After the TARDIS crashes off the side of the cliff,the crew find themselves in Rome in 64 AD,living on the outskirts of town and enjoying all of the pleasures the Roman Empire had to offer. All of this ends abruptly when Ian and Barbara are kidnapped by Roman slave traders. The doctor and Vicki end up going off to investigate and are accosted by servants of the royal court believing the doctor to be Maximus Pettulian,the court lyra playing musician for Ceaser Nero. Upon arriving the at Nero's court the Doctor learns that Ian and Barbara have been taken in as slaves. Ian has been arrested along with another runaway slave Delos and sent to to fight in the circus arena while Barbara is being pursued by Nero himself,who took her into his services with the help of a man named Tavius who liberated her from the slave market.
After both helping each other at the crossroads in their dilemmas,Ian and Barbra both seek help from Tavius to escape. For his part Nero finds himself humiliated by the doctor while claiming to play an ear sensitive lyra melody few can hear-while actually playing nothing. Nero contemplates having the doctor killed in the ring. Meanwhile Vicki learns Nero's queen is planning to have her husband poisoned over jealousy about his pursuit of Barbara. It's the doctor who comes to the rescue in the end. Realizing Nero was supposed to raze Rome due to his failed plans to rebuild it,the doctor sets fire to Nero's plans to facilitate this event. After Tavius helps Ian and Barbara escape,while the doctor and Vicki escape the burning city they find themselves back where they started-non aware of what the other had done until they left Rome in the TARDIS for their next adventure.
This is an excellent story blending elements of historical drama into what is largely a farcical tale of the indolence and decadence of Rome under Nero's reign. Derek Francis does an excellent turn as the faded,gluttonous Roman leader who is more in pursuing his power and indulging his sexual appetite with Barbara than doing much good by him Empire. That comic element is extended by the doctor's not only forgetting Ian's name-calling him "Chesterfield" but also his trolling Nero by playing on his own inability to play the Lyra. This story doesn't shy away from the dark side of the Roman empire though. The camera often lingers on Jacqueline Hill's expressions as Barbara,realizing even through her own experiences how Romans treat their slaves. Also of note is how her and Ian's emancipator Tavius is depicted,in a brief scene holding a cross pendent,to be a Christian. An excellent and well rounded historical Doctor Who adventure.