Monday, May 1, 2023

First Doctor Revisited: “The Romans”

I honestly didn’t think watching “The Romans” that I’d be intrigued enough to want to revisit it in a blog post. But it surprised me. There was no alien villain in this story, just good ole humans. Slave traders, Caesar, etc. But despite being less Sci-Fi and more history, it still held my attention (better than some others, like “The Web Planet”). 

First though, I’ll tell you what I really didn’t care for. At the end of “The Rescue” the TARDIS lands precariously on the edge of a cliff and falls. We expect the following episode to pick up where the last left off, but after replaying that same footage, we suddenly see the Doctor and the TARDIS Team chilling at the villa for a month.

Speaking of the villa, it isn’t unusual even with later Doctors to attempt a TARDIS holiday. The Fourth Doctor visited the Leisure Hive, the Tenth Doctor toured on the planet Midnight, and the Thirteenth Doctor’s team won a trip to Praxeus. But naturally things go awry, just like they did in Rome. Even when things are supposed to get relaxing, sooner or (three months) later, when you’re with the Doctor, things go crazy.

And when things go crazy, the Doctor can do some damage. There have been some instances when the Doctor influenced history (discovering fire, Rosa Parks, etc.), but this is one of the lesser known ones (at least it was to me). Who’d have thought the Doctor would be instrumental in the burning of Rome? He didn’t light the match, but he gave Nero the idea. Just like when the Tenth Doctor triggered the destruction of Pompeii (PS: "The Fires of Pomeii" references back to this story), the Doctor triggered (so to speak) the burning of Rome.

What sets this story apart from other Doctor Who stories, especially of the First Doctor era, is the whimsical nature of it. Granted, I’m not sure I can call slave trading or the Roman Colosseum whimsical. However, with the companions separated (not uncommon for Doctor Who), they were constantly missing each other at Nero's palace. At some points it was like a Scooby Doo chase scene. The Doctor and Vicki never even realized that Ian and Barbara were in Rome until “The Web Planet”. Ruh-roh.

Nothing earth-shattering from this story, but it was a fun go. I loved seeing the Doctor’s playful side. Also let’s just acknowledge that Vicki was casually willing to poison a random person, to save the Doctor. Life with the Doctor is crazy and I love it.

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