Tuesday, April 14, 2009

F2 - The Warriors of Death

Episode 2 starts off with a heated debate between The Doctor and Barbara; The Doctor insists that history can not changed ("Not one line!"), while Barbara, growing comfortable in her new perceived powers as the goddess Yetaxa, is firm in her desire to alter the Aztecs' destiny be maintaining their impressive cultural achievements while abolishing their penchant for barbaric sacrifice. It's a stunning scene, and when The Doctor expresses empathy with Barbara's plight ("I know. Believe me, I know!"), Hartnell's delivery reveals much more, as if he tried to do the same as Barbara a younger man many years ago...

Susan is shunted off to Ealing Film Studios for two weeks while Carole Ann Ford went on holiday, which is fine. There's so much richness in the plot in this story that an extra subplot for Susan would be tough to weave in. The main plot thread of the story is as per usual for most early Hartnell stories - The Doctor's party is separated from the TARDIS (and, thus, freedom), and must negotiate their way through the situation at hand in order to regain that freedom. This time, the wall of Yetaxa's tomb is what separating the travellers from their time ship.

Meanwhile, there's a Shakespearean sequence (in a story that, let's face it, reflects more than a slight influence from The Bard) where Ian is to fight Ixta, The Doctor wants to talk the son of the man who built the temple (Ixta, unbeknownst to the Doctor) to look at the plans for it, but only in return for help in his fight against Ian. Then, to top it all off, after The Doctor has inadvertently aided Ixta by giving him a poison for him to use in his fight against Ian, Ixta is only finally able to scratch Ian with the poison when The Doctor himself (having now been told of Ixta's identity) tries to warn Ian of the poison! It's a fantastic bit of plotting by Canada's second most important contribution to Doctor Who, John Lucarotti. Lucarotti has already given us the glorious Marco Polo, and yet the intricate storylines of The Aztecs almost trumps his earlier success.

The Doctor and Cameca's relationship continues to build in this episode, too, and it's in no small part due to the performances of Hartnell and Margot Van der Burgh (the latter of whom was only 29 at the time of recording, yet played a woman in her 50's). Hartnell's intensity in the opening scene with Jacqueline Hill is contrasted quite nicely with the lighter, romantic moments in his scenes with Van der Burgh. The budding romance isn't sensual. It's sweet, and is so much more interesting as a result.

The episode ends with a further dilemma for Barbara. Not only is she at odds with the Aztecs' sacrifices, but she must try and maintain Autloc's blind faith in her while keeping the bloodthirsty Tlotoxl at bay long enough for The Doctor to try and finagle his way into the tomb and recapture the TARDIS. And now, she has to somehow save Ian from death at the hands of Ixta by using her godly powers that she, of course, does not possess...


Anonymous said...

Ugh--why don't I have The Aztecs at home right now? I loved this story--I think it may be the best serial of the Hartnell era. And Jackie Hill--what a performance! Again, I say, ugh!

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