Friday, February 15, 2013

TV Series Review: Doctor Who: The Aztecs

So the BBC (or at least BBC America) has decided to show a serial from each of the previous Doctors, one a month in order, this year and started with a well-known serial from the first Doctor's run, The Aztecs (well known for it's line about how you can't change history, funny enough the producers, of the current episodes, were quoting it in the behind-the-scenes look left and right even though they like to ignore the idea when it suits them.....). First time seeing the first Doctor, hoping that Netflix has more serials to help tide me over until the new episodes in March.


Doctor Who: The Aztecs



Summary: The Doctor, his granddaughter Susan, and school teachers from 1960s England Ian and Barbara have landed back in ancient Central America at the height of the Aztec civilization and Barbara is mistaken as a reincarnation of a former high priest. The group goes along with it, mainly since they accidentally locked the Tardis in said former high priest's tomb and can't get it out but all run into cultural differences as they try to sort their way through the political structure and choose whether or not to try and interfere with history.

The Good: One difference I’ve noticed between the classic doctor who and Nu Who is how the companions feel less like people who accompany the Doctor and more like people who are just traveling along with him. In Nu Who the Doctor comes in, something is strange, and he, along with the companion(s), try to fix it. In Classic Doctor Who, the Tardis lands somewhere, the Doctor goes off to explore, everyone else goes off to explore and everyone ends up having, well, adventures that end up intersecting throughout the course of the story. It makes the companions feel much more like rounded characters instead of the story devices they sometimes come off as in the new series (heck, in the new series it’s been stated that the Doctor keeps people around to keep him from doing stupid stuff, the story even acknowledges that they are partially devices). I’m finding that I prefer this approach a bit more than the way it works in the Nu Who series, although I think part of the reason the new series doesn’t do this as much is because the stories are shorter time wise and this would be tricker to pull off in one hour vs two or three.

The Bad: Despite all of this I found myself not looking at the screen much or looking at stuff in another window for a lot of the story which usually means it's not as engaging. Of course, part of this could be that the visuals weren't that impressive, or even the fact that it was in English and I didn't have to read subtitles meant that I wasn't missing much, if anything, of the story by not looking but I still feel like this means the story didn't grab me as much as it could've if I did think about doing something at the same time. And part of this may be because while I saw part of the serial on BBCA I had to turn in and caught the rest on Netflix and couldn't recall exactly where I stopped and had to rewatch a good chunk to find my place, all in all it was a very solid story but it did seem like it was missing just one or two important things.

The Audio: Not much to say here, it's fun to hear how similar, yet different, the opening and ending themes are for the show almost fifty years ago and the serial itself was well mic-ed so I could hear everyone clearly.

The Visuals: As mentioned earlier, the show was shot in black and white, is letterboxed, and somewhat grainy. So it's not super great to look at but it's not terrible. The costuming seemed fairly good (although my knowledge of Aztec costumery is sadly lacking) and they created quite a few settings (although you can tell that the background for one of the rather dramatic scenes is just painted on which is a bit distracting and the material used for a lot of the sets looks distinctly, fake as well). Also, still no idea how they thought to pass Susan off for a student (middle school? high school?) back in the very first serial, here she looks much older and it really makes me shake my head and wonder what they were thinking there.


So I'll give this one a hearty recommendation for being accessible to relative newcomers of Class Doctor Who (holy crap it's a serial that has no aliens in it aside from the Doctor and Susan!), has a good story, and is a bit slow but overall well paced (streaming on Netflix for those interested but you have to search Classic Doctor Who, searching Docto Who: The Aztecs takes you to the DVDs but not the streaming section oddly). Now, onto Tom of the Cybermen!

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