Thursday, March 28, 2013

What has 'The Romans' Done for Us?

The Romans

First Doctor  - 12th Serial

4 Episodes, Companions:Ian, Barbara, Vicki

Summary: The Companions are enjoying a much needed rest, much to Vicki's chagrin. She was promised adventure, and so far has seen only a month of a tiny Roman village.  Of course, before long, the adventure finds them, as Barbara and Ian taken by slavers, and Vicki and the Doctor are mistaken for a bard, on his way to play for Nero.  Ian is sold to a shipmaster, who makes him a rower, and Barbara is taken to Rome to be sold at auction.  

The Doctor: The Doctor is very curmudgeonly towards Ian and Barbara, but dotes on young Vicki.  He seems also to take delight in pretending to be the bard, although he cannot play a note.  He finds the misdirection and subterfuge fascinating, and delights in pulling one over on the court of Nero.  Before long there's a murder mystery to solve, involving the centurion who was originally plotting to murder Maximus (the minstrel whom the Doctor is impersonating), and Tavius, who hired Maximus (now the Doctor) to murder Nero.  It's complex, but actually easy to follow. I think he laughs more in this Serial than in any other, although, to be fair, even though the "threat" of execution by Nero hangs over his head at all times, in this one the stakes aren't really as high as has been the norm.  He giggles a bit like Caesar Romero's 1960's era Joker up to the end.

Companions: Ian and Barbara know nothing of the Doctor's plight, and each fights wildly to get back to each other.  Barbara is bought by a nobleman, Tavius, who recognizes her sympathetic heart and desires her no harm, while Ian's ship wrecks and they are recaptured, and made to fight in the arena before Nero. Soon enough, Nero falls for Barbara, and she spends a lot of time fighting off his advances.  It's fairly clear that Barbara has feelings for Ian, and vice-versa, what with the flirting in the first part and the pining for each other later on.  This romance is rewarding for the fans who've watched them for 12 Serials, and not at all an unexpected or unwanted development.  Vicki has not yet had much development, but she seeks adventure, is thrilled by meeting historical dignitaries, and protects the Doctor from himself. 

Continuity: The Doctor reaffirms his policy to Vicki - one may not interfere with another culture, nor attempt to accelerate its achievements.  We also see that the TARDIS exterior is nearly indestructible.  It's been crushed by a bridge and fallen off a cliff, without any damage to the interior.  This marks the first time the companions had an adventure of which the Doctor remained completely ignorant - not just a secret, but the entire Serial.

Caesar Nero, the wackiest Emperor in all of history!
Rating: Enjoy it.  This one has a lot of laughs, and was played much more for comedy than anything to date.  Nero is clearly a goofball, not the frightening, often insane dictator he is usually made to be.  It's nice to not have the fate of the world int he balance, and though there's omnipresent execution, poison, murder and betrayal, because it's a comedy, it's a nice light touch after the sorrow of the previous two. Also,while there were no refrigerators in ancient Rome, but there was romance!