Doctor Who: The Aztecs Special Edition DVD review

Classic William Hartnell story ‘The Aztecs’ is available on DVD from 11 March 2013

The importance of not interfering is the key issue in the First Doctor’s sixth storyline, as he, Barbara, Ian and Susan find themselves inside an Aztec tomb, which closes behind them once they step outside.

Barbara is quickly mistaken for the reincarnation of priestess Yetaxa, but can she enforce her objection to their practices of human sacrifice without putting the group in harm’s way?

It’s interesting to compare ‘The Aztecs’ to earlier stories featuring Hartnell’s Doctor. He’s much chirpier here and even gets a love interest (albeit one he’s not remotely interested in). John Lucarotti’s script splits the group up, allowing Jaqueline Hill a chance to shine as she wrestles with the knowledge that it’s not her place to interfere with history while feeling morally obliged to do so. Ian is in full-on action man mode as he faces repeated challenges from Aztec ultimate warrior Ixta while Susan is sent to a finishing school for potential human sacrifices. It’s also worth mentioning John Ringham’s tremendous vamping as High Priest of Sacrifice Tlotoxl and the excellent set design by Barry Newberry.

The BBC’s wonderful treatment of Doctor Who continues with this special edition, which brings Ford, Russell and the late Verity Lambert for a commentary track.  Ringham, Ian Cullen and Walter Randall speak frankly about their experiences making the episodes in the ‘Remembering The Aztecs’ doc and their relationships with Hartnell and director John Crockett. There’s a nice piece about Newberry and his designs, John Julius Norwich’s 1969 documentary about the Aztec civilisation, a deeply loving look at the history of Doctor Who toys, and what is probably the first Doctor Who skit (featuring Dad’s Army star Clive Dunn as the Doctor).

Serious old Who fans will be most excited by the inclusion of lost episode ‘Galaxy 4’, or at least as close as we’re going to get to it. The existing footage is combined with stills and some new animation, but it’s great to see this story about the deceptive appearances and the importance of mercy.