The Dalek Invasion of Earth

We are the Masters of Earth!

The Daleks

Synopsis

The TARDIS lands in London in the 22nd Century, and the city is very different to how Ian and Barbara remember. The Daleks have invaded and it is up to the Doctor to stop them once more.

Review

The return of the Daleks in Doctor Who’s second season kickstarted Dalekmania in Britain in the 1960s. Whilst their first appearance was successful, there was something about seeing the alien menace travelling the streets of London that really brought it home to the contemporary audience. This is still a great story, even outside of the post war/Cold War context it was originally broadcast in, and would have convinced production teams, both at the time and subsequently, that Earth invasion stories would work for the show. If this had flopped, then it is hard to imagine stories like The Invasion and the early Jon Pertwee era taking the same form that they did.

As is standard with Doctor Who of this era, the production values are a bit shaky. Richard Martin’s direction looks fantastic when shooting on location; for instance, the iconic shot of the Daleks trundling over London Bridge still looks fantastic. On the other hand, we have the footage of the attack on the Dalek saucer, shot on studio which feels really flat and I personally struggled to tell what was going on as the camera remains static for most of this sequence. The less said about the visual of the Dalek saucer flying over London, the better really. Most of the set filming seems to kill the pacing completely. There is also the issue of the Slyther, which looks like a human under a weighted blanket which removes any kind of feeling of fear that the viewer might have had and the alligators in the sewers under London are just laughable.

From a writing standpoint, this is a pretty solid Terry Nation script, with some issues. He leans more heavily into the Nazi influence of his famous creation and uses ideas and fears about what would have happened had they invaded Britain quite heavily here. FOr instance, the Chief Dalek is black, like the SS uniforms and the prisoner camp in Bedfordshire is very similar to the concentration camps, complete with a Dalek commandant. I really enjoyed the first part, World’s End, as it does really good work to establish the tone and feeling of an invaded Earth from the opening shots of the Roboman walking into the Thames and the large poster forbidding dumping bodies in the water. The first part does so much well, keeping the action between the Doctor and his companions for the majority as they begin to investigate where they have landed, before guest characters come into the narrative, taking Susan and Barbara away from where the TARDIS has landed. The first part culminates with the Dalek emerging from the water, which despite questions about what it was doing there in the first place, is iconic and would have been a surprise to viewers in 1964. Having built up this momentum, the second part completely kills it. The puzzle set for the Doctor to prove his intelligence – the key in the crystal box – feels like padding by Nation to bulk this out to six parts and ultimately completely unnecessary. It does establish some of the main guest cast, like the rebels, but it is ultimately a lot of people sitting around and not doing much, until the poorly directed attack on the Dalek saucer. The remainder of the story is largely pretty good and Nation manages to recover the tone and feelings he established in the first episode, so it is to his credit that this does not derail the story completely.

The return of the Daleks is good, and they are aided here by the Robomen, human slaves converted to their means by their helmets. The Robomen show the sadistic nature of the Daleks, as they are enslaved to their will by the helmets but ultimately, their conversion to Robomen will ultimately kill them, necessitating more humans to be captured and thus converted. This cycle highlights their view that life other than Dalek life is completely worthless. Sadly, the Dalek voices are pretty poor and had me longing for the consistency of the Dalek voices under the stewardship of Nick Briggs at times. There is a section of dialogue in the second episode where I cannot for the life of me work out what the Daleks are saying after the Doctor manages to solve the puzzle and break himself, Ian and Craddock out of their cell. There is also a moment of humour later on where they attempt to interrogate a headless mannequin in the Civic Transport Museum, which does go some way to undermine them a little bit. Ultimately, I’m not sure what the point of them removing the core of the Earth is, except to give them a James Bond villain style plot, but it does give me an amusing mental image of the Daleks flying the Earth through space, smashing into planets like an interstellar dodgem car.

I never felt there was any time or place that I belonged to. I’ve never had any real identity.

One day you will. There will come a time when you’re forced to stop travelling, and you’ll arrive somewhere.

Susan Foreman and David Campbell

This is an episode which the Doctor can be seen to complete his journey to heroism and it is in marked contrast from the character we saw attempting to kill a caveman with a rock in An Unearthly Child. We see him here refuse Tyler’s gun and he ultimately feels a responsibility to defeat the Daleks and put the Earth back on track. Ian gets to do the more action-orientated bits as usual, and Barbara acts as a counterpoint to Jenny, a rather pessimistic rebel. She also gets some strong moments, such as driving a truck through a Dalek roadblock, and she remains hopeful of overturning the Dalek occupation, despite Jenny’s defeatist attitude. Of course, the biggest talking point of this story is the departure of the Doctor’s granddaughter, Susan. It is, of course, very problematic that she leaves to marry a man that she has just met, although David Campbell was in this much more than I remembered. Having only watched this story once before, I thought that it was a bit more jarring, but they do actually spend some time together in the course of the story, but not enough to justify being written out in this way. That being said, the closing scene is really well written by David Whittaker and well acted by William Hartnell and Carol Ann Ford. I thought that Carol Ann Ford was pretty good throughout this story and gives her best performance here, and she and Peter Fraser do a good job with their time together, especially the scene where he tells her . Of course, as the show developed and ideas around Gallifreyans having longer lifespans than humans were introduced to the show’s mythos, the less comfortable the idea of the Doctor abandoning Susan is.

Verdict: The Dalek Invasion of Earth marks a successful return for the Daleks, despite some issues with the script and direction. 8/10

Cast: William Hartnell (The Doctor), William Russell (Ian Chesterton), Jacqueline Hill (Barbara Wright). Carol Ann Ford (Susan Foreman), Bernard Kay (Carl Tyler), Peter Fraser (David Campbell), Alan Judd (Dortmun), Martyn Huntley and Peter Badger (Robomen), Robert Jewell, Gerald Taylor, Nick Evans, Kevin Manser & Peter Murphy (Dalek Operators), Peter Hawkins & David Graham (Dalek Voices), Ann Davies (Jenny), Michael Goldie (Craddock), Michael Davis (Thomson), Richard McNeff (Baker), Graham Rigby (Larry Madison), Nicholas Smith (Wells), Nick Evans (Slyther Operator), Patrick O’Connell (Ashton) & Jean Conroy and Meriel Hobson (Women in the Woods).

Writer: Terry Nation

Director: Richard Martin

Parts: 6 (World’s End, The Daleks, Day of Reckoning, The End of Tomorrow, The Waking Ally & Flashpoint)

Behind the Scenes

  • Working titles included Daleks Threaten Earth, The Invaders, The Daleks (II), The Return of the Daleks and The Daleks in Europe. Working titles for Episodes 4 and 6 were The Abyss and Earth Rebels respectively.
  • This story features the first departure of an original cast member, Carol Ann Ford. Ford would reprise her role in The Five Doctors and Dimensions in Time and has also appeared as Susan in numerous Big Finish audio plays.
  • The story originally would have seen a new companion, a 15 year old girl called Saida, stow away onboard the TARDIS and become the new companion. However, this idea was scrapped and the character was replaced by Jenny.
  • William Hartnell was injured when the ramp to the Dalek saucer collapsed, causing him to land awkwardly on his spine. He was temporarily paralysed and once he recovered, it was decided to give him the week off, and Edmund Warwick, his stand-in, deputised for him.
  • The final speech from The Doctor to Susan would be used again to introduce The Five Doctors and would feature twice in docudrama, An Adventure in Space and Time, delivered once by David Bradley and once in its original form. The scene was written by script editor David Whittaker rather than Terry Nation.
  • The final story to be script edited by Terry Nation.
  • The Daleks start to use their famous catchphrase “Exterminate!” in Flashpoint. Previously, they had used the phrase “Exterminated”.
  • Following the success of Dr. Who and the Daleks, the adaptation of The Daleks, this story was also adapted into a movie, Dalek Invasion of Earth 2150AD, again starring Peter Cushing as Dr. Who, and also featuring Bernard Cribbins. Cribbins would go on to play Wilfred Mott, grandfather to Donna Noble and companion in his own right. The film underperformed at the box office and so would be the last story adapted for the cinema.

Cast Notes

  • Bernard Kay appeared in The Crusade and would go on to appear in The Faceless Ones and Colony in Space.
  • Martyn Huntley would appear in The Gunfighters.
  • Michael Goldie also appeared in The Wheel in Space.

Best Moment

The cliffhanger at the end of Episode One with the Dalek emerging from the River Thames. As much as the Dalek being in the Thames makes no sense, it is a fantastic culmination of a great first part.

Best Quote

One day, I shall come back. Yes, I shall come back. Until then, there must be no regrets, no tears, no anxieties. Just go forward in all your beliefs, and prove to me that I am not mistaken in mine. Goodbye, my dear. Goodbye, Susan.

The First Doctor

Previous First Doctor review: Planet of Giants

Planet of Giants

We have been reduced roughly to the size of an inch!

The First Doctor

Synopsis

A fault with the TARDIS means that the doors open just before it materialises, and when the Doctor and his companions emerge, they find that they have been shrunk to about an inch tall. In this state, they stumble across the plot of a businessman, Forester, to launch a new pesticide, DN6 which would effectively wipe out all insect life.

Review

I am intrigued as to why the production team were so preoccupied with the idea of shrinking the TARDIS and its crew during the early days of the programme, when they plainly did not have either the means or the plot to achieve it satisfactorily. I like stories that feature playing with scale, for instance, I really enjoy the Ant-Man films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but this story didn’t really work for me.

There are two parts of the production that I would like to praise. The first is the set design, which, despite limitations, is broadly very good. I particularly like the dead insects and attention to detail with props like the matchbox and the sink helps the audience believe that the main cast have been reduced in size. There was obviously not enough budget to play with scale in the way that more recent movies are able to do, however, their efforts need to be commended. The other strong element is the main cast of Hartnell, Russell, Ford and Hill, who all put in good performances. Hartnell’s Doctor has come some way towards a softer and more sympathetic character, who is capable of apologising for his bad temper and shows some fondness for Barbara. Jacqueline Hill stands out as she does get poisoned by the DN6, and her concern for getting back to the ship whilst hiding her illness from the other three is particularly believable. These two elements help a rather lacklustre story from ranking even lower.

Ultimately, the story is not very engaging and I can see why there were doubts at the time it was made and why it was cut down from four parts to three. Ultimately, it feels that the production team had bitten off more than they could chew with this story and the technology simply did not exist to bring the story to the screen effectively. Whilst it is to be commended that they believed that they could do it all practically, it is particularly telling that most of the normal size things the shrunken TARDIS team interact with are all props rather than alive animals and people. The moment this is most obvious is when The Doctor, Barbara, Ian and Susan stand in front of Farrow’s dead body, where the body is clearly a static and blown up image of Frank Crawshaw. It also feels like the shrinking story line and the pesticide thread are equally underdeveloped, which might be down to the story being edited down in post-production, but even at three parts, there are moments that really drag, for instance, the sequences where the crew attempt to put corks under the receiver of the telephone in Crisis. The story also has a common problem of having a rushed climax

It doesn’t help that the small guest cast aren’t great. Farrow is hardly in the story, but Alan Tilvern and Reginald Barrett seem very ill suited to their roles in the story, not helped by a poor script and moments like Forester taking out a gun and then putting it away after the story has already shown the audience him murdering Farrow. Smithers seems to have varying knowledge of how the pesticide he has created affects wildlife other than pests at moments, but both he and Forester are quite two dimensional. Rosemary Johnson and Fred Ferris as Hilda and Bert seem to have wandered in from some other programme entirely as the operator and the policeman.

Verdict: A story with ideas beyond its means, Planet of Giants is largely let down by a lacklustre story and wooden performances from the guest cast. 3/10

Cast: William Hartnell (The Doctor), William Russell (Ian Chesterton), Jacqueline Hill (Barbara Wright), Carol Ann Ford (Susan Foreman), Alan Tilvern (Forester), Frank Crawshaw (Farrow), Reginald Barrett (Smithers), Rosemary Johnson (Hilda Rowse) & Fred Ferris (Bert Rowse).

Writer: Louis Marks

Directors: Mervyn Pinfield & Douglas Camfield

Parts: 3 (Planet of Giants, Dangerous Journey & Crisis)

Behind the Scenes

  • Working titles for this story were Miniscule Story and The Miniscules.
  • The idea of the Doctor and his companions being shrunk had been around for some time and had been considered for the first episode of the show, although this concept was the only one that was carried over from C.E Webber’s original idea. The idea of a shrunken TARDIS crew was then passed on to writer Robert Gould, but he seems to have given up on the idea and script editor David Whitaker released Gould from the commission and passed the idea to Louis Marks.
  • Even when the story was produced, the Head of Serials at the BBC, Donald Wilson, was not keen and did not believe that the story was strong enough to open the second season. He would have preferred The Dalek Invasion of Earth to open the season instead, however, this was not feasible due to the departure of Carol Ann Ford at the end of that story. He insisted on the story being shortened to three parts, necessitating footage from Part 3 and Part 4 to be merged, with the cut footage not retained.
  • Mervyn Pinfield was unable to direct Episode 4, so Douglas Camfield directed Part 4. As the two episodes were merged, Camfield was credited as director of Part 3.
  • First credited contributions of Louis Marks, Dudley Simpson and Douglas Camfield.
  • First story to be set on contemporary Earth since An Unearthly Child.
  • The first story to feature a miniaturised TARDIS. The TARDIS would go on to be miniaturised in Logopolis and Flatline, whilst the Monk’s TARDIS would be in The Time Meddler.

Best Moment

A difficult one to pick as I didn’t really enjoy this story. However, I did like the idea of the cat, even if it is obvious that the cat and the cast aren’t present at the same time.

Best Quote

Do you know why I’m a success, Mr Farrow? Because I’ve never allowed the word “can’t” to exist.

Forester

Previous First Doctor Review: The Reign of Terror

Other reviews mentioned:

An Unearthly Child

Other works mentioned

Ant-Man

Ant-Man & The Wasp

The Reign of Terror

The Reign of Terror

Death, always death!  Do you think I want this carnage?

Robespierre

Synopsis

In an attempt to get Ian and Barbara back to 1963, the TARDIS arrives in the outskirts of Paris in 1794, one of the bloodiest years of the French Revolution.  The TARDIS team rapidly get caught up in the actions of James Stirling, an English spy working within the Conciergie Prison.

Review

As someone who spent every holiday in France until the age of 16, French history has always been of interest to me, to the point that when I went to University, I chose to study modules about the Hundred Year’s War and the French Revolution.  When I heard that the first-ever season of Doctor Who closed with a story set in the Reign of Terror, which is one of the bloodiest and grimmest times in French history, I was surprised and intrigued.  I am pleased to say that I did enjoy this story, albeit with some reservations, and think that it closes the first season off really nicely.

The Reign of Terror - house

Despite being broadly positive towards it, I do have some issues.  The majority of the guest performances are really good, however, James Cairncross as Lemaitre or the spy James Stirling seems really wooden and there doesn’t really seem to be much difference between Stirling and the Revolutionary he is supposed to be undercover as.  It’s probably for the best that he gets largely sidelined in the last part.  The story is also quite repetitive in places, with the companions seemingly walking in and out of the revolving door at the Conciergie Prison, with Susan spending most of the story here.  The story does try to explain this by saying that Stirling is in control of the movements of the companions but it isn’t really that convincing.  There are liberties taken with history which does not bother me too much but the meeting between Barras and Napoleon to discuss the removal of Robespierre seems like a conscious effort to crowbar him into the narrative in some way as a familiar figure for viewers to cling to.  This story also gets criticised for simplifying the period and making it almost black and white in its depiction of Royalists and Revolutionaries, which I understand to a certain extent.  In a show like Doctor Who, it is difficult to portray moral grey areas which existed on both sides, and whilst on the surface the Aristocrats are portrayed as being uniformly good and the Revolutionaries are evil, the story does go to measures to point out that Jules is not an Aristocrat.

Reign of Terror - Lemaitre, Barbara and Ian

As stated above, the majority of the performances are strong here, and this is a strong story for William Hartnell.  We see that he has softened since the beginning of the season, although he is still capable of moments of great anger, such as his heated discussion with Ian and Barbara at the beginning of the story.  He is also still prone to fits of violence, as he knocks out the supervisor of the road workers, which is something it is difficult to think of the Doctor doing today.  Of the guest cast, Keith Anderson as Robespierre and Tony Wall as Napoleon are probably the stand-outs, despite how unnecessary Bonaparte’s inclusion is for the story.  The companions are good here too, with Susan not too shrill this time and another strong outing for Barbara and Ian.

You can’t influence or change history.  I learnt that with the Aztecs.

The events will happen, just as they are written.  I’m afraid so, and we cannot stem the tide.  But at least we can stop being carried away with the flood!

Barbara Wright and the First Doctor

Dennis Spooner’s story is obviously well researched and he makes the wise decision to inject some humour with the character of the jailer and the team of workers on the road that the Doctor encounters on his way to Paris.  I also like the fact that we never seen the guillotine – the shots we do see are stock footage and we never actually see any executions or set ups for them.  Similarly to The Aztecs, the TARDIS team are not here to interfere with events and they must let history run its course, and the previous story is nicely alluded to in a conversation between the Doctor and Barbara late on.  Despite the repetitions of characters constantly getting captured and imprisoned, this story kept me engaged throughout its running time and this is impressive given its near three hour run time.  The story also benefits from high production values which help the story look good.  This is particularly evident in one of the earliest scenes in the story where the soldiers arrive at the house, where the costumes look perfect for the era and I love the fact that they aren’t gleaming – they are dirty which helps make this world feel lived in.  Additionally, this story did have a troubled production (for more information about this, it is detailed in my ‘Behind the Scenes section below) but it feels seamless – this really feels like a gleaming example of what the ‘pure’ historical Doctor Who story can be.

Verdict: A solid conclusion to the first season of Doctor Who and a good contribution to the ‘pure’ historical subgenre of the show.  Hartnell and the main cast do good work here and the whole production feels really smooth and professional. 8/10

Cast: William Hartnell (The Doctor), William Russell (Ian Chesterton), Jacqueline Hill (Barbara Wright), Carol Anne Ford (Susan Foreman), Peter Walker (Small Boy), Laidlaw Dalling (Rouvray), Neville Smith (D’Argenson), Robert Hunter (Sergeant), Ken Lawrence (Lieutenant), James Hall (Soldier), Howard Charlton (Judge), Jack Cunningham (Jailer), Jeffry Wickham (Webster), Dallas Cavell (Overseer), Dennis Cleary (Peasant), James Cairncross (Lemaitre), Roy Herrick (Jean), Donald Morley (Jules Renan), John Barrard (Shopkeeper), Caroline Hunt (Danielle), Edward Brayshaw (Léon Colbert), Keith Anderson (Robespierre), Ronald Pickup (Physician), Terry Bale (Soldier), John Law (Paul Barras), Tony Wall (Napoleon Bonaparte) & Patrick Marley (Soldier).

Writer: Dennis Spooner

Director: Henric Hirsch

Parts: 6 (A Land of Fear, Guests of Madame Guillotine, A Change of Identity, The Tyrant of France, A Bargain of Necessity, Prisoners of Conciergie)

Behind the Scenes

  • The first serial to show the full-sized TARDIS prop materalising.
  • The only season finale to contain no science fiction elements than the Doctor, the companions and the TARDIS.
  • Episodes 4 and 5 remain missing from the BBC Archives, however, they have been recreated in animated form.
  • The first story to contain location filming for the scenes of the Doctor walking through the French countryside.  These scenes, however, do not feature William Hartnell but extra Brian Proudfoot.
  • The first contribution to the show by Dennis Spooner who would go on to be script editor.  This story replaced a story written by David Whittaker about the Spanish Armada, who in turn had been commissioned to write a story to replace.  William Russell suggested having a story set in the French Revolution.
  • Henric Hirsch struggled with the direction of this story.  He was an inexperienced television director combined with filming conditions at the cramped Lime Grove Studios and William Hartnell was difficult at responding to his direction.  This culminated in Hirsch collapsing during camera rehearsals for the third episode, necessitating a new short term director.  There is no documentation to indicate who this was, although it is thought to have been either John Gorrie or Mervyn Pinfield.  Hirsch would return for the fourth episode, which saw production move to Television Centre and Timothy Combe, the production assistant and future Doctor Who director, step up to share the role.

Best Moment

The scene in the first part where the Army find the Aristocrats in the house on the way out of Paris.

Best Quote

What are we going to see and learn next, Doctor?

Well, unlike the old adage, my boy, our destiny is in the stars, so let’s go and search for it..

Ian Chesterton and the First Doctor

Previous First Doctor review: The Sensorites

The Sensorites

The Sensorites Barbara, Susan and John

Did you know, his hair was almost white?

Nothing wrong with that!

Maitland and the First Doctor

Synopsis

The Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Susan arrive on a spaceship, finding a human crew who are suffering from telepathic interference from a race called the Sensorites.

Review

The Sensorites deserves some plaudits for being the first episode explicitly set in the future and introducing a largely non-antagonistic titular alien race, however, it does seem to be a bit of a mess.  There’s just too much going on within the narrative, and none of the various plot elements really grabbed me resulting in me ultimately feeling bored well before the story’s conclusion.

One of the story’s few positivesPossibly the story’s only positive is that this story continues a positive upturn in William Hartnell’s portrayal of the Doctor.  He is far and away more likable at times here than he is in his opening scenes in An Unearthly Child, especially when you consider scenes like the TARDIS team reminiscing about their adventures in the opening episode of this story.  To a fan of the modern show, Hartnell feels much more like a traditional Doctor, making sure that nobody is in doubt about his lines in the sand – he even mentions his attitude towards weapons at one point.  He has utterly changed, and there are still flashes of steel from this incarnation, especially when he is talking to the Sensorites about the lock on the TARDIS door. There are a few fluffs here from Hartnell, but this seems to be much more spread around the rest of the cast as well – I know that there were restrictions on the number of edits the production team could make in the 1960s, however, there do seem to be a lot in this story.  Hartnell’s personality drastically changes back to the more cantankerous old man in the final scene of the story, which does feel really jarring.

The Sensorites Doctor and Susan

I also quite like the Sensorites.  The fact that the actors cast as the Sensorites are all the same height and of similar builds really does help the idea that they would need the system of sashes to differentiate from each other, although it does massively stretch credibility that nobody ever thought of disguising themselves as another Sensorite.  I love how atmospheric the cliffhanger is at the end of the first part, with no sound until the reveal of the alien, which I find to be really effective, and they do genuinely feel terrifying, especially when we see the effects of the telepathic interference on characters like John and it is a good performance from Stephen Dartnell. The reveal of the Sensorites completely pays off on what we are told by Carol and Maitland in the opening parts and they are certainly suitably alien. It is interesting for the show in its early days to give us aliens who aren’t evil but instead good and possibly slightly childish, apart from the devious City Administrator.

The biggest problem with this story is that the plot feels extremely muddled.  There are several elements – the Sensorites being poisoned and Ian also succumbing to this and the political maneuvering of the City Administrator feel utterly superfluous and inconsequential.  There is a moment where the City Administrator frames the Doctor for the death of the Second Elder that feels so lacking in any impact that it is no real surprise that the Doctor suffers no repercussions for this allegation.  The multiple plots do ultimately cause the story to drag and feel much longer than it actually is, with elements like what lurks in the aqueduct being put on hold until the Doctor has cured Ian’s illness.  This leads to the ultimate finale of the story feeling utterly underwhelming, and I’m not sure whether the blame lies at the hands of the writer or the script editor – I don’t think much blame can be pinned on Mervyn Pinfield, as there’s not really very much when there is no intrigue.

Verdict:  A story that has an interesting premise, introducing a race of aliens who are not necessarily all evil, sadly The Sensorites is let down by a bit of a slow plot.  I do like the design and concept of the Sensorites though.  2/10

Cast: William Hartnell (The Doctor), William Russell (Ian Chesterton), Jacqueline Hill (Barbara Wright), Carol Ann Ford (Susan), Stephen Dartnell (John), Ilona Rodgers (Carol), Lorne Cossette (Maitland), Ken Tyllsen (First Sensorite and First Scientist), Joe Greig (Second Sensorite, Second Scientist and Warrior), Peter Glaze (Third Sensorite), Arthur Newall (Fourth Sensorite), Eric Francis (First Elder), Bartlett Mullins (Second Elder), Anthony Rogers & Gerry Martin (Sensorites), John Bailey (Commander), Martyn Huntley (First Human) & Giles Phibbs (Second Human).

Writer: Peter R Newman

Director: Mervyn Pinfield

Parts: 6 (Strangers in Space, The Unwilling Warriors, Hidden Danger, A Race Against Death, Kidnap & A Desperate Venture)

Behind the Scenes

  • The Sensorites is the first story to explicitly state that it is set in the future.
  • The third episode, Hidden Danger, had the dubious distinction of having been delayed due to Summer Grandstand being extended for special sports programming.
  • Susan’s description of Gallifrey is almost quoted verbatim in Gridlock and the Ood have some similarity to the Sensorites.
  • Stephen Dartnell had previously appeared in The Keys of Marinus.
  • Jacqueline Hill was on holiday during production of the fourth and fifth parts.
  • When the casting of Frank Skinner was announced for Mummy on the Orient Express, he stated that when he learnt of the news, he was watching episode 3 of this story.

Best Moment

Probably the cliffhanger at the end of part one – the lack of sound is utterly eerie.

Best Quote

It all started as a mild curiosity in the junkyard and now it’s turned out to be quite a great spirit of adventure.

The First Doctor

The Aztecs

Aztecs - Doctor and Cameca.jpg
(c) BBC

You’re monsters! All of you, monsters!

Susan Foreman

Synopsis

The TARDIS arrives in 15th Century Mexico and the crew encounter the doomed Aztecs, who are a mixture of high culture and savagery.  Barbara is mistaken for one of the Aztecs’ Gods, complicating matters considerably.

Review

The Aztecs is the first time the show really addressed the issues regarding interference in historic events, and it does it really well, with Barbara being mistaken for the Aztec God Yetexa, along with her pre-existing interest in the Aztec people giving this story genuine stakes.  Unlike some 60s Who, these stakes, along with the fact that each member of the TARDIS team has a decent subplot for a change, makes this one of the more memorable entries in Hartnell’s era.

The story feels quite epic in some regards and all the more impressive that it manages to deal with each of them so effectively compared to other stories in this era of Doctor Who with longer runtimes.  The story uses the plot device of the two sacrifices to establish and tie-up the various subplots involved, with the main plot revolving around the consequences of Barbara having picked up the bracelet in the tomb and being mistaken for the God, Yetexa.  The subplots revolve around the Doctor trying to find a way of regaining access to the TARDIS, which materialised in the tomb, Ian being roped in to fight Ixta to become the leader of the Aztec army and Susan being taken away to be taught Aztec values.  With the exception of Susan’s subplot, these all interact loosely with each other through the various parts, for instance, when the Doctor gives Ixta advice on how to win his fight, not knowing that this will be against Ian, in return for supposed information on the design of the tomb.  Due to Carol Ann Ford’s holiday, her subplot does feel more detached from the main narrative, although there are some other characters other than the other members of the TARDIS team who appear at times and her subplot does get worked back in nicely towards the end of the story.

The Aztecs
(c) BBC

The story focuses on the idea of non-interference and it is really strange coming to this story as someone whose introduction to Doctor Who was the modern series, in which the Doctor, whilst not advocating interference in historical events, isn’t so rigid as the First Doctor is here.  The script gives Barbara a good enough reason to be so concerned about the plight of the Aztec people – it is one of her interests – to want to interfere, putting her at odds not only with the Doctor, but with Tlotoxl as well.  Ultimately, the story does feel quite Shakespearean, especially when viewed in the light of the performance of John Ringham as Tlotoxl, one of the Aztec High Priests, whose deformities are a homage to Shakespeare’s depiction of Richard III.  The character is also quite similar to the play’s hatchet job it does on the controversial monarch, quietly scheming and spitting poison into the ears of the other characters.  His opposite number, Autloc, represents civilisation and order, whilst Tlotoxl represents the more savage aspects of Aztec society, such as human sacrifice.

The performances are also really good here.  I’m not sure if it’s because she has less to do and is probably in the story the least, but Susan did not irritate me as much as usual in Hartnell stories, which is a distinct positive, however, the real revelation was the performance of William Hartnell.  This story allows us to see a softer side of this incarnation of the Doctor which up till now has been rarely seen in the scenes with Cameca.  The performances of Hartnell and Margo Van der Burgh are really lovely, and the Doctor genuinely looks smitten by Cameca and there does seem to be genuine sadness that he has to leave her behind, evidenced by the fact that he picks up her broach before leaving in the TARDIS.  Hartnell seems much more genial and pleasant that the version of the Doctor we have seen before, and watching this story has really made me warm to First Doctor.  He is also shown to be fallible, like when he is giving Ixta information on how to defeat Ian, not knowing the identity of the former’s opponent.  Again, William Russell gives a great performance as Ian, and I particularly enjoy his reaction when he learns that the Doctor is engaged to Cameca!  The main plaudits do really have to go to Jacqueline Hill who provides a majestic performance as Barbara here, as she really is the focus of the entire story and she carries it so well.

Where did you get hold of this?

My fiancé.

I see…your what?

Yes, I made some cocoa and I got engaged…

Ian Chesterton and First Doctor

Verdict: I really enjoyed The Aztecs as it is really rather different to anything I remember the show doing before.  A strong script really does help here as well.  8/10

Cast: William Hartnell (The Doctor), William Russell (Ian Chesterton), Jacqueline Hill (Barbara Wright), Carol Ann Ford (Susan Foreman), Keith Pyott (Autloc), John Ringham (Tlotoxl), Ian Cullen (Ixta), Margot Van der Burgh (Cameca), Tom Booth (First Victim), David Anderson (Aztec Captain), Walter Randall (Tonila), Andre Boulay (Perfect Victim)

Writer: John Lucarotti

Director: John Crockett

Parts: 4 (The Temple of Evil, The Warriors of Death, The Bride of Sacrifice & The Day of Darkness)

Behind the Scenes

  • The first story to address altering the course of history and the first to have a romantic subplot involving the Doctor.
  • ‘The Warriors of Death’ was the first episode filmed at BBC Television Centre following persistent requests from Verity Lambert and her allies.  Ultimately, this would only be temporary, as by the end of production on the serial, they were back filming at Lime Grove.
  • The only story written by Lucarotti that exists in the BBC Archives in its entirety.
  • Jacqueline Hill named this as her favourite story.
  • Carol Ann Ford was on holiday for two weeks and only appears in pre-filmed inserts in episodes 2 and 3.

Best Moment

In the story’s final scene, the TARDIS crew hear Tloxtol and the rest of the Aztecs carry out their planned sacrifice, and Barbara and the Doctor’s conversation discusses how they actually didn’t really achieve anything and the emotional impact this has on Barbara.

Best Quote

Oh, don’t you see?  If I could start the destruction of everything that’s evil here, then everything that’s good will survive when Cortes lands.

But you can’t rewrite history! Not one line! Barbara, one last appeal: what you are trying to do is utterly impossible.  I know! Believe me, I know!

Barbara Wright and First Doctor

Aztecs - Autloc
(c) BBC