Original DVD Extras include:
Special Edition DVD Extras add:
The characters become involved in this adventure in a way which is typical for the first season.... their curiosity leads them to venture too far, and early on their escape in the TARDIS is prevented until the end of the story, in this case by an ingenious Aztec one-way door in the tomb. Ooh, but this time it gets far more interesting..... There are times when the Doctor encounters renegade members of his own race, and of other races, who "try to change history", and he usually jumps in heroically throwing everything he has into the fight to try and stop them. This first time the perceived threat to history is from Barbara, whom he has brought with him, and with whom he would like to continue to get along with afterwards. And so he must meet the challenge with words, philosophy, compassion, and understanding. And he is the better for it in the end.
The time travellers and the Aztecs all have their human flaws, and this story is an excellent interactive character study. Barbara's actions cause the Doctor to confront his strict policy of non-intervention at all costs, and his belief that "not one line" of history can be re-written. This belief is causing him to ignore all the help and good he can provide to others throughout his journeys, causing him to want to run back into the TARDIS throughout every adventure. Barbara is (W)right to let her involvement run true to her principles and her heart, but she is mistaken in believing that one figure in authority can forcibly alter the entire views, philosophies, and traditions of an entire culture of people. The Doctor is right to caution her bloated ego, knowing how much extra danger she is placing all four travellers in unnecessarily if she isn't more careful. Whose position is more right? This is the kind of question that makes classic drama, and "The Aztecs" has loads of it.
Unfortunately, both Barbara and the Doctor resort to deception in their methods, despite the Doctor's reassurance to Tlotoxl in episode three that he "serves only the truth". Barbara is mistaken for the reincarnation of the god Yetaxa, a powerful position which she soon relishes and plans to use to serve her own noble ends. For his own part, the Doctor allows himself to get romantically involved with an Aztec woman, whom he seems to be purposefully deceiving, although he unknowingly ends up much more involved than he had expected. This is yet another aspect of "The Aztecs" that sets it apart from any other Doctor Who story - it is the ONLY on-screen romantic interest that the Doctor has throughout the original television show's 26 year history!
The plot is full of twists and turns, as nearly every character gets a scene in which to interact with every other character, and one interesting possibility after another is explored. The acting is the best that the series has turned out so far. John Ringham as Tlotoxl is probably the finest guest villain of the entire first season, creepy, powerful, devious, and perfectly justified in his own mind (not to mention within the rules of his own society) to hold the values and use the methods that he does.
It is Carole Ann Ford's turn to take two weeks holiday during episodes two and three of this story, yet she still makes a strong appearance with one pre-filmed scene of good length in each of those episodes - probably the best holiday disappearance of any main Doctor Who character because the absence is virtually non-existent. Her desperate plea for help from her grandfather holds the greatest danger of being hammed up in her performance, yet she carries the moment off beautifully.
Ian is also required to stand still and react emotionally for the cliffhanger of part three, which is his most dangerous task in acting, yet this too is surprisingly well done. John Crockett must know some secret to getting actors to give their best! William Hartnell and Jacqueline Hill are usually in top form for most stories, and they certainly turn out some of their best and most riveting work in this one.
The cliffhangers are mostly well done.... but to avoid spoilers, I'll save the discussion of them for the in-depth analysis version of this review.
Most of the music is quite dark and atmospheric, yet also in tune with the ancient culture which our time travellers find themselves in. It is largely a very excellent score. The only danger is that perhaps the strangely light-sounding woodwind herald is used too often, and it isn't too appropriate for announcing villains or danger.
Ian gets his own minor villain to tangle with in Ixta, and their conflict is built to a dramatically satisfying climax in the end. The climax highlights the beautiful and ingenious set-design and John Crockett's mastery of how to make certain illusions work, without sacrificing any tension in the action-filled scene. I wish this director had returned to Doctor Who on other occasions!
The Doctor and Barbara take plenty of time to philosophize about the events that have unfolded. Many fans see this tale as a vindication of the Doctor's position; I prefer to notice that he virtually admits to Barbara that he was half-wrong, while she does the same. (Read more about that here.) An emotionally and philosophically satisfying ending.
Although we are once more denied exterior visuals of the TARDIS going and coming, we do get two scenes in the interior and at last the sound effect returns to accompany the Doctor as he operates the controls and dematerializes. A final cliffhanger leaves us exactly where a good cliffhanger should - curious about the answers to a few simple questions, about where the travellers will be in the next episode, and about what they will encounter there.....
"The Aztecs" is a complete original story available on DVD and VHS video.
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