Weighing in at an impressive 800 episodes, Doctor Who has been entertaining audiences for the past 50 years. Yet, despite this vast backlog of content, I know next to nothing about the actual series. For that reason, I’ve decided to watch this unusual show from the beginning, to discover the source of its unique appeal. Come with me as I tackle this daunting sci-fi phenomena from the very beginning in The Complete Doctor Who.
Warning: the following contains spoilers.
Doctor Who: Serial 6 The Aztecs, Episode 4: The Day of Darkness
Last time, the Doctor finally discovered a way into the crypt where the TARDIS was trapped. Ian plunged in, and in true pulp fashion, found himself knee deep in a watery deathtrap.
Fortunately, a series of cave drawings along the ceiling catches his attention and after pushing on it a bit, the ceiling gives way into yet another secret passage.
As anyone who’s been following this blog knows, if there’s one thing old school Doctor Who loves, it’s a good secret passage. Hell, the entire fourth serial involves the heroes basically stumbling through one secret doorway after another.
Anyway, after escaping through the ceiling, we get a bunch of weird shots of Ian crawling around, separated by a series of equally strange fadeouts. I guess this is supposed to be compressing time, but honestly, how long is Ian supposed to be crawling around in there? Finally, after what may be minutes, hours, or days, Ian climbs through a trapdoor into the room where the TARDIS is housed.
On the far side of the room, he finds the goofy, one-sided door that got them into this whole mess in the first place.
Ian searches for a way of opening the door from the outside and hits upon a unique solution. Grabbing a long leather thong from off of the burial slab—Are Aztecs usually buried with long chords of leather?—he ties it to a table, then pulls it under the door with him as he leaves.
Then he steps out into Barbara’s throne room just in time for a convenient reunion between himself, Barbara, and the Doctor, who is very relieved to find that Ian’s not dead.
That leaves everybody accounted for, except for Susan, who has once again been taken hostage, this time as a part of a forced marriage plot arranged by Tlotoxl.
And speaking of Tlotoxl, how is everyone’s favorite scenery-chewing crabass?
The answer is, unusually well. For once, his scheme is actually going according to plan, so he leaves our number two villain Ixta behind to guard Susan.
Seeing that he’s alone with a sixteen-year-old girl, Ixta walks over to her and breaks out this cherry of an icebreaker, “Do you ask yourself where Ian is? I can tell you. He is dead.”
Which might be the most awkward trash talk of all time. Imagine Jason Statham breaking that out in the next Expendables film.
Then, just about the time things are looking bleak, Ian pops up from behind, coldcocks Ixta and hightails it with Susan
Meanwhile, back in the throne room, it seems Ian’s pull rope isn’t as effective as he had originally hoped.
Doc points out that, “What we really need is a pulley.”
Sadly, there aren’t a whole hell of a lot of those lying around 15th Century Mexico.
Instead, everybody decides to play tug of war using Barbara’s throne as a fulcrum, which lasts all of thirty seconds before the thong breaks.
Then, seeing as how it’s been a whole four minutes, Tlotoxl whips up yet another of his evil schemes. This one involves braining the other high priest Ortlock with Ian’s club, then leaving it near the body as a frame.
Back in the throne room. Ian realizes his pull rope has failed and finally just says to hell with it and heads back to the garden with Susan in order to use the secret door again.
When they get to the garden though, they find Ortlock passed out along the ground.
Ian picks his club up from the ground just in time for the Aztec goon squad to show up and arrest them.
Funny little aside, this is the exact same trap Ian fell for back in episode 25. Maybe from this point forward, framing people for assault will replace the secret passageway as the writers’ favorite go-to gimmick.
Next, we cut to the doctor carving a wheel out of a block of wood. I’ve got to hand it to the guy, when he wants something done, he damn sure makes it happen, even if he has to hue it from a solid hunk of wood.
As you might recall, the Doctor is engaged to Cameca, because they made some cocoa together and…you know what, just take my word for it.
She joins him in the garden, gets a look at the Doctor’s wooden wheel and blurts out, “I do not know it’s purpose, but I’ve always known it will take you from me.” Which is just fantastic. Folks, please feel free to reenact that scene with things lying around your home or office.
As they part, Doc leaves her with the line, “You are a very fine woman Cameca and you shall always be very, very dear to me.”
Ortlock, who I should probably point out is not dead, shows up and talks to Cameca. Seems Ortlock’s beginning to lose his faith, not just in Barbara’s divinity, but in everything. So, faced with the uncertainties of life, he takes a page out of Sam Jackson’s book in Pulp Fiction and decides to wander the earth.
Before he goes though, he decides to help Barbara and her friends one last time by giving Cameca a trinket representing all of his earthly wealth to use as a bribe.
Meanwhile, over in Aztec jail, Ian and Susan are being watched by a guard wearing a fantastic birdhead.
Cameca comes in and bribes him, but Ian knocks him out anyway, then steals his awesome helmet.
Ixta—now sporting full leopard head regalia—discovers Ian and Susan have escaped and goes off to find them.
Ian is now posing as one of Barbara’s guards, Lando Calrissian style, when Tlotoxl runs in and tries to stab Barbara.
Ian manages to stop him, then, Ixta shows up to answer the question, who is stronger, birdhead or leopard face?
While the two of them fight, the Doc gets to try out his fancy new pulley.
After some clumsy combat, Ian pitches Ixta off of the room. Doc gets the door open and they all escape into the tomb.
With them gone, Tlotoxl is finally free to perform his human sacrifice.
Inside the tomb, Barbara waxes over her failure.
“What was the point of traveling through time and space? We can’t change anything.”
The Doctor cheers her up by pointing out that she did help Ortlock to see the truth.
“You failed to save a civilizaton but at least you helped one man.”
Now, far be it from me to deflate such a lovely sentiment, but I don’t know that pushing someone into an existential crisis that ends with them fleeing into the desert is really doing them any favors, then again maybe that’s just me.
Then, everyone piles back into the TARDIS just in time for its most recent malfunction, with the ship telling them it has simultaneously stopped and is still moving. Sounds like a fascinating set-up to next week.
Tune in for an exciting time as the TARDIS gets a tune-up in Strangers in Space.