RERUN REVIEW: Doctor Who 1×006 – “The Aztecs”

The sixth Doctor Whoadventure takes the Doctor (William Hartnell), Ian (William Russell), Barbara (Jacqueline Hill), and Susan (Carol Anne Ford) to 15th century Mexico when the TARDIS appears in an Aztec tomb. They find the mummified remains of a woman and Barbara, a history teacher, is fascinated with the place. She finds a bracelet on the floor and decides to keep it as a souvenir of their trip. They walk through a one-way door, however, and are yet again separated from the TARDIS.

They are soon discovered by the natives who mistake Barbara, who is wearing the bracelet, as the incarnation of the god Yetaxa. The Doctor encourages her to play along for the moment in order to keep them alive and buy time to get back to the TARDIS. Soon, Barbara is decked out in royal glory and the idea of being a queen goes to her head. She stops a ritual human sacrifice about to be conducted by High Priest Tlotoxl (John Ringham). The victim, crushed that he won’t be sacrificed for the sake of his people, throws himself off the high pyramid. Barbara is stunned by this, but is now more determined to end the Aztecs’ barbaric practices. The Doctor tells Barbara she cannot change the course of history, but she thinks otherwise.

In the meantime, Ian’s been drafted in military service and Susan is sent to Aztec school. The Doctor is treated like a respected elder, but he knows that Barbara can’t keep up the act for long and that they must return to the TARDIS before someone dies or Barbara changes time by altering Aztec culture. Tlotoxl believes Barbara is a false goddess and tries to prove it by first setting up Ian to fight Ixta (Ian Cullen), the city’s strongest warrior, figuring she’ll stop the fight. She wisely doesn’t, and Ian stops him before the fight begins. Tlotoxl tries to poison Barbara, guessing a real goddess won’t die. Barbara is tipped off before she drinks it, however, and confesses to him that she isn’t a goddess. She also tells him that telling the people she isn’t will only cause mass chaos, so he has to figure out a way to discredit her.

Susan and the Doctor, in the meantime, nearly get married. Susan is chosen to marry a sacrificial victim before his death and the Doctor accidentally engages a women when he shares a cup of cocoa with her. It’s a funny scene that has some of Hartnell’s best acting in it.

The best acting honors for this adventure, however, go to Jacqueline Hill and John Ringham. Hill takes the role of Barbara to another level in this adventure by showing her to be smart, fierce, and stubborn. It’s her best acting in the series so far. Ringham is slimy and almost over-the-top and menacing whenever he’s on screen. He’s my favorite villain so far in the adventures because he runs with it and never looks back.

The whole adventure has a good sense of impending doom about it. You know Barbara isn’t going to change history and that the blood-letting of the Aztecs will continue, but she tries hard to stop it. The scene where the Doctor realizes he’s engaged is good, and the follow-up when he tells his fiancé that he’s leaving is tender and quite good. Ford is only in a couple episodes because she was given a two-week vacation during filming. Like the Marco Polo adventure, the costumes are quite good in this and everyone seemed to kick up the acting a notch.

Next up is an adventure on a spaceship!

Have you seen “The Aztecs?” What do you make of it? Sound off in the comments or send us your thoughts on Twitter!

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Nik Havert