Tuesday 18 January 2011

057 The Romans Part 4: Inferno

EPISODE: The Romans Part 4: Inferno
TRANSMITTED: 06 February 1965
WRITER: Dennis Spooner
DIRECTOR: Christopher Barry
SCRIPT EDITOR: Dennis Spooner
PRODUCER: Verity Lambert
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who: The Rescue & The Romans

As Delos is poised to kill Ian, he strikes towards Nero, whose guards attack Delos. Ian joins in and they manage to escape, promising to return for Barbara. Poppaea speaks with Tavius and tells him to get rid of Barbara. He finds her, and Barbara tells him that she's seen Ian. Tavius promises to help her escape and tells her the Poppaea wants her dismissed. She tells him of Nero's plan to send Maximus Pettulian to the arena. The Doctor tries to date when they are and realises that Nero is due to set fire to the city. Tavius tells him of what Nero plans and says he must kill Nero today. The Doctor is shocked to discover this is what was planned. He plans to leave, but Nero arrives saying he has a surprise. Nero is shocked when the Doctor knows what is to happen

"you'll have to play something serious, something they can get their teeth in to"

The Doctor sets firs to Nero's plans for rebuilding Rome which gives Nero the idea to set fire to the city so he can build his new Rome. At night Barbara waits for Ian, while he & Delos try to get past the guards. They gain entry a crowd of peasants who Nero has had hired to set fire to Rome. Tavius spots Ian and takes him to Barbara. Tavius furnishes Barbara with a disguise, while the Doctor and Vicki try to sneak out of the palace past the guards who are only looking for people trying to get in. Delos escorts Ian & Barbara from the palace while Tavius, revealing the cross he keeps hidden on his person, wishes them good luck. The Doctor & Vicki watch Rome burning. The Doctor is amused at the thought the fire of Rome may be his fault while Nero plays the Lyre amidst the flames. Ian & Barbara return to the Villa, finding the remains from the fight in the first episode including the jar Barbara hit Ian over the head with, which causes Ian to realise that Barbara was responsible for his troubles. The Doctor & Vicki return and they all leave for the Tardis, which we then see dematerialising. Vicki wonders where they will go next but the others hint to her that the Doctor may not be able to control the ship. The Doctor is worried: a force has captured the Tardis and drags it down.

Less humorous than other episodes, it's dominated by Nero's descent into madness. I've smiled at the humour in the story but don't find it as funny as some people do. However watching it episodically has again massively improved my regard for the story as a whole.

The Great Fire of Rome is a historical event, rumoured to be started by Nero who fiddled while Rome burnt. Fiddling would have been an anachronism, the fiddle having been invented many years later. At the time of the fire, Christianity existed in Rome, but was persecuted so having Tavius as a Christian concealing his faith is a nice little touch. Indeed the fire of Rome was blamed on Christians many of whom lost their lives in the aftermath.

The Romans had a Video release in a 2 pack with the preceding story, The Rescue. The same pattern was followed for the DVD release. It was novelised in 1987 by Donald Cotton who had by that time cornered the market in writing comedy historical Doctor Who novels following The Myth Makers and the Gunfighters.

1 comment:

  1. This episode does take a distinct shift in tone. (Although the Doctor's wordplay always raises a smile with me). Interestingly it isn't the only Hartnell historical to do something like that. Donald Cotton will be along in due course to do something similar a little further along the Med....

    History and Doctor Who agree to differ here, as historians now suggest that Nero probably wasn't in Rome at the time of the fire. But then, history fails to mention the distinguished white-haired chap who gave him the idea. So, so much for history