Friday, 17 October 2014

027 The Aztecs Episode 1: The Temple of Evil

EPISODE: The Aztecs Episode 1: The Temple of Evil
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 23 May 1964
WRITER: John Lucarotti
DIRECTOR: John Crockett
SCRIPT EDITOR: David Whitaker
PRODUCER: Verity Lambert
RATINGS: 7.4 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who: The Aztecs (Special Edition)

"But you can't rewrite history! Not one line!"

OK, last time I wrote:

Right, The Aztecs. I've seen this a grand total of twice: Once when I bought the video a few years after it came out, and once with the commentary on after the DVD was released. I've got the book but never read it. It's a historical story and they've never interested me. I know there's something in there about Barbara wanting to stop the Aztec's sacrifices and that the great John Ringham is in it but that's about it. So on with the DVD.
Same stands here. Except that I have now seen it 3 times because I watched it for the blog the previous time round. Since then a special edition DVD of the story has come out and I haven't watched disc 1 of it at all. Disc 2 is another story: it has the recovered episode of Galaxy Four on it.

So the fourth time viewing is a debut for the SE version which featured improved Vidfire.

Oooh, the tapestry at the start of the Play All option on the DVD was in the story and now lives in designer Barry Newbery's house - there's a picture of it on the Restoration Team website.


The Tardis has materialised in an Aztec tomb. History teacher Barbara is an expert on the Aztecs and take a bracelet from the body in the tomb. Susan & Barbara find an exit, but Barbara is seen by a priest who calls the guards to capture her. Susan fetches the Doctor & Ian but as soon as they go through the door of the tomb it seals behind them. They are greeted by the high priest Autloc who thinks they are the servants of Yetaxa, a former high priest, who Barbara has been mistaken as the reincarnation of Yetaxa. The travellers are reunited with Barbara, they worry what will happen when the Aztecs realise Barbara isn't Yetaxa. The priests Autloc and Tlotoxl arrange for Barbara to be presented to the people, just before the rains will come. The Doctor & Ian are allowed to go out amongst the people. The priests decide Ian will lead their warriors while the Doctor is taken to the garden of peace. Ian will have to fight Ixta, the Aztec's strongest warrior, for command of the army. The Doctor takes a shine to Cameca, one of the women in the garden of peace, and plies her for information on the temple. Ian's duties involve escorting a human sacrifice to the alter,which he's not happy with. The Doctor insists he must comply as the sacrifice is part of the Aztecs culture. The Doctor tells Barbara not to interfere, but she won't listen. She wants to forbid the people to make human sacrifices reasoning that if they stop the sacrifices it will save the Aztecs when the Spanish arrive in a few years time. She interrupts the sacrifice, but the victim is shocked claiming he has been denied honour and throws himself off the temple as the storm starts confirming to the mind of the Aztec priest Tlotoxl that the rains need death to summon them. Tlotoxl concludes that "Yetaxa" is a false goddess and vows to destroy her.


That dragged. Big time. Felt more like an hour than 25 minutes. Tlotoxl livens things up a little, a giving it your all performance from John Ringham as Tlotoxl (pronounced "ya-tox-al"). I'm finding the copy I'm watching here very blurry which is a shame because the design work looks great.

In this episode we do get one of the most important concepts in Doctor Who: don't interfere with established events which the Doctor states quite clearly with this line:

"But you can't rewrite history! Not one line!"

This isn't the last time that the Tardis materialises in a tomb: It does it again in The Dalek Masterplan episode 9: Golden Death. It doesn't land in the titular tombs in Tomb of the Cybermen, instead materialising nearby, but does in our return to Telos in the Tomb of The Cybermen. But before then it's visited The Dark Tower, Rassilon's Tomb, in The Five Doctors.

This story is the second by writer John Lucarotti who wrote the fourth Doctor Who story, the seven part Marco Polo. The fourth episode of that story, The Wall of Lies, was the only previous episode directed by John Crockett before his work on this story.

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