Friday, 16 January 2015

054 The Romans Episode 1: The Slave Traders

EPISODE: The Romans Episode 1: The Slave Traders
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 16 January 1965
WRITER: Dennis Spooner
DIRECTOR: Christopher Barry
SCRIPT EDITOR: Dennis Spooner
PRODUCER: Verity Lambert
RATINGS: 13 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who: The Rescue & The Romans

"Where are you going, Doctor?"
"To Rome, my child!"

The Tardis lies at the foot of the cliff covered in undergrowth to disguise it's presence. In a Roman villa Ian is reclining asleep as the Doctor arrives. Both are in Roman clothing. Barbara and Vicki have gone to the village to buy food. Vicki is disappointed that in the month they've been there she's not had any of the adventure she was promised. A figure, Ascarius, hides in the bushes sharpening his sword. In the market, as the famous lyre player Maximus Pettulian plays, Didius and Sevcheria discuss the lack of slaves for their trade. They ask a cloth trade, who Barbara & Vicki have spoken with, about the travellers and are pleased to learn they are Britons. Maximus Pettulian makes his way along the road and is set upon by Ascarius who kills him. The travellers dine at the Villa they are using where the Doctor is enjoying his meal, but seems to have decided to go away for a few days. He packs a bag of provisions for his trip to Rome, agreeing to take Vicki with him. Didius and Sevcheria have fed their small group of poor looking slaves and prepare to gain some more. While Ian & Barbara are relaxing in the villa they hear a noise. The two slave traders arrive at the villa, and thanks to Barbara accidentally knocking Ian out with a vase, capture them. The Doctor & Vicki stumble on Maximus Pettulian's body. The Doctor picks the lyre up, just as a Roman Soldier arrives searching the bushes. He's looking for Maximus Pettulian and mistakes the Doctor for him! He is expected in Rome by the Emperor Nero. The Doctor decides to pose as Pettulian in order to meet Nero. Ian is sold on by the traders leaving Barbara to be taken with them to be sold in Rome. The Roman soldier meets Ascarius, who was paid to kill Pettulian, and instructs him to complete the job. He goes upstairs to where the Doctor is staying.....

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Oh for a working Chameleon Circuit to disguise the Tardis! Even before the market trader reveals that they arrived a month ago it's obvious the Tardis crew have been there some while, have settled into their surroundings and are very much at home. This episode is very much a set-up episode, starting from that position it serves to split the regular cast up with Ian & Barbara separately enslaved and The Doctor & Vicki involved in a case of mistaken identity/the Doctor pretending to be someone else again, following his spell impersonating an official in The Reign of Terror.

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The mute Ascarius is played by Barry Jackson. For years Jackson was a jobbing actor and occasional stuntman whose CV included an appearance in the Doctorless episode Mission to the Unknown and another Doctor Who role as the Doctor's classmate Drax in the Armageddon Factor. He found a measure of fame late in life as Pathologist Doctor George Bullard in Midsomer Murders. Interestingly while Doctor Bullard is absent during the 2nd & 3rd series of Midsomer Murders he's replaced in four episodes by pathologist Dan Peterson who's played by Toby Jones who we now know as The Dream Lord from Amy's Choice!

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Elsewhere in the cast of this episode Nicholas Evans, on the far left, plays Didius: He was a Dalek & Slyther in The Dalek Invasion of Earth.

Dennis Edwards, the Centurion, later appears as Lord Gomer in the first three episodes of Invasion of Time.

Edward Kelsey, on the right, is the Slave Buyer. He returns as Resno in Power of the Daleks 1 & 2 and Edu in Creature from the Pit, both of which were directed by Christopher Barry who also directed the first episode of the second season of The Tripods in which he appeared as Professor Bernstein. Kelsey is best known to my generation for voicing Colonel K / Baron Silas Greenback in Dangermouse.

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