The Doctor, Peri and Erimem arrive to witness the Roman Empire’s first attempt to determine the people’s choice of an official religious belief. But Erimem is deeply offended when she sees that persecution and tyranny are interfering in the process – the will of the people may, in fact, never see the light of day. She vouches her support for Arius in an open session of the council, enraging the Emperor Constantine and putting Peri and the Doctor’s lives in danger. The Doctor warns Erimem against trying to reshape history to suit her beliefs and her sense of justice, but his pleas fall on deaf ears. After all, to Erimem, the 4th century A.D. is in her distant future, and she doesn’t have to live with its past.
Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor), NIcola Bryant (Peri), Caroline Morris (Erimem), David Bamber (Emperor Constantine), Claire Carroll (Fausta), Steve Kynman (Arius), Martin Parsons (Athanasius), Michael Garland (Clement), Sean Carlsen (Centurion Caius), Stephan Bessant (Julius)
Timeline: after Three’s A Crowd and before The Kingmaker
LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green
Review: An unexpectedly enjoyable historical adventure, The Council Of Nicaea gets off to a fairly dry start; at points in the first episode, while the players on both sides of the battle of beliefs are explaining their views to various members of the TARDIS crew, the story positively plods. In some ways, though, it’s almost like one of those Hartnell-era historicals that’s trying too hard to be educational – there’s no science fiction influence other than the Doctor and his friends, and to some degree, when Erimem “goes native,” even the time travel element fades into the background of personal and political drama.
The characters are well-cast and well-written. While it’s easy to walk right up to the edge of completely disliking Constantine and his wife, and some members of the more sympathetic underdog camp as well, they’re all portrayed as having specific reasons why they’re so fiercely devoted to their individual viewpoints. (And why not? After all, The Council Of Nicaea is, fundamentally – no pun intended – a story about opposing religious views.) At the heart of the character drama is Erimem’s belief that the Doctor and Peri have betrayed her (a fear upon which other characters are too happy to prey when it suits their purposes to keep everyone at odds).
If there’s one element that’s slightly out of place here, it’s an occasionally cheesy synthesized musical score; it might fit in with the 80s era from which the fifth Doctor hails, but even when Davison was driving the TARDIS on TV, period pieces would be scored with something at least slightly appropriate. But in any case, it doesn’t stand out enough to really mar the proceedings. Quite an enjoyable adventure.