Doctor Who in Escape From Mexico

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.

BBC

BBC

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?

BBC

BBC

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.

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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.

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BBC

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.

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BBC

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.

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BBC

Ian manages to stop him, then, Ixta shows up to answer the question, who is stronger, birdhead or leopard face?

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BBC

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.

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Doctor Who: The Trouble With Cocoa

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 3: The Bride of Sacrifice

Here’s the story so far: After landing in Mexico during the reign of the Aztecs, Barbara was mistaken for the goddess Yetaxa and decided to use this mistake to try purging the Aztecs of some of the more violent aspects of their culture. Instead, she drew the ire of High Priest of Sacrifice and all around scowl enthusiast Tlotoxl who at last episode’s end coaxed Ian into a battle to the death with the warrior Ixta.

We pick up mid-fight with Barbara looking on helplessly as Tlotoxl tells her to prove her divinity by saving Ian’s life.

It’s a hell of a sticky situation, saving her friend’s life without revealing herself as a total fraud. So, how does she get herself out of it? She holds a dagger up to Tlotoxl’s throat, then orders his crony Ixta to back off.

Ian saved. Godhood maintained. Tlotoxl scurries off, scowling all the way.

So, now that he’s succeeding in nearly killing Ian, Ixta decides it’s high time the two of them became friends, declaring,

“Now that I can defeat you openly, I have no need to destroy you in secret.” Which incidentally is exactly how I open each of my facebook friend requests.

Having failed yet again in his attempt to humiliate Barbara, Tlotoxl gets another one of his cronies to fix up a poison, reasoning that if Barbara is a true goddess feeding her poison will be prove it once and for all.

Professor Poison - BBC

So, could you like make me some poison? – BBC

Unfortunately for him, Ian catches wind of this and heads off to Barbara’s chambers in order to warn her.

Meanwhile in the garden of peace, Cameca confesses to the high priest Ortlock that she has the hots for the Doctor and has purchased a bunch of cocoa beans for the occasion. It seems in Aztec society, making cocoa for someone is the equivalent of a marriage proposal.

Sadly, the Doctor seems to have slept through that particular lesson, because upon seeing her supply of cocoa beans, he insists they brew up a batch right away.

It’s about this time that Ian reaches Barbara’s boss throne room. He warns her of Tlotoxl’s plot, then lectures her on the finer points of playing god. First the Doctor now Ian, seems like everybody gets a chance to put Susan in her place.

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BBC

Then Tlotoxl strolls in with a bowl of strange liquid and urges her to “drink this draft with us as a symbol of our friendship.” Quick tip ladies, if you ever find yourself getting an offer like that, you’re probably going to want to go ahead and run.

Sadly, Barbara is nowhere near this astute and hunkers over the bowl ready to drink. Luckily, Ian’s there to give her the high sign and she stops and demands that Tlotoxl drink it first. He refuses, failing in yet another attempt to disgrace her.

Barbara, having endured what must be his twelfth attempt at exposing her secret, finally just says to hell with it and tells Tlotoxl she’s not Yetaxa after all.

Tlotoxl breaks into one of his villainous grins until Barbara points out that even though he knows the truth, it’s unlikely that anyone will believe him. Then she shuts him down completely saying, “I warn you Tlotoxl, you say one word against me to the people and I’ll have them destroy you.”

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BBC

It’s all pretty badass.

Back in the garden, the Doctor and Cameca are sipping cocoa and talking about their future.

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BBC

 

Camecah casually reveals that they’re now engaged and the Doc busts out his best spit take.

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BBC

Wha?!!

This subplot really feels like it’s from a different episode entirely. Every other character is trapped in a cycle of death and danger, while the Doctor’s skipping through some mid-90s rom com.

So, seeing as how five minutes have passed, you might be wondering what Tlotoxl’s up to now? Well, having failed at his poison scheme, he’s already on to something else, this time turning his attentions to Susan.

I’ll say this for the guy. Brother sure is tenacious.

Now, last time we saw Susan, she had made her opposition to arranged marriage well-known by shouting it to anyone within earshot

Taking that as his inspiration, Tlotoxl strolls in with some creepy weirdo who immediately begins undressing Susan with his eyes. Then, just as he’s about to walk out, he casually adds, “I shall take her as my bride.”

Susan refuses, which, of course means that she needs to be punished.

And what is the punishment you might ask? Well, apparently she’s to be publicly scourged and ridiculed, then have her tongue and ears pierced with thorns. Okay, the thorns and scourging I totally get, but public ridicule? That seems a bit extreme.

Tlotoxl shares this with Barbara, failing to tell her that Susan is the one to be punished.

Now trapped in a very delicate position, Barbara once again reaches out to the other high priest Ortlock to back her play. One of the more interesting elements of this story arc is how Barbara claims she’s trying to do away with blind faith, but keeps exploiting it whenever it serves her purpose.

Meanwhile, Ian meets up with the Doctor in the garden. The Doc shows him something that proves the tomb can be opened, meaning they can get to the TARDIS and blast out of this craphole.

When Ian asks him where he got it, the Doctor responds, “My fiancee.”

Ian: “Your what?”

“Yes I made some cocoa and got engaged.”

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BBC

Another moment of lighthearted comedy, moments after Susan is threatened with a forced marriage.

Cut to: later that night. Ian is sleeping next to Ixta on the ground for some reason??!! I guess they’re like roommates now?

Ian gets up and sneaks off to the garden with Ixta hot on his trail.

In the garden, Ian and the Doctor discover a hidden panel on the outside of the tomb and manage to pry it open. Ian goes inside as the Doc stands watch.

Then, Ixta shows up and the Doctor does a terrible job of playing dumb.

What’s that? Oh, nothing, just standing here. That hole? That’s probably nothing, no reason to put that back in place.

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BBC

Ixta grabs the panel and uses it to reseal the passage, stranding Ian inside just at the passage starts filling with water.

Kind of strange episode this week. Barbara’s still trying to protect her secret, Susan’s being used as a pawn and the Doctor’s having a merry old time. Wonder how all this is going to play out? Catch us next time for episode 4: The Day of Darkness.

 

Doctor Aztec

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 2: The Warriors of Death

Last time, the TARDIS stranded our heroes in 14th Century Mexico. Barbara was mistaken for the Aztec god Yetaxa, Ian got drafted, and Susan got carted off to religious school. As for the Doctor…well, he got to hang around the pleasure garden, flirting with one of the aging residents, so he’s doing alright.

Barbara also stopped a ritual involving human sacrifice, drawing the hatred of high priest Tlotoxl.

Needless to say, the Doctor’s none too happy about that and launches into his best Capt. Picard.

“You can’t rewrite history,” he tells her, “Not one single line.”

BBC

BBC

It’s a really good scene that gives Hartnell the chance to really cut loose, while adding some much-needed moral responsibility to their adventures. Prior to this, they’ve  just sort of bounced around doing whatever they wanted, history be damned, so it’s nice to get some sense of their actions having consequences.

Afterwards, the Doctor apologizes for being so harsh, which is also a nice little touch. Not so long ago, the thought of the Doctor apologizing for anything was next to impossible, but now that the group has tightened, he’s falling into more of a Grandfather role.

Since Tlotoxl is now their sworn enemy, the Doctor stresses the importance of keeping the other high priest Ortlock on their side.

As this is happening, Tlotoxl struts right in during their conversation, and when Barbara demands an explanation, he counters with, “I proclaim myself only to my gods.”

That more or less sets the tone for the entire episode, with Tlotoxl playing bitchy cheerleader to Barbara’s popular new girl.

Meanwhile, back in another part of the temple, Ian and Ixta are still fighting over the right to lead the Aztec army. By this point, it’s pretty well established that Ian is the group’s man of action, but this time around, the show catapults him to the status of full-blown badass.

When Ixta tosses a spear into the wall, an unimpressed Ian counters, “Real enemies can hit back.”

Later, in the same conversation, Ian says, “I won’t kill you this time, not this time Ixta.”

It’s pretty fantastic, Jason Statham dialogue delivered by a milquetoast high school science teacher.

Finally, after a great deal of chest-thumping, Ian just holds up his thumb, claiming it’s all he needs to beat Ixta.

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BBC

One Vulcan neck pinch later, Ixta is on the ground unconscious and Ian is strutting away. “Tell him to have a good rest when he wakes up,” he says on his way out. Fantastic!

When Ixta does wake up, Tlotoxl is right there, goading him into a bare knuckle contest with Ian at sundown.

Meanwhile, the doctor’s back in the garden of peace, trying to charm the secrets of the TARDIS’ resting place out of his new friend Cameca.

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BBC

Cameca sets up a meeting him and the son of the tomb’s architect, who just so happens to be Ixta. Twist!

At this point we finally catch up with Susan at the seminary where Ortlock is quizzing her on The Code of the Good Housewife, which includes such gems as: “Do not spend recklessly” and “Keep clean your pot and soup pan”.

After forcing her to learn pages 1 through 40 of the misogynist’s handbook, Ortlock drops another little gem on her, casually revealing that she’s to be the subject of an arranged marriage.

Considering what she’s just been studying, this probably shouldn’t come as much of a shock, but Susan loses it, loudly proclaiming, “It’s my life. I’ll spend it with whom I choose, not someone picked out for me.”

Then, Ixta shows up for his meeting with the Doctor and since first impressions are very important to him, he wore his best leopard.

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BBC

Ixta says he has a map of the tomb and that he’ll exchange it if the Doctor can provide him an advantage for an upcoming fight.

Doc creates a knockout toxin for him by soaking a needle in the juices of a local plant. Only problem is, Doc doesn’t know the opponent is Ian.

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BBC

Everyone gathers together for the big showdown.

The fight begins and Ian goes on to dominate the Aztec warrior in every way. I don’t know what was going on in London High Schools circa 1963, but whatever it is left Ian remarkably suited to 14th Century combat.

As the fight draws it its end, Ixta scratches Ian with the poisoned needle. Ian starts to waver, then just as Ixta is on the verge of killing him, Tlotoxl wanders over to Barbara and insists that if she really is a goddess she’ll be able to save Ian’s life. Fade out.

The show is making some pretty big strides with this story arc. For the first time, the Doctor feels like the lead character rather than a guest star in his own show. He’s got real dimension and gets to do a lot this episode, showing off his intellect with Ixta, playing the charmer with Cameca. Hartnell  seems to be having much more fun with the role too, playing him as a kind of mischevious schemer.

Most of the other characters rate pretty well here too. Barbara’s moral struggle is interesting and Ian’s sudden transformation into a swaggering badass is pretty fun. Susan doesn’t really get to do much this time, but even she gets her brief moment of empowerment. Looking forward to seeing where we go from here.

Next episode: The Bride of Sacrifice, which doesn’t sound too good for Susan.