So, last week Your Humble Blogger and his family watched The Aztecs, a first-season Doctor Who (yes, from 1964) and really enjoyed it. I should probably add that in the four years since I wrote that my Perfect Reader did not enjoy Robot, the kid has become an obsessive Whovian, and we watch an episode of the show pretty close to three or four evenings a week. We are working our way through New Who (she’s at the end of Season Five, I guess it is, and has taken to mumbling curse you Stephen Moffatt over and over again, which I suppose is nothing to worry about) and I insist on taking a break from the stuff I saw fairly recently to either watch stuff I haven’t seen in twenty years or stuff I never saw at all. So this is the first full story I have watched from the William Hartnell era.
The thing that struck me about it was that the gang of them (the Doctor, his granddaughter and the two high-school teachers who accompany the First Doctor at this time) blunder into trouble as historical tourists, put themselves into danger, and then manage to escape—they don’t save anybody else that’s in trouble, just themselves.
They attempt to save a couple of people from getting cut open on the altar: one of them hurls himself off the ziggurat in shame at losing the honor of being sacrificed, and the other is presumably killed after they flee. They convince the High Priest of Knowledge that human sacrifice is perhaps maybe not so good—or at least that the increase in frequency is potentially problematic—but he winds up leaving the city to wander in the wilderness and meditate on his new doubts. Barbara learns to accept the Doctor’s lecture that "history cannot be rewritten! Not one line!"
It’s a terrific episode (mostly because of the main villain’s wonderfully over-the-top Richard III of a High Priest of Sacrifice) but very different not only from New Who but from “my” Who. I was thinking that in New Who if they wound up in an Aztec city, they would find Daleks or Cybermen, or probably both—but in fact, during the eighties as well, when the Doctor went into the past, he found some sort of alien danger. That original notion of the Doctor and his friends as purely time tourists did not last long… which is probably just as well, considering.
Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,