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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 17 June 2014
A dazzling and thought-provoking visit to the cultured but violent world of the Aztecs in 15th century Mexico, with intrigue, action, engineering, romance and hot cocoa. This is an intricate golden treasure from the past that still shines brightly after 50 years. 5*

Amazon have bundled together reviews of all versions of `The Aztecs'; this reviews the 2013 Special Edition with an extra review of the `Galaxy 4' reconstruction. I seem to have written a `six-parter' length review so thanks if you get to the end! I'd never seen `The Aztecs' before - if you don't have this story, buy it and enjoy a splendid historical adventure with excellent picture quality. If you do have earlier versions, the picture quality is even better on this special edition, as shown by one of the DVD features which demonstrates the previous, impressive restoration, disc 2 has new special features (detailed below) and `Galaxy 4' is a curiosity, a dated story in some ways but lovingly reconstructed here around the recovered, restored episode 3.

`The Aztecs'

As the travellers emerge from the tomb of deified Aztec high priest Yetaxa, where the TARDIS has materialised, Barbara is mistaken for his reincarnation. Jacqueline Hill is at the centre of this story, in an excellent performance. She seizes the chance to attempt to change history by turning the Aztecs away from their barbaric culture of human sacrifice. This decision plunges the Doctor and his companions into the middle of a power struggle between two high priests who represent the two sides of Aztec civilisation; skilled engineers, astronomers and craftspeople who respect wisdom - and blood-soaked religious killers.

The Doctor is unwilling to interfere, but this is for practical, not moral reasons - they cannot change Aztec culture and tradition because it would be dangerous to attempt to rewrite Earth history and they won't succeed even if they try. Having watched the Doctor overturn the societies and traditions of countless planets every Saturday for years, I found this `non-interference' idea interesting but strange. However, the exploration of the dilemma this poses creates a fascinating and skilfully told story.

It might be tempting to give a modern, politically correct interpretation to this, about not imposing `Western' moral values on other societies, but John Lucarotti's superb script isn't that simplistic. The two high priests are wonderfully played by Keith Pyott (Autloc, High Priest of Knowledge) and John Ringham (Tlotoxl, High Priest of Sacrifice, with more than a hint of `Richard III'). Autloc is ready to accept Barbara as a genuine goddess because he wants to believe - but he already has doubts about his society's religion and human sacrifice before she arrives. ("The rains will come without a sacrifice.") Tlotoxl doubts that Barbara is divine, but will hear no other doubts about his religion because it gives him power over the people - you wonder whether his belief is anything more than a political convenience.

History IS changed for two of the Aztecs - Ixta, chosen leader of the warriors (Ian Cullen), comes off worst in a long series of duels with capable, confident Ian (William Russell) - I'm now assuming Ian did his National Service in the Commandos! Autloc is changed deeply, abandoning his old religion of human sacrifice and retreating to the wilderness as a hermit. The Doctor is very clear about this to Barbara - she could not save a civilisation by changing it, but she did help one man renounce an evil religion and find a better way. Autloc abandoning his property, status and even (in time) dying in the wilderness is a price worth paying for him to find truth. A powerful conclusion by any standards - especially for what started as "childrens' television". This is a thoughtful drama with first-class dialogue and acting to match.

William Hartnell gives a magnificent performance, authoritative, sympathetic, scheming and too clever for his own good on two occasions! He has a charming romantic subplot with Aztec lady Cameca (a fine performance by Margot van der Burgh) and two bowls of cocoa in the garden of respected elders, initially just a ruse to find out how to reopen the tomb where the TARDIS landed, but later developing into genuine feelings on both sides. Watch for the moment at the very end of the story, where he decides to keep the medallion she gave him earlier, then regretfully puts it down - before finally pocketing it. `The Aztecs' shows how good an actor he was and why he was so popular as the Doctor.

Barry Newbery's set designs are excellent, as are the costumes and soundtrack. Working in small, sometimes primitive studios gave many problems but the end result is convincing. If only we could have seen it all in colour! The photo gallery includes a handful of colour photographs showing how spectacular the costumes and sets were. There's an infamous crease in the sky backcloth at one point, but the panorama backcloths are impressive with views down and across the Aztec city, distant heavy rain in episode one and even a brief view of the eclipse darkness as Ian fights Ixta at the climax of episode 4 - two important moments in the story where natural events meet Aztec belief.

This brilliant historical adventure fully deserves five stars - perhaps the five suns of Aztec myth! Enjoy it with a mug of hot cocoa. Probably *not* made `Aztec-style' ...


`Galaxy 4'

This is a curiosity, an enjoyable reconstruction based around surviving still photographs and audio, one short video clip and the recovered, restored episode 3. It's not the greatest `lost' story but it does have its moments. The restoration team have obviously worked hard to get the best out of the surviving materials, plus some sensitively created CGI animations to fill in the gaps.

The TARDIS lands on a strange planet lit by three suns. The Doctor, Vicki (Maureen O'Brien) and Steven (Peter Purves) encounter small, trundling, round robots (which Vicki nicknames `the Chumblies') and two grounded spacecraft. In one, quite primitive spacecraft are the Drahvins; female, humourless, xenophobic soldiers. The other far more advanced vehicle belongs to their enemies, the secretive Rills who do not show themselves but have announced, through their robots, that the planet will explode in "fourteen dawns'" time. (Why? We never find out.) The Doctor and his companions must overcome the suspicion and hostility of the Drahvins and the secrecy of the Rills to allow everyone to escape in time.

This is quite an odd story with a patchy script, in which at times not much happens then a good idea or line suddenly pops up. It has been condensed to one hour in the reconstruction, which probably helps the sense of urgency - which frankly never seems that urgent considering the planet is doomed. The Drahvins, with their mostly female society (in which a few men are tolerated as long as they don't use too many resources!) seem either a satire on female inequality on Earth, or a dig at `Women's Lib', to use 60s jargon. I'm not sure which but this part of the story feels a bit clunky, though Stephanie Bidmead is effectively cold and callous as Maaga, the Drahvin commander.

The guest cast is tiny; apart from Maaga, Robert Cartland provides intelligent patience as the voice of the Rills. And that's it; there are some Drahvin soldiers but they have (deliberately) no character, only orders to follow and responses to speak - they are not even real, exact clones, just biological machines created to obey and fight. Even the beeping, rotating robot Chumblies have more character, like ancestors of R2D2. It's left to the three regulars to carry the action, shuttling back and forth between the two spacecraft, and they do their usual best with the available script. One point was irritating - solid planets cannot explode into a cloud of hydrogen gas (as the Doctor lyrically describes) - stars can; a good piece of dialogue let down by bad science that undermines the basis of the story.

The central themes are commendable; help others and don't judge by appearances or be embarrassed by them. The intelligent, sensitive Rills keep out of sight partly because they breathe a different atmosphere but also because they look unusual enough to repulse other (less enlightened) beings. Of course, the Doctor simply brushes aside their concerns about their very alien appearance with a brisk "Oh, we're not children!" and gets on with the business of saving lives, whatever they look like. Organic, non-humanoid aliens are rare in `Doctor Who' (Daleks excepted), so it's fun to encounter something like a huge, kindly warthog with mournful eyes.

The design work on this story is again really good, and helped by the inventive soundtrack. The open surface of the planet is very convincing, with its strange formations that could be plants or rocks. The Rill spacecraft, built from a geodesic framework of triangles, looks too insubstantial to fly and thus hints at a very advanced technology. The Drahvin ship is much clumsier-looking, which is deliberate, but the Drahvin costumes are definitely a product of the 1960s.

`Galaxy 4' is an average sort of story with good elements, some other science fiction series were like this most weeks; `Doctor Who' stands out because it was and is often so much better. The photo reconstruction and video restoration have been done with the same care that would be shown to a true classic; an interesting if dated addition to the collection. 3* story, 5* reconstruction.


DVD Special Features:
On Disc 1:
The commentary, and a short `Easter Egg'.
`Remembering the Aztecs' - John Ringham, Ian Cullen (Ixta) and Walter Randall (Tonila) look back at the story and working with William Hartnell, a good feature.
`Designing the Aztecs' - a very interesting feature with Barry Newbery including some of his own design drawings and colour pictures of the sets and costumes.
`Cortez and Montezuma' - a short `Blue Peter' item filmed on location in Mexico. I remembered this from 1970!
`Restoring the Aztecs' - clips showing the original quality and the impressive earlier restoration. The new restoration for this special edition is obviously better, and they have put back the eclipse shadow in episode 4 that this feature shows the earlier restoration apparently removed.
`Making Cocoa' - how to brew it Aztec style (including chilli and blood!), presented by `Tlotoxl' and `Tonila' in cartoon form. Factual and fun, but I'll stay with just adding milk to mine ...
`Photo Gallery' - including a few impressive colour pictures.

On Disc 2:
`Galaxy 4' - reviewed above.
`Chronicle- The Realms of Gold' - 50 minutes. A superb 1969 BBC colour documentary about Cortez's conquest of the Aztecs. As far as links to `The Aztecs' goes, it shows how good the story's design research and construction was, and that the script necessarily underplayed the brutality of Aztec religion - 80,000 people (mostly prisoners of war) were `sacrificed' in just four days to `sanctify' a single temple. Barbara was absolutely right to want to interfere!
`Doctor Forever! - Celestial Toyroom' - A fun feature, if you had/have a collection of `Doctor Who' toys and memorabilia this will fill you with nostalgia and/or envy. I never owned any, not even a single Dalek. Does that make me a bad fan?!
`It's a Square World' - Michael Bentine asks Clive Dunn *not* as `The Doctor' (although he obviously IS) to demonstrate his new space rocket. Inside BBC TV Centre. Don't press that button ...
`A Whole Scene Going' - short segment on the second Dalek film, with director Gordon Flemyng. Interesting, and from the very 1960s `groovy' title a reminder of how long ago this all was, underscoring how gracefully `The Aztecs' has aged.
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on 27 February 2013
Now the BBC have got near to the end of restoring the old VHS tapes of Doctor Who to DVD format, do we now have to suffer an interminable series of "re-hashed" "Special Editions" for the sake of picture quality? Talk about trying to screw as much money out of those people who are gullible enough to buy a repeat performance for the sake of owning "picture perfect" DVD's!

OK. I am a HUGE Doctor Who fan and always have been. But I will play devil's advocate here: The whole ethos of Doctor Who, when they were originally sold on VHS, was that the picture quality was the same as when the episodes were originally transmitted on TV. And that, to my mind, was the whole point because it took you back to those days when the picture quality was less than good. It was virgin, original and even more authentic because of that. Which I remember well, as I watched the very first black and white episodes of Doctor Who on my console television. But when the restoration team first started to transfer these stories to DVD back in 1992, I was the one of the first to applaud such a remarkable feat. Because they cleaned up, to a greater extent, all of the original faults which made it a far more enjoyable visual experience. And I have since collected every single Doctor Who DVD that has been issued. With the result that my collection is now nearly complete. But how far do you go ...?

Now we have "Special Editions". Either with further "improved" picture quality or the addition of more "extras" which were supposedly not originally available when the DVD's were first released. If you really want to spend your hard-earned cash on a "pristine" picture and sound quality DVD which has had even more flaws removed, that is entirely your prerogative. But is it REALLY necessary? Because it is now even further removed from the original "feel" of Doctor Who. And what happens next? Special Editions of the "Special Editions"? Just how far will the BBC go in trying to con us into spending money which, to die-hard fans such as myself, is totally unnecessary? I guess that will depend on sales ...
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on 21 December 2012
I could not shout loudly enough when I heard this DVD was coming out with not only a BRAND NEW restoration of one of the greatest Doctor Who stories of all time but with the added super bonus of the 2011 recovered episode of Galaxy 4 with Reconstructions of the still-missing 3 episodes. This is most probably going to be the greatest DVD release the BBC has ever commissioned.

Galaxy 4 is a story that really needs an episode to survive as it is so visual. The Chumblies were never going to work on audio alone so now hopefully fans with reevaluate this misunderstood classic and enjoy what we have left. It was a feeling that can only be described as winning the lottery when I woke up on Sunday 11th December 2011 and read the news report of Air Lock and Underwater Menace 2 being miraculously found and returned to the archives. It will remain one of the happiest days of my life for a while to come.

Now I've got that out of my system, on to the reviews;

The Aztecs
The Aztecs is one of the first B&W episodes of Doctor Who I ever watched, this has become over the years and repeated viewings one of my favourite Hartnell stories, I would say it was the pinnacle of 1960's Who if it were not for Pat Troughton's The Tomb of the Cybermen. However, this for me is a true classic and I was very happy to find that it was already out on DVD. Now with the special edition of course, I'm over the moon with joy.

Broadcast over 4 weeks in 1964, The Aztecs is as its title implies, a historical serial with educational elements, but unlike The Time Meddler or The Romans that succeeded this adventure, it is played very seriously and the tension is non-stop. This story is no shadow-of-a-doubt Barbara's centerpiece though, her constant warring with the high priest of sacrifice Tlotoxl makes for intense viewing and great acting, I thoughly enjoyed this main aspect of the story. Ian, Susan and even the Doctor have minor storylines but the whole structure of events are tied to Barbara being hailed as the Aztec God Yetaxa returned. On a side note, the Doctor and Cameca's love story was played very well here by Hartnell and Van Der Burgh, As was Ian's constant rivalry with Ixta, the chosen warrior of the Aztec people. Altogether, the cast and crew create one of the greatest pieces of television history and I certainly think it deserves that mantle.

Now then, on to the presentation of the 2002 DVD, the Doctor Who Restoration Team have surpassed themselves yet again in restoring The Aztecs, I love the little 5 minute documentary on the restoration of the story, it makes you think how lucky us fans are that the money is there to restore these episodes to their former glory. Also included is a lengthy documentary with the cast of The Aztecs, reflecting on times gone by. Many other small little tit-bits fill up the remaining space on the disc without crowding it or making the whole thing a mess. The bonus material on offer here is more than enough to satisfy the most fanatical follower or casual viewer.

The new March 2013 DVD will boast an hour long documentary from 1969 about the Aztec civilisation and of course the new Galaxy 4 reconstruction and surviving episode. The Aztecs episodes themselves have been meticulously cleaned up from scratch by Pete from SVS and will no doubt look absolutely stunning on screen.

All in all, one of the greatest pieces of Doctor Who ever produced, on par with Jon Pertwee's The Daemons or Pat Troughton's The Tomb of the Cybermen, this truly is something special. Be sure to grab the special edition when it is released as you are buying 2 stories for the price of 1 and I have no doubt you will not be disapointed.

Galaxy 4
Galaxy 4 - I know this has it's faults and even I am aware that it is slated by fans but since episode 3 was recovered in December 2011, I feel myself wanting to relive the story with a fresh heart. I saw this story in full a couple of years ago via Loose Cannon's reconstruction of it and the visual's really helped sell it to me, I can't wait to see the newly found part 3 but that aside I have always been a supporter of Galaxy 4.
The villain in this serial, Maaga, is chilling, she is gorgeous but so cold and evil. As with many of Doctor Who's villains they are ugly and repulsive to the eye, the Rill's are no exception to this but in this adventure are peculiarly the good guys, a bit machine like and cold I grant you but nevertheless good inside.

I personally love this quaint story and am glad that episode 3 has reared its head so we can all finally judge Galaxy 4 from actually viewing it, I have no doubt whatsoever that this special edition DVD with reconstruction of the currently missing episodes 1,2 & 4 will be an absolute gem and represent the story in as good a light as it deserves.

As you can probably tell, I am looking forward to this new special edition DVD from BBCWW with immense impatience. It will be the highlight release for me in 2013 and I am sure alot of people will agree with me on that sentiment.

Many thanks for reading my reviews of both The Aztecs and Galaxy 4. It's greatly appreciated;

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on 25 September 2014
'The Aztecs' is one of the best ever historical Doctor Who stories. The script give a real feel of what the Aztec civilisation was like and has educational value. The sets and costumes are mostly very good. The story would be a change of pace to those unfamiliar with William Hartnell era Doctor Who but it can be very rewarding.

All four regulars are well catered for here, but especially William Hartnell and Jacqueline Hill, and both give superb performances. The main theme of the story is the contrast between the savagery and the beauty of Aztec culture, Barbara tries to put an end to their human sacrifice which brings her into conflict with the Doctor who insists that she doesn't have the right to change history, this leads to some great scenes between Hartnell and Hill.

As well as the discourse on changing history, The Doctor gets a love interest, an Aztec woman called Cameca. There are some very touching scenes between the two and the Doctor even accidentally becomes engaged to her!

There are a few unconvincing backgrounds and risible fight scenes but these are the only real flaws in the story.

'The Aztecs' is one of the highlights of the Hartnell era and of Doctor Who as a whole.

All the extras from the 2002 DVD release are also included on this special edition. These include 'Remembering the Aztecs' a 28 minute feature in which actors Ian Cullen, Walter Randall and John Ringham share their memories of working on the story.

There's also 'Designing the Aztecs' in which Barry Newbery talks in detail (it's 24 minutes long) about the sets and props he designed for the story. 'Restoring the Aztecs' provides before/after comparisons for some of the scenes. 'Cortez and Montezuma' is a clip from Blue Peter in 1970 about the Aztec city.

Then there's 'Making Cocoa' a bizarre animated feature in which Tlotoxl and Tonila explain (yes!) how to make cocoa the Aztec way. John Ringham and Walter Randall provide voices. There's also one of those Tardis Cam CGI features.

In addition to these there are quite a few new extras. The best by far is the reconstruction of 1965 story 'Galaxy 4'. It uses the recently recovered third episode and uses a combination of stills, animation, audio and captions for the other episodes. While the second episode is included in its entirety the first, second and fourth episodes are condensed which is a shame but nevertheless it's a very good reconstruction.

'Galaxy 4' is a good story which carries the simple message that you shouldn't judge by appearances. The Dhravins may appear attractive but they're actually small minded and vile and their leader Maaga is one of the nastiest villains ever in Doctor Who. Meanwhile the mysterious and unsightly Rills are actually noble and benevolent. The TARDIS crew of Hartnell, Peter Purves and Maureen O'Brien are fantastic.

Another new extra is 'Chronicle-The Realms of Gold' an engaging 49 minute 1969 documentary about the Spanish conquest of Mexico.

'Doctor Forever-The Celestial Toyroom' is about the range of Doctor Who toys. There are some amusing stories such as the TARDIS console model with the wrong number of sides and the Davros figure with two hands instead of one.

There's also a short clip from an interview with Gordon Flemyng director of 'Daleks-Invasion Earth: 2150 AD' on the set of the film.
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on 12 March 2013
In short - YES, absolutely!
Some of us long-term Doctor Who collectors' are growing tired of these constant reissues, or 'Special Editions' of stories that have already had the restoration treatment and been released on DVD in the past 13 years. Some of us feel compelled to buy every classic Doctor Who release - in my case, this is simply out of habit and not wanting to fall behind with my collection. It is disappointing to look at the future release schedule, only to find that many of the releases are titles that I already own. This reissue of The Aztecs is exceptional though. I'm usually not very interested in most bonus material and it's not an incentive for me to buy any title. I bought this 2013 edition because I was hoping for improved picture quality over the 2002 release. I'm pleased to report a noticeable improvement in picture quality. Disc one though, is virtually identical to the 2002 single disc edition, containing exactly the same bonus material. I was quite excited at the prospect of seeing the feature 'Restoring The Aztecs'. I was under the impression that this would be a new 2013 restoration feature that would provide details and give us a good idea of the comparison between the quality of the 2002 release and the 2013 release, a tangible justification of the need for a reissue. How wrong I was. The restoration feature is in actual fact the same feature, produced to showcase the 2002 restoration techniques. It seems rather odd to include this restoration feature as it doesn't do the new transfer justice. I've compared 2 identical frames - one from the 2002 release and one from the 2013 release. This shows up the fact that the picture HAS undergone significant improvement in the past 11 years. The new version is much cleaner with a lot less dirt and grain - as well as sharper edges, deeper blacks and smoother textures.

Playing the second disc of this special edition, only went further to confirm that this release is worthwhile. The main item of interest is the long lost season 3 opening story 'GALAXY 4'. Broadcast in 1965 as a 4 part story, all episodes were wiped out of existence leaving nothing behind other than off-air audio recordings and a couple of short clips. However, in 2011 episode 3 was recovered. The story has now been reconstructed as a 64 minute omnibus story with episode 3 slotted in between various clips, stills, simple 'live' animation and the soundtrack, only 3 or 4 captions are needed to provide information about lost action shots. Episode 3 looks to have been fully restored, I have no idea how it looked when it was recovered but the presentation of the episode looks pristine compared to many other lost and recovered black & white episodes from the '60s. I really enjoyed this reconstruction of Galaxy 4 and it kept my attention from start to finish. In spite of the lack of motion pictures I found it remarkably easy to follow the plot, without feeling like I was missing vital detail. Galaxy 4 has a very simple plot, the kind of story that wouldn't be out of place in 21st century Doctor Who. I'll try not to spoil the plot too much - but many comparisons could be made to many plot devices and twists commonly found in modern day Doctor Who; such as the Doctor making grave errors of judgment and learning from his companions not to be so hasty in his decisions. In fact, you could go as far to compare this story with some of the adventures and situations that we've seen Matt Smith's Doctor negotiate along with companions Amy and Rory. It's a refreshing twist in such an early Doctor Who story that we find the male companion Steven in danger while his companion Vicki is the one to finally negotiate a resolution, preventing the Doctor from making a terrible mistake and saving Steven's life in the process. I won't give anything else away. I recommend buying this special edition, if only for the sake of Galaxy 4.

Besides Galaxy 4 there is a very lengthy, entertaining and educational documentary from the 'Chronicle' series, all about the actual Aztecs (Completely unrelated to Doctor Who;) a fun feature which documents the history of Doctor Who toys and merchandise over the years (If like me, you're pushing 40 - or beyond, you may well find yourself getting excited, pointing at the screen and exclaiming "I had one of those!") There is an all-too-brief B&W feature showing footage behind the scenes and the making of 1 of 2 big-screen 1960s colour Dr. Who movies featuring the Daleks and Peter Cushing as "Dr. Who". This is an odd, random inclusion but interesting and welcome all the same. There is also a B&W comedy sketch - loosely based on Doctor Who from 'It's A Square World', very daft but it did make me laugh a few times.

As I started off saying, I am prone to be very critical and dissatisfied with the Special Edition Reissue range but, this one is exceptional and certainly worth buying - especially if you've never seen or bought The Aztecs in the past.

On reflection, I do think this product would have been better if it had been presented as a double set with a separate sleeve and case for the second disc with the title 'Galaxy 4' - rather than lumping all of this wonderful material together with the Aztecs. It's a shame really, as it's highly likely that the contents of this release will be overlooked due to the overall title of the release. At the very least they should include a sticker on the front stating that it "Includes previously unreleased bonus story Galaxy 4".
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Whenever I rewatch a story from Doctor Who's first season, the most striking thing about the programme is that the Doctor isn't a hero who fights evil, he's basically someone who is constantly attempting to return his companions and himself to the safety of the TARDIS, but before he can do so he finds various obstacles in his way and this results in him usually righting some wrongs, albeit sometimes unwillingly.

In this run of stories, different ways to deny the Doctor access to the TARDIS were dreamt up. In Marco Polo, Polo confiscates the TARDIS and intends to present it as a gift to Kublai Khan, in The Keys of Marinus, Arbitan places a forcefield around it, in order to persuade the Doctor to undertake a dangerous quest and in The Aztecs, the TARDIS materialises inside a tomb and when the Doctor and his friends venture outside, they find themselves unable to get back in.

By placing an Aztec bracelet from the tomb on her wrist, Barbara is hailed as the reincarnation of the god, Yetaxa. This places her in a position of power and she immediately attempts to reshape Aztec society by trying to stop their culture of human sacrifice. The Doctor is appalled, he knows that attempting to change the course of history could have far reaching consequences.

Barbara manages to convince the High Priest of Knowledge, Autloc, but the High Priest of Sacrifice, Tlotoxl, is convinced that Barbara is a false goddess and vows to destroy her. And after the TARDIS crew eventually engineer a way back into the tomb, via a lovely sub-plot where the Doctor finds himself unwillingly engaged to the charming Cameca, we are left to ponder exactly what the result of the time travellers actions have been.

Autloc, having placed his faith in Barbara is a broken man and departs the city to wander the forest outside. And the revelation that Barbara was a false goddess helps Tlotoxl strengthen his grip on power. Whilst the Doctor tries to convince Barbara that Autloc's departure from Aztec society was a good thing, we are left with the uncomfortable thought that the only thing they have achieved is to break the spirit of a good and reasonable man.

John Lucarotti's script is wonderfully nuanced, and the cast, both regulars and guest stars, rise to give great performances. If you like Doctor Who with clearly defined heroes and villains, then this might not be the story for you, as it's not black and white - instead there's shades of grey. And at this point in the programmes history it is made clear that you can't rewrite history, not one line.

Originally released on DVD in 2002, The Aztecs - Special Edition boasts improved picture quality, thanks to improvements in the VIDfire process over the last decade. The special features from the original release are included, the highlights of which are interviews with designer Barry Newbery and actors John Ringham, Ian Cullen and Walter Randall.

It's a shame that a new documentary wasn't made about the production of the story, because even if cast and crew are now sadly thin on the ground, you would have assumed that archive interviews could have been used. The one major addition to the special features specific to this story is a 1969 episode of Chronicle, which details the Spanish conquest of the Aztec nation. I would assume that this, together with a few other archive bits and bobs and a nice documentary on Doctor Who toys wouldn't have made this release a priority for many people, but the fact that the recently discovered episode of Galaxy 4 - "Air Lock" is included, means that it's a must buy.

There are two points of view regarding the inclusion of "Air Lock" as a special feature on a release like this, rather than including it on a forthcoming story like The Tenth Planet. One is that it's canny marketing, ramping up sales of The Aztecs, the other is that it's blatant profiteering. But if the episode of Galaxy 4 been released on a single disc, together with the recon and a number of special features then I doubt anyone would have had a problem with buying it. So maybe this release should really be regarded as Galaxy 4 with a bonus of a remastered Aztecs?

As for "Air Lock" I don't want to go into too much detail, as part of the fun of watching a previously lost episode for the first time is discovering things for yourself. But it's good to see Hartnell in action, Stephanie Bidmead is impressive as Maaga and also it's great to finally see a Rill in the flesh.

The rest of Galaxy 4 is represented by a cut-down recon, adapted from the fan-made Loose Cannon reconstruction. This means that episodes 1 & 2 run for about 30 minutes and episode 4 lasts around 15 minutes. So although you don't get the complete story, it's still enough to give you a good idea of how "Air Lock" fits into the rest of the serial. One slight niggle is that you can't start "Air Lock" from the menu, you have to play the recon from the start and press chapter select a few times. It's easy enough to do, but it seems a little strange not to make locating the episode a little easier, particularly as it will be a highlight for many people.

So, The Aztecs is a five star classic, and although the new special features are not particularly engrossing, the quality of the story plus the episode of "Air Lock" makes this an essential purchase for anybody who loves the era of the original Doctor, William Hartnell.
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on 31 January 2013
Average story but excellent extras!

Special Features - Disc One:

Commentary - with actors William Russell and Carole Ann Ford, producer Verity Lambert OBE.

Arabic Soundtrack - optional soundtrack for episode four only.

Remembering The Aztecs - actors John Ringham, Ian Cullen and Walter Randall recall the production of the story and of television production in the sixties in general.

Designing The Aztecs - designer Barry Newbery talks about his work on the story, illustrated with many never-before-seen production drawings and photographs from his personal collection.

Cortez and Monezuma - an extract from a 1970 Blue Peter, introduced by Valerie Singleton on location in Mexico, giving historical background to the Aztec belief in human sacrifice.

Restoring The Aztecs - a short featurette demonstrating the restoration and videoisation effects used for the release. With subtitles.

Making Cocoa - an animated guide to making cocoa the Aztec way, voiced in character by John Ringham as Tlotoxl and Walter Randall as Tonila, with both characters animated and presented in South Park style.

TARDIS-Cam no.3 - the third of BBCi's TARDIS-Cam shots.

Photo Gallery - production, design and publicity photos from the story

Easter Egg - an animated BBC Enterprises logo recovered from the end of one of the prints sold overseas.

Intro Sequences - the umbrella story title The Aztecs does not appear on any of the episodes, so for (outdated now) BBFC compliance a caption card with the title has been provided. To add interest, six versions have been provided, each with a different voiceover, in character, from three of the actors involved in the production. The intention is that the disc will randomly select one of these six sequences and play it out at the appropriate point.

PDF Material - Radio Times listings in Adobe PDF format for viewing on PC or Mac
Programme subtitles

Special Features - Disc Two:

Galaxy 4 (dur. 64' 43") - a shortened reconstruction of the missing story Galaxy 4, using off-screen stills, audio recordings and animation plus the recently recovered complete episode three to tell the story.

Chronicle - The Realms of Gold - John Julius Norwich's superlative 1969 retelling of the story of the Spanish conquest of Mexico and the Aztecs, which also features music by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.

Dr. Forever! - Celestial Toyroom - the first of a new five-part series introduced by Ayesha Antoine looks at Doctor Who toys. With original series producer Verity Lambert, new series creator Russell T Davies, writers Mark Gatiss, Rob Shearman, Paul Cornell and Joseph Lidster, BBC Worldwide product licensing executive Richard Hollis, product approval executive Dave Turbitt and ex- range editor Steve Cole, AudioGO commissioning editor Michael Stevens, Character Options' Alasdair Dewar, DWM's toy reviewer Jim Sangster and last, but by no means least, Doctor Who's very own Winston Churchill, actor Ian McNiece.

It's a Square World - the very first Doctor Who skit (as far as we can ascertain), with Clive Dunn in full First Doctor costume as a scientist demonstrating his new space rocket to Michael Bentine, resulting in Television Centre being launched into space! Features cameo appearances by Patrick Moore and Albert Steptoe.

A Whole Scene Going - an excerpt from a recently recovered edition of the sixties music and arts programme, featuring an interview with director Gordon Flemyng and a behind the scenes look at filming of his movie Daleks' Invasion Earth: 2150 AD.

Coming Soon - a trailer for a forthcoming DVD release of The Ice Warriors.

Radio Times Listings - in Adobe PDF format.Programme subtitles
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on 28 June 2005
Thoroughly enjoyable romp into one-take early Sixties British television and a valuable, immaculately presented document of all the elements that made Dr Who one of most popular programmes of the period. Hartnell's Dr Who is severe, pompous, self-involved, distracted, an old genius on the verge of dementia. It's a brilliant characterisation, partly originating in Hartnell's own declining health as well as the scripts and his performance. Hartnell's constant fluffing of lines and cues, rarely reshot within a budget conscious BBC, adds to the realism of his character. Yet he is able to be subtle as well. Consider the way he romances the old Aztec woman to get the blueprint for the pyramid where the TARDIS is trapped. She falls in love with him, and the old bugger is flattered. More than anything else(getting the plans, his feelings for her, for example), he's still got that ability to attract women. For an episode and a half he struts like a peacock, and it's priceless.
Apart from Hartnell the acting is variable to say the least, especially from his erstwhile companions. However, John Ringham as Tlotoxl is a highlight. Basically, he does Oliver's Richard III. He's hilarious while, at the same time, curiously appropiate. He develops the intrigue of the complex and morally ambiguous plot which explores the fallacy of an outsider(in this case, Barbara) interfering with an established culture. The intelligence of Dr Who's scripts obviously contributed to its broad audience.
The DVD has some excellent features, notably the documentary 'Remembering the Aztecs', and the digital remastering of the original material is superb.
Not just history or nostalgia, but genuinely engaging television for a 21st century audience.
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VINE VOICETOP 500 REVIEWERon 10 April 2013

Given the above, you will know that the Aztecs is a four part story from the first year of Doctor Who, which sees the TARDIS crew in 15th century Mexico. Where Barbara learns why they can never interfere with established. A pure historical story, as they are called, it is straight drama with no alien monsters. It's very good, strong drama, and a story with a strong and well deserved reputation as a result.

This edition of the dvd is a new one that supersedes the original release. The story as shown on the first disc of this new two disc version has an improved picture quality to the one on the original release.

It has all the same extras that were on that. On it's first disc.

But all of the second disc is new.

There's a coming soon trailer for an upcoming release in this range.

A reconstruction of the 1965 First Doctor story Galaxy Four. Until recently, all four parts of this story were missing from the bbc archives, thanks to the policy of the time of wiping tapes after transmission since they thought they wouldn't be needed again. But then a copy of part three was returned to the bbc thanks to a collector of old films in 2011. The reconstruction is built around that, which is shown in it's entirety. The rest of it uses what footage survives from the other three episodes, plus photos, minimalist animation, and the soundtrack, in order to reconstruct what is still missing. It does slim down the missing three episodes somewhat, thus the whole thing runs no more than just over seventy minutes [approx].

Galaxy Four, to go by the soundtrack - as we'd always had to unless we'd seen it's original broadcast - isn't a very strong story, a rather slight idea stretched to a slowly paced four minutes. It sees the TARDIS on a planet that's about to explode and where two spaceships have crashed. One containing glamorous woman warriors called Drahvins and another with hideous creature called the Rills who have robot servants called Chumblies. The Doctor and friends find choosing who to help isn't as easy a matter as it appears. But the reconstruction, by trimming the story down, does make it pacier, and the third episode isn't bad. Thanks to some excellent acting from the ladies playing the Drahvins and some interesting set designs on the Rill ship. So this is worth a watch.

Doctor Who forever! Celestial toyroom, is a twenty five minute long feature looking at Doctor Who merchandise down the years. From the heydays of Dalek Mania to the return of the show in 2005 and what has followed. It does feel initially as if it's going to rush through things at too fast a pace, but it soon settles down and becomes very watchable. It will bring lots of fun memories back to children of the 70's. And illuminate you about counterfeit merchandise. Beware the Cyber helicopters!

Chronicle - the Realms of Gold, is a long forgotten edition of a history documentary from the 1960's, and is all about what happened to the real Aztecs when Cortez met Montezuma. It runs for fifty minutes but it's utterly absorbing and it absolutely flies by. A documentary of the kind they used to make - a single presenter on location, minimalist music, no reconstructions, and just drawings and maps to illustrate things, it's fascinating viewing. If perhaps a bit apologetic for certain things on occasion.

Then there's two more things from the 1960's archive;

A whole scene going is a four minute feature from music and arts programme that show on set footage from the making of the Second Peter Cushing as the Doctor V the Daleks film, along with some chat with the director. It's a bit short, but the set footage is fascinating to watch.

And from comedy sketch show It's a square world comes a seven minute long sketch with Clive Dunn as a scientist demonstrating his rocket to presenter Michael Bentine. In this Clive Dunn dresses like the First Doctor and there's one Doctor Who joke, but that's the only connection it has with the show. It's reasonably amusing viewing, though, and has a couple of surprise guest stars.

Whether you want to buy special editions, or wait for them to come down in price, or care about picture quality, is entirely up to you. But as a whole there's enough in this release for me to make it worth five stars.
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on 3 May 2015
Many people will only have bought this revised edition for the missing episode galaxy four

The audio is fine, as it has always been, the video is a disgusting smeary mess and the producers ought be ashamed
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