Friday, March 22, 2013

Cultural Sensitivity and Penlights


The Aztecs

First Doctor - Sixth Serial

4 Episodes, Companions: Ian, Barbara, Susan, as before.

SummaryThe Deerfield Aztecs, a baseball team, crashed in Mexico and formed their own lost tribe of real Aztecs. They track their missing shortstop, Carmalita (Arthur's girlfriend) to America but grab Arthur instead. 

Sorry, that was the The Tick episode by the same name.

Summary: They arrive in ancient Mexico - in the Aztec rule, before 1520.  Barbara is quickly mistaken for the Goddess Yetaxa reborn.  The companions realize they'll all be sacrificed to make it rain again unless Barbara fools them, and, of course, actually makes it rain. Ian is made one of Yetaxa's warriors, who must acquire the human sacrifices.  The Doctor is forced to retire in a beautiful garden.  Susan stays with Barbara as her handmaiden.  Barbara creates turmoil when she abolishes the act of human sacrifice, in order to keep Cortez from wiping out the "barbarian" culture.  Barbara tries to stop it, but the sacrifice victim kills himself on the temple and it rains, causing the High Priest of Sacrifice, Tlotoxl, to vow that Barbara is a false Yetaxa, and plot to destroy her and the others. Clearly Yetaxa's friends are the weak point, so Tlotoxl targets them in a series of cunning traps.

The Doctor: He starts by trying to make sure the characters don't change history here, and this is really the first time we see that rule invoked.  He also has a relationship with Kameka, a woman that is also retired to the garden, we get to see him enjoy the nuances of a romantic relationship for the first time (our first time, at any rate, he already has a granddaughter, so presumably he has scoodlypooked before the show ever started).  He's really infatuated, and willingly becomes engaged to an Aztec woman.  He seems to have found peace, and really seems to want to settle here.  I've not seen that before, and while the romance isn't super-well developed, it is believable.  

Companions: Barbara's knowledge as a History teacher comes to the forefront here, much more so than it did with Marco Polo.  In this episode, Barbara is willful and deliberately disobeys the Doctor, the first such time since they became a cohesive unit.  Ian demonstrates bravery, cunning, and resolve.  Susan herself also tries for some social change, rebelling at the idea of arranged marriage once again, as she did for Ping-Cho.   The companions desire for meaningful social change is commendable, though doomed.  No dead weight in this one!

Continuity: The rule about not changing history - clearly they can try, but it's forbidden.  This has never come into play before, so we'll now begin watching for that rule to affect the companions in the future.  Also - was that the Sonic Screwdriver the Doctor gave to Ian in the Tunnel?  It could have been a normal penlight, but I really want to believe it wasn't. Elsewhere on the web, they say it wasn't used until 1968 by Troughton, but I'm going to vote right here that while the object was unnamed, it was Hartnell's Screwdriver.  Troughton just was the first one to name it.  There.  It is so declared*.

Rating: Enjoy it. It's really another well done Serial.  I didn't enjoy it as much as Marco Polo, but a lot of that was really I felt the recurring issue of the human sacrifices was uninteresting. In among all of the social change dialogue, I kept thinking how the Serial kept reminding us that these people's culture was their own, and that, however noble our intent, us forcing our views upon them was morally wrong.  I kept thinking that this was an interesting message coming from the historically culturally insensitive British Empire.  Then again, I guess us Yanks from the American South don't have much room to talk with regard to our oh-so-culturally accepting past, so there's that.

The hardest part for me was not the plot, or the sets or effects or anything like that.  It was all these English accents speaking Aztec words.  Funny as that sounds, I just found the accents distracting.  Five other Serials of all the aliens and everybody else having an English Accent, and I guess it's because I'm in Texas and the Mesoamerican culture is more visible here that I actually cared this time.

*Ian used it as a flashlight.  It was probably just a penlight.  Stupid logic.  sigh.