Sunday 11 December 2011

The Aztecs

History is a pack of lies about events that never happened told by people who weren’t there.
- George Santayana


The Aztecs starts with an unexpected utterance that catches us off guard.

Tlotoxl:  If you prove to be a false viewer then I will destroy you!

Him:  That was the random introduction of course.

Me:  Let’s hope so.

I’d forgotten about the six spoken introductions that occur at random, largely because the packaging of the DVD doesn’t mention them.

We recap as the TARDIS silently leaves Marinus and then suddenly cut to an inverted skull.

Him:  “It’s only a model.”  And it looks like a cake.

The title comes up.

Me:  See?  Temple of Doom.  This is by the same chap who wrote Marco Polo.  I can’t remember much about it but it might be alright.

The TARDIS has landed in a tomb – Barbara declares they must be in the Aztec period and starts rummaging through the trinkets of the dead like she’s at a jumble sale, helping herself to a bracelet as she does so.

Him:  Another field trip for Barbara.

Me:  It’s being educational again. The field trips alternate by story at the moment, Ian should get to shine in the next one. 

Barbara names the date and the period, which amazes Susan.  And quite rightly, as it suggests Barbara’s a world authority on Aztec culture.  Speciality or no, she certainly knows her stuff.

Him:  Where’re Ian and the Doctor?

Me:  I’m pretty sure they can’t both be on holiday.

Him:  Like Barbara is?

Me:  Well, she’s about to be.

Susan accidentally opens a door while trying to read a comic.  Following her, Barbara gets grabbed by a chap in a hat and his attendant warriors. The chap in the hat looks at the bracelet Barbara’s lifted with puzzlement.  Ian and the Doctor leave the TARDIS, look around and get locked out of the tomb.

Ian:  Where’s Barbara?

Me:  “Because every time we land somewhere and she goes off first we all end up in trouble.  Remember the Daleks?”

Him:  “The Keys of Marinus.”

Me:  “The Aztecs.”

The chap in the hat returns and introduces himself as Autloc.  He’s a High Priest – which explains the hat.  Autloc asks them to accompany him to greet the lady with the bracelet.  On the way out they pass Tlotoxl – played by Jaz Coleman – the High Priest In Charge Of Knives.  Tlotoxl has a bit of a one-track mind.

Love's like blood.
Him:  Blood, blood, blood.

Our heroes are reunited with Barbara.

Me:  She’s done it again.

Ian gets Autloc’s name wrong and is corrected by the Doctor.

Me:  That’s rich.

Because of her playful tomb-robbery, Barbara is now to be known as the god, Yetaxa.  The Doctor points out that whilst this case of mistaken identity might be all very amusing right now, if Barbara messes up, then they’ll be in trouble with people who weren’t exactly famed for their rigid adherence to human rights.

Me:  Tlotoxl looks pretty creepy.

Him:  Yup.

The High Priests want to show off Barbara later on.  In the meantime, the Doctor, Ian and Susan can have a look around.

Me:  And, in a brave and unexpected move, this is where Doctor Who stops being about time-travelling adventures and becomes a history of the Aztecs from a time-travellers point of view.  And we never see the TARDIS again.

Him:  Until the Doctor builds another one.

Tlotoxl’s spider-sense has been tingling, and he begins playing an early version of Live Chess, setting up Ian to fight Ixta, who has been chosen to lead the army.  The fight is duly arranged.  Ixta calls forth a volunteer to demonstrate why he’s in charge of the army.

Him:  That’s what they used to fight with, isn’t it?  Wooden spoons.

There’s a fight with giant spatulas.  The Him is getting quite into it.

Him:  Oo. Ah.

Ixta, whilst being charming enough, points out he’ll get a fair bit of kudos for slaying the servant of Yetaxa.  Ian is named a Chosen Warrior by Tlotoxl.

Me:  I like the way they pronounce “Ian”.  “Ee-yan.”

Elsewhere, the Doctor is being shown around by Autloc.

Me:  The Garden of Retirement.

The Doctor begins chatting up Cameca. 

Cameca:  It is the garden of Peace…  The words of Topau.

Me:  Eh?  “China in your hand?”  “Never kiss a Romulan?”  "What's your damage, Heather?"

Topau turns out to have been a bit of an architect.  This piques the Doctor’s interest – after all, there’s a TARDIS to reclaim.  Cameca arranges for the Doctor to meet with Topau’s son.  Ian arrives and there’s a bit of stumbling over lines, which is quite a surprise as up until now it’s all been running very smoothly.  The Him gets a bit baffled as to why William Hartnell corrects himself.

Him:  What was wrong with “me and…?”

Me:  I think he’s overcome by Ian’s…  By Ian’s…  Ummm…  What is that?

Him:  It’s a chicken suit.

Me:  On the plus-side we won’t be seeing one of those again until Arc Of Infinity.

Him:  Aww – I like Ian’s chicken suit.

Me:  Do you think he really has to wear one, or are they just winding him up?

There’s to be a sacrifice in honour of Barbara, and Ian’s got to restrain the victim while wearing a chicken suit.  Ian is becoming quite stressed but the Doctor points out that they can’t reveal themselves to be less than what they appear.

Later, Barbara and the Doctor are talking.  I say ‘talking’, but they’re building to a robust disagreement via heated argument.  Barbara has decided to preserve the Aztecs by getting them to stop human sacrifice.  The Doctor is not happy about this as they cannot interfere.  Barbara rebels and the Doctor gives a cracking response, but Barbara’s set.  The performances are marvellous.  
Iconic Moment #16

Iconic Moment #17

The Him face-palms.

Me:  The music fits really well here.

Him:  The music?

Me:  Yeah.

Him:  Was that a drum roll?  Where’d they get the drums?

At the height of the sacrifice - Barbara interferes.

Him:  Oh no…


Him:  I’ve always remembered this one.

Me:  What about it do you remember?

Him:  It was always the one they were selling in Forbidden Planet back when they still sold DVDs.  That and Ian’s chicken suit.

The sacrifice jumps off the pyramid/ziggurat anyway – there’s thunder.  It starts to rain.

Me:  "I will not be pushed, stamped, filed, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered." 

Him:  Bad stock footage.

Tlotoxl’s worked out what’s going on…


Him:  “Warriors of Death.”


Wasn’t this one called The Temple of Death?

Me:  Nearly.  The Temple of Doom.

This comment is rewarded with a raised eyebrow.

Me:  Alright.  Temple of Evil.

Him:  Oh.

Me:  Do you like this story?

Him:  Yeah.

Me:  Why?

Him:  I don’t know.  Do I need a reason?

Me:  You just like it?

Him:  Yeah. 


Him:  Do we need reasons?


The recap of Tlotoxl’s declaration to destroy the false Yetaxa – John Ringham hits the ground running -

Me:  That’s pretty good.  Quite intense.

 - and is rewarded with an extreme close-up.

Me:  Oop.  Bump.

Him:  The camera doesn’t bump him.

Barbara and the Doctor argue.  It’s another barnstorming performance from Hill and Hartnell, but the Him’s got a question…

Him:  How can the Doctor possibly know all this?

Me:  Eh?

Him:  Has he taken a course in Earth history?

Me:  That’s probably what his doctorate’s in.  I think we have to take it as read that the Doctor knows everything he needs to know when the story needs him to know it.

Him:  I’ll pretend that makes sense.

Tlotoxl confronts Barbara like an Aztec Columbo.  Elsewhere, Ian and Ixta size each other up.  Ixta shows off his skills with weapons and in response Ian produces his thumb.

Ixta:  What weakness have I that is vulnerable to your thumb?

"You will find it very difficult to make me look silly, Eeyan."
Me:  And Ian jabs him in the eye.

Ian directs Ixta to pick up his club, and then employs Venusion Aikido.

Me:  They’re obviously unfamiliar with the ancient art of Cyber-Massage.

Him:  “Cyber-Massage”?

Me:  That’ll make sense when we reach the Upper Tom.  Voga, to be precise.

The Perfect Victim, whose every wish must be granted, is introduced.  Tlotoxl’s brain starts scheming and he sets up a rematch between Ian and Ixta.  Meanwhile, the Doctor is in the garden still trying to arrange a meeting with Topau’s son.

Me:  There’s some shifty supporting-artistry taking place here.

Cameca:  Your heart is young too, Doctor.

Him:  When do we first find out that the Doctor has two hearts?*

Me:  I’m pretty sure it’s confirmed in Spearhead From Space. 

Him:  Oh.

Me:  Not long after we find out he’s a Time Lord.

Him:  He’s not even a-  What is he?

Me:  That’s all part of the mystery.  Doctor Who?  We don’t really know anything about him or Susan.

Him:  We know loads about Susan.

Me:  She’s good at science but has a nervous disposition and falls over a lot.

Cameca arranges a meeting with Topau’s son, Ixta.  Susan is studying Aztec literature and manners.  Unfortunately, the subject of arranged marriages comes up and Susan, as we saw in Marco polo, is not a fan.

Me:  Everyone’s making mistakes because of who they are – it’s really clever.  The plot’s being driven by character.

The Doctor is introduced to Ixta.  Ixta offers to show the Doctor the plans to the door if he can help him win a fight scheduled for later on.

Him:  Can’t they just push the door from the top?

The Doctor agrees to help Ixta and starts looking amongst the plants for poisons.

"...almost impossible in fact."
Him:  It doesn’t look like a real jaguar’s head.

Me:  In fairness to the BBC costume department, it’s very possible they didn’t have one lying around.  I think you need to use your imagination.

Ian rehearses for his fight with Ixta.

Me:  Barbara’s put them in a terrible position.

Him:  Yeah.

Barbara reveals her concerns about Tlotoxl to Autloc.  To bolster her cause she starts prophesising the doom of the Aztecs.

Me:  The Reapers should be turning up sometime around now.

Elsewhere, with the poisoned thorn he hands Ixta, the Doctor dooms Ian.

Him:  The Doctor’s just doomed Ian.

The Doctor speaks to Barbara about his plans and what he’s been up to.  Barbara tells him about Ian and Ixta’s scheduled scrap.

Me:  Oops.

The Doctor:  I must warn Ian.

Him:  “Ian, my boy.  I’m afraid I’ve doomed you.”

The Doctor is captured for having broken the law by visiting Barbara.  The fight goes ahead.  The Doctor manages to warn Ian and thus double-dooms him, as the warning merely acts as a distraction and Ian gets scratched.  The tension builds.  Ian falls asleep, which, still being in a fight to the death, rather puts him an awkward position.  Barbara arrives and Tlotoxl seizes his chance.

Tlotoxl:  If you are Yetaxa… Save him!

Me:  We both got quite into that one.

Him:  The person playing Ixta’s called Ian.

*There’s a fan-theory that the Doctor only has one heart at this point, and then grows another as a result of regenerating for the first time.  This is nice and simple and also solves the problem of the mini clip-show we’ll be shown on Karn by turning Mr Hinchcliffe and friends into Morbius.  Fine with me.


In a wonderful moment, Barbara saves Ian.

Me:  Lateral thinking.

Ixta confides in Tlotoxl.  Autloc describes an eclipse.  Tlotoxl has come up with a plan to prove Barbara’s not a god.  He confides in Tonila.

Him:  “She floats!  She must be a witch!”

Me:  I like the way that John Lucarotti sets up these seemingly inescapable complications and then untangles them naturally.  It doesn’t feel forced or contrived at all.  The fact it treats the viewer with respect doesn’t hurt.  The characters don’t always say what they mean – there’s a lot of double-bluffing – and we’re supposed to be paying enough attention to pick that up.

In the garden, the Doctor finds a sign.

Me:  “Entrance.”

The Doctor gets engaged by accident.

Him:  He’s making her a love potion.

Me:  I’m pretty sure it’s just cocoa.

Ian confronts Barbara with reason and then Tlotoxl confronts Barbara with poison.    

Me:  Of course, by working out that it was poison and then surviving, Barbara just confirmed that she really is Yetaxa.  Again.  But then she admits she isn’t.

"Did you want marshmallows?  I forgot to ask."
The Doctor and Cameca are getting along famously.

Him:  He’s basically asked her to marry him.

Me:  Cameca did seem to be more excited about a hot chocolate than perhaps you’d expect.

Tlotoxl argues theology with Autloc.

Me:  It’s the ignorance of the TARDIS crew that’s causing all the problems.  That makes it educational and entertaining and informative, I suppose.  Fantastic.

Him:  Educational and informative.  That’s deep.

Me:  Reithian, I think.

Susan’s told she’s engaged to the Perfect Victim, with predictable results.  Barbara is met by Tlotoxl and Tonila – someone has broken the law and must be punished.

Me:  They’re setting her up – like they did with the Doctor earlier.

The Aztecs is stuffed with wonderful moments, and there’s another one between Ian and the Doctor.  Autloc announces he will support Barbara in her wish to stop sacrifices.  Autloc lets the cat out of the bag about Susan.

Me:  Barbara’s really in a corner here.

Him:  Yup.

The Doctor has, finally, found a way into the tomb behind some polystyrene.  Sensibly, he sends Ian in first.

Him:  That light’s not coming from the torch.

Ian’s trapped and the tunnel begins to flood.

Me:  That’s a brilliant cliffhanger.


The Doctor Who theme belts out at the top of the concluding episode.

Ian’s stuck in the tunnel.  As the water rises he lifts things.

Him:  Push, Ian!

Me:  There seem to be a lot of cuts here.

In the garden, the Doctor and Ixta are conversationally circling each other.

Me:  The Doctor gets Ian’s name right when he’s flustered.

Him:  I don’t think that the Doctor likes Ian very much.  He keeps trying to kill him.

Ian's managed to get in the tomb.

Me:  Science in action.  It’s being educational again.

Him:  What’s he trying to do?

Ian’s got a plan.

Him:  The door to the tomb could be opened though.

Me:  How?

Him:  You could push it from the top.

Me:  You wouldn’t be able to reach it.

Him:  It’s not that high up.

Me:  Not if you can hover.

Him:  It’s really not that high up.

Me:  If you were standing on something, when the door opened it would knock you off.  And then close.

Him:  I didn’t say if you were standing on something.  But if you had two people then one could lift you up by the side of the door so that you could push it in with one of your hands.  Then, one of you could slip under it because it doesn’t close instantly: as we saw in the first episode.

Me:  You’d need three tomb raiders then.

Him:  No you wouldn’t – because it doesn’t close instantly.

Me:  Perhaps you’re going critical.

Him:  Shush.

Ian and Barbara and the Doctor meet up outside the tomb – plans are made.  Tlotoxl and Ixta prepare.  Susan is brought in.  Ixta begins gloating that he’s disposed of Ian, prematurely as it happens.

Him:  Did Ian just kiss him?

Me:  I thought it was a headbutt.

The Doctor and Barbara prepare for escape – they are joined by Ian and Susan and there’s a discussion of pulleys.

Me:  Maths now.

Barbara:  The Aztecs don’t have the wheel.

Me:  And history.  The whole curriculum’s being addressed.

Suddenly – at 6’ 56” - the music makes the same noise as my phone – which totally throws me.

Me:  Was that my phone?

Him:  No.  That was the TV.

Me:  I’m sure I just had a message.

Him:  No.  You didn’t.

Tlotoxl comes up with a quite desperate plan to frame Ian.

Tlotoxl:  This time Ixta, do not fail me.

Me:  “There’s a love.”

Barbara and the Doctor wait for Susan and Ian.

Him:  Did Barbara just say – “I like drowning people”?

Me:  She’s trying to stop human sacrifice.

Autloc gets bashed by Ixta – Ian’s club is left next to him.  Ian and Susan are captured.

Me:  Didn’t this happen to Ian in the last story?

Him:  Yes.

Tlotoxl continues scheming to dispose of Barbara.

Tonila:   How shall it be done?

Me:  “Top of the pyramid, I’ll give her a shove.”

Him:  Did Tlotoxl just wink?

Me:  No.  It’s another distracting musical cue.

The Doctor and Cameca are talking.  The Doctor is sculpting.

Him:  Ha!  He’s making a wheel!

Escape attempt of the week:  
"With this ring, I thee flee, hmmm?"
Me:  You can’t mess with history - not one line of it.  Except for cheap tricks and escapes.

Barbara and Autloc discuss the conundrum presented by Ian’s axe.  Autloc wants to believe Barbara, but the evidence seems to point in a different direction.

Him:  “It’s the only explanation that fits all the facts.”

The Doctor and Cameca break up.

Me:  It’s getting tense.  It seems that the Doctor’s actually quite keen on Cameca.

Him:  It would rewrite history to take her away with them.  Is she in history or just made up for this?

Me:  Just made up for this.

Him:  But it would also rewrite history – and this is going to sound kind of weird – to take away Ian and Barbara – because if Susan’s from the fifty-second century-

Me:  Oh no!  Not this again!

Him:  -then Ian and Barbara are from history.

Me:  No.  Only Barbara.  Ian’s from Science.

Him:  No – shush – because I’ve got more.  If you travel to the future and change something, then that’ll affect the future that’s further on.  If you stopped the sun from going out – in a billion years – then people would still be around.  Do you get my point?

Me:  Yeah.  But it doesn’t quite work like that.

Him:  It does.  Just not in the world of Doctor Who.  I think this the only way I’m ever going to understand philosophy.

Me:  We’re not really delving too deeply into philosophy at the moment.

Him:  Yes we are.

Me:  Light’s used quite symbolically through this – there’s a lot of thought gone into it.

Ian plans fowl play while Ixta continues to not look silly.
Autloc exiles himself.  Ian and Susan await punishment, guarded by Ixta.

Him:  No.  That’s Ian’s chicken suit.

Cameca distracts Ixta with a decision.  Ian clocks him.

Ian:  Well, someone had to make up his mind for him.

Us:  Yay!

Ian reclaims his chicken suit.

Him:  He looked straight at the camera.  “I’ve just come up with a plan.”

Ixta comes round.  Tlotoxl is not happy.

Him:  So – are any of these real people from history?

Me:  No.

Him:  But they’re based on people from history?

Me:  Kind of.  Yes.  I think John Lucarotti’s taken this very seriously.

Him:  The music just cuts off there.

Me:  Do you think there’s been an edit for violence?

Him:  No, because the music carries on into the next scene.  But it stops so abruptly.

Me:  It’s weird but it’s probably something like a miscue.  This episode’s got an optional Arabic soundtrack - but I don’t think that’s relevant.

Yetaxa and followers prepare to escape.  Ixta returns.

Ian:  Run, Barbara!

Him:  “I shall peck him to death!”

Ian and Ixta fight.

Me:  That looks alright.  You can see what they’re getting at.

Him:  Ian’s a science teacher.  How’s he able to do all this stuff?

Me:  He keeps fit playing touch rugby on the weekends.

Ixta gets dropped from a high height.  There’s an odd cut here, so Ixta pops back up like a Perpugilliam after we see him smashed to bits.

Me:  That shot looks upside-down.  Weird, anyway.

Him:  It’s not upside-down.**

Our heroes escape.  The eclipse goes ahead -

Him:  My eyes!

- as does the sacrifice.  In the tomb, but not yet in the TARDIS, Barbara and the Doctor discuss what’s happened.   The Aztecs concludes, as it’s played throughout, with lovely performances.

Me:  That’s all been quite special.  I loved that.

Following a quick cut the TARDIS takes off.  Then there’s another cut and the TARDIS has landed, but is still moving.  Barbara suggests they’ve landed inside something – hopefully, a space whale.

Me:  And an odd cliffhanger.

Him:  I enjoyed it.

Me:  Overall, do you like the historicals then?

Him:  Yeah.  Well, I like them more than most people do according to that Doctor Who Monthly Mighty 200 poll.  This was the most popular historical wasn’t it?**

Me:  I think so.  It’s cracking stuff but I don’t know if I’d have been as keen on it if I was ten.  There’s not a lot of explosions and things catching fire to keep you watching.


**Having double-checked, it seems that, in fact, it was.  In both cases.

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