If Sue scores this lower than The Keys of Marinus, she could find herself sleeping on the sofa tonight.
The Temple of Evil
My hope that Sue would soak up this episode in revered silence is dashed within seconds, mainly because we get embroiled in two very tedious discussions. Well, tedious to us, I guess, but as far as Sue is concerned, these are fundamental details.
Sue: Why have they decided to visit the Aztecs? I thought Ian and Barbara wanted to get back to 1963?
Me: They’ve arrived here by accident.
Me: Well, the TARDIS doesn’t work properly.
Sue: Really? I didn’t know that. I thought the Doctor had fixed it. So when does it work properly? It seems to work alright in the new series. I thought the Doctor could go wherever he liked?
Me: Er, well, it takes him a while to fix it, or at least figure out how to use it properly, it’s debatable. In fact, if you keep your eye on the Doctor, you will see him fiddling with the TARDIS all the -
Sue: DAVE? Is that DAVE?
Yes, Tlotoxl has turned up and Sue is convinced that the League of Gentlemen must have based Papa Lazarou on him. It’s not impossible, I guess.
Me: It’s actually Penny’s dad from Just Good Friends.
Sue: Is there something wrong with his back or is he doing that walk on purpose?
Me: He’s doing a Richard III.
Sue: Not a Young Frankenstein?
Me: Not unless the production team are time travellers, no.
Sue: So, why are all the Aztecs speaking English?
Here we go. Why it’s taken her until now to question why everyone is speaking English (including Thals, Voords and cavemen) is beyond me, but here we go. I can either tell her to wait until the 1970s for an explanation or I can give her the official line now. Sadly, we end up debating this during one of Hartnell’s very best moments and she doesn’t hear his passionate warning to Barbara about interfering with time. Not one line.
Me: It isn’t stated on-screen for many years but the TARDIS translates for everyone telepathically. Look, this was a big plot point in David Tennant’s very first episode, The Christmas Invasion, which you’ve definitely seen.
Sue: Like a Baffle Fish.
Me: Yes, exactly like a Baffle Fish. Very good.
Look, my wife is trying to drop references to Hitch Hikers into the middle of a black and white episode of Doctor Who - you try correcting her.
I have to fill in some the important details we missed due to this diversion (“I thought the Doctor interfered with history all the time?”), but Sue eventually concedes that the plot is a definite step-up from last week.
Sue: It’s more believable, I’ll give it that. It’s just a shame that everyone looks so ridiculous.
However, as Tlotoxl looms menacingly into the camera – after an incredibly bleak moment where Barbara saves a life, only for the intended victim to kill himself anyway – Sue proclaims this to be the best cliffhanger yet.
Sue: Now that’s what I call scary. Do you think Russell Brand has ever seen this?top
The Warriors of Death
Before we begin this episode, I make Sue watch a short DVD extra where Valerie Singleton gives a potted history of the Aztecs to a 1970s Blue Peter audience. As a result, Sue is now convinced that Tlotoxl is underdressed compared to the real thing and we can finally move on.
Sue: The direction is much better than last week. It’s much more dramatic and thought out. The acting is a big improvement too.
Me: What about Hartnell? Don’t you think he’s great in this?
Sue: I’m sorry but I don’t think I’ll ever like William Hartnell. I just don’t get him. He’s all over the place. He looks like he’s playing a completely different character in every scene he’s in. He still hasn’t worked out how to play it yet.
As if to punctuate her complete indifference, when the Doctor enjoys a delightful moment in the garden with Cameca, all she can go on about is Ronnie Wood lurking in the background. She does have a point, though, as it is pretty weird.
As Ian and Ixta fight, Sue doesn’t understand why Ian doesn’t use his magic thumb again (“He’s copying Dr. Spock!” – look, cut her some slack, she’s watching a black and white episode of Doctor Who) and when the Doctor accidentally helps Ixta to drug poor Ian (not content with accidentally supplying the drug in the first place), Sue doesn’t hold back.
Sue: He’s a bloody liability!top
The Bride of Sacrifice
Sue seems to be enjoying the ‘romantic’ subplot between Cameca and the Doctor and she even laughs in all the right places. When the penny finally drops and Hartnell is framed in a wildly comic close-up, she can’t help but compliment him.
Sue: Hartnell should have played more comedy roles. He’s actually very good at comedy.
She’s even starting to re-evaluate Susan and the scene where she rebuffs the Perfect Victim is met with the admiration it deserves.
Sue: Susan sounded like a real person for a change. If you give her stuff to do, she’s very good. The problem is I keep expecting her to throw a childish tantrum. She just isn’t consistent. In fact, the only really consistent characters are Ian and Barbara.
Unfortunately, it isn’t long before Sue is annoyed by the Doctor again.
Sue: He’s just using that poor woman. He’s leading her on. What a git!
As Ian and the Doctor search the garden for the hidden entrance to the tomb (“I’ve never seen the Doctor move so fast. He’s almost proactive in this.”), Sue tries to make a virtue of the show’s limitations.
Sue: Ah, bless him. Ian is trying really hard to make that slab look real even though it’s obviously made from polystyrene.
Me: It’s Jabolite, actually.
Sue: Stop pretending you know anything about building materials, love. Remember who built the house you are currently sitting in. And Jabolite is polystyrene, you idiot.top
The Day of Darkness
Sue watches most of the final episode in complete silence. She’s stopped asking questions, she’s stopped pointing out the cosmetic flaws, and she’s started biting her nails.
When Cameca realises that the Doctor is going to leave her, she still does everything in her power to help him anyway. Sue is almost moved. She still has doubts about the Doctor’s sincerity and integrity, though.
Sue: Why doesn’t he take her with him in the TARDIS? She could be another companion. Take her with you!
Interestingly, Sue doesn’t question the Doctor’s ability to have a relationship because he’s an alien, she just sees him as a bit of a flirt who used his charm to get what he wanted. The swine.
Me: How bleak was that? They don’t win! Tlotoxl gets his way and the Aztec civilisation is doomed. Autloc – the only good guy in this – has banished himself to the wilderness, and that sounds pretty fatal to me.
Sue: You could remake this story today. It would look spectacular.
Me: If they remade this story today, the Daleks or the Cybermen would be behind it all.
Sue: Oh yes, there’s no aliens in this; I didn’t even notice that. I suppose that makes it more educational. I like that aspect to it.
As our heroes prepare to leave, the Doctor takes the brooch that Cameca gave him and he leaves it on the tomb. And then he has second thoughts and he slips it back into his pocket.
Sue lets out an involuntary, “Ahhhhhh”.
Sue: So he really did care about her after all.
Me: Don’t tell me that you’re actually warming to him now?
Sue: A bit. A bit.top
The Final Score
I take a deep breath as Sue sums up.
Sue: That’s the best one so far. The story was interesting, and fairly believable, and everyone was really trying really, really hard. I don’t think I’ll ever want to watch it again but it was pretty good. For its time.
And then Sue gives The Aztecs -
What a blessed relief.
Sadly, we all know what’s coming next. And it hasn’t even been VidFIRED.
Pray for us.
The experiment continues…top
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