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The Aztecs – Who’s second historical is a historic event,
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This review is from: Doctor Who - The Aztecs  [DVD]  (DVD)
This review is from the original DVD release of this story from 2002 and not the special edition released in 2013. Extras and picture quality will be different between the two releases.
This is the sixth adventure of Dr Who, first aired in the first season way back in 1964. It features William Hartnell as the 1st Doctor, Carol Ann Ford as Susan, William Russell as Ian and last, but not least, Jacqueline Hill as Barbara.
It is the second ‘historical’ in Who history. As many others have pointed out, one of the aims of the show was to educate, with a time travelling alien giving the series to talk about science and history. Hence the inclusion of a science and history teacher in the main cast. Sadly, the first proper historical, Marco Polo, seems to be forever lost to us. Watching all the series that I own in order, I have to say that this series, and the iconic second series ‘The Daleks’, show just why the show was such a hit. The Daleks was riveting because of the alien menace and the science fiction concepts. This story is riveting because of the well-drawn study of a time, place and culture, creating a dramatic tension out of the juxtaposition of characters with our modern values with the Aztec civilisation. It is also a bleak story in which the protagonists learn that they are observers in their travels through time, and cannot proactively change history.
Essentially the Doctor and his companions land the TARDIS in an Aztec burial chamber. The rest of the 4 episodes is taken up with their trying to get back to the TARDIS whilst trying to unentangle themselves from the local politics and power struggles. Along the way there is a delightful romance for the Doctor and Barbara and Susan do their best to change the fate of some of the locals.
It’s a great story, well told and well acted and directed. It doesn’t waste time and gets the essential points over efficiently. There is plenty for each of the principles to do, and everyone gets some good moments. There are also some great characters among the guest cast, including a very memorable villain.
This serial was the first to be subjected to the VidFire restoration process. The picture is certainly a lot better than my old video copy, but still shows its age I’m afraid. Still, it’s definitely a lot more watchable now. The extras package is up to 2|Entertain’s usual standards, with the usual excellent production subtitles, audio commentaries, photo gallery, documentaries on the Aztecs themselves, the making of the series and the restoration of the series. It’s a 5 star package for a 5 star series. I wonder how they improved it for the special edition release?