Friday, 17 October 2014

030 The Aztecs Episode 4: The Day of Darkness

EPISODE: The Aztecs Episode 4: The Day of Darkness
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 13 June 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)

"What's the point of travelling through time and space if we can't change anything? Nothing!"

Tapped in the tunnel with rapidly rising water, Ian finds a way out into the tomb.


The Doctor tells Ixta that Ian is within who in turn thanks the Doctor for ensuring his victory in the contest with Ian.


Ian works at opening the door to the tomb and manages to secure it with the rope so they can open it again with a rope. Barbara finds Ian and they are reunited with the Doctor. Ian goes to rescue Susan who Ixta is now guarding. Ixta is surprised when Ian emerges. Barbara and the Doctor wait on the temple for the others. The travellers struggle with the rope: the Doctor wishes they had a pulley, which is beyond Aztec technology. Tlotoxl tasks Ixta with killing Autloc intending to place the blame on Ian. Trying to gain entrance to the Tomb, Ian & Susan discover the struck down Autloc and are arrested by guards as Tlotoxl intending. The Doctor is fashioning a pulley while talking with Cameca, who persuades Autloc to visit Yetaxa (Barbara) who tries to convince him that he was not struck by Ian, but Autloc feels he cannot save Ian. Cameca talks to the Doctor, knowing he must leave.


Cameca & Autloc talk, Autloc provides a means to rescue Susan and says he is leaving the city. Tlotoxl tells Barbara Autloc has left. Cameca goes to fetch Susan which enables Ian to overcome their guard. Ian starts to strip the guard of his clothing. Susan is reunited with Barbara and the Doctor as the Doctor & Cameca say their goodbyes. Tlotoxl finds the prisoners have escaped just as the sacrificial ceremony starts, he goes to kill Yetaxa who is defended by her guard - Ian in disguise. Ixta & Ian fight again but Ixta dies falling from the temple and Ian helps the others open the tomb with the rope & pulley just as the eclipse starts.


Pleased they are trapped in the tomb Tlotoxl starts the sacrifices. Barbara muses to the Doctor on how futile their visit was and that they were unable to change history. Barbara places her high priestess gear in the tomb as they leave in the Tardis.

Sometime later they gather in the control room: Some of the Tardis instruments say they've stopped but others say they're still moving. Barbara wonders if they've landed inside something ...,

Well I wasn't that impressed with the first few episodes, which still leave me cold, but on both recent viewings it's picked up during the third. The final episode rattles along at a fair rate making it easily the best episode of the story. John Ringham's Tlotoxl gets more barking as the story goes on while Keith Pyott's Autoloc is a dignified presence throughout. Like Keys of Marinus, watching each episode separately has changed my view of the story a bit. And it does look absolutely fabulous at time!


When The Doctor is reunited with Susan we're treated to a classic Billy fluff:

"I can't tell you how glad I am.... I'll tell you how glad I am to see you later!".
Ah, the wonders of TV filmed as live! Ixta & Ian's fight, the big set piece here, is pre-filmed at Ealing though:


There's a horribly obvious backdrop here representing the long distance here! Unfortunately it gets even worse towards the end of the scene - look:


You can see off the side of the set and the edge of backdrop!

Writer John Lucarotti has contributed two scripts to the first year of Doctor Who. He'll be back in the third to write the Massacre. But this is the final outing for director John Crockett.

The publication of the book of the Aztecs, by it's TV series author
John Lucarotti as Target book number 88, marks a turning point for the Doctor Who range. Up until this point forays into the eras of previous Doctors had been rare. A few when the series started, another few in the late 70s but very little from outside of the last 3 years or so before publication. The Aztecs started a concerted assault on the earlier un-novelised stories and lead to a general upswing in the quality of the books. We love Terrance Dicks, author of many Doctor Who novels, but during the period he was turning out a novel a month some of the novelisations, especially those in Tom Baker's 3rd - 6th years are a little lacking.

The setting, and some of the themes, in the Aztecs are revisited by the New Adventure Novel The Left Handed Hummingbird.

The Axtecs was released on video in November 1992. I passed on it much preferring the Davidson era Earthshock released the same day and only picked the Aztecs VHS up much later. The Aztecs was the first William Hartnell story to be released on DVD. It's also the first DVD story to be VIDFired, restoring the Video look of the film prints. I'll talk about this some more when we reach Planet of Giants - the first story to have this process used on it. There's a special feature on the story's restoration on the DVD which neatly explain VIDFire and numerous other aspects of the film & video technology involved.

Doctor Who: The Aztecs (Special Edition) was released on 11 March 2013. It included improved VIDFiring of the episodes and the recently recovered episode of Galaxy Four: Episode 3 Airlock.

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