Barb engages in some harmless grave robbery and is mistaken for an Aztec god. Romance and adventure ensue!
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Who says theft never pays off? The TARDIS lands in an Aztec tomb and Barb immediately engages in some harmless grave robbery, and is – as a direct consequence of this – proclaimed a reincarnation of the High Priest Yetaxa and essentially treated as a God. This all sounds great and all, except the TARDIS is now locked beyond their reach in the tomb, the Aztecs are prepping for some garden-variety human sacrifice, and Barb decides to meddle.
Meanwhile, crazy bad guy Tlotoxl attempts to disprove her divinity; Ian is pitted against Ixta, a famous Aztec warrior who isn’t at all thrilled when Ian is suddenly chosen to be the leader of their armies; and The Doctor falls in love with a very pleasant Aztec retiree named Cameca. Excited yet? No?! Ok, how about this… Ian administers a Vulcan Nerve Pinch; Susan is almost wed to a dude with three days left to live; The Doctor has a cup of hot coco; and Barbara finally gets a chance to shine!
Now are you excited? Yeah, I thought so…
The Aztecs is a fantastic Doctor Who story. Not only does it flaunt some marvellous sets and costumes, it also has a range of characters that cover the entire spectrum from romantic and intellectual to violent and maniacal. Have a listen to our podcast review of it, and the two fan reviews included in this podcast as well – Big thanks to Gina and Al! – and leave your feedback below.
(The Ratings and Reviews of this Doctor Who story kick in at the 1h24m25s mark.)
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It’s funny that you both mark off a bit due to a lack of sci-fi elements. If you try to imagine this episode being presented in today’s Who with Matt Smith, odds are aliens would be the main culprits behind the Aztec’s sacrificial rituals. It’s staggering how many recent historical serials have a conflict fueled by some alien force.
For me it would be a breath of fresh air to have a purely historical serial in today’s Doctor Who. I can understand your disappointment considering that every other serial was a historical during this season of the show though. But it’s an element that I think is much needed today.
Keep up the reviews!
My theory about Ian’s bad-ass-ness is that he was a commando during WWII, and he has killed hundreds of men.
Hi, my name is Gina and this my mini review of The Aztecs.
This is the second time I have watched this story. It had been my first William Hartnell story and did not enjoy it because I did not have a sense of the TARDIS crew’s back story. Watching it a second time in order after the other stories, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Between the Doctor’s hit it and quit it attitude with his “fiance”, Ian continuing too show how much of a bad-ass he is besting Aztec warriors in hand to hand combat or the fact that we didn’t have to deal with Susan’s uselessness and screaming “Grandfather”, made this a great story. In watching it I was noticed similarities between this and NuWho including the Doctor full on flirting with Cameca and subsequently leaving after getting engaged and a companion (Barb) having to come to terms with time travel and the desire to change the past. I also enjoyed the political intrigue of the manipulative and power hungry Tlotoxl which felt very adult in theme. Something I’m sure you guys will bring up is Susan’s hypocrisy about not wanting to be married off to a stranger. Yet in Marco Polo, she doesn’t seem to have much of a problem with it happening to Ping Cho. My last thought was my shock that Ian killed Ixta, let sit with that for a moment. Anyway thanks guys and I continue to enjoy your reviews!
You guys should totally do a minisode or something like that about Sunday’s announcement of the next doctor.
My opinions on the Aztecs:
I fucking love this serial, definitely in my top 3 Harnell serials. It really has all the best aspects of early doctor who and is probably the best serial for the first companions in terms of utilizing all of them and the doctor in their own good story lines;because of them all having their own strong story line this serial feels very modern in how tight the narrative holds together. In addition to this, the narratives themselves are all very entertaining and enlightening, both in terms of modern doctor who canon and the intended educational value of the Hartnell era. They have action, moral dilemmas, and even (gasp) romance with the doctor. The doctor in this story is very interesting canon-wise as it establishes his long running non-involvement procedure but also is contradictory canon wise with the doctor actually being romantic, one of the few instances of it in the whole series, the only other most direct one I can think of is the McGann movie. The moral dilemma about executions is amazing; it feels very real and modern while also helping provide for some education tidbits about Aztec culture and its destruction, almost like something that could be in an RTD era DW story with its ultimate goal being acceptance and respect of other cultures and values, even if we, both the viewer and companion, can’t fully understand them. The villain in this serial is also fairly creepy and the story lines are so well done that I still felt suspense while rewatching it. This story is just totally fantastic and I’d give it at least a 4.8, maybe even a 4.9 out of 5. Hell you know what, I think this one is damn near perfect and would honestly give it a 5 out of 5.
I’d be delighted if you guys read this review on the air and will probably be contributing continually to this podcast, with either reviews like this or trivia or whatever I feel like really because I love classic who and it is criminally under watched.
I have no idea how to wrap this up so I’d like to just say happy anniversary Flappy and I really hope you guys keep doing this at a steady pace.
Another episode I would love to see in color. I wish I could have been there for the making of this one. Another truly epic story, (coming right off Marinus) with the feeling that there’s so much more going on here outside of and influenced by the story we see.
Jaquiline Hill’s performance here is utterly flawless, as is the writing of her scenes. Indeed all the main actors are top notch here. Carol Ann Ford is perfect in her alternating of defiant youth and young student all at once. WR and WH are likewise so gleefully enjoying the story that they put a shine on all their scenes. Finally the supporting cast are perfectly chosen and well portrayed.
I love that all the characters, while perhaps evil to one another are all motivated by what they truly believe is best for their people. There is no right or wrong here, only a matter of perspective.
It’s an episode that sits with you long after you’re done watching and only gets better with rewatching.
‘The Aztecs’ sees the Doctor and co back in history, arriving in an Aztec tomb in the middle of the fifteenth century. Foiled by a one-way door, the crew find themselves locked out of the tomb and with no access to the TARDIS. Meanwhile Barbara has been mistaken for a re-embodiment of the divine Yataxa. (In very progressive style, Yataxa can appear both as male or female.)
Barbara must ensure the team’s survival in this hostile civilisation, while the Doctor works out a way to get back inside the tomb. But as the brutality of the Aztecs becomes plain to her, can she resist trying to use her influence for good, and change the history of this civilization?
There are a lot of good things that can be said about ‘The Aztecs’. I could, for example, wax eloquent about the design: the costumes and the set designs are equally bold and dramatic, with a thousand features that stand out – from Tlotoxl’s crossed headpiece to the beautiful carved stone in the pensioners garden. I could talk about the sparkling poetic dialogue. (See below for some highlights). Or I could talk about the high quality of acting for Tlotoxl, Autloc, Ixta and Cameca especially. (I appreciate Ponken’s reference to Tlotoxl as Aztec Maybelline – it’s great make-up too!_
But what makes this story stand out particularly is the way that all of these elements come together in a perfect blend of story-telling. Each scene carefully and logically leads on from one to another. With only four episodes, there is none of the sense of padding that has been seen in any of the previous serials. Neither are there any logical gaps or ridiculous plot holes. There is a sense of meticulous development, thoughtful writing and rounded characterisation. It’s a tour-de-force.
Two elements that need to be highlighted are the Doctor’s relationship with Cameca, which is both comic and endearing, and the moral dilemma of whether to try to change history.
In these early days of Dr. Who, the budget cramps the story. We talk of a city, but we only see two spaces – the garden and the temple – and a couple of random backrooms and tunnels. We are in the middle of Central America, but we see nothing that’s not filmed in a small studio. It’s a shame as there is so much more potential in this story if it had had a larger canvas.
There is perhaps a lack of satisfaction in the ending. The crew rush back inside the TARDIS and take off, and almost nothing has changed. Having the villain triumphant is good, and it would be a good thing for future writers to note: the Doctor does not always need to beat the monster of the week! But it is a shame not to get a final scene with Autloc or Cameca to show them as people changed for the better by their encounter with our heroes.
Apart from that, I could mention small details like a slow-motion fight in episode one. But it would be nit-picking.
It’s harder to pull out the magical moments in this story, as so many scenes are sparkling. There are some moments which are particularly fun, however.
The Doctor: “This dear lady has arranged a meeting between me and myself, em…. and the man who built the temple.” (Glad he’s going to join you both, Doctor!)
When the Doctor is taken away by the guard, he is doing a great impression of an outraged frog, leaping about with remarkable energy, yelling “Get your hands off me, sir!”
Some classical dialogue between Tlotoxl and Barbara. It’s not remotely realistic or true to life, but it is glorious. – “How shall a man know his gods?” – “By the signs of their divinity?” – “But what if thieves walk among the gods?” – “Then indeed, how shall a man know?”
Ian takes out Ixta with his thumb. (Maybe I should learn this little trick!)
While lying down, Ian pushes Ixta so hard that the champion Aztec warrior flies two metres across the room and lands on his back. (Last I checked, Ian was a high school science teacher – not an Olympic martial artist. Though I guess it’s possible he is a veteran of WW2)
The shock on the Doctor’s face when he realises he has proposed to Cameca is very funny, though he seems quite OK with it after that, happily referring to her as his fiance. “I drank a cup of cocoa and got engaged”. It’s a shame this relationship didn’t last. Having the Doctor’s fiance join the TARDIS team would have changed the trajectory of the show quite markedly, but having him simply go off and leave her seems very cold-hearted.
The Doctor, to Susan: “Susan! I’m glad…. em… I’ll tell you how glad I am to see you later!”
Of all the stories in season one, this is undoubtedly my favourite. It is one that bears a lot of rewatching: the plot is both so simple (get back to the TARDIS) and so complex (every character has their own, fully believable motivation). Where Marco Polo was epic because of the wide scope of it’s canvas, this is even more epic because of the depth of texture within its frame. There’s an animated musical “The Road to El Dorado” that has two Europeans acclaimed as gods by a central american people. It’s all-singing, all-dancing, with a thousand action set pieces, and it’s not a fraction of the entertainment value of this serial.
There is no one way of doing Doctor Who. But this is probably the best story of its kind.