Don’t play what’s there, play what’s not there.
- Miles Davis
THE SLAVE TRADERS
Him: How excited d’you think people would get when they saw that line moving up the screen?
By ‘that line’, the Him’s talking about the introductory moments of Howlaround that the Beeb sourced from opera. Thinking about that, it probably didn’t help, did it?
Me: Well… I’m going to turn that around a bit and ask you if you get excited when the new series titles start rolling?
Him: Yeah, I suppose I do slightly. I’m not completely, ecstatically, over-the-moon about it though.
Me: Well, with me, it’s the diamond and the starfield that I really remember, but the music was a massive part of it too. I can remember feeling, not scared, but apprehensive when the music started, and then almost holding my breath when the story title and the episode number came up.
Him: What’s the first story you actually remember?
Me: The Invisible Enemy.
Him: Ah. The Nucleus of the Prawn. So, how did you feel when the credits came up?
Me: Terrified, I guess.
Him: And did you look forward to it all week?
Me: I did, but it was very rare that I’d actually get to see an episode because we’d usually have to go somewhere on a Saturday. Although I loved it – I couldn’t really watch it. On the rare occasions that I got to see one of those Season Fifteen/Sixteen ones, I’d be tensing up waiting for the end credits to start – it was hard to get a grip on how long the episode had been on.
Him: So, when did you get to see them?
Me: Usually every other Saturday, if I was lucky. I think that’s how it worked – but memory’s not always as reliable as you think it is. When the BBC changed the day they were broadcasting from Saturday then I really got to indulge. There was a repeat season called the Five Faces of Doctor Who that showed repeats of each Doctor and I caught that. Then there was another one about monsters and I caught that too. Mostly though I was reading the books and the Doctor Who Weekly/Monthly/Magazine/Whatever as well. I’ll call it the DWM after that mangled sentence.
To recap the start of The Romans – the TARDIS lands on, and then falls off, a cliff. Ian wakes up and starts eating grapes.
Him: Meanwhile, back on Marinus.
The Doctor and Ian are dressed in togas and are talking about pipes. The crew have been ensconced in an otherwise vacant Roman villa for nearly a month. In order not to appear too rude, the Doctor has been watering the plants. Aqueducts are mentioned.
Me: Bit of History. We’ve not seen an aqueduct since The Sensorites.
Vicki and Barbara have gone shopping in the local village.
Barbara: It’s so hot.
Me: “That’ll be all these lights.”
Him: The sky needs washing. Vicki’s been a bit quick forgiving Barbara for killing Sandy.
A Ruffian is observing the ladies. Elsewhere, in the village, two Romans, Sevcheria and Didius, are bemoaning the travelling slave-trader’s lot. They keep passing through towns- The Him laughs.
Me: Go on.
Me: Well spotted. I’ll be awarding bonus marks for obscure references.
Him: Now you’ll need a picture.
Me: I’ll have put a link back when you said it, I’m sure.
Barbara and Vicki are assessed as stock replacement possibilities by the two disreputable fellows.
Me: Poor Barbara. Everywhere she goes it’s: “My, you’re a pretty one….”
We join Barbara and Vicki who are shopping for cloth.
Him: “Dirty rags!”
When quizzed by Vicki about where she’s from, Barbara starts obfuscating.
Barbara: Ah, you mean Londinium.
Me: “Remember, this is a field trip for me.”
The ladies attempt to buy some of the cloth. The storeholder asks them:
Cloth Vendor: Well now, what would you consider to be a fair price? Bearing in mind it’s the only length of its kind and the finest quality available... It’s very difficult to put a price on something like this – it’s very hard to come by.
Barbara takes Vicki to one side and offers her advice that I wish she’d offered me before Christmas.
Barbara: You should have learnt by now that the price is much fairer when you’re not so eager to buy.
Me: And that’s a rule that applies to all Doctor Who merchandise.
Him: It gets more expensive the more you want it?
After Barbara and Vicki have moved on, Sevcheria and Didius attempt to pump the Cloth Vendor for information.
Him: “You won’t get it.”
Me: Oh, very good. You’re on form today.
The Cloth Vendor suggests they try the villa just outside of the town if they’re after the Britons. Back on the path A Ruffian continues to lurk.
Him: Has no-one seen him yet?
A chap and his lyre meander by.
Him: There’s Cacofonix.
A Ruffian jumps the musician and assault takes place.
Me: Must be Fulliautomatix.
Him: Poor Cacofonix.
Back at the villa, our chums are having a slap-up feast. It’s all going fine until Barbara starts relating the ingredients.
Me: It’s Crunchy Frog all over again.
Foreshadowing the next story – and referencing Planet of Giants - the starter doesn’t entirely meet with the Doctor’s approval.
Ian asks about whether or not they should have a think about fixing the TARDIS.
Ian: I’d like to stay here as long as possible.
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 Romans from a time-travellers point of view. And we never see the TARDIS again.
Him: How did they survive the fall?
Me: They didn’t. Barbara’s actually in a coma and this is all talking place in her mind – like the Prisoner remake. It’s what Steven Moffat’s building towards revealing in the current series.
Him: That it’s all been a dream? Why’s it Barbara’s dream?
Me: I just… happened to choose her… at random.
Him: Oh, did you now? Completely random was it?
Me: I even fitted a randomiser to my choice to make sure.
Him: So, you’re saying it was completely at random that you chose Barbara out of all the others?
Me: She almost wakes up in Meglos, of course.
Him: That’s rubbish.
Me: I disagree. And, as I’m the one writing this up, you might find yourself agreeing with me or saying something silly for the rest of this episode. Just saying.
The Doctor becomes irritable and grumbles off. Vicki admits that she’s a bit bored too. The Doctor starts packing fruit for his journey into the unknown.
Ian: You never told us you were going away.
The Doctor: Oh? I don’t know that I was under any obligation to report my movements to you, Chesterfield.
The Doctor: Oh, Barbara’s calling you.
Him: I still remember that line – it’s great.
The Doctor’s definitely heading off to have a look at Rome. After a fair bit of nagging, he agrees to take Vicki with him. This pleases her.
Me: What sort of noise did Vicki just make there?
The Doctor’s angry with the teachers though.
Me: And, if I didn’t know better then I’d swear those two are trying not to crack up.
After the Doctor and Vicki leave, Barbara sets about Ian’s hair.
Me: That’s a lovely moment. It’s nice to see them actually relaxing and having a break.
Ian is so excited by his new look that he starts reciting Shakespeare. Elsewhere, the two slave-traders are preparing a raid. Didius appears to have weaponry issues. These issues begin at 14’ 35” if you’d like to see for yourself.
Me: Umm… What’s wrong with Didius? Has he got sword twitch or something?
Him: Sword twitch?
Me: Look at what he’s doing.
The Him cracks up. Ian and Barbara are winding each other up anachronistically.
Ian works out it was a joke.
Him: There I was thinking there was a problem I’d been the first to spot.
Ian hears something and then there’s a noise. He asks Barbara if she heard anything.
Barbara: No – like what?
Him: So she did hear something.
Me: Let’s not forget the Sensorite that was able to nick the TARDIS lock whilst in the same room. But, then again, that’s dream-logic for you.
Him: That was before your dream-logic theory. That was real.
Ian puts up a struggle against slavery, but Barbara crowns him with an amphora by accident.
Barbara gets a fireman’s-lift back to the slave-camp. We don’t see how Ian gets there.
Me: Barbara’s the most desired woman in the universe. Which is more proof for my all-in-a-coma theory.
The Doctor and Vicki are on the path to Rome. The Doctor finds a body and a shiny lyre.
Vicki: Doctor, I’ve seen him before.
Him: “It’s Cacofonix.”
A Roman centurion approaches the Doctor and Vicki and a classic case of mistaken identity takes place. The Doctor decides to play along and go to Rome disguised as a musician in order to meet Nero. What could possibly go wrong?
Me: I’m sure she’s Vitalstatix’s wife.
The Doctor believes that the Roman centurion had more to do with the body than he’s letting on, but there’s really a time and a place to be playing at Columbo, especially when you're having difficulty remembering what your name’s supposed to be. The centurion watches the Doctor and Vicki walk off.
Me: “These Gauls are crazy.”
Meanwhile, Ian and Barbara have been secured to a cart.
Me: It’s gone grim again.
Ian gets a slap for insolence.
Him: That was a bit gentle.
Me: They might have needed to do another take, so they probably didn’t want to break anything.
Ian is sold to be a sailor, and Barbara’s off to Rome. Ian vows to find her. Elsewhere, the Roman centurion we met earlier turns out to be in cahoots with A Ruffian. Following the sounds of a randomly plucked lyre, A Ruffian and his sword prepare to finish the job properly…
ALL ROADS LEAD TO ROME
We join A Ruffian and the Doctor having a great fight.
Me: It seems a bit unfair sending in Barry Jackson to fight William Hartnell as Hartnell’s obviously trying to kill him.
Vicki: Doctor, Doctor! What’s happening?
Me: “I’m killing a burglar, child.”
The Doctor, after tossing A Ruffian out of the window, mentions he used to train the Mountain Mauler of Montana.
Me: More lies. Or more dream logic.
Vicki’s worried A Ruffian might return.
Him: I don’t think he’ll be back.
Me: They’re on the fifth floor, so it’s unlikely. Hartnell’s loving it, but he seems a bit worn out after administering that thrashing.
Elsewhere, Barbara’s in a jail.
Me: Dennis Spooner locks Barbara up again.
Barbara explains the plot to a Susan substitute. The action changes to a galley.
Me: Ian’s been exiled to film. Just kidding.
Ian’s got a plan. It involves Delos, the adjacent rower, pretending to have food poisoning.
Me: That’s a great plan.
The plan doesn’t work. Back in the jail Barbara has met the richly-voiced Roman Tavius who offers to buy her at the next day’s auction. The Susan substitute will be popped in the Circus. Stock footage occurs – so we must be back with Ian.
Me: It’s The Prisoner again. I guess they were only allowed a maximum of ten bits of stock footage.
There’s a sudden crash of water over the rowers as they overpower the cox.
Me: Ooo – that looked sore.
The Doctor and Vicki arrive in Rome. Behind them, Barbara’s being auctioned. Tavius wins the auction for Barbara, though it costs him 10, 000 sesterce. Ian wakes on a beach and is freed by Delos. Ian then heads off to Rome to look for Barbara, Delos comes along for the banter. Barbara is taken by Tavius to her new home. She’s to be a servant of Poppaea in Nero’s house.
Me: Barbara’s hit the history teacher work experience jackpot here. Well, second-place perhaps – I guess it’s not as good as being a god.
The Doctor and Vicki have also reached the palace. Tavius makes a funny noise to attract the Doctor’s attention. The Doctor keeps him waiting for a bit. There’s another funny noise when Caesar is mentioned.
Me: And Vicki squeals again.
The Doctor and Vicki meet Nero. It’s a marvellous scene.
Me: Did you see what Nero just did there?
We rewind quickly to 19’ 43” where Nero wipes his chickeny hands on Tigilinus.
Me: That’s ace.
Ian and Delos have reached Rome and managed to be captured almost instantly. The Doctor and Vicki meanwhile are discussing what Tavius might be up to and generally enjoying themselves right up until the moment the Doctor finds another body. It’s the centurion from earlier. Ian’s in trouble. He’s to be fighting in the arena later on.
Me: And Dennis Spooner locks Ian up again.
Ian: Yes, but to fight what?
Me: Giant ants?
Him: No. Regular ants.
|Turns out it's lions.|
Back in the jail, Susan’s substitute makes a reappearance.
Me: Oh – Barbara’s friend.
This time around, the lions are shown as blipverts. Caesar wraps a lyre around Tigilinus’ head.
Him: Did that have strings?
Me: It looked like it did.
The Doctor and Vicki have had a great sleep. Tavius announces himself by hissing. The Doctor’s still none the wiser as to what’s actually going on other than that he’s involved in some sort of conspiracy. Nero’s moaning at Poppaea about being upstaged by the Doctor. The dialogue sings. Enter Tavius with Barbara. Nero’s quite pleased by this turn of events.
Him: He sounds hollow – like there’s wind passing through him.
|He's coming to get you, Barbara.|
Me: He’s just met Barbara, it’s hardly surprising.
Nero wastes no time in chasing Barbara around the nearest boudoir.
Me: Barbara’s like the poor female cat in every Pep Le Pew cartoon.
Vicki ends up in the wrong room. Barbara and the Doctor almost meet as Nero chases her down another corridor. Vicki and Locusta, Nero’s Official Poisoner, are making friends. Well, Locusta’s making a fizzy poison anyway.
Locusta: I wonder who’ll have the honour of being given this…
Me: “Alka Seltzer.”
Nero and Barbara have run out of palace to tear around. The Doctor accidentally saves the day, although Poppaea isn’t impressed with the antics. Back in the jail Ian is pacing. Outside there’s a timid fight. The Susan substitute announces herself on hearing Ian’s name.
Me: “That be a strange name.” She must be Welsh.
Ian is given fresh hope on hearing that Barbara’s alive. Elsewhere, the Doctor and Nero are steaming. After some more entertaining swordplay, Vicki overhears Locusta being commissioned by Poppaea to poison Barbara.
Me: They keep poisoning Barbara.
Him: When did they poison her before?
Me: The Aztecs and Planet of Giants. Well, nearly in The Aztecs. You know what I mean.
The Doctor tells Vicki that there’ll be a banquet later on and he’ll be providing the music.
Me: “But – that’s a bad thing isn’t it?”
Nero’s cornered Barbara with a proposition.
|Iconic Moment #35|
Following the big surprise Barbara drains a glass of wine in one go. Vicki remembers something she meant to tell the Doctor earlier.
Him: “Oh. I think I’ve poisoned Barbara.”
Me: That’s superb. Vicki hasn’t forgotten Sandy.
Him: Was Nero poisoned then?
Me: Probably only in the dream world – not in ours.
Tigilinus gets Doctor Who’s first comedy death. Derek Francis takes this opportunity to stare at the audience.
Him: Nero just leaves him there!
Ian’s still pacing the jail. The Doctor and Vicki are discussing the evening’s set-list.
Vicki: You can’t play the lyre, Doctor!
The Doctor: Can’t I, child?
Me: “No, you mad fool!”
But he can – using cunning.
Him: The Doctor gets away with this quite cleverly.
Nero isn’t as impressed by the Doctor’s efforts as the Him is.
Nero: He’s alright, but he’s not all that good.
Tavius is about to make a noise that isn’t a hiss.
The Doctor name-drops Hans Andersen.
Him: Told you.
Me: More lies.
Nero’s less than impressed. Ian’s still pacing. Nero arrives at the jail, with Barbara in tow, to watch some gladiators whack the Sensorite out of each other. Nero also reveals he’s planning to drop lions on the Doctor in the arena. Putting Ian and Delos in a bit of a Catch 22 spot, one has to kill the other. The Him’s enraptured by this point.
Him: This is all the Doctor’s fault because he humiliated Nero.
Ian and Barbara catch sight of one another.
Me: It’s the Reign of Terror guillotine cliffhanger reversed.
A great fight takes place.
Me: They used that same cliffhanger twice in Season Nineteen, so it must have made an impression on someone.
Turning the tables, Delos and Ian escape. It’s very exciting.
Him: How many gladiators tried this?
Me: Not many.
Him: Delos isn’t bad, is he?
Me: He’s a good guy.
Nero and Barbara confront each other. Nero’s getting less and less impressed with the way the day’s going.
Me: That’s quite tense.
Poppaea tells Tavius that Barbara is to be fired. Trapped in a nightmare, Barbara runs down endless corridors. She runs into Tavius and asks for his help. Ian and Delos have reached the palace. The Doctor is looking at a map that Nero’s made. It’s on flammable material…
Me: Hartnell’s humming and chuckling his way through this story quite cheerfully.
|Iconic Moment #37|
Tavius hisses his way in and warns the Doctor of Nero’s plan to drop lions on him. Nero turns up and the Doctor runs rings around him linguistically whilst dabbling in arson. The Him’s loving it.
Him: Is that how the fire started?
Me: It is in this.
Nero, excited by the fire, runs down the corridor to tell Poppaea his plan.
Me: Hurry up! You’ve got to get to the end of the scene before the fire goes out.
The Doctor and Vicki decide to leave Rome. Intrigue’s going on. Ian and Barbara are reunited. The Doctor and Vicki escape. Nero burns down Rome. Tavius is revealed to be more than he first appeared.
Him: He’s a Christian?
Rome’s burning quite nicely. The Doctor and Vicki watch for a bit. The thorny issue of non-interference is raised.
Me: “Just call me, ‘Yetaxa’. Hee hee hee hmmmm?”
The Doctor indulges in a bit of mad laughing, whilst Nero indulges in lots of mad laughing.
Him: So Nero was a little bit around the twist?
Me: He was very young when he got all that power and it didn’t do him any good. So, yeah, he was barking.
Ian and Barbara have returned to the villa. Barbara reveals that she might have been responsible for clocking Ian with the amphora earlier on. The Him snorts. The fridge joke makes a reappearance and there’s a playful scrap. The Him’s still loving it. The Doctor and Vicki return, with neither group realising the other’s even had an adventure. Superb.
Him: It’s weird watching Doctor Who as one continuous story.
Me: It’s quite special, isn’t it?
Him: Yeah, because it’s a lot different to watching random episodes with a different main character. It’d be like reading Harry Potter in the wrong order.
Me: I’ve got to admit that I’m really enjoying doing this.
Him: It’s more of a story.
Me: Puts it all in perspective.
The TARDIS puts in her first non-vertical dematerialisation.
Me: That’s ace.
Him: How did they do the TARDIS take-off?
Me: Rollback and mix.
Him: And what’s that? How am I supposed to know what that means?
Me: Here’s a quick explanation. You make sure the camera’s fixed and still and then you film a certain number of frames of the TARDIS in a place. Then you take the TARDIS away and film the same place again, being careful not to jog the camera. Then you mix between the two bits of film. That’s why trees look weird if there’s a breeze.
Him: And heads.
Me: Yeah, and heads. Like in the Time Monster.
Him: This is boring.
Me: Yes. Yes, it is. Sorry.
In the TARDIS the Doctor reveals that they’ve been imprisoned by something – what’s worse is that it’s slowly dragging them down.
Ian: Dragged down? To what?
NEXT: THE WEB PLANET
Him: It’s clever how they answered Ian’s question.
And on that bombshell, No Complications will be taking a short break until early in the New Year. It won’t be for too long, so keep checking back for the next post. In order to whet your appetite there’ll be a teaser next week.
Happy New Year to all our readers from the Me and the Him – and all the best for 2012!