Saturday, 6 June 2009

Doctor Who: The Aztecs

Temple of Evil

"What you are trying to do is completely impossible. I know. Believe me, I know."

Very nice opening shot of Yetaxa's tomb. John Crockett does a very good job throughout the episode, making the sets look expansive despite the tininess of Lime Grove. The initial dialogue between Barbara and Susan rather cleverly drops in a lot of educational titbits without feeling forced.

Oh, what a surprise, the TARDISeers are separated from the Ship. It's noticeable how Hartnell congratulates Barbara on engineering the perfect situation- the women are safe in the temple so the men can go out and explore!

The scene between the Doctor and Barbara about changing history is a delight. Both Jacqueline Hill and William Hartnell play it utterly convincingly.

Once again, a crowd appears off screen.

I can understand Barbara's moral revulsion at human sacrifice, but for a historian some of her assumptions are a little naive- I hardly think that ending human sacrifice in Tenochtitlan would in any way mitigate Spanish imperialism!

Great ending, with the suicide of the sacrifice: "You have denied me honour!" Tlotoxl's final speech is chilling. John Ringham is a fine Richard III.

The Warriors of Death

"What better way to destroy your enemies than to let them destroy themselves?"

Great scene between the Doctor and Barbara, superbly acted by Hartnell and Hill as usual. As the Doctor points out, Barbaras actions have now put them all in danger. The scene in which Ian calmly dispatches Ixta with his thumb also oozes coolness. I'm really liking this so far; well-paced, well plotted and well characterised with excellent dialogue and set pieces. John Crockett's direction is also impressive.

The Bride of Sacrifice

"For once the high priest of knowledge shall be in ignorance."

Autloc's words are awfully pregnant with tragedy: "In all humility, I beg you- do not deceive me or prove false to me". Like Marco Polo, he is a good man but weak. Jacqueline Hill is excellent here. As also is Ixta's hair, and pronunciation of "Ian". I love his genial, back-slapping threats to Ian's life.

The Doctor's romantic interlude with Cameca here is fascinating, as I suspect we shan't be seeing its like again, or at least not without the involvement of fireplaces. Another interesting relationship is the one between Ian and Barbara who are getting noticeably closer over time. Significantly it's Ian in this episode, not the Doctor, who finally convinces Barbara of the futility of trying to change history. He's right that it's Tlotoxl, not Autloc, who is the conventional one.

The scene where Barbara confesses to Tlotoxl that she is not Yetaxa shows just how outstanding Jacqueline Hill has been ever since the series started. She really has been fantastic, and stands out even from Hartnell and Russell.

Heh: "Yes, I made some cocoa and got engaged". Ian's reaction is priceless- after spending the whole time on Marinus acting the generic action hero, he now has the constantly raised eyebrow again. I like him much better with his tongue in his cheek.

The Day of Darkness

"As the gods appear, may they not also disappear as suddenly?"

This is the first story where I've noticed the incidental music- it's really quite effective. This is the most impressively produced story so far, not counting Marco Polo for obvious reasons.

Autloc's disillusionment is genuinely tragic- the priest who loses his faith and his place in his society and the collateral damage from Barbara's actions. Cameca's tale ends unhappily too- we can sympathise with the Doctor's motives, but he has deceived her The TARDISeers may make their escape in the end, but there's no happy ending here: Tlotoxl wins.

Overall, this was pretty much flawless, and my favourite so far. The script, the direction, the main performances- all were first rate. I'm ranking this above Marco Polo as the story seems more satisfying as a whole, but it's a close run thing. More John Lucarotti please!

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