Doctor Who – The Aztecs (Special Edition)

This is an early First Doctor story, first shown in May/June 1964, which was about six months into the first season. There was a previous DVD release in 2002, to which this adds some new extras.

Back then, there was a plan of alternating between sf stories, generally set in the future or on alien planets, and pure historical stories, where the only departure from normal reality was the presence of the TARDIS crew.

This is one of those historical, and as the title suggests, involves the Doctor (William Hartnell), Susan (Carole Ann Ford), Ian (William Russell) and Barbara (Jacqueline Hill) arriving in a sacred tomb on top of an Aztec pyramid. In short, Barbara gets mistaken for a reincarnation of a god-priest, the Doctor accidentally proposes marriage, Ian does some fighting and Susan gets into trouble. In a not unusual development, the TARDIS is inaccessible for most of the story, so everyone has to hang around and risk being sacrificed…

But some interesting ideas do come up – Barbara wants to stop the human sacrifice business, to which the Doctor reacts with horror. The idea of changing history is quite out of the question – not so much that you can’t do it, as you really, really shouldn’t. Which does make one wonder what they’ve been up to when fighting off Daleks and the like. Weren’t those events somebody’s history? Or is it only history if you know it’s history? Or is it more complicated than that?

Special features are spread over two discs, and include:

  • Remembering the Aztecs An early form of the now traditional making of (as seen on the 2002 release)
  • Designing the Aztecs Another feature from the previous release, in which Barry Newbery talks about his design work on the story
  • Cortez and Montezuma A slightly cringe-worthy clip from a 1970 Blue Peter episode, in which Valerie Singleton wanders around some ruins and talks about Aztecs.
  • Galaxy 4 A reconstruction of a lost story, based around the recently rediscovered episode three. The rest being made up of selections from the soundtrack, stills, and reused bits of video. Worth watching once…   
  • Chronicle – The Realms of Gold A BBC documentary from 1969, in which John Julius Norwich talks about the Spanish conquest of Mexico. Stands up remarkably well, and was worth watching
  • Doctor Forever! – Celestial Toyroom A nice look at some of the many toys related to Doctor Who, with many contributors including Russell T Davies and Mark Gatiss.
  • It’s a Square World An odd comedy skit in which Clive Dunn (dressed as William Hartnell’s Doctor) demonstrates a rocket to Michael Bentine

And there are other bits and bobs, too.