priest declaring her a fraud and threatening to destroy her.

* * *

Back to the historicals, this presents a fairy balanced portrait of Aztecs as we understand them, while still aimed at teaching children.

Still, it's nice to see the Doctor getting jiggy with a sweet old woman.

I don't think Susan screamed or fell even once in this episode. Surely this is the only episode in which one can make that claim.

I love the Doctor's line, trying to knock some sense into the teacher, "You can't rewrite history. Not one line!" ... And she doesn't listen to any of it.

About the extras ... For this project, I have been skipping the features. I'm not listening to commentaries or watching any of the interviews and such, for the most part. With that said, I did watch one of the documentaries on this dvd.

It was about the restoration process, and I found it utterly fascinating. They show the before and after images, letting us see just how bad the film had deteriorated and then the same bit of footage after they've worked their magic.

Cleaned up as this is, we can easily see the backdrop paintings that are used to give the sets a sense of size. The Doctor calls the city a marvelous one, while staring at a painting of a city. I doubt people would have even been able to see that it was a painting when it was originally broadcast.

I'm not really caring for the story so much here. While the others are generally their normal selves, Barbara sure let go of her sanity rather easily, and is behaving completely out of character. I realize she has to for the sake of the story, but it doesn't feel "right."

Still, I remember this story fondly, so there must be something coming up to make me think that.

Episode 2
"The Warriors of Death"
Written by John Lucarotti
Directed by John Crockett

The Doctor and Barbara have their most explosive argument yet, eventually coming together and showing just how much they really do care about each other now.

The lower priest challenges Barbara to a mental fight. She laughs him off, implying he is only trying to raise his own rank and she won't play his games. Next, he goes after Ian, who has just won his own "fight" against one of the Aztecs.

He goes around plotting and scheming, scheming and plotting. A typical - no, make that stereotypical - bad guy.

The Doctor is completely smitten by the little old lady.

The lower priest arranges a contest between a warrior and Ian. The warrior has trained to become leader of the Aztec army. He is also getting help from the Doctor. As we discover, it was his father who built the temple, and he has a drawing of the plans. he convinces the Doctor to help him win a fight. It is only after the Doctor gives him a bit of a hand up that he discovers who the warrior is fighting.

But it's too late. The Doctor is taken prisoner. Just when it appears Ian will win the fight, the warrior uses the poison on him, and he is slowly dying.

Barbara appears and orders an end to the fight. It does end, but a far more personal fight is raging in Ian's body as it fights to live.

* * *

A few observations -

1 - For the time in which this was filmed, he fight was surprisingly brutal. Today it's almost tame, but for the early 60s? They must have gotten massive amounts of complaints.

2 - I wonder if Carole Ann Ford was getting ready for a vacation? She only appears in one scene, with none of the regulars. It's the kind of thing one would throw in just to give someone an onscreen credit.

2A - That said, when she flips out about arranged marriages, and says she will pick her own husband, I couldn't help but laugh. Cuz in the next story up, that's kinda sorta what happens.

3 - The Doctor and Barbara really DO care about each other. After their fight, they are actually tender with each other. This is, I think, what I was remembering about this story, and why I remembered enjoying it.

Episode 3
"The Bride of Sacrifice"
Written by John Lucarotti
Directed by John Crockett

Barbara saves Ian, the contest ends, and the lower priest is even more upset with the "false goddess."

The lower priest is interrogating the Doctor, who is minding his own business and playing in the garden. He's had enough and says the same thing I'm thinking about the priest: "Oh, go away."

The warrior admits to the lower priest that there are no drawings. Together, they try to poison Barbara, but Ian warns her and she survives.

The Doctor unknowingly proposes to the sweet old woman, and she gladly accepts.

The lower priest's scheming has paid off. Susan is conned into doing just the wrong thing, for which she must be punished - killed.

The Doctor and Ian find the entrance to the tunnel, which leads to the tomb. Ian goes inside, and the tunnel beings to fill with water.

* * *

Once again, Susan's only scene is without any of the regulars and is done on a completely separate set. It was confirmed on the message board that Carole Ann Ford was on holiday (vacation) during these two episodes, and these scenes were filmed at a different time and spliced into the episodes.

Barbara admits to the lower priest that she is mortal, and he cranks up his scheming. I'm kind of surprised there is any scenery left at this point, since the actor is chewing it all.

The old woman is such a sweetie. She and the Doctor make such a nice pair. This is long before Gallifrey or the notion of "Time Lords" has entered the mythology of the show. At this point, he is just an old man traveling with his granddaughter and a few friends. What direction may the show have taken if she had come along with them? It's a shame we never got to find out.

Episode 4
The Aztecs, episode 4 - "The Day of Darkness"
Written by John Lucarotti
Directed by John Crockett
Ian, still trapped in the passageway with the water rising, discovers hieroglyphs on the ceiling. He follows the trail and makes it back to the tomb. He finds a bit of fabric, stretches it out and MacGuyvers a way of keeping the door open.

He finds Barbara and the Doctor in the throne room.

Ian rescues Susan and the fantastic four are finally together again. They try to enter the tomb, but the fabric breaks. Ian will have to go through the passageway again. Except, there's been a trap set. Ian and Susan are taken prisoner.

The sweet old lady helps Susan and Ian escape. At the temple, Ian and the warrior fight again as the others struggle to open the door to the tomb. Ian kills the warrior then goes inside ... In they go, leaving the Aztecs behind.

* * *

The episode ends as with previous stories, with the lead in to the next story. The Tardis says it's both stopped and still moving, as if they have stopped on something that is moving.

There are potentially giant gaps here. The four go into the Tardis, fade to black. Then there is the Doctor at the control, and we fade to black again. Then it's the Doctor, Susan, and Ian discussing the Tardis moving / not moving.

This reminds me of the gap towards the end of "Rose" much much later. It's entirely possible there could be hundreds of adventures during those gaps.

Again, I say it's too bad the old woman didn't join the crew. The Doctor thought about her briefly while inside the tomb - he holds something she'd given him as a gift, and lays it down on the corpse, but never says "good-bye" or invites her along. I wonder what the show would have been like if she had come along for a ride?