|Dates||Mar. 23, 1964 -
Jun. 13, 1964
With William Hartnell, William Russell,
Jacqueline Hill, Carole Ann Ford.
Written by John Lucarroti. Script-edited by David Whitaker.
Directed by John Crockett.
Associate Producer: Mervyn Pinfield. Produced by Verity Lambert.
|Synopsis: Barbara is mistaken for the reincarnation of an Aztec priest, whose civilization she is determined to reform; but the Doctor knows only too well that it is impossible to alter established history.|
A Review by David Masters 26/5/97
Whilst I don't have any particular gripe with this story, I cannot help but feel that it has become a surrogate for the missing Marco Polo in many fans views. I'm probably being incredibly unfair, but the rave reviews that have surrounded this story in a wealth of publications don't seem quite to tie-in with the finished product.
It's not bad. It's just a bit dull. It's quite well acted, John Ringham treats it almost as a Shakespearean tragedy, whilst the regulars and the remainder all make a reasonable fist of it. It does not, however, really amount to much, despite the very worthy nature of the whole project.
Perhaps this is the problem, its worthy, but its dull. The plot is good, but there's no action, no real impetus behind the whole affair. Even the fight between Ixta and Ian seems to be in slow-motion. Its too cramped as well. Newbury's sets are very good, but they don't create a sense of the wide-open spaces necessary for a truly authentic feel. Still, one of the better offerings from Season One.
The Garden, The Gods, and The Good Doctor by Carl West 2/5/98
Doctor Who during the William Hartnell years was certainly not as exciting as it was to become by the Pat Troughton or Jon Pertwee eras. Obviously, the producers of the program during its first few seasons had no idea that the show would ever become the well-loved legend that it is today, and one often gets the feeling from some of the Hartnell stories that a lot of the people involved regarded Doctor Who as "just another TV show." Nonetheless, the William Hartnell era was the roots of the Who legend, and some of the stories do remain exceedingly enjoyable and interesting thirty-five years later. The Aztecs is one of these exceptional stories.
From reading David Masters' review, I can tell that I was considerably more impressed with this story than he was. The Aztec culture is presented in an extremely interesting way. The real star of the show is John Ringham as Tlotoxl-- the first time I saw The Aztecs, I was surprised to see such a fascinating and compelling character in an early Who serial. Ringham combines the character's obvious savagery and bloodthirst with an undeniably keen learnedness. His presence in this story (especially with his striking Aztec make-up and his long hair), tends to draw attention away from the other characters. William Russell's Ian, as usual, comes across as the real hero of the show; and as always he is a very likable, charismatic character. I'm surprised that David Masters' made that comment about a lack of a "sense of space" in the scenery. There are numerous scenes in this story where plains and giant pyramids can be seen in the background, and this special effect is actually pulled off quite convincingly (I'm sure the fact that the story is in black and white helps this effect). Also worthy of notice is Richard Rodney Bennett's incidental score, which merges well with the ancient Mexican setting. Bennett was to create an excellent score years later for the underrated film Equus, and it is interesting to hear some of his earlier work in The Aztecs.
The BBC's success with this story makes the loss of writer John Lucarotti's Marco Polo seem even more of a unfortunate shame.
A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 9/11/98
As with his other historical talesm John Lucarotti manages to deliver the goods. The Aztecs is not as good as Marco Polo or The Massacre of St.Bartholomew`s Eve, but it is equally as charming. This is due to the fact that all four regulars have something to in terms of the storyline: Susan`s disgust at arranged marriages (as hinted at in Marco Polo), Ian`s training to be a warrior, Barbara as the false goddess Yetaxa, and the Doctor`s relationship with Cameca.
The scripts themselves provide a fascinating insight into the very "alien" culture of the Aztecs and highlight the differences between theirs` and our own. The acting is of a high standard, notably from Jacqueline Hill as Barbara facing the moral dilemma of opposing Human sacrifice. William Hartnell, too, is on fine form here whether he is flirting with Cameca or unknowlingly deceiving Ian (which he does twice in this tale). It is also nice to see the smaller player such as Ixta and Cameca developed into well rounded and memorable characters.
Add to this John Crocket`s assured direction, fine production values and this Doctor Who come would-be Shakespearian historical tragedy is a joy to behold.
"Tlotoxl had to win. And the only man I had respect for I betrayed." by Will Jones 27/7/99
"Would-be Shakespearean historical tragedy" is a phrase I've taken from Stuart Gutteridge's review above. Now I'm not having a go at Stuart here, but it does seem that this is the view far too easily accepted by most of fandom. The Aztecs wants to be a historial tragedy. Why is this, precisely? Because it's set in a historical period and features a victory for the villain? A bit silly, don't you think? The Aztecs shares very few of the traditional hallmarks of the Shakespearean tragedy – for example, none of the 'bad' characters get to kill any of the 'good' ones. In my opinion, the story is good enough to stand on its own merits without any comparison to the Bard.
This isn't to say that there's nothing tragic about The Aztecs, in fact it's one of the bleakest of Doctor Who stories, and possibly the darkest tale Hartnell encountered, particularly in Season One. We look on in surprise as Barbara's early idealism gives way to weary realism about "the way things are" - no happy ending for her. Her descent from excitement to depressed acceptance is mirrored by the journey of the tale's most tragic character, Autloc. At first ecstatic at the reincarnation of one of the old High Priests as a god, his faith slowly erodes away on Tlotoxl's prodding until eventually he declaims that she is "a false goddess" and goes into the wilderness, broken, to find herself. Barbara of course always knows that she is deceiving him and continues to do so even though she herself hates it.
This is Doctor Who from the days when the writing was the most important thing about a TV programme, and you can really tell this from the quality of John Lucarotti's script. It's clearly meticulously researched, full of cultural allusions and at the perfect level for a Doctor Who script – understandable to the children and also with higher levels to it for the adults. It's also one of the few occasions where the TARDIS crew seem not like characters or vehicles for the drama to unfold but like real people with their own feelings, desires and motivations.
The acting in this story is also excellent. John Ringham is of course great as a character who may as well be alien, so far is he from the norms and values of 20th century Earth, but even better for me is the magnificent Keith Pyott as Autloc. Jacqueline Hill had never been better and would never be better in the entire series than she is here, at last allowed to take centre stage. William Hartnell too is superb, giving her the benefit of his many years' experience as a Time Lord. He is also excellent romancing Cameca, for whom he does seem to have real feelings.
All in all, there's not much wrong with this one. Up there with the series' all-time classics, The Aztecs is a must-buy for all those Doctor Who fans without it. 9/10
A Review by Keith Bennett 29/11/00
The Aztecs remains possibly the best of all the William Hartnell stories. At least, the best of the ones we are now able to see. The settings are meticulous, while the performances are outstanding. All the TARDIS crew are at their best (even Susan isn't bad, although she isn't in it a lot. Hmmm... maybe that's why...), but John Ringham's performance as Tlototxl is brilliant, and no less so is Keith Pyott as Autloc. Two vastly different characters, but each captivating in their own way.
There are many memorable parts to this story, like the Doctor's charming romance with Cameca, The Doctor admonishing Barbara for trying to stop a sacrifice, before quickly overcoming his anger and sympathizing with her (a clear example of his softening nature), and the cliffhanger at the end of episode two, where Tlotoxl dares Barbara to prove she is Yetaxa by saving Ian, is very good - not your average "surrounding by aliens, what do I do" situation. Richard Rodney Bennett's incidental music is also quite delightful.
I'm no historical expert, but I have heard little critisms towards this story's accuracy, so one imagines it has got the Aztecs pretty much down pat, so this is a truly oustanding moment in Doctor Who history, a most enjoyable drama that bears up to repeated viewings.
You Can't Rewrite This Serial...Not One Line! by Peter Niemeyer 2/2/01
Wow! This serial was Doctor Who at it's best. All of the elements come together so nicely in The Aztecs. I loved the novelization of this story, and once I got to see the televised version, I still loved it.
My highest compliment goes to the fact that this story actually has something to say about the immutability of culture and the flow of events. Barbara has advanced knowledge of what will happen to the Aztecs, but despite this knowledge, she is unable to alter their behavior. I've always believed that the Doctor's statement that history cannot be changed is an aspect of human nature, not a law of time itself. It makes sense from a sociological perspective, and it was well dramatised here.
Barbara is of course the star of this production. The situation plays so nicely to both her background and her beliefs, and Jacqueline Hill rises to the occasion admirably. In my mind, she was the only companion in the first year that was given her own story, and it makes me wonder what a story centered around Ian or Susan would have looked like.
One Thing I'd Do Differently: I'd have given Susan something more interesting to do. I'll admit that she fares better in this episode than in most, but the whole business of choosing a husband vs. the perfect victim's desires could have been much more interesting than it was.
One Thing I Wouldn't Touch: The costumes and make-up. The backdrops were typical Doctor Who fare, but when they weren't in the camera's view, it was very easy to believe that these people were in Tenochtitlan. And Tlotoxl's make-up and head piece...wicked!
Aztec Gold by Andrew Wixon 19/9/01
Human sacrifice, poisoned libations, duels to the death and people being sourged with thorns - the BBC knew how to make children's TV in 1964 and no mistake. The Aztecs contains all these things and a few more besides and they are a clue to the secret of its' success. It transcends its genesis as teatime family entertainment to become genuinely gripping, adult drama.
At the root of this is, of course, John Lucarotti's thoughtful, inventive script. Lacking the surplus episodes that cause so many B&W stories to drag interminably, The Aztecs is superbly economical: the themes and causes of the story are all established within the opening ten minutes and the pace rarely slacks thereafter. Taking its cues form the script the production manages to realistically evoke a civilisation every bit as alien as (and rather more convincing than) those encountered on Skaro or Vortis or the Sense-Sphere.
All the regulars shine here. The scenes between Barbara and the Doctor crackle with an urgent tension, while both characters' interactions with the Aztecs are equally watchable - Barbara's encounters with Autloc and Tlotoxl add to the rising sense of menace throughout the story, while the Doctor's relationship with Cameca provides a genuinely charming subplot that manages to counterpoint the relentlessly grim main storyline without robbing it of its power. Ian gets to be the action hero again, as usual, and you have to wonder what kind of schools he taught in, given that here he's laying out hardened warriors with one blow and doing some kind of aikido on Ixta every chance he gets. What a guy... Susan is in the background compared to the others, but for once Carole Ann Ford's performance isn't just screaming and panicking, and the actress' 'holiday episodes' are by no means as obvious as other early examples.
John Ringham's Tlotoxl is a justly famous villain. His Richard the Third-ish performance is rather hammy, admittedly, but it works superbly, particularly in the cliffhanger to Temple of Evil (even the episode titles are great). But as Autloc, Keith Pyott is every bit as good in a much less showy part. The High Priest of Knowledge comes across as a gentle, humane man, which makes the fact of his ultimate downfall all the more affecting.
Because in the end The Aztecs' power comes from the fact that the travellers lose. The best they can hope for is escape, because history can't be changed (at least, not by Barbara). At the end, Autloc is in exile, Cameca is broken-hearted, and Tlotoxl is triumphant, his power, if anything, strengthened by the travellers' intervention. It's a surprising ending to a surprising story. It's perhaps one of the minor tragedies of DW that this style of story didn't find itself a regular place amidst the alien invasions and space operas. But at least we are left with this, a magnificent piece of television. The best story of Season One.
A veritable triumph by Tim Roll-Pickering 21/9/01
After the triumph that is Marco Polo, it would be hard to write another masterpiece but John Lucarotti has done it. The Aztecs is a lot smaller in its scale and vision than its predecessor but works as well by focusing strongly on all the main characters and exploring the Aztec civilisation.
The story fundamentally focuses on the conflict between the traditions of the Aztecs (such as human sacrifices, duels to select army leaders, arranged marriages) and the modern outlook of the four time travellers. This conflict occurs in several different ways, thus allowing each of the regulars their own part of the story. Only Susan's section falls short, due to the small amount of time devoted to it, but the romance between the Doctor and Cameca, the conflict between Ian and Ixta and Barbara's attempts to make the Aztecs abandon sacrifice and so survive the invasion by Cortes that she knows will come all shine due to a combination of strong writing, acting, directing and design all complementing one another to produce a tour de force.
The four main guest actors are each strongly portrayed and it is difficult to say which carries the show out of Autloc (Keith Pyott), Tlotoxl (John Ringham), Ixta (Ian Cullen) and Cameca (Margot van der Burgh). John Ringham's Tlotoxl dominates virtually every scene he is in, aided by a wonderful costume and make up, and so it comes as no surprise to find him on most pieces of artwork depicting the story, including the cover used on both the BBC Video release and the reprint of the novelisation. The conflict between Barbara and Tlotoxl is intense, with each determined to win through despite the warnings of those around them. This gives the story its tragic conclusion, as Barbara realises she is unable to succeed and realises the danger of trying to change history. The insight given into the Doctor's outlook on life and time as he attempts to dissuade Barbara is strong and says much about the horrible side of time travel.
One of the more tender aspects of the story is the Doctor's romance with Cameca. More than thirty years before the much talked about kiss in Enemy Within, here is the Doctor finding love in an Earth woman. The scenes between the two characters are wonderful and convincing, and the scene at the end where the Doctor finds he cannot bear to leave behind the brooch she gave him.
The action side of the story comes from Ian's conflict with Ixta. Ian has no desire to fight but is quickly able to overpower Ixta due to his superior knowledge of the body's weak points. The successive fights between them are a little tame but tense and lead to a very dramatic cliffhanger at the end of the The Warriors of Death, the second episode, as Barbara is challenged to save Ian. The final fight sees some good camera work, though the shot of Ixta's body could have been avoided, as was the body of the sacrificial victim in the first episode, The Temple of Evil.
All in all The Aztecs is a very strong story and probably the best of all the surviving Hartnell stories. 10/10
A Review by Daniel Spelner 16/12/01
Historicals have never really interested me but when they are made this exquisite their attraction is unmistakable. This story tackles the vexing question of changing history, as Barbara wishes to halt the Aztec practice of human sacrifice - after all, she is their god (a case of mistaken identity that is explained in the narrative). A categorical William Hartnell, however, exhorts her against this. This is just one of several plot threads in this polished, erudite piece of scripting. Aside from its captivating storyline, the adroit John Lucarotti writes highly literary dialogue for his varied set of characters. This is essentially a character driven piece (so director J. Crockett doesn't need to do much) and because of the quality, cogent script, it grips. The cast all do their parts justice, most eye-catching though is John Ringham's guileful, cunning Tlotoxl.
A Review by Alan Thomas 12/7/02
The Aztecs is often sited as being the true existing classic of the Hartnell era. It's certainly a well-crafted adventure in all respects.
The depiction of the Aztec civilization is very well researched and presented. As Susan says, "beauty and horror developing hand in hand". This is certainly true of today's society. For as we are greeted with births and marriages and joy, we are also plagued by atrocities. The performance of John Ringham as Tlotoxl is suitably savage and callous. He is the butcher, who is always held in check by his beliefs. Without a sacrifice, there is no rain. His performance contrasts nicely with Keith Pyott's performance as Autloc, the priest of knowledge. He is divided. Although he believes in the sacrifices, he is not willing to take part in them, or any acts of savagery. When Barbara pretends to be Yetaxa, Autloc doesn't doubt this. A god is a god, and he is determined to see that she is respected. When he is betrayed at the end of the story, the viewer feels sad for him, and Barbara feels guilty. But she has saved him from a life of brutality, and he is able to start afresh elsewhere.
The regulars' performances are probably the best that they ever gave. The performance by Jacqueline Hill as Barbara is at her most impressive. She is determined to change the past and make her mark, but The Doctor is certain that history cannot be changed. It is this dramatic conflict between the characters that is so interesting to watch. The Doctor and Barbara always had the best interplay, and that's certainly evident here. A wonderful performance by William Hartnell also enhances the story. He is brash yet caring, and he has some real character development.
This development is shown in The Doctor's relationship with Cameca. It is charming, well-played, and very convincing. There is a genuine love between two characters, and I much prefer this to the banal kissing in The TV Movie. This romance adds another dimension to the story, and is played quite light-heartedly. In fact, in a story that centres so much around one companion, it is a pleasant surprise that The Doctor has something to do, likewise the other regulars.
The sets work superbly. They really give the impression that there is a big civilization out there, and this increases the sense of trepidation that the TARDIS crew feel when arriving. Even the dramatic death of the chosen one is convincingly done, and conveys a sense of real brutality and horror, yet it is done so tastefully and so professionally that the viewer doesn't need to be repulsed.
There is a certain level of brutality in the story that contrasts nicely with the other plot strands. Ian is plunged into the hero role again, this time using his contemporary knowledge to defeat his opponent. Carole Ann Ford also works in this story. She was always the least successful of the original crew, and could sometimes come over as whiny and childish (do you know any girls that screamed and cried like that when they were 16? I think not). However, her performance here is better than most. She is actually given a role in the story, and, although her appearance is smaller, she seems ideal for the arranged marriage scenario, and this a natural progression after her worries about Ping-Cho's marriage in Marco Polo.
A very doom-laded musical score that is both savage and yet beautiful is included. Added with the inspired and suitable direction by John Gorrie, and a credibly dark atmosphere, the tale is rightly seen as a true accomplishment of the Hartnell years. Reaction has been almost universally good. So, the Hartnell stories are dull, slow, cheap, tacky and hammy? No way. I can't wait for the DVD release.
As an introduction to the Hartnell era and an example of Doctor Who at its finest, The Aztecs is very hard to beat. 10/10
"Beauty and horror developing hand in hand" by Joe Ford 17/12/02
A very interesting thought struck when I was watching The Aztecs on my spanking new DVD this afternoon. Barbara is actually the villain of the piece. Shocked? She is the 'monster' that is trying to destroy aspect of this precious civilisation, she is an impostor, she holds a knife to Tltoxol's neck and she has great, power mad lines like "If you revealing me to the people I'll have them destroy you! DESTROY YOU!". She even has a villain/hero moment with the Doctor ("Human sacrifice is their tradition, their religion!"). I fear the evidence against her is condemning indeed.
It's the first (and probably the last) time a companion is used so effectively and prominently and I can't think of anyone better than Jackie Hill to be given such excellent material in. She is the shining star of The Aztecs and her performance is opulent and grand and never falters. Classic scenes such as her moral arguments with the Doctor ("If I could begin the destruction of all that is good then all that's good will survive when Cortez lands!") and her 'test' of knowledge ("If the truth of my divinity lies in my knowledge let Autloc seek it!") and poison ("For as I must proof my loyalty to you, so must you to me...") test Ms Hill to her fullest and she is quite extrordanary. Barbara is one of my all-time favourite companions and her complexities of character such as shown here begin to describe why.
The script is faultless. This is the best historical story simply because it tells us so much in such a short space of time (it doesn't have the increased length like Marco Polo and it isn't about a well known event like The Crusade), we are told so much about the Aztecs and their culture, the script is brimming with information and detail which has been expertly translated by the designer Barry Newberry. I knew nothing of the Aztecs before I watched this but now I feel I have a fair grasp on their culture but none of this would matter if John Lucorotti hadn't managed to write such a dramatic and memorable story around the history. With every other line I was smiling to myself with the sheer poetry of some of the dialogue ("You can't re-write history! Not one line!") and I can only think of one other story (The Crusade) that has kept me so entranced with its beautiful and stunning lines.
Tltoxol is such a slimey character you can't help but love him. I love how many desperate ways he tries to drag Barbara down, first through her knowledge, then her body and finally through her servants. It is quite compelling because you know he has to succeed, that Barbara's attempts to change things are futile so it adds an extra element of danger to events. And John Ringham is on form delivering a seriously theatrical and yet skillful portrayl of a desperate man.
Despite how much I love Barbara's plot there is another I watch with even more interest and that is the sweet and charming scenes between the Doctor and Cameca. Whether played for comedy or drama, these gentle courtship moments give a rare glimpse into the gentler side of the Doctor. William Hartnell gave better performances than he did in The Aztecs but he never played his stern figure quite as warmly ever again. It's especially funny when you realise the Doctor doesn't realise Cameca is flirting outrageously with him and once he has proposed it is lovely to see how hard it is for him to leave her. The last scene is especially revealing.
Things build to an impressive climax in episode four with the stunning battle between Ian and Ixta. That is another strength of The Aztecs, it has a number of impressive set pieces to accompany the brave plot, stunning acting, etc. The cliffhangers are all great "Oh shit!" moments, especially the end of episode two. It is quite majestic how Barbara grabs the knife to Tltoxols throat to save Ian.
I learnt so much from watching this story. Not just about the Aztecs but about black and white Doctor Who in general. It is true that the historicals are more stylish, more entrancing than the SF plots of the time. The formula was that there was no formula and the companion-heavy antics of this story expose another layer of the vast tapestry that is Doctor Who. And the production levels could sparkle (the costumes are rich on the eye, especially Barbara's beuatiful head gear).
The Aztecs is a masterpiece. It grips, thrills and entertains. It teaches and makes you laugh. It rocks.
A Review of the DVD by Jonathan Martin 8/1/03
I see most reviewers share my view that The Aztecs is one of the very best Doctor Who stories. But what about the DVD? I'll go through each extra in no particular order.
Firstly, and if you're like me, most importantly- the commentary. To my mind it's easily the most important extra, and the one that I'm most looking forward to experiencing. In this case it's producer Verity Lambert, and "stars" William Russell and Carole-Anne Ford. What, you may wonder, could these three remember about this modest little serial almost forty years after their involvement?
Unfortunately, yet understandably: very little. It's a struggle from beginning to end for all three of them to come up for anything to say, and sadly it's easily the least enjoyable commentary I've experienced thus far.
Lambert tries her best, and occasionally she provides a little insight, but she doesn't get much help. Carole-Anne Ford is limited to commenting about the various clothes and accessories worn by actors, but remains silent most of the time. William Russell does little but agree with Lambert's comments, comment upon how "wonderful" everything is (understandably), and helpfully say out-loud what the title of the next episode will be in case we haven't noticed. Occasionally throughout the commentary, we get glimpses of what might turn out to be an interesting conversation, but it quickly flitters out to another couple of minutes of silence. It doesn't help that none of them really "click" together all that well, like Peter Davison and Graeme Harper, or Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant, where conversation just flows naturally.
Believe me, I'm not criticizing these three, as I mentioned, not all that surprising they don't recall all that much, but I still can't help but feel disappointed.
On a better note, "Remembering the Aztecs" is a great little documentary which proves that some people remember it well, with John Ringham and Ian Cullen providing a great little insight and a lot of memories. Maybe they should have been doing the commentary? Walter Randall is also memorable in a less desirable way - his shirt has trouble covering up his rather large stomach, which is somewhat distracting and not all that appealing as you may imagine.
"Designing the Aztecs" consisting of an interview with set designer Barry Newbury was quite interesting, though some of the information he was giving I was already familiar with.
"The story of Cortez and Montezuma" - Including a documentary about the Aztecs was a great idea, but unfortunately all we get is a very short look at the invasion by the Spanish, surely one about the Aztecs in general or their religious practices would better accompany this story.
"Restoring the Aztecs" is interesting stuff when I understand what they're talking about, and it's a worthwhile inclusion.
Mixing cocoa with Tlotoxl and Tonilla is a cute little skit utilizing some South Park reminiscent animation. I don't think I'll be making any of their style of cocoa any time soon though! Their little random voice-over introductions are nice too, the ones I've heard anyway.
Rounding up, we have leftover a photo-gallery, which is actually very good compared to many others on other DVDs I've encountered. The photos take up the full-screen sensibly, and not 25% like on some others... and they go through the lot automatically, without you manually having to do it all the time. As for the photos themselves, they're worth a look, but hardly essential viewing.
Oh yeah, we also have another "Tardis-Cam", which I'm sure are terribly exciting to some of you out there, but they almost send me to sleep, and they only go for about a minute and a half.
Overall, The Aztecs is undoubtedly one of the Doctor Who greats, and it looks great here, as you would expect with all the restoration work done. As for the extras on this DVD however, I believe them to be slightly below average...
A Review by Andrew Hunter 25/1/03
I must admit that I've never been fond of the historical stories, because to me they seem very dated and boring. The Aztecs could fit into this category, as it has very lame fighting scenes and some of the backdrops for the Aztecs settlements do look unrealistic, especially as there are some slight creases in the material...
As I switched on The Aztecs, I was expecting another one of these stories, but I was proved wrong...
As soon as Barbara and Susan step out of the Tardis, a dark and brooding atmosphere is created, through the sinister music and the fact that they are in a tomb. This atmosphere continues throughout the story, complimenting the actual plot. There are, however, some lighthearted moments, for example, the scenes with the Doctor and Cameca making coca.
This idea of making coca is one of the story's main objectives - to be educational. In this respect, I think the Aztecs succeeds because the life of the Aztecs is very well realised, mostly due to the great sets and costumes. On the other hand, The Aztecs is an exciting adventure. There is a great feeling of isolation, as the Doctor and company are trapped, in a different time, unable to reach the Tardis, as it is locked in a tomb. Barbara's role as a false Goddess is great to watch, as she tries to stop human sacrifices. There is some conflict between the people who believe her and those who do not.
One man who sees through this deception is Tlotoxl, High Priest of Sacrifice. John Ringham plays him out brilliantly - the character seems so believable. It is interesting to see how he tries to prove to his people that Barbara is not who she says she is, using the example of her stopping a sacrifice.
This allows Jacqueline Hill to give her best performance as Barbara in Doctor Who, but William Russell also joins her in giving one of his better performances. Ian's position as the protector of the group is "dropped" here, because he is in competition with Ixta, to decide who leads the Aztec armies. There is great tension between the two and they come do blows a few times. Ian is even trapped in a tunnel, with water pouring in, which is an excellent cliffhanger.
Overall, this is one of the best William Hartnell stories. As mentioned earlier, it does have its flaws, but these are very minor and are easy to ignore. The Aztecs is a true classic of the series.
My Big Fat Aztec Wedding by Jason Cook 23/2/03
The Temple Of Evil
The story opens with a great shot of masks and other Aztec artifacts, and within the first three minutes the main storyline has been established. Background music stands out occasionally -- it would not be out of place in a seventh-grade social studies film, but it does help create the mood for this historical. The backdrops look fake at times, but I do like looking at them.
John Ringham is an immediate standout as Tlotoxl; with his superb delivery and semblance of coldness he probably could have played a decent Master in later Who. Keith Pyott, playing Autloc, makes an instant impression as well.
Good use of information about the Aztecs. The exposition rarely seems intrusive or padded. Barbara proves to be extremely resourceful, fitting seamlessly into the role of Yetaxa, the High Priest.
There are a few amusing bits in this episode in particular. Ian mispronounces "Autloc" and everyone corrects him. (Was this planned, I wonder?) In the first garden scene, Cameca appears to be waiting in the background intently for her cue to enter the scene. When Ian enters during the same scene, Hartnell makes a bit of a blunder by flubbing this line: "This dear lady has promised me to arrange a meeting between... me, uh er between uh myself, and..." But doesn't it seem like he rarely flubbed in historicals, only in stories set in the future or on alien planets? Lastly, I love his terrific line delivery on "But you can't rewrite history! Not one line!" -- but it's too bad Susan almost sabotages it by speaking at the same time. (That line foreshadows the living sacrifice jumping to his death despite Barbara's attempt to save his life.)
Tlotoxl breaks the fourth wall at the cliffhanger.
The Warriors of Death
The first of two well-played Doctor/Barbara scenes at the start as he admonishes her. Later we see all four characters in various scenes without any of the others. Ian says he can win a victory merely by sticking out his thumb -- I'm sure Ford Prefect would approve! It's fun to see the Doctor flirt happily, especially considering nobody else in the garden of peace looks very happy. (A subtle comment on the Aztec civilization?) Susan's refusal to be told who to marry parallels her shock at Ping Cho's arranged marriage in Marco Polo. This is definitely Barbara's story though, despite these subplots.
The Doctor's teeth-revealing laugh on his "horticulture" line is just a little creepy, even sinister in a weird way. But of course he doesn't know he's selling Ian out.
This script must have been difficult to write, as John Lucarotti repeatedly has various Aztecs addressing the mains as "the aged servant of Yetaxa," "the young handmaiden," etc., using their descriptions instead of their names.
We see another example of uncontrollable fate as the Doctor's distraction actually allows Ixta to scratch Ian with the poisonous thorn.
The Bride of Sacrifice
I had no idea until I read up on this story that the second and third episodes were Carole Ann Ford's holiday weeks and that her scenes were filmed inserts. They made it far less obvious than, say, the Doctor just disappearing for an episode or two for no explainable reason. Carole Ann does have a really good line reading in this episode: "You're monsters. All of you, monsters!" One of her better deliveries.
Autloc is gradually being revealed as a man facing deep inner conflicts; he's torn between his culture's customs and morality of a completely different sort. And for some reason I really like Barbara's line: "Why should I use divine powers when human ability will suffice?" Sort of sums up the religious themes of the entire story.
Barbara's look of sad defeat followed by Ian hugging her to reassure her, is a great bit. It shows a quiet, simple affection between them, and it goes by so fast it calls virtually no attention to itself in the midst of several other short two-character scenes. This is immediately followed by a more comic moment, as the Doctor shows more terror on his face when he hears the word "proposal" than he did when he first met the Daleks!
"Yes, I made some cocoa and got engaged..."
The Day of Darkness
Get ready for a stretch: Each episode title seems to somehow describe one of the four main cast members in this story. The Temple of Evil refers to Barbara's impersonation of an Aztec goddess; Ian is forced into the role of one of the Warriors of Death; Susan finds herself the unwilling Bride of Sacrifice; and the Doctor goes through a Day of Darkness in his heart(s) as he has to break up with Cameca to return to the TARDIS. Probably not intentional, I'm probably reading into things but I couldn't resist.
Barbara smiles for perhaps the first time in the story when she admits history remains unchanged -- even if it is a sad smile. Tlotoxl's "I had a vision of a room with three walls" is ironic in that he broke the fourth of those walls way back in The Temple of Evil...
The Doctor really looks visibly upset at having to break Cameca's heart; he's really had to give up something important to him, and his conflict is every bit as severe as Barbara's even if less screen time is devoted to it.
The fight sequence on the temple roof looks very staged. The earlier Ian-Ixta battle looked more realistic.
"You failed to save a civilization, but at least you helped one man." The other excellent Doctor/Barbara scene in The Aztecs, followed shortly by a pensive Doctor putting down Cameca's brooch in the tomb and then grabbing it again and taking it with him...
The Aztecs is just about as near to a Hartnell classic as you could get. The best historical I've seen so far (but I do have a few to go). Great performances, well-written script, a tough act to follow.
One of the Hartnell years' best stories by Michael Hickerson 13/4/03
In my mind, the Hartnell years were defined by two things -- the Daleks and the historical stories.
The Daleks defined Who early on because it was the introduction of these pepper-pot shaped monsters that not only saved Who from a sudden and untimely death, but also affected a lot of the public perception about what Doctor Who was and what it should be.
On the other hand, you've got the historical stories -- serials that defined the original mission statement of Doctor Who, which was to make history interesting, fun and (yes) entertaining. Yes, the historical stories were a rather hit or miss affair -- especially by season three of the show. But early on, the historical stories helped to define and shape Doctor Who in interesting and diverting new ways. So much so that it's a shame really that a great deal of the now-considered classic historical stories are now only partially complete or, sadly enough, lost forever to the ravages of time and the BBC burning policy.
But, as Who fans, we are extremely lucky to have one of the definitive and best historical stories of the era still in-tact with The Aztecs.
The story is pretty much a standard season one Hartnell plot -- the crew is separated from the TARDIS somehow and must work to get back to it in order to escape the events on the new world on which they've landed. But the thing that sets The Aztecs apart is the new world they've found. It's the world of the Aztecs and it's a superbly drawn portrait of what life might have been like back during the era. The Aztecs teaches us not only through heavy-handed lessons, but by showing us the daily lives of the characters and the people who inhabit that world. Yes, I'm sure a lot of us are horrified by the idea of human sacrifice to appease the Aztec gods, but it's interesting to see just how the main cast reacts to it -- from the chosen victim's eagerness to be given to the gods to Ttloxl's horror that Barbara wishes to change their way of life. We get to see various members of the Aztec's society in various roles -- and it's a portrait that works very well. Part of this is credit to John Lucarotti's script that defines the characters so well, but part of this is also the actors who make the most of the dialogue and roles they're given.
There's a great deal of good drama here -- from the conflict of the TARDIS crew's values and beliefs and how those are at odds with the society of the Aztecs to the Doctor and Barbara's conflict of values and beliefs. This story is very much centered on Barbara and the Doctor and it works the better for narrowing the focus so. Seeing Barbara's determination that she must change history and save the Aztecs from themselves is an interesting character choice. And seeing her increasing frustration at the futility of her actions really powers the episodes along, as we realize that Barbara is slowly but assuredly losing any grasp of power she once had to the devious and deadly Ttloxl. Also, seeing her argue with the Doctor about the right to change history and then slowly seeing he was right all along is nicely done. It's nice to see a bit of warming between these two characters from early on when they argue vehemently to the resignation Barbara feels and the sympathy the Doctor shows for her having to learn the hard way just before the TARDIS leaves.
And if The Aztecs was just about that, it might be enough. But it's so much more. The entire supporting case it superbly done -- from Autloc, the exception to the mind-set of the rest of the community to Ixta, the chosen warrior to the devious Ttloxl, who steals every scene he's in. Seeing Ttloxl chew scenery and pull strings behind the scenes is great fun to watch -- especially when he tricks the Doctor into giving him the poison thorn for Ixta to use against Ian. We also meet Cameca, who brings out the softer side of the Doctor -- indeed, this is one of the only on-screen romances we will ever see for the Doctor and his discomfort at it is a joy. (Also, we see some of the early manipulative Doctor as the Doctor uses the relationship with Cameca to forward their plans to escape the situation.)
If all that weren't enough, The Aztecs features one of my favorite cliffhangers. For some reason, the clifhanger to end episode two just sticks out in my mind as one of the best Who has ever done. Seeing Barbara approach the fallen warrior, after being challenged to save him by Ttloxl and prove her godhood as the Who theme slowly fades in is just one of the more chilling and delightful of not only the Hartnell years, but all of Doctor Who in general. Adding it all up, you come out with what may be one of the most perfect of the Hartnell stories and one that deserves its reputation as the definitive classic of that era.
And now, thanks the BBC and the hard work of the Restoration Team, we can enjoy it again and again on DVD. That this was the first Hartnell story chosen for DVD was a delight -- I honestly feared it would be the much hyped and overreleased An Unearthly Child. But instead, we get a true classic that has never looked or sounded better. The VidFire method is worth every penny spent on it and the soundtrack is just a joy. Yes, there are some times when the action seems to move at an odd rate, but that can be overlooked by how clear and crisp the picture is. Then, you've got the extras -- most of which are great. The two docuementaries on creating The Aztecs are superbly done and we really get some interesting insights from the crews who worked on The Aztecs. The short South Park-like animated piece Making Cocoa is interesting but not as bad as I'd imagined. But it's not something I am going to watch many times over. And the commentary works well, though it's a shame that Jaqueline Hill and William Hartnell aren't still around to give us thier views on it, since they pretty much carry the story for the TARDIS crew.
All I can say is that if you've only seen The Aztecs on VHS or off the air, this DVD is a must-have. It looks and sounds so good that you'll wonder how you ever got along with the old, scratchy version before. A fine treatment for one of the true greats of Doctor Who.
The First Classic by David Massingham 13/11/03
Here in Australia, the ABC has taken it upon themselves to re-screen every single episode of our beloved favourite, Doctor Who. This is terrific news, and partcularly so for one like myself who has yet to view all of the stories. One major gap was missing from my viewing experience -- the sixties. So I've now seen all of the first season, and whilst I have certainly enjoyed all that I have seen, the Hartnell period does not appeal to me as much as later eras of the show. It's a style thing, you see -- I'm a child of the eighties, and I'm used to all the fast-paced storytelling that "my" time stands for. As a result, many of the flaws present in early stories jump into even sharper relief through my eyes. Personally, I find it difficult to think of any story from the first year without automatically thinking of its flaws.
The Aztecs is the very vocal exception.
This is a story that takes many of the percieved cons of the early stories (slow, talky, repetitive) and turns them into virtues. Yes, The Aztecs is quite slowly paced -- in this case the gentle nature of the narrative gives us the chance to submerge ourselves in the Aztec culture. Yes, the story features a lot of standing around and chatting -- and it's all well-written and rivetting dialogue which highlights different aspects of the plot. Yes, there are repetitive aspects in this adventure -- but seeing the crew come so close to returning to the TARDIS and then failing gives the story more tension and gravitas. At the end of the day, The Aztecs comes across as an in-depth and educational examination of a long-extinct society, wrapped in a strong story with a number of interesting themes.
One element I love about this adventure is that each lead gets their own engaging storyline, each one very different from the next. Obviously Carol Ann Ford gets the least to do, but the other three have the screen time dished out fairly equally between them, with a slight bias towards Barbara. And all of these threads are interesting. Ian's status as the muscle onboard the TARDIS is exploited well here -- his appointment as an Aztec warrior is well portrayed, as is his opponent Ixta. The warrior's jealosy and resentment towards the school teacher is palpable and believable, and although the battle scenes between the two are not always sumptuously created, the underlying tension is certainly present. This said, their final battle is creatively directed and edited, and is quite believable until the rushed manner in which Ixta is dispatched.
The Doctor's storyline is quite wonderful, and his interactions with Cameca are well-written and performed admirably. The very idea that the Doctor could be accidentally married in Aztec Mexico is hilarious, and the manner in which John Lucarroti brings this to screen is both touching and funny. The final scene between the Time Lord and Cameca is bittersweet, and in this, the closest the Doctor has ever come to romance (I don't count the TV movie -- that wasn't romance, that was bollocks), we have a gentle and merry example of fine character relationships. Also interesting is this Doctor's almost simgle-minded desire to find a way into the temple -- although the character was obviously fond of Cameca, it brings up the interesting thought that the Doctor may have been lavishing her with more attention than he might otherwise, simply to reach a certain end. This suggests a richness in themes and ideas often lacking in a Doctor Who episode.
Barbara's storyline is the one that garners the mostrespect in fandom, and it isn't hard to see why. Her desperation to end the human sacrifices is admirable, if somewhat misguided -- I've seen so many scenes in Doctor Who that argue against tampering with history that at some points I was as exasperated with Barbara as the Doctor was! Nonetheless, Barbara's position as a an Aztec Priest incarnate is grippingly realised, with many classic scenes emerging -- her arguments with Autloc (wonderfully played by Keith Pyott), and her clashes with Tlotoxl (John Ringham, hamming it perhaps a tad too much, but still bringing across the cunning and decietful nature of this villain). Jacqueline Hill gives a great performance, and manages to hit all the right notes. One scene which I particularly admire is the one in which she finally lets slip to Tlotoxl that she is not Yetaxa, yet keeps her cool and successfully regains the upper hand.
Finally, Susan gets a small but integral share of the storyline. Carol Ann Ford gives what is probably her finest performance to date here, bringing a lot of defiance and strength to the part. Her limited scenes are used well, and as a result we are thankfully spared being beaten over the head with the "arranged marriages are the Devil's work" theme. The argument is clear for those who want to take something from it, but it is not repeated ad naseum for three episodes. Also a plus -- Susan barely screams! And when she does, it actually has an impact on the plot (crying out as the human sacrifice is readied in part one, leading to her stint in the seminary). Nice work turning Doctor Who's cliches on their head, team.
Not much has changed by the end of The Aztecs. The sacrifices continue, and Tlotoxl remains in his position of power. As the Doctor notes, Barbara helped Autloc in some way, and it is doubtful that the false Yetaxa and her servents would be easily forgotten by the Aztec people. This is a simple and well-told tale, which whilst not spectacularly rewatchable, is still quite an achievement. In my limited experience, I deem this the strongest Hartnell.
9 out of 10
"You cannot rewrite history. Not one line." by Terrence Keenan 23/11/03
Sometimes, stories can jump up and surprise you. I knew that The Aztecs was well-regarded, but you really have to watch it to see just how damn good it really is.
First thought was the cast must have had a field day with this story. It's a tragedy. Filled with nasty politics, intrigue, betrayals and love unrequited. Tlotoxl is such a Machiavellian menace that you hope he ends up having his own heart ripped out. On the other hand, he has solid reasons for doing what he's doing, and despite his sleazy ways, he generates a bit of empathy. Ixta is a bastard, but he thinks what he's doing is not only right, but honorable. Autloc is a man far ahead of his culture, and as such, ends up leaving them because he can't reconcile his fresh ideas with the customs of his people. Barbara is misguided in her attempt to change history, and is too blinded by her enlightened ways to understand a culture she thinks she knows by reading about them in books. Even the Doctor doesn't escape unscathed, as he is forced to use love to help the TARDIS crew escape.
That is my favorite storyline out of all of them. The Doctor's relationship with Cameca put a giant smile on my face. It starts off comic, with the Doctor pitching the woo for his own reasons, and not realizing how effective it is. The cocoa scene had me howling like a loon, especially Big Billy's almost spit take when he finds out he has a fiance. The twist is that the Doctor doesn't try to break it off with Cameca right away. By the time they open up the tomb for the big escape, The Doctor shows in one simple moment that he might have been pitching the woo for more than just information. He's about to leave a small object Cameca gave him in the tomb, but at the last second, stuffs it back in his pocket. It's one of the sweetest moments in Who.
The Aztecs is Barbara's story. Everything spins off her attempt to try and save the Aztecs from their upcoming slaughter by Cortez by turning them away from their long held practices of human sacrifice. Barbara finds out the hard way that playing God is not as easy as it might seem. Barbara's storyline implies nicely that book knowledge is not the same as living with a culture. It doesn't dawn on her until it's too late that Autloc is the exception to the rule. Another excellent touch is that the Doctor states his case about the changing of history, but ends up letting Barbara learn the hard way.
Except for a couple of minor line fluffs, everybody -- regulars and guests -- are in top form. Top honors go to John Ringham's Tlotoxl. It's a great villain part and Ringham channels Richard III in his performance.
The DVD is stuffed to the gills with extras, including some of the surviving cast members giving their thoughts on the story, a weird little cartoon about cocoa, an interview with designer Barry Newbery and the usual info-popups and commentary, courtesy of William Russell, Carol Ann Ford and Verity Lambert.
There are Who stories that can surprise you. The Aztecs is just such a story. It surprised me in how damn good it is.
A Review of the DVD by Jason A. Miller 4/12/03
It seems naive to keep declaring every new Doctor Who DVD release the "best one ever", but I think The Aztecs actually fits the bill this time. I mean, compared to one of the earliest releases (Spearhead From Space, about which I raved), this disc really seems to have an impossibly high numbers of features and improvements.
Most notable is frame-by-frame restoration of the story. Part and parcel of being a Doctor Who fan is accepting the show's poor visual look. Not poor as in aged special effects or wobbly sets, but poor as in picture quality. Who was always recorded on videotape, but the tape from the show's entire 1960s run has long since been destroyed, and those episodes are only available now on ancient, scratchy film transfers. The Aztecs' DVD doesn't miraculously unearth the original videotapes... but it does run the film through a special restoration process which mostly restores the old video look. No scratches, no jumps, this time. Now you can see the original sets and flimsy decorations in all their harsh studio-light glare, and you can see those lights reflected in all the actors' foreheads.
Now, while I'm sure most people who still watch Doctor Who don't watch it for picture quality, these DVDs do serve an extreme niche market, and it's nice to know that someone on the DVD-production end is actually trying to put out a worthwhile product.
Apart from the story (which is so brilliant that I won't do it the injustice of a 3-sentence plot summary), the DVD also benefits from the inclusion of the original actors in the special features. The audio commentary track is a major disappointment. Actor William Russell (Ian) is so old that he doesn't seem to realize he's watching a younger version of himself. Carole Anne Ford (Susan) was on vacation for half of The Aztecs, so her comments are limited to several variations on "Oh, that's pretty!". The star of the commentary is the show's original producer, Verity Lambert, though there was slightly less insight on Doctor Who's beginnings than I expected. I do hope she'll be included on future Season 1 DVDs.
Three actors from The Aztec's secondary cast take part in a 30-minute "Remembering the Aztecs" featurette. Ian Cullen (Ixta) sits at a table in a garden, reading from a very visible script, although his glasses are off. Walter Randall (Tonila) and John Ringham (Tlotoxl, a name not pronounced the same way twice throughout the entire story) sit together on a couch, Randall with his shirt unbuttoned and navel revealed. What's up with that? Best of all, Randall and Ringham provide new character voices for a hilarious animated short ("Making Cocoa") done in South Park style, and all three record in-character voice introductions when you select the "Play All" option. And look for the easter egg hidden on the Special Features menu.
There's also a nice 5-minute history lesson on the Aztecs, thrown in from a 1971 children's TV program. The half-hour interview with the episode's set designer, Barry Newbery, goes on a bit too long, but again, these DVDs are aimed at the kind of audience that might appreciate this sort of excess.
Happily, the usually interminable photo gallery now plays by itself, so you don't have to stab the "next" button on your remote every 3 seconds. The photos are mostly useless, but the color snapshots are fun, since you can see what the costumes were actually supposed to look like, before the 1964 story was recorded in glorious Black-&-White-O-Vision.
A Review by James Neilson 20/4/04
After eighteen reviews, I don't need to repeat any of the reasons that make this such a wonderful piece of television. So I'll confine myself to a single point that hasn't been raised by other reviewers.
Barbara's quest to halt the human sacrifices is recognised as folly by the Doctor because he knows she won't be able to make the Aztecs obey her. This forms the core of the plot, and the basis of the superb dialogue between the two characters. History can't be changed. Period.
What isn't made clear is another obvious reason why Barbara's plan is misconceived (even if history could be changed), which is not alluded to her debates with the Doctor. This is ironic, in view of her vocation as a history teacher, but inevitable given that the serial was made four decades ago.
Barbara thinks that there is a logical connection between the Aztecs' human sacrifice and the destruction of their civilisation at the hands of the Spanish conquistadors. Her actions proceed from the assumption that if the Aztecs stopped sacrificing humans, their civilisation would stand a better chance of survival against Cortez and Co. a century later.
If the motives of the Spanish conquerors had gone much beyond their lust for gold and power, Barbara's assumption might make some sense. But the facts are decisively to the contrary. It was the Aztecs' failure to submit to the conquerors that prompted their slaughter, not the revulsion of civilised Christian missionaries against the barbaric practices of the newly encountered primitives. Indeed, the primary sources even suggest that it was the Aztecs who, witnessing the burning alive of unwilling and condemned victims by agents of the Spanish Inquisition, found the Spanish practices to be barbaric compared to their own.
It's easy to see their point. I'm sure I'd have preferred a clean, quick death as a willing (and glorified) victim with a razor sharp obsidian knife to the protracted agonies of a heretic at the stake.
That Barbara wouldn't have thought in these terms is not a comment about the historical facts that were known in 1964 compared to now. The same very few sources were all that existed then too. But it is a very interesting illustration of how perceptions of history have changed, particularly since 1992.
This is not to say anything more than that The Aztecs is a product of its times (as are these comments of mine). It is still among the best ninety minutes of television we'll have the privilege of seeing.
A Review by Richard Radcliffe 14/5/04
The idea of mixing historical stories with futuristic stories is why I hold a great deal of affection for the first Doctor era. It makes it unique, and many of the historical stories work extremely well. Seen as one of the better historicals, The Aztecs is hailed as an early classic by many fans. It falls into that category marked "serious historical". It is an attempt to capture the mystery of this group of Americans, and deals with the way someone from our time mixes with someone from their time. It thus attempts to confront the fundamental differences of the two cultures and as such it works well.
Doctor Who knew that it could not compete with the big budget blockbusters of the day, so it didn't even try. Where it excelled though was in the characterization of the Doctor and companions, and the supporting guests. With intelligent writing and simple storytelling DW achieved what many so-called epics do not. Would The Aztecs prove that limited resources does not necessarily mean limited entertainment and insight?
The Doctor is still the enigma. We are not really sure whether he can be trusted or not. Thus when he callously toys with Cameca's feelings to acquire knowledge of the building plans of the temple, we shake our head in wonder he can be so cold. This second guessing with the Doctor's character is what defines much of Season One. We join Ian and Barbara in wondering what he will do next, and if he will really stand with them in the most dire circumstances. The interesting thing is that this uncertainty is combined with a old fashioned charm and likeability. The Doctor does seem to enjoy the company of Cameca - there are a number of occasions he looks like he's having second thoughts about treating Cameca so badly. This glimpse of a peaceful, quiet life appeals to an aspect of the Doctor, but he knows he must move on - that is an even greater aspect of his personality. The Doctor's friendship with Cameca does make this story different though, and there is nothing like this interest in a woman shown by the Doctor ever again.
The story itself uses the Aztecs in a very conventional and predictable way. We all know they are famous for sacrifices. We all know they gloried in battles. We all know they built temples, and worshipped strange gods. These form the basis of the narrative, they is nothing very profound in there - just material that can be picked up from children's books - but then again, this was supposed to be a children's programme, wasn't it? If the intention was educational it would provide the audience with a very simple foundation of knowledge about the Aztecs. I know, from my own personal experience, that DW has promoted certain historical interests that will always be with me - love of Ancient Egypt came from Pyramids of Mars, 17th century came from Visitation etc.
I found The Aztecs quite slow upon viewing it recently. There was an awful lot of standing about and speaking, not much movement to assault the senses. The limiting nature of a TV budget must be responsible, but it often looked like it was on a stage. They didn't really show the extent of the civilization as I wanted. The costumes were excellent, but too many of the actors were clearly not South American. The serious nature of the script spoiled by unimaginative casting. The parts were pretty well played, I don't deny that, but they just didn't seem real enough for what they were trying to bring across to the viewer.
Tlotoxl was probably the best of the lot, a fine performance. Considering the way the older DW serials saw most actors muff their lines at times, I don't recall any mistakes on John Ringham's part. Autloc was not as strong as the story warranted. Ixta was too rigid, and the fight scenes have to be considered pretty poor really. The leads have varying times of it. Ian suffers almost as badly as Ixta, those fight scenes again. Susan becomes a handmaiden to Barbara, and gets sent off to some seminary. Her recitation of "womanly values" doesn't do her character any favours at all. By far the best of the 3 companions is Barbara. Her motivation for taking on the role of Yetaxa is moral and noble, but ultimately misled. The way she stands up to the Doctor is particularly memorable - and this is one of the better female companion stories in all Doctor Who.
All in all I got something different with The Aztecs than I was expecting. I expected an historical that would make me want to study more about that period of history - a serious attempt on the production staff's part to bring to life an ancient culture. The casting and limited budget knocked that on the head for me - and the story just moved too slowly, not enough action. Instead though I found the characterization the most excellent part of The Aztecs. From Barbara's noble endeavour as stand-in queen to the Doctor's scenes with Cameca, it really brought those two main characters to the fore - giving us, however limited it may be, a glimpse into the soul of the Time Lord and the very human nature of his companions. 7/10