Writing a Classic Who retrospective is something I had been wanting to do for a long time, but now that I have started it, I don’t know if The Aztecs was the best choice to begin this new adventure. To be fair, I chose this story, the sixth serial of the First Doctor’s adventures, because it is the oldest one I hadn’t watched yet and I want to do this in some sort of chronological order, if possible.
But I did enjoy this story, even if the sudden shock of going back to the old days of black and white, next-to-nothing budget and funny costumes contrasted with modern television. Although I think we can all agree that the magic of these episodes relies on these aspects: I don’t think I would like to see a First Doctor or even Second or Third Doctor story with the high definition or the sets of 2015’s Doctor Who. Each Doctor has his own time.
As I started watching The Aztecs, I must admit I found it quite scary – in a good way-, because it kept me thrilled and anxious. I do think this has to do with the black and white/lower quality aspect that you only get from silent films and such.
I’m not even sure at this point if I like Hartnell’s Doctor or if I just don’t understand him. My feelings change from time to time. In The Aztecs, I go from hating him when he tells Barbara off or plays with Cameca’s feelings for him, to liking him again whenever he plays the grandpa card or proves to be a good friend to his friends. But to be fair, the one and only male hero this early in the show is Ian. He performs the duties later Doctors would perform (but definitely not Hartnell). I’ve always found funny, though, that this is the earliest incarnation of the Doctor and he plays it as a grumpy old man, whereas “older” versions of him show him as a goofier, funnier, more childlike man.
The Aztecs, as its title suggests, sees the Doctor arriving in 15th century Mexico with his companions Ian and Barbara and his granddaughter Susan. The TARDIS is trapped in a tomb, so they need to find a way to break into it to get out. In the meantime, Barbara gets mistaken for a reincarnation of Yetaxa, an Aztec high priestess. The ongoing plot sees Tlotoxl, the High Priest of Sacrifice, trying to prove that Barbara is an impostor, while Autloc, High Priest of Knowledge, becomes Barbara’s ally and defends her. Then you have Ian being awesome while beating Ixta, aka “the greatest warrior ever” (HAHAHA), with his thumb like it’s no big deal, Susan attending lessons (most boring part of the serial) and the Doctor accidentally getting married to Cameca after drinking hot chocolate with her (quite funny, I must admit) while trying to find a way to enter the tomb. Someone should have told Cameca to wait until the Doctor had the face of David Tennant.
By the way, the actor playing Tlotoxl scared the shit out of me with the way he spoke and stared at people. Although after a while, I realised that he reminded me a lot of Louis de Funès, so for the remainder of the serial I found him both scary and ridiculous.
The story starts a bit slow, with the first episode relying on exposition and introducing the elements of the story. Luckily, it gains momentum after the second episode and it ends up being a splendid serial, but like I’ve mentioned before, the heroic aspects of The Aztecs all belong to Ian and also Barbara, who proves to be quite a badass in her role as fake goddess, trying to change the past of an entire civilization, something that, as we have learned over the years with this show, is very dangerous and impossible to carry out.
Needless to say, my next adventure will be The Sensorites. Can’t wait to see what Ian does to save the day!