The Aztecs part 4

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This topic contains 7 replies, has 6 voices, and was last updated by  Bluesqueakpip 5 years, 10 months ago.

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    Craig @craig

    The final episode is “The Day of Darkness”, referencing the imminent solar eclipse. Ian narrowly escapes drowning in the tunnel and finds his way into the tomb. Can the TARDIS team escape before Tlotoxl’s plans bring them all down?

    I have to admit that this is the first time I’ve properly watched this from start to finish, having seen bits of it over the years or had it on in the background. I’ve really enjoyed it. What a fantastic Doctor Who story. It’s a shame that the format probably wouldn’t allow for stories like this today.

    As before, for the best viewing experience this story is available to buy. You can get it from Amazon for less than 7 of our British pounds – other retailers are also available. It may also be on your Netflix, Prime or Hulu, or whatever else you subscribe to.

    blenkinsopthebrave @blenkinsopthebrave

    What an absolutely wonderful story! And I totally agree, @craig, it is such a pity that the show’s current format does not allow for stories told over multiple episodes any more. Although who knows what Chibnall has in store for us.

    And it was also brilliant to be 13 again, for those 4 episodes!

    It also had a lot in common with one of my favourite modern Who stories “Vincent and the Doctor” in that the were both really effective (and both ultimately poignant) reflections on time and time travel. They represent, for me, the best of Doctor Who.


    winston @winston

    @craig and @blenkinsopthebrave    I have enjoyed watching this for the first time. It was a lovely history tale and an enjoyable story to watch. I have been viewing as many BG Who episodes  as I can find and this one was a good 1st Doctor story. I only wish I was 13 again and watching Who for the first time, but I have to settle for watching as an old jaded adult. But maybe that is why I love the fantasy and escapism Doctor Who offers me.

    Whisht @whisht

    Well – I enjoyed that!

    Lots of lovely bits (fight scene with backdrops and fast editing; the Doctor telling Barbera she had not saved a civilisation but had saved a man, when he had lost a potential partner… oh, and lots more Olivieresquerisms from the dastardly Tlotoxl).

    The ending is a bit curious in that it seems to end off camera (Autloc in the wilderness and Cameca simply walking off somewhat stoically) but maybe that’s both of-the-time and necessary for the plot etc. Not a complaint at all, and glad neither was overwrought melodrama!)

    Thanks again for this as its the first time I’ve seen this story (sadly I’m not 13, 30 or even 43…)


    Bluesqueakpip @bluesqueakpip

    Okay, a mere one-and-a-half weeks late. Blame Holy Week and Easter. 😀

    Great episode – this is such a well written story. Within the limitations of time and budget it’s so well done.

    For example, last week’s cliffhanger isn’t resolved easily. Ian really has to work at escaping from the rapidly rising water. I also note that what the scriptwriter doesn’t do is have Ian talking to himself; William Russell has to carry off two scenes that are played in total silence.

    That scene painting backdrop of the city is a lovely bit of work; very theatrical. And I thoroughly enjoyed the highly educational demonstration of the benefits of pulleys when lifting heavy weights.

    Interesting that when Barbara talks about the ghosts of the dead, waiting for her to be killed, too – this Doctor doesn’t rail against superstition. Perhaps he’s feeling something in the atmosphere of that temple, as well.

    Ian, oh Ian. This week’s holder of the ‘Idiot Ball’. In only the last story you were handed a murder weapon and then got arrested as a murderer. Didn’t you learn anything? When you see an unconscious/dead body, do not pick up the weapon helpfully placed by the body. However, Ian does have the sense to later nick a helmet that hides most of his face, so I suppose we have to forgive him his temporary plot-related dip in intelligence.

    Autloc may have wandered off into the wilderness to find a new faith, but he finally shows he’s just as clear sighted about human motivations as Tlotoxl. You want to get Ian and Susan out? Never mind the heroics, just bribe the guard.

    I love Cameca, and almost wish that Margot Van Der Burgh could have joined the TARDIS team. In fact, I love the way that William Hartnell plays the Doctor as genuinely falling for her. She deserves it; she could have given River Song a run for her money.

    Those helmets looks suspiciously like they hide the stuntmen, and that the fight was done in film (at Ealing?) to allow fast editing between shots showing the actor’s faces, and shots showing the stuntmen whacking lumps out of each other.

    I agree with @craig, @blenkinsopthebrave et al that stories like this do show that it’s a real shame the current format only allows a maximum two-part story, and that they effectively have to sneak three-parters in by pretending they’re separate stories. This was a great four parter, using its expanded time to tell a complex story and developing it week by week.

    Bluesqueakpip @bluesqueakpip

    Our female Gallifreyan, played by Carole Ann Ford, will leave the TARDIS in November 1964. From that point on the audience will not see another female member of the Doctor’s race until Leela finds Rodan, in The Invasion of Time. In February 1978.

    While the long gap is partly understandable (the concept of ‘Time Lords’ wasn’t invented until Patrick Troughton was leaving in 1969), the nearly ten years in which we frequently saw male Time Lords, but never a female one is fairly incomprehensible by modern standards. Especially given that we visited Gallifrey itself in 1976, and never saw a single woman. We did get to hear Helen Blatch doing a voice-over, but see a female Time Lord? Nope. In fact, if it hadn’t been for Carole Ann Ford’s Susan, Time Lords could easily have been perceived as like the Sontarans – a race that only has one sex (apparently male), possibly reproducing asexually.

    Maybe, at some point in future Who, we’ll become comfortable enough with the new idea of regenerations that gender-swap to retcon that nearly ten-years of exclusively masculine Time Lords. Perhaps it was ‘something in the water’. Or maybe some temporary craze for male bodies. Possibly even that Gallifeyan activists were protesting against the Sisterhood of Karn.

    Or perhaps they’ll do a Star Trek, where someone brings it up and an embarrassed Gallifreyan hisses ‘we don’t talk about that!’ 😀

    janetteB @janetteb

    @bluesqueakpip I rather like the Star Trek solution to the old gender representation problem. I think, personally that despite being so advanced in many ways Gallifrey is still very backwards in terms of social equality. There is clearly a very regressive class system and so it is not unlikely that they also have a degree of old fashioned gender bias. Indeed Rodan implies that. She has been relegated to a minor position because of sexist attitudes. It is also probable that Time Lords chose to regenerate as males, if indeed they were capable of doing so, which is still debatable, for reasons of social advancement.

    I enjoyed your commentary as always. I have not been posting because we watched the entire story in one sitting and I could not recall what happened in which episode. The Aztecs is one of my favourite Hartnell stories, Barbara is one of my favourite companions and she is really the star in this story. The Doctor is at his playful best. Hartnell has really embraced the character by this time and is in his prime. And I do love the historical episodes. I only wish they had not lost Marco POlo and The Crusades.

    This is an excellent example of so many of the things which arse-fans tend to grumble about, strong female companion taking the lead and the Doctor falling in love for instance and the Doctor not being entirely ethical either. So all in all for many reasons an excellent choice for watching. Now what next??


    Bluesqueakpip @bluesqueakpip

    And it’s the last audio commentary for this story.

    Verity Lambert notes that Sidney Newman taught her the importance of cliffhangers – ‘you’ve got to grab them by the balls in the first 30 seconds.’ The cliffhanger was what brought the audience back. He also taught her the importance of splitting stories into ‘acts’. For the 24 minute Doctor Who episode, you had a two act structure, with a mini-cliffhanger in the middle. That kept people watching, even if the exposition/running round corridors was starting to flag; the mini-cliffhanger in the middle meant that it wouldn’t flag for too long.

    Stories the length of modern Who episodes would have a ‘three act structure’. Next time I watch, I must check for two mini-cliffhangers…

    The attention to detail for this story is noticeable – Carole Ann Ford picked up that props even put dust on the cord Ian uses, so that we see (even if we don’t consciously note) dust as he picks up the old cord.

    They so hate Lime Grove. Every commentary where a story was shot there, there’re comments about the awfulness of Lime Grove. This time it’s the noticeable change in picture definition, due to the old and not-very-good cameras at Lime Grove.

    A note that Ixta is the fall-guy, who never gets things right…

    The music was done with only a few instruments (no orchestra). I think I mentioned previously that the director got a friend who was a well-regarded professional composer to do this – it shows.

    Now this is something where fortunately Doctor Who manages to survive an advance in our knowledge of the past. The Aztecs did have the wheel – but when this programme (and the commentary) was made, that wasn’t known. What they didn’t do was use it for anything beyond toys, because they lacked large enough draught animals to make the wheel remotely useful in their mountainous territory – and they never discovered the principle of the pulley. But Cameca would probably have thought the Doctor was making some kind of toy, if a rather large one.

    A joke about ‘order Autloc’. William Russell notes that the names in this story were hard enough without adding tongue-twisters.

    A joke about ‘What subjects did Ian teach???’ I remember Steven Moffat making a similar joke with the English teacher Clara taking Year 7s for Tae Kwon Do. I think the various additional material – novels – made it clear he’d done National Service, because he certainly knows how to fight.

    Okay, I was wrong. This fight didn’t use the modern method of cutting between stuntmen and actor’s faces. They used multiple cameras, the fight is done by the actors – and some of their precious editing cuts. Verity Lambert thinks she might have gone up to seven editing cuts, when she was only supposed to have a maximum of four.

    William Russell remembers that he had to drag that bloomin’ great pulley with him, as it couldn’t be left behind for the Aztecs.

    Some laughter as John Ringham chews the scenery for the sacrifice. ‘He’s really enjoying it!’ But also a note from Carole Ann Ford that this episode provided another educational opportunity besides pulleys – kids were going to go into school and ask their teacher what an eclipse was. 🙂

    Finally, the commentators really enjoyed re-watching it. They decide that the story still stands up, forty years later, because everybody was committed, the performances were for real (even Richard III suits Tlotoxl’s character beautifully), and props, set, writing and director were all doing this ‘for real’. Nobody was sending it up. That, said Verity Lambert, is why it’s lasted so well.

    Which is a tribute not just to the cast, but to her production values. She made her actors and crew take this low budget kiddie programme seriously, commissioned scripts with serious themes – and made a programme that has lasted nearly fifty-five years.

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