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The Romans

Posted by goldenplum on November 17, 2014 at 6:30 PM Comments comments (0)

The Romans (featuring the Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Vicki

The TARDIS falls off a cliff and lands in Italy in 64AD. On route to Rome, the Doctor is mistaken for a lyre player and he and Vicki end up in the middle of a plot at Caesar Nero’s palace. Meanwhile Ian and Barbara’s relaxing break in the villa is cut short when they are captured and sold as slaves.

more here 

The Romans

Posted by goldenplum on March 17, 2014 at 6:05 PM Comments comments (0)

From Kastorborus - General consensus has focused on the lightness of the farce structure and gone on to suggest the narrative is fairly throwaway.All of the crew are having an idle holiday in a vacant house and have been there for three to four weeks – easily the longest gap between stories as yet. The action is actually on a pretty epic scale – it certainly outstrips any other historical so far.

he bulk of the action is driven by coincidence, mistaken identity and characters just missing each other. The Doctor finds the corpse of Maximus Pettulian and neither he nor Vicki seem to even notice that the stiff bears significant resemblance. Indeed, he looks a lot more like William Hartnell than Peter Cushing or Richard Hurndall. If we were meant to take this seriously, there would be a great deal more of a fuss about this. The Doctor has no problem assuming his identity – especially as it will get him a meeting with the Emperor – further signs of lightness and the first hint of the shameless namedropper and socialite he’d sometimes become.

This is in part due to it being led by the Ancient Rome setting. This is a historical that puts the crew down in a place and their adventures reveal more of the setting and time, rather than them being tied to learning about a historical figure or event.


The Romans is famously the story that’s a first serious Doctor Who effort at comedy – at least in Conspiracy, the third part. This is patently untrue – the whole thing is structured as a farce.

With the main cast split in two, we get to see the Doctor and Vicki whisked away to Rome pretty quickly, while Barbara and Ian have a tougher time of it. Their adventures allow us to see a great deal of the civilisation of the setting. Barbara and Ian both get captured, with Ian forced into work as a galley slave, suffering the indignities of getting splashed with water by someone off-camera, before becoming a gladiator. Meanwhile, Barbara is treated a little less brutally and sold into the Emperor’s service for an apparently generous price.

What is noteworthy about these two is how easily they take it all into their stride, despite having been taking it easy in a Mediterranean villa. For a modern-day equivalent, imagine going to Benidorm and getting sold into the sex trade. Only you’re from the future. Barbara doesn’t even seem to question whether or not Ian will be able to come and rescue her at any point – it’s just the done thing. They are clearly in their element with all this action and have moved on somewhat from the stuffy teachers concerned about the wellbeing of a pupil residing in a junkyard.


As such, they have stopped being the audience identification figures they once were. What’s particularly odd about the show now is that this is Vicki – she’s the one who is there to ask the Doctor the questions and generally prompt exposition. Bear in mind she’s from the 25th century and was only introduced to us in the last serial. The potential of this would unfortunately remain largely untapped, but it is the first instance in which the series uproots us and starts to ask for a little more in terms of audience imagination. When Leela joins the Doctor ten years down the line, this will be used to fuller impact in order to help alienate familiar settings like Victorian London ad make them strange. The precedent for that is here.

Back to the Doctor, who really gets to enjoy himself sending up Nero. William Hartnell gets some of his finest moments from the comedic script, with many of the double entendres and puns merging seamlessly with the increasingly-frequent Billyisms. Case in point, referring to Ian as Chesterfield: when corrected he tells him “Barbara’s calling you”.


The Emperor’s New Clothes trick is particularly fine. Absolutely no one falls for the ploy – not even Nero, but they all act as though they do – or have to in order to maintain etiquette. This is underlined as all the guests burst into laughter as soon as Nero leaves the room.


Which brings us to Nero himself. This particular scene shows off his preciousness and insecurities. Derek Francis is an incredible Nero – one of the best. He plays him as a spoilt brat, an innocent psycho that has always had his own way.


This is a fantastically irreverent attitude to a historical figure – the first time Doctor Who does it. It also firmly establishes the show’s place in a burlesque, music hall tradition. The next time this potential will be explored in any depth is Carnival of Monsters.


However, the dangerousness of Nero is not forgotten – the killing of the slave for not fighting hard enough is wonderfully played, especially as the threat to Barbara is set up beforehand. We know the regulars are not going to be in any real danger by this stage, but this pushes that assumption just a little.

At the same time, Nero is also the pervy uncle, chasing Barbara around and acting as though it was all her doing. Again, this gives Dennis Spooner the chance to get some shamelessly dirty puns in – “Close your eyes and Nero will give you a big surprise.” This is years before Harry becomes the butt of gay jokes about the Navy.


Nero is also the pervy uncle, chasing Barbara around and acting as though it was all her doing. Again, this gives Dennis Spooner the chance to get some shamelessly dirty puns in – “Close your eyes and Nero will give you a big surprise.”

Much of the humour is also very black, particularly the Doctor’s speech when Nero is proposing he perform in the arena. Almost while we’re distracted by Nero sulking because he worked out the surprise, the Doctor tells him: “If I go down well… I’ve always wanted to be generally considered as palatable.” This is about as far as the series ever goes in terms of unpleasantness, Robert Holmes included.


Some of the roles are slightly subverted too, in keeping with the burlesque tradition – albeit a light, family entertainment version. For instance, when Nero is acting the horny old man chasing women around – he goes for Barbara. The older woman, the more motherly figure. Convention dictates this should be Vicki, but he’s really not in the least bit interested. Again, this is used to undermine Nero and gently hints at psychological insecurities.


This is also applied to the regulars – when they all meet again at the villa, Ian and Barbara have their clearly-doing-it-by-now interchanges until the Doctor and Vicki return. At this point they’ve been taking an afternoon nap while the old man and the young girl are excited from their fun adventures, coming back to fund the boring old adults being boring. Which is as it should be. Indeed, Ian is absolutely at his best when he’s being the embarrassing dad in history, reciting the Mark Antony speech just because he’s got a new haircut. Look out for more of this ridiculousness in The Chase.


Finally, the Doctor realises he has had a direct role in potentially changing the course of history. If The Rescue was the tail-end of David Whitaker’s wrong science space opera approach, this is beginning of the end for the initial, reverent attitude to history. We’ve got The Crusade yet to come, but The Time Meddler will push these ideas still further. This scene is also a significant one in the development of the Doctor himself. Most notably, his gleeful laughter cross fades with Nero’s maniacal laughter as Rome burns – one man realising the possibilities of his position, another revelling in his limitless power.


Overall, The Romans is genuinely one of the funniest serials in Doctor Who’s entire history, and blends this with action-adventure in such a way that the humour drives the irreverent narrative, enhancing it.

Early Doctor who

Posted by goldenplum on September 17, 2013 at 1:25 AM Comments comments (0)

From io9---These days, Doctor Who is approaching its 50th anniversary as one of the most successful television shows of all time. But originally? Doctor Who was a small show that the BBC expected to run for a few episodes, and then vanish forever. The show had a tiny studio and huge cameras, and a shoestring budget. But the people who were making the show were outsiders, who were anathema to the entrenched BBC culture.

At the Gallifrey One convention in Los Angeles, we were thrilled to hear from Waris Hussein, who directed the very first Doctor Who episode, about how an East Indian teamed up with a Canadian and a young woman to revolutionize television science fiction.

Hussein took part in a panel at Gallifrey about "Doctor Who in the Sixties," alongside stars William Russell (Ian) and Maureen O'Brien (Vicki). And even though we kind of knew that Doctor Who was an upstart program that many people within the BBC were opposed to, we didn't realize quite how much the odds were against this show.

Hussein talked a lot on the panel about the ways the BBC tried to starve the show of resources — he wanted to do all sorts of ambitious tracking shots, but he was stuck with cameras bigger than the people operating them. All of the camera operators wound up with sore backs at the end of the shoot. And they were trapped in Studio D at Lime Grove, an ancient studio that was the size of a shoebox, where they were trying to accomplish ambitious shots like having people run into a phone booth and emerge inside a giant control room. William Russell talked about how his heart sank a little when he first heard they were going to be crammed into Studio D.

you can read more here.


First Doctor interview

Posted by goldenplum on August 14, 2013 at 12:35 AM Comments comments (0)

A TV interview with William Hartnell dating from 1967 has been unearthed.


The orginal interview was done shortly after he had left Doctor Who for heath reasons. The resucher who found it said "the ladies in the Bristol News Library very quickly got back to me to say that the interview done in Taunton still survived. We arranged for the footage to be sent over to London, where it was duly transferred. It shows Hartnell in his dressing room doing his make-up for one of his performances, with his "Doctor's ring" on the table and a Berwick Dalek playsuit stuffed in the corner." It is a 3 minute interview that was orginaly done for a tv new report. It has not been shown since it aired in 1967. It will be added to the rerelease of the 10Th planet. This will be sold in November 18, 2013. It can be fond for preorder on the BBC website here. 


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