Tuesday, April 14, 2009

F1 - The Temple of Evil

Doctor Who's second ever pure historical, The Aztecs, is a well regarded tale amongst Who fandom, and, after seeing Episode One, it's easy to see why. I lamented earlier (The Daleks) about the slower pace of the classic series, but such a complaint does not exist here. Very unusually. the opening scene crashes head long into the story with Barbara slipping on Yetaxa's bracelet, being captured, and then mistaken for a messenger of the gods. If this was being made today, it would have been the pre-credits sequence.

We're also introduced to the four Aztec characters who will play such an important part over the course of the four episodes. Autloc is the High Priest of Knowledge, who is faithful in the notion that Barbara is Yetaxa. Tlotoxl, played with Richard III relish by John Ringham, is the "villain" of the piece, keen on exposing Barbara as a false goddess who is trying to stop the sacrifices. Ixta is the head warrior, and his ongoing battle with Ian for leadership of the Aztec army is intriguing, if only because one can sense Ian's reluctance in wanting the title.

And then we have Cameca. The Doctor takes an instant shine to her, and the scenes that these two share together are an absolute delight. There are so many scenes that are memorable, even in this opening installment. One of my favourite is the scene where Ian takes down Ixta using only a well placed thumb (and knowledge of pressure points in the human nervous system). It's a metaphor for the mentality and morality of the series as a whole, knowing where to strike as opposed to how hard, especially when the odds are against you.

The cliffhanger sets up the crucial dilemma that will form the heart of the story - Barbara's resistance to the Aztec ritual of sacrifice. What we will see in the episodes to come will not only change the lives of The Doctor and his companions, but also set in place the guiding principle of the show for years to come.


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