The Romans is really just Carry On Nero on a budget, and it’s not terribly highly regarded. That said, it does have a two redeeming features – The Doctor and Vicki. More of them in a moment, but first, we start with the end of The Rescue, where the Tardis falls down the cliff, as a pre-titles sequence before we get into the story proper at the Villa. We open with the slave traders eyeing up Barbara and Vicki as this gives us all the background we need, even if the scene is a little slow. After the toothless lyre player gets done in we rejoin the Doctor and co just after their discussion of their meal, which doesn’t sound half as good to me as it does to them!
Once the Doctor and Vicki set out for Rome, we follow them and leave Ian and Barbara out of it altogether. I anticipated that I would have to cut away to the other plotline at some point, but as the edit progressed I found that I didn’t have to do that at all, and could concentrate solely on the Doctor and Vicki. You have to admit that of the two plotlines, theirs is the more fun to watch so we follow them on their little trip to Roma. The only other mention Ian and Barbara’s adventure gets is at the end, where they obliquely reference it.
As a result, four episodes get cut down to the equivalent of just over one, and that one episode can be seen as an extended introduction for Vicki. Her relationship with the Doctor resets the dynamic of the show without the problem of the fourth character being the Doctor’s grand-daughter, giving Vicki greater freedom of expression than Susan ever had. And she doesn’t scream the place down in hysteria every five minutes either, so that’s got to be a plus!
In many ways, you can look on the arrival of Vicki as bringing out the Doctor’s inner child, and with it the transformation of the Doctor’s character is complete. Look at how different he is here to his first season. All the Billy-isms we associate with Hartnell’s performance start here, something fictionally brought about by Vicki’s arrival. Just look at the two of them in this story, they’re like Oliver and Dodger – the two of them bugger off to Rome like a couple of naughty schoolkids bunking off from a school trip, leaving the stuffy grown-ups Ian and Barbara to lounge by the pool while they go off and have some fun.
The completion of this Fan Edit means that I have now edited everything from An Unearthly Child to The Time Meddler. I’ve also done all the stories that are complete on video with the singular exception of The Ark, which is so bad that it’ll probably be the very last one I tackle!