The TARDIS lands in the ancient empire of the Aztecs, a culture that has always fascinated Barbara for its mix of scientific and technological achievement and brutal savagery. Exploring with Susan in tow, Barbara quickly discovers that the Aztecs aren’t in the past tense here – the time machine has brought its passengers to the height of that civilization, a time when being caught in the temple vaults is punishable by death. When the Aztecs do discover the two women there, Barbara takes advantage of her and Susan’s “futuristic” appearance by explaining that they are the embodiment of the god Yetaxa and his handmaiden. Quickly installed as a god in the temple, Barbara decides to push history along a different course, declaring the Aztecs’ bloody human sacrifices will no longer be needed – over the Doctor’s protests.
Guest Cast: Keith Pyott (Autloc), John Ringham (Tlotoxl), Ian Cullen (Ixta), Margot van der Burgh (Cameca), Tom Booth (Victim), David Anderson (Captain), Walter Randall (Tonila), Andre Boulay (The Perfect Victim)
Broadcast from May 23 through June 13, 1964
LogBook entry & review by Earl Green
Review: An intriguing and engrossing four-parter from the series’ first season, The Aztecs poses some of Doctor Who’s best-ever moral dilemmas concerning changing history, and does so without any technobabble or cheap plotting. The only science fiction element in The Aztecs is that the TARDIS has deposited its crew in this situation – from that point on, they’re on their own as far as getting out of it.
Anyone wanting to question The Aztecs‘ credibility can bring up the fact that this ancient civilization is speaking English with British accents, but the guest characters are quite rich and varied. And frankly, I’ve always found that the dichotomy is heightened by the presence of those somewhat incongruous accents – it’s not authentic by a long shot, but helps to point up the advanced, cultured side of the Aztecs. The regular cast members are at their absolute best here, possibly the best ensemble performance they would give until The Dalek Invasion Of Earth, with William Hartnell once again turning in a superb take on the Doctor. You can feel the searing indignation toward Barbara’s attempt to rewrite the history books – one of the least-contrived moments of tension among the TARDIS crew that the series would ever produce.
Very highly recommended.