The Aztecs

On our journey to the Fiftieth, which is fifty days away today [!] we’ve already had the Pat and Jon mini-edits of The Five Doctors, so let’s cover the first of the first three Doctors shall we by uploading the earliest complete story we haven’t yet fan edited – The Aztecs.

Doctor Who Big Finish Aztecs

Dr Who The Aztecs Radio Times

Fifty years on, it’s hard to imagine that these early stories, filmed like theatre productions, complete with painted backcloths, would still be enjoyed by millions of us who know an engaging story when we see one and can look beyond the limitations of its production. The Doctor here is pretty much the Doctor we know now, his rough anti-social edges having been worn away by his prolonged enforced contact with those two nosey schoolteachers. Hartnell’s performance is one that shouldn’t be underestimated or overlooked and it’s important that we acknowledge him, this year of all years. I recently met a twenty-year old fan, who only came to the show in 2005, and Hartnell is his favourite Doctor!

Billy is on good form here, and his performance is slightly different from the norm due to his flirtation with Cameca, which yes, gets sidelined somewhat in this Edit. As for the rest of the crew, Susan is still a pain in the arse and tiresomely hysteria-prone, Ian is rather in the background but Babs Wright is front and centre and oh, how Jackie Hill must have loved doing this story.

aztecs covers

doctor-who-complete-history-32The Aztecs is probably the best of all the historical adventures from the show`s early years and I really can’t be arsed with people who bang on about bloody colonialism instead of enjoying the drama. And it’s drama of the best kind – Barbara gets kidnapped and whisked away by Gandalf in his Magic Blue Box and ends up in the one period in time she specialised in.

So she’s emotionally invested in the Aztecs and their culture before the story even gets going. But then, Moffat`s “party animal” Tardis knew that when she brought them there. And once Babs realises where she is, she thinks she has a golden opportunity to do what she thinks is the “right” thing, only for her hopes of bringing redemption to Autloc and his chums being cruelly dashed by the reality that the Aztecs don’t actually want to be saved from themselves. Now there’s a sobering thought.

Barbara knows the Aztecs will be wiped out by Cortez, so she knows their future, knows their fate, she has foreknowledge. Perhaps that, retconning New Series thinking to this serial, specifically “The Angels Take Manhattan”, is why she fails. She knows what happens in the future and that knowledge is what makes it a fixed point, which is why Barbara cannot change it and stop it from happening. Is that the explanation? Is that why you can’t rewrite history, not even one line?

Either way, liberals who bang on about how this is a shocking example of colonialism are missing the point, as per bloody usual. If you had a time machine, of course you would go back and fix things, of course you would. We all have things we have done that we wish we hadn’t and we all have things we didn’t do that we wish we had. So of course, if you had a Tardis, you would want to go back and change things. But the whole point of the story is that you can’t. You can’t ever go back and change it. That’s what it’s about, at least it is to me.

the feathered serpent dvdAnyway, I really like The Aztecs, partly `cos it always reminds me of The Feathered Serpent, which came along much later and starred Patrick Troughton over on ITV. Here, the role of villain is taken by John Ringham, probably best remembered as Penny’s Dad Norman in the 80`s sitcom Just Good Friends, here doing his full “Olivier’s Richard III” bit and clearly loving every minute of it. We cut his first scene with Autloc though, as there’s a stumble over the lines and I felt it made for a better sense of drama to keep him in the background for a bit before his suspicions about Barbara put the Tardis crew in danger.

We also lose Ian’s scene with Ixta, so events are as much a surprise to us as they are to Babs and the Doctor. And, as ever, the key to the edit was to keep the focus them in order to keep things moving, meaning we cover part one in sixteen minutes before a fade to black to cover the transition from part one to part two.

The Aztecs by Adrian Salmon - DWM 282

Part two lasts about eleven minutes and, as you might expect, Ian’s fight with Ixta gets cut back as much as possible. Part three loses all the stuff with Susan in the seminary and everything else gets trimmed back, as there was quite a lot that I would otherwise have cut but couldn’t without the cut being noticeable, and the whole point of the exercise is that you shouldn’t be able to tell that cuts have been made! And speaking of cuts, there are a couple of really nasty jump cuts in this story, the most noticeable one in this ep in the scene between the Doctor and Cameca where she gives him the token from the tomb so I’ve edited those out, meaning that we hit part four, with Ian trapped in the water tunnel,  at just over 40m in.

And this is where things really start moving. Once Ian gets into the water tunnel and finds his way back to the Temple, he gets reunited with the rest of the Tardis crew, rescues Susan and then…

They make their escape. Instead of sitting through a rather cleverly concealed loop story where Ian has to go through the water tunnel again, they escape first time. We don’t actually see Ian escape from the tunnel, he pops up in the Temple when the Doctor goes to give Babs the bad news, meaning his appearance is as much of a surprise to us as it is to the Doctor. Of course, when Ian opened the door in the first place, the sensible thing to do would have been to wedge something underneath it so they could just lever the bloody thing open. Sometimes characters have to behave in a way that serves the drama of the story, even if that means ignoring common sense! Some may think it’s a rather abrupt ending but the 45m version of this story is quite long enough for me!

Aztecs by Ben Willsher DWM459



In this post I would like to acknowledge


for once again helping with the ongoing cost of hosting all these files.


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