Wednesday 22 December 2010

030 The Aztecs Part 4: The Day of Darkness

EPISODE: The Aztecs Part 4: The Day of Darkness
TRANSMITTED: 13 June 1964
WRITER: John Lucarotti
DIRECTOR: John Crockett
SCRIPT EDITOR: David Whitaker
PRODUCER: Verity Lambert
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - The Aztecs

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.

There's a horribly obvious backdrop here representing the long distance here! And when Ian and Susan arrive 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!

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 (big set piece here pre-filmed at Ealing) 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 Tloxoxl 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 late 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, but it 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 Tloxotl gets more barking as the story goes on! Like Keys of Marinus, watching each episode separately has changed my view of the story a bit.

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.

Margot Van Der Burgh - who plays Cameca - would return to Doctor Who many years later in The Keeper of Traken while John Ringham - Tloxoxl - returns in the penultimate Hartnell story the Smugglers. The cast member who returns the most is Walter Randall, who plays Tonila one of the lesser characters in the story. He'd become a regular player in stories directed by Douglas Camfield notching up five further appearances over the first three Doctors. Camfield had a habit of reusing actors he liked as we shall see later.

1 comment:

  1. I've always had a lot of affection for this story. It is a fine showcase for Jacqueline Hill's Barbara, who gets to show both compassion and strong resolve. It is suprisingly even-handed in showing the Aztecs as made up of good people as well as bad.

    All told I've always seen it as a good example of Doctor Who living up to its original mission statement and taking the children watching to a place they would learn about in school but presented as an actual environment instead of just a list of dry facts.

    It is one of those that benefits from being seen episodically - one of the great strengths of early Doctor Who is that it is heir to the traditions of the cinema adventure serials and I think sometimes seeing it in that episodic format can benefit it.