The city of Nicaea, AD 325... The first great Church council,
called by Emperor Constantine, is due to begin, uniting theology,
philosophy and politics for millennia to come. The Doctor,
Peri and Erimem are here simply to watch events unfold. None
of them is ready for what greets them. Intrigue within the
Imperial Palace has become violence on the streets, and blood
is spilt in the name of faith...
being familiar with the historical period in question, I cannot
say whether this story's depiction of the Roman Emperor Constantine
(David Bamber) is surprising or not. What I can say is that
Bamber's performance is an engaging one, veering disconcertingly
between charismatic diplomacy and ruthless dictatorship.
Symcox's script is also a good story for Erimem (Caroline
Morris), who takes impassioned exception to the Doctor's (Peter
Davison) reluctance to become involved in events when she
perceives injustice. The Time Lord plays his "we mustn't change
history" card, but the Egyptian points out that this era is
not the past as far as she is concerned: it is the future.
This is very much Erimem's story, just as The
Aztecs was Barbara's. As she puts her own life
in danger, the Doctor and Peri (Nicola Bryant) grow increasingly
concerned that she will either succeed in altering the timeline
or die as a result of her inability to do so.
the years, Doctor Who has taken various, seemingly
contradictory, approaches to the possibility of changing history.
The Aztecs and The
Reign of Terror seem to suggest that you cannot
alter the timeline because it is impossible to do so. In later
stories, such as Day of the Daleks, The Time Warrior
and City of Death, the Doctor states that it is possible
to change history, but this is something to be avoided at
all costs. The
Time Meddler, Pyramids
of Mars and the 1996
TV movie imply that, although humans cannot hope
to determine the outcome of events, a Time Lord or other similarly
powerful being could achieve it.
reconcile these conflicting viewpoints, it is worth bearing
in mind that Frontios suggests that history is more
vulnerable at certain pivotal points, while Father's
Day implies that time is more mutable when
it is already weakened in some way. The former condition could
account for the timeline's vulnerability in Day of the
Daleks and The Time Warrior, while the latter
could account for events in City of Death. In The
Council of Nicaea, the Doctor is concerned that AD 325
is a critical juncture, so the Frontios factor can
be applied here too.
the Doctor, Davison is his usual reliable self, but Bryant
comes across rather less well. Peri whines annoyingly as she
struggles to dissuade Erimem from doing something she will
live - or, even worse, not live - to regret.
And talking of awful accents, it somehow seems wrong to hear
a Roman guard droppin' 'is aitches. However, we have little
or no idea what a real Roman accent would have sounded like,
so I suppose a regional British dialect is no less appropriate
than received "BBC English". What is rather more unfortunate
is a background actor who has trouble with his S's, who seems
to tell his Emperor: "You sh*t on the council"!
though its religious subject matter is, The Council of
Nicaea left me, for the most part, strangely unmoved.
I doubt it will go down in history as a classic of the calibre
of The Aztecs. Still, there are plenty of decent performances
and other stuff that's nice 'ere.
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