Soph Watches Classic Doctor Who – The Aztecs (Part 2 of 2)

By Sophie Iles

Welcome back Whovians! We are into the second part of this serial and already we’ve had everything you could possibly want. There’s danger, there’s history, there’s hints of a romantic subplot and now there’s this bone chilling cliffhanger that we were left on as Ian is about face death at the hands of his rival Ixta. It’s up to Barbara Wright to save the day, as she often seems to do…

Before I start laying down the groundwork of the next two episodes I must say out of all of the episodes, this one has such a variety of things going on. Lots of threads being neatly sewn together for the climatic ending of episode four. I really think David Whitaker was a very good script editor to make this serial as good as it is!

So, without further ado let’s find out how our foursome get out of their sticky situation in The Bride of Sacrifice and The Day of Darkness!

Barbara saves the day, because she’s awesome.

Barbara saves the day obviously. She snatches a knife and uses it to threatens the life of Tlotoxl if they don’t let Ian live. They do as their told. Her fierceness sincerely got my back up as I watched this sequence. As this is the end of the fight, no one is given the victory; Ian is unconscious and Ixta ‘cheated’. When Ian next wakes up, Ixta promises to kill him next time (foreshadowing Ixta’s last scene in the serial). Ian also learns that Ixta’s promise to give The First Doctor drawings was false, as there were none. Imagine my frustration as I shake my fist at the screen. I want this dude dispatched as soon as possible.

Ian also learns that Tlotoxl is plotting something, but he doesn’t know what, and he goes straight to Barbara to tell her. It’s strange, but up until this moment in the series, Ian has never been this physically active to me. He was always an action man surely, but he really does feel like a man who trained in the National Service in this series with how well he handles himself and even how he speaks to Barbara about how Autloc is the only good man here willing to see her point of view about sacrifice; it all seems clearer cut than Barbara’s idealistic wish to stop the Aztecs from destroying their civilisation.

Meanwhile, with Barbara having threatened Tlotoxl he’s even more suspicious of her than he already was. Planning with another man, Tonila, to see if poison will kill the goddess, a way of proving she is false.  When both he and Tonila go to her with a poisoned chalice, Ian is hiding waving his hands suggesting she shouldn’t drink it after his warning, and Barbara calls them out on it trying to make them drink it first. Obviously they don’t.

TLOTOXL: I only meant to test you.
BARBARA: With poison?
TLOTOXL: Yetaxa would have lived. The gods are immortal.
BARBARA: Well I would have died. I am not Yetaxa.
TLOTOXL: False. False! I knew.
BARBARA: And who will believe you? I warn you, Tlotoxl, you say one word against me to the people and I’ll have them destroy you. Destroy you!

She’s so upset and angry by the whole event that once he’s gone she just begins to cry into Ian’s arms and her really at her weakest point. This adventure just seems to get rougher and rougher for Barbara with every passing minute and I would personally hate to be in her shoes.

Whilst all of this is going on, Susan and The Doctor have their own problems, though in the case of the Doctor, it’s his eagerness and clear misunderstanding of reading the signs that gets him into trouble. Perhaps, you can call this the good kind of trouble? His relationship with Cameca reaches a new level, when she brings cocoa beans to him when they’re spending time together in the Garden of Peace. In Aztec custom, if you make someone a drink of cocoa beans, you offer them a marriage proposal due to their importance in use as currency.

She wishes to see if the Doctor feels the same way about her, by bringing the beans, which, out of what is probably just politeness and excitement to have a hot chocolate he insists on making a drink for her. To Cameca this is a massive moment, to be made a marriage proposal, and for her feelings to be reconciled. For the Doctor, he’s barely aware of the meaning and just can’t wait to share a drink of hot chocolate with her as a distraction from the chaos around him.

As a viewer you basically know this information before he does, it’s only when she announces the truth that you see William Hartnell react to the news, and it is one my favourite scenes of the serial.

The Doctor gets engaged….accidentally.

DOCTOR: Happy days, my dear.
CAMECA: The happiest of my life, dear heart. Was ever such a potion brewed? In bliss is quenched my thirsty heart. 

DOCTOR: Very prettily put, my dear.
CAMECA: Oh, sweet-favoured man, you have declared your love for me, and I acknowledge and accept your gentle proposal.

It does make you wonder just how much the First Doctor felt about Cameca, bringing in that thought again about previous adventures he had with Susan before we are introduced to them and what ideas William Hartnell had about the Doctor’s past.

Whilst this is going on Susan is still training to be a good Aztec housewife. With Tlotoxl now wanting to destroy Barbara he decides to put pressure on Susan after hearing how defiant she had been before and tells the Perfect Victim to visit her. Of course, being that he is considered the Perfect Victim he can marry who he chooses before he is sacrificed and he chooses Susan. She’s outraged of course! She refuses. This gets her in a hell of a lot of trouble, as even Barbara, not knowing this was Susan who made the mistake, clearly insists that their teachings must be stuck to.

Whoops. That Tlotoxl is a real sneaky git isn’t he?

Susan’s due to be punished, Ian’s unable to be truly helpful to anyone because Ixta is always watching him, and the Doctor has his own issues, but he’s finally found an idea thanks to his new “fiancee”. She offers him a gift of a stone with Yetaxa’s mark on. The Doctor strikes on an idea that there’s another stone, a large tablet in the garden he had been sitting behind. Perhaps that will lead to the tomb.

He tells Ian about this and they decide to meet in secret in the Garden of Peace to check it out for themselves, though this isn’t without the Doctor admitting “he got engaged”, which is hilarious to watch Ian find that funny, a proper belly laugh at that. When they do finally meet, The Doctor can’t take the stone off out of the wall on his own, and Ian has to do it as it’s too heavy. He uses a flashlight to climb into the tunnel, hoping this is an entrance to the tomb. Of course, it’s never that simple with Doctor Who. Ixta was following and tells the Doctor he must put the stone back because it will flood the Garden. He knows full well Ian is in there, trapped in the dark as water floods the tunnel and The Doctor even tells him that Ian is trapped in there but it just means Ixta has defeated Ian again his mind!

Of course, it’s a perfect moment for a cliffhanger too, but luckily, we all know Ian is a smart cookie. He finds another symbol of Yetaxa’s in the tunnel, and he pushes it to find another to crawl through, reaching back into the tomb just as he and the Doctor hoped.

Now, just to find a way to keep the door open so they can get back in the tomb, all of them safe and sound.

It would be easy to say it was as simple as Ian made it look, tying some old cloth from the tomb so the door could be opened on the other side whenever they want it. Alas, even when all four of them are reunited after Ian rescues Susan from waiting to be punished they have difficulty getting into the tomb. Ian’s trick with the cloth just causes it to get snapped before they can open it again. The Doctor concludes they need a pulley of some sort, in a time when the wheel didn’t exist.

Ian and Susan go back to the Garden, with the hope of climbing through the tomb tunnel again, but little do they know Ian is being set up to be framed for an assault on Barbara’s only ally Autloc (Oh, Doctor Who loves setting Ian up for murder don’t they?) so Susan and Ian are locked away to be punished during the eclipse, Tlotoxl is hoping to bind Barbara and get rid of her, and The Doctor is creating a pulley device of his own.

It’s in this moment, that Cameca has realised that the Doctor doesn’t really intend to marry her, and this sad subplot makes me feel so much for the Doctor, he clearly has enjoyed her company, smiling at her and comfortable. They have been sat together looking quaint. Even discussing a garden of their own. We all know that the Doctor can’t do that. Even in this early in the life span of the show, we know he needs to go off with the others.

She’s no fool, she tells him she knows he plans to leave, and he confirms them, not unkindly, but not apologetically either but he doesn’t even meet her eye. It is a sad moment to watch and William Hartnell does so well to pull you into the moment.

DOCTOR: There you are, my dear, it’s nearly finished.
CAMECA: As is our time together. I do not know what its purpose is, but I’ve always known it would take you from me.
DOCTOR: Yes. I’m sorry, my dear.
CAMECA: Tomorrow will truly be a day of darkness.
DOCTOR: For both of us.
CAMECA: Tlotoxl is determined to destroy Yetaxa?
DOCTOR: He must do to safeguard his own beliefs.
CAMECA: We are a doomed people, my dear. There’s no turning back for us.
DOCTOR: You’re a very fine woman, Cameca, and you’ll always be very, very dear to me.  

Cameca’s part of the story isn’t over, and has in fact saved them all with her wisdom in all matters and her influence. She, aided by the Doctor before she realised the truth asked Autloc who survived his attack go to see Barbara. Their friendship isn’t quite the same, but still believes that Ian did hit him round the head with the club. Barbara tries to explain to him that there would be no reason why her servant will attack him, but even then, his faith is shaken. Poor Autloc decides that it would be better to disappear into the wilderness and find his own way.

But not before asking Cameca to bribe the guard protecting Ian and Susan so Susan can get away. Though Ian uses the opportunity to knock the guy out so he can also escape.

This also makes for one last time for Cameca and The Doctor to meet, he thanks he for giving him back Susan, but you can see the heartache. The first time we ever see someone ask to be taken with them wherever she is heading and he doesn’t even face her. Truly heartbreaking to watch, and again both William Hartnell and Margot Van der Burgh do it all beautifully before she rushes away.

This leaves the climatic ending of the whole serial now they have the means to escape into the tomb because of the Doctor’s pulley. Ian — dressing in the guard’s head dress is on hand to protect Barbara at the sacrifice of the Perfect Victim when Tlotoxl tries to stab her. Tlotoxl and Tonila move to the side calling for Ixta to fight Ian, which leads to a really wonderful tense final fight between Ixta and Ian, and we know it’s to the death this time.

Ian and Ixta face off for the last time…

It’s not the best fight scene (my favourites are within The Romans) but it does make for a dramatic climax, whilst Barbara Susan and the Doctor get the tomb open. Ian and Ixta’s finally stand is tense and the matte painting to show the rest of the Mexico  really gives depth to the situation when Ian finally uses his feet to throw Ixta down the steps to his death.

Ian finally joins them in the tomb, to get back into the TARDIS, where Barbara removes the jewellery and the headdress of the goddess and place it back from where it once came, on the bones of the high priest she had taken them from before.

BARBARA: We failed.
DOCTOR: Yes, we did. We had to.
BARBARA: What’s the point of travelling through time and space if we can’t change anything? Nothing. Tlotoxl had to win.
DOCTOR: Yes.
BARBARA: And the one man I had respect for, I deceived. Poor Autloc. I gave him false hope and in the end he lost his faith.
DOCTOR: He found another faith, a better, and that’s the good you’ve done. You failed to save a civilisation, but at least you helped one man.

Her heart to heart with the Doctor leads to the realisation that at least Autloc, the man she trusted can now find his own faith and not be restricted to the forced Aztec traditions and it really nice to see how NuWho echoes this in the future. Of course, personally, I think this serial did it better.

Next week it’s time for The Sensorites an adventure though I have already seen before can’t wait to revisit, and personally, one of the best stories to depict Susan so we’ll talk about that next week.

Here’s my fanart for the week. Barbara in her Yetaxa garb, and an extra bonus, I’m adding this link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pNgxtnBHxRs where you can watch me draw and colour it too!

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