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THE AZTECS


Chase - Posted on 15 November 2009

1

We learn from the DVD text that Hartnell flubbed Aztecs as Anzacs in rehearsals. He's marvelous in the finished feature making nearly one flub but I love his flubs. This is as DW should be: a traveling adventure rather than a stuck in one spot UNIT type invasion story or a soap opera but I guess that all sorts of stories can come and go in DW. I don't mind that the look of this story was better on dusty video rather than crisp still DVD where you can see that the backdrops are really just drop cloths. It still looks good. The look is rather spoiled at 20;30 where the lame crowd sound is played at the sacrifice. I would have preferrred a longer crowd sound and maybe some stock footage. Equally lame is the rainstorm stock footage and we see no rain. The cliffhanger was to have rain hit the altar but being entirely studio bound, that was ruled out. Of course, an earlier movie KINGS OF THE SUN, had much of this done up in class and spectacle and was pretty good, better visually than this. And a later BBC serial THE FEATHERED SERPENT had proper costumes or rather lack of them as there should have been more skin on display (and FEATHERED SERPANT contains Patrick Troughton and the boy who played, later, Adric's brother Richard Willis--and may I say WOW!). None of that matters really though.  

The drama holds up. Although it is difficult to keep the large cast straight and the names of all their gods, the guest actors are quite capable. Tlotloxl's actor is a bit too evilly villainous but he's adequate. The others are fully realised from Cameca, whom the Doctor seems to take a fancy to, to Autloc, the good guy as bad guy or turning from bad guy into a fully fledged good guy. It seems Ixta had killed that warrior he was sparring with but it is so subtle that it ranks among one of the least exciting scenes in DW ever...it could have been so dramatic. I guess this is still a kids' show and if you compare that to the scenes of Richard Willis's torture in sun wearing loin cloth in FEATHERED SERPANT years later (1977?) THE AZTECS comes up lacking. There is no TARDIS appearing scene. The tomb within and without sets are very nice and some of the costumes are good. The drama between the Doctor and Barbara is the highlight.

Here, DW or maybe just the DOctor trying to keep things on the narrow tells them history cannot be interfered with and that you cannot rewrite one single line. We know now that their actions can change things but if too much...and the Doctor later states he's an expert and he can do that but here that's NOT the implication at all. Here he's not supposed to try and even if he did, he can't. He says he knows that it cannot be done: it's impossible. David Whitaker told us in a letter on the DVD text that he once wrote to a fan that time is like a hill, with past behind and future ahead and all the Doc and co can do is watch it behind and ahead and never interfere or get involved. This would make a very boring show. Even here, they do get mixed up into it and it's far from boring. Barbara is full of herself in this and in some way it is satisfying to see her knocked off her high horse, almost as much as seeing Tennant's Doctor get knocked off his later on.

This story is rather good and this ep is in particular a good ep despite the studio bound drawbacks and the nearly over the top Tox whatever his name is. It ranks as one of the best stories ever to be honest. The entire set up is just marvelous and tension filled.         

2

Wherein Ian puts the Vulcan neck grip on Ixta, Ixta fools the Doctor into helping him try to stun Ian using a plant, and Barbara cries...a bit. If you look at what's happening here as ABOUT TIME has, the travelers are lying to Autloc "playing him" off Tolxlwhateverhisname is and lying...whereas Tolxlwhateverhisname is is the one who is evil, so to speak but he's also the one who knows the truth...Barbara is not a god but a false god. Barbara cannot save the sacrifice and a new one is about to come...Susan is punished by going to a seminary and told she will have to marry someone or rather she tells others she won't be told whom to marry. The Doctor may or may not be conning Cameca to get what he wants even if he does really like her. Yet later he will profess to be the one who seeks and tells the truth or something like that. In any event, the fight scene is well filmed...both of them; the acting consistently strong and the setting beliveable. This ep is not as visually interesting as the other one but it's still very good. The plot thickens and there are more wheelings and dealing. What I don't get is Autloc (and almost everyone else) accepts that Barbara uses human ways instead of divine like powers...they really haven't seen her do anything godlike to be honest but whatever, it's a good story and that continues on. The pace is fast, too or at least for this time in the show.   And the past really is like another planet...maybe even more than the other planets in this series. Aliens, if they exist in real life, will be so utterly strange and different...see the James White books about a space hosptial SECTOR GENERAL for realistic aliens...but this, the past with such good and evil existing side by side in the Aztecs and other civilizations is truly an alien planet. 

One more thing: in this time of the series A LOT of the recaps from the previous ep are redone, reacted versions...meaning if you watch a movie version, you're not seeing the entire thing.... 

3

Susan only appears as inserted film shoots, as in the last ep. The reprise is reenacted as in the last ep. This ep sees both Susan and the Doctor getting engaged...only not to each other as in a really wild fan fic...that claimed they were not related...anyway Ian comes out of his stunned state to see his enemy over him favoring a knife...but the man won't kill him yet. He later traps him, knowingly in the tomb tunnel as waters will rise...in the cliffhanger. Cameca drinks coco with the Doctor and they get engaged. She is played by the same lady who will later appear as Katura in KEEPER OF TRAKEN. Tonilla seems to side with Toxloaswhat'shisname against Barbara, both helping to try to test her using poison (about time they try to get some real miracles out of her) and in making Susan set for punishment for railing against their ways. What do they expect? Susan is right: they are all monsters but maybe Autloc isn't...and for siding with the foursome, he later gets exiled. The Doctor says in this ep that he represents the truth or that he serves the truth but truth is: he really doesn't here. Toxicloadatal is correct  in knowing that Barbara isn't the god and Barbara even tells him the truth. The whole let's get into the tomb business is drawing to a tense head. The Doctor was fooled by the warrior who doesn't even have the plans to get into the tunnel/tomb. His father was the one who made it and somehow the father vanished. Not sure we ever learn how and why. They also found a coin but that part of the plot was lost on me and I found I wasn't really paying attention. Still, this is not a bad ep but the idea seems to wander a bit.

The thing Ian tries to impress on Barbara is that they are all the same: Toxicocatl isn't the odd man out; Autloc might be. ALL of them think like the High Priest, whom I believe lives in the finale and gets his way! The main mssion of the foursome should be as it always is: get out and into the tomb and back into the TARDIS. IT does make DW a bit limited if all their mission is is to get away and in addition why go there in the first place? It sets them up as interferrers who just get in the way of time and meddle.            

4 Another good episode but frankly, as a climax, while it's exciting, it looks cheap and stagey. The show would be better served by being outside on location for some stuff. The fake looking sun crossed with the fake looking night sky looks really cheap at the apex of the episode. Also the fight between Ixta and Ian would have been better if we could actually see their faces. Where did all the warriors go on the top of the temple? I also like the guard who was going to be bribed to help Ian and Susan just walk out...but he gets killed in a bloodthirsty scene...that cuts away for the final strike. The Cameca subplot was a nice one and that final sequence with the Doctor sympatheizing with Barbara and telling her she did Autloc some good, then following her into the TARDIS but first putting the coco bean down that Cameca gave him but turning and taking it and putting it in his pocket anyway and leaving is a nice one. It's also a cheap near drowning for Ian in this and that is obvious...that he's not really getting wet and therefore the danger doesn't really work. Love the sets though. This ep works, just, but again, it would have been better if it were really set outside and if there were less to the costumes. Ixta and all the guest characters played by fairly good actors make this work.

I also really dn't think it was the Spanish's love of life and hate of sacrifice that made them kill off the Aztecs by the way, tha'ts giving them way too much credit. 

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