Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Doctor Who-The Aztecs
                      When Doctor Who was originally conceived,it was pitched to the BBC as an educational program targeted at a primary school age audience. The idea was that the shows themselves would either be set in the past to teach the audience about history,or in the future to teach them about science. This of course went right with the concept of companions Ian and Barbara being science and history teachers. With Terry Nation's introduction of the Daleks in the second serial,the concept of "no bug eyed monsters" went by the wayside. And the program gradually drifted into the area of science fiction as opposed to overt educational programming. Once and awhile,particularly in the earlier years remnants of that concept remained in what are referred to as "historical" episodes,based at some point in Earth's past. About half of these episodes survive to this day. However the first such serial 'Marco Polo' does not. So this particular serial represents the earliest surviving of these historical episodes. Also it's was the first William Hartnell era episode released on DVD stateside.

                 The TARDIS finds itself landing in a tomb in ancient Mexico during the height of the reign of the Aztecs. Barbara in particular is enthusiastic about this. But upon appearing before a group of Aztec warriors wearing a bracelet she'd found in the tomb she is believed to be the reincarnation of Yetaxa,the high priest of their people. Believing the Aztecs to be inherantly civilized,Barbara begins using her position to effect  social change among the tribes and end the practice of human sacrifices. Though the doctor sensibly insists she must'nt rewrite "one word" of history she is able to convince Autloc,another high priest of her wishes. Of course the high priest of sacrifice Tlotoxl stands in the way,continually attempting to convince almost everyone Barbara is a false god,even to the point of an attempted poisoning and the sacrifice of Ian. Meanwhile the Doctor finds himself being the romantic interest of Cameca,widow to the builder of their temple.  She uses her influence along with Autloc to assist the doctor in rescuing Ian and Susan,who was sent to an Aztec monastery to study the culture upon her showing ignorance to their marriage rituals. They succeed in this,though Tlotoxl actually succeeds in a further sacrifice at which time Autloc loses his faith against such practices as the TARDIS departs.

           Considered by many to be one the best early episodes of the program,this also has some very telling elements to it. While Barbara's attempts to appeal to the civilized side of the Aztec culture before the arrival of Cortez is noble,even she begins to doubt her own intentions as she sees the corrupting effects belief in their deities is having on all the Aztecs. Autloc and Cameca emerge as sympathetic characters,both looking to help their society progress. The Doctors flirtatious relationship with Cameca also showcases a warmer side of the character not present too much until this time. The general idea is,along with many societies,the Aztecs religious convictions were the source of most of the corruption in their society. All personified by the crooked and conniving Tlotoxl.  Susan's insistence against arranged marriage and falling in love with whom she chooses showcases a mildly proto-feminist viewpoint that would be hugely significant in later years of the program. So this episode,although with an historical format later shunned by the shows produces,helps lay the groundwork for many future episodes of Doctor Who and is one of the best acted,best written and most important early episodes of the series.
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