Sunday, 30 January 2011

6: The Aztecs - I'm An Historicals Convert!

Barbara as The God Yetaxa.
Written by: John Lucarotti.
Companions: The Doctor, Susan, Ian Chesterton, Barbara Wright.
Monsters/Villains: The High Preist of Sacrifice, Tlotoxl. 
Brief Synopsis: Barbara is mistaken for The Aztec God Yetaxa in fifteenth-century Mexico. 
Rating: 8/10

Aren't you lucky two posts in one day. The Aztecs is a new found favourite of mine. It's interesting that as I get older I am growing to prefer the historicals to the futuristic stories.

Barbara is thrilled to have arrived in her favourite period of history and puts on a bracelet she finds. She is then mistaken for the re-incarnation of the God Yetaxa. The scene in which the rest of the TARDIS crew show up to find her all dolled up in the lap of luxury, is almost exactly the same as the opener to the episode The Velvet Web from The Keys of Marinus.

This is one of the first stories where changing history is addressed. The Doctor says that one cannot interfere with the past. But in The Daleks he encourages Ian to change the Thals from non-violent farmers into warriors. Why is it okay for the TARDIS crew to get involved and change things in a futuristic story but not in a historical? Barbara stops the sacrifice of one of the Aztecs. Only to be snubbed by him throwing himself off a wall, killing himself anyway. So her attempt to change things fails.

I actually don't have that much to say about this story. I really enjoyed it a lot and I don't really have any criticism. Lucarotti is so brilliant at weaving all these fantastic characters together, and cleverly teaches us a bit about the Aztecs by making their famously grand architecture a pivotal plot point. The crew must find their way back to TARDIS but need to get to grips with the building plans first.

The Doctor with his fiancee Cameca.
The Doctor goes about this by schmoozing Cameca. All of the scenes between these two are truly heart warming. And the Doctor gets a romantic sub-plot and actually gets engaged. We wont see anything like this again until Paul McGann shows up on the scene in 1996.

Some criticise The Aztecs as being cod-shakespeare with a bad Richard III impersonation by John Ringham. Ringham's High Preist of Sacrifice Tlotoxl is certainly larger than life, but that's part of what I love about Doctor Who. I want to see characters and places I can't see anywhere else. 

John Ringham as Tlotoxl. Wonderful.
There is also a wonderfully gentle performance by Keith Pyott as Autloc, the High Priest of Knowledge. Autloc leaves the story to wander in the wasteland in self enforced exile. Perhaps the TARDIS crew have changed history and if they hadn't showed up Autloc would have guided the Aztec people to becoming a more civilised community. Who knows? ;-)

Keith Pyott as Autloc. Beautifully gentle. 
It's odd, all three of my favourite stories so far have been going backwards in time. I guess I'm a historicals convert...

Join me next time for The Sensorites. 

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