Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Aztecs — Blogging Doctor Who

Don't trust the guy who
overdoes the lip liner.
I still can’t believe that this was the episode chosen to represent the William Hartnell episodes for The Doctors Revisited. Yes, it’s notable for being the earliest surviving historical adventure (until a complete copy of “Marco Polo” turns up somewhere). Like “Marco Polo,” “The Aztecs” was written by John Lucarotti (and it is the only one of his three stories that survives). I’m giving away my final assessment, but the story seems curiously flat after “The Keys of Marinus.”

The episode is notable for the Doctor’s insistence that history cannot be changed, something the series has played with in recent episodes (if you don’t know the outcome, you can’t know if you’re changing anything). Here, Barbara knows that the Aztecs are still practicing human sacrifice when the Spaniards encounter them, yet tries to change this, over the Doctor’s objections.

Meanwhile, the Doctor and his companions are thwarted by a big, hinged stone door, the sort of thing that is entirely improbable. It’s counterbalanced so wonderfully that Barbara can push it open all by herself, yet it absolutely cannot be opened from the other side. Further, whenever a character (such as Ian) manages to get on the other side of it, they act like utter idiots and wander out.

Then there are Ian’s judo skills. For that matter, at the climax of the story, he’s really quite good at hand-to-hand combat with Aztec weapons, which is really quite incredible for a man who teaches physics in a London school. I mean “incredible” in the sense of “cannot be believed.”

There is a bit of humor when the Doctor accidentally gets himself engaged (he said he knew their customs), but for the most part, there seems to be little to hold any interest in this story. John Ringham’s over-the-top performance as Tlotoxl, the High Priest of Sacrifice, shows that even when the characters are walking on stone floors, there’s still plenty of carpet to chew.

Eye Candy for Gay Time Lords
None, really. I don’t know if it was the costuming or the selection of actors, but there just doesn’t seem to be anyone worth ogling in this story.

So, Is This a Must-See?
No. I’m going to rank it below “The Keys of Marinus.” If you’re limiting the number of first-season stories, I still say “stick with ‘An Unearthly Child.’” It’s not a stinker, but it’s just not a very interesting story.

Next: "The Sensorites."
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