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DVD Review

DVD cover

Doctor Who
The Aztecs (Special Edition)


Starring: William Hartnell
RRP: £20.42
Certificate: PG
Available 11 March 2013

Landing in a darkened area, the crew of the TARDIS don’t know where they are, this does not stop Barbara from exploring. Finding her way out of, what is revealed to be, a tomb she is found by the local Aztecs who mistake her for a goddess. Against the Doctor's wishes Barbara continues the charade, in the hopes of stopping their practice of human sacrifice, only to earn the suspicion and enmity of the High Priest of Sacrifice, Tlotoxl...

The Aztecs was the sixth episode of Doctor Who’s first ever series. The show starred William Hartnell, with the then current crew of Susan (Carole Ann Ford), Barbara (Jacqueline Hill) and Ian Chesterton (William Russell). The story is presented on a two disc DVD set.

This was a time of both cutting edge innovations, with the enduring creation of the Daleks, while at the same time trying to fulfil its role as a historical educational program. The division between the historical stories and the bouts of science fiction was never that easy to determine on the grounds of quality, both had good and bad stories and The Aztecs was one of the better historical stories.

As Jacqueline Hill takes centre stage as the goddess Yetaxa, the Doctor finds himself in a secondary role, so much so, that the writer had to create a, slightly forced, sub story about the Doctor accidentally getting engaged. His role here is mainly that of a discontented voice over Barbara’s desire to change the course of history for the Aztecs, not only stopping their human sacrifices but also to build a culture which would withstand the onslaught of the Europeans.

With the two strong leads and some even stronger guest actors, the roles of Susan and Ian are reduced to a level of pure inconsequentiality as far as the story goes. Of course, as we all know how history played out that the Doctor was right, you cannot change fixed points in history and Barbara’s attempt at social engineering place the TARDIS crew at risk, with little hope of a positive outcome.

The disc has already been released once, so on the face of it, if you don’t really give a monkeys about the improved quality, rebuying the disc seems like a hard sell. Episode two, of this four part story, always had the best print and here the quality is downright astounding, given its age.

To pump up your interest, the disc not only contains the original extras, but a whole bunch of original features and, of course the surviving episode three of Galaxy Four, you get episode three in full and the other three are presented as a series of stills and animation.

On disc one the extras kick off with Remembering the Aztecs (28 min, 20 sec) with Ian Cullen (Ixta) swerving off to one side, talking about how Verity was a nice looking woman before settling down to discuss some interesting aspects of the show, while the two unreconstructed actors, John Ringham (Tloxoxl) and Walter Randall (Tonila) have an unintentionally amusing discussion on how much of a knob William Hartnell was to work with. Designing the Aztecs (24 min, 34 sec) is a wholly and unfortunate serious look at the set design for the show with Barry Newberry who speaks informatively about the basis for the show's look.

Cortez and Montezuma (5 min, 56 sec) is a piece with Valerie Singleton, probably one of the people responsible for losing Hartnell’s last story, an informative little slot about the Aztecs, although the time frame is wrong, but then I don’t suppose there is a lot of material out there, it’s a bit like discussing the Roman Empire in terms of Garibaldi, just because they are both Italian, not just a biscuit or that balding bloke off Babylon 5.

Restoring the Aztecs (8 min, 09 sec) has little to do with Europeans making reparations for their ancestors deeds, but rather a comparison of the unreconstructed material with the spiffy new stuff. There is no commentary or explanation as to how the process worked, and though I’m sure it was all very clever, without some form of explanation you might be forgiven for thinking they just wiped the film print with a bit of window cleaner.

You get a full length commentary with William Russell, Carole Ann Ford and Verity Lambert. Should it be your want, you can also watch episode four in Arabic. Making Cocoa (2 min, 30 sec) has a South Park type animated short which shows you how to make chocolate, the Aztec way. TARDIS Cam 3 (1 min, 06 sec) has been seen before its one of the less interesting ones as it shows just the TARDIS sitting on a windy planet.

The first disc closes with a picture gallery and some intro sequences; it’s a random feature which has some of the supporting cast speaking random lines.

So on to disc two, wherein we have already spotted Galaxy Four, it’s worth watching. It’s not a great story, but not half as useless as the still would indicate. Chronicle - The Realms of Gold (48 min, 52 sec) is an old documentary, from 1969, which looks at the conquest of the Aztecs by the Spanish. It’s good for its age and comes from a respected series.

Dr Forever - Celestial Toyroom (22 min, 36 sec) is apparently, according to the PR blurb, the first of a five part series looking at Doctor Who toys, presented by Ayesha Antoine. As it’s a bunch of sad middle aged men talking about the toys they had as kids, of course I loved it as the proud owner of thirty Daleks as well as an assortment of other Doctor Who crap, although I hope that further episodes have a little more depth to them.

It’s a Square World (7 min, 23 sec) is reportedly the first Doctor Who sketch with Clive Dunn and Michael Bentine, featuring Patrick Moore and Albert Steptoe. I guess you had to be there. A Wholes Scene Going (4 min, 33 sec) has an interview with Gordon Fleming, with behind the scenes material from Dalek’s Invasion Earth 2150 AD and not an Aztec in sight.

The disc wraps up with the Radio Times listings and the Coming Soon for The Ice Warriors, let’s hope the new ones don’t whisper as much as this lot.


Charles Packer

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