The Tardis materializes in New Mexico in the 15th century where the Doctor and his companions discover that it is a bloodthirsty and dangerous place. With Barbara mistaken for a reincarnation of an Aztec high priest called Yetaxa, she thinks that’s she can put an end to the barbaric human sacrifices once and for all. But can she rewrite history without disastrous consequences?
And so begins one of the most exquisite Doctor Who historicals ever; one that forces the question of why the Doctor allows terrible things to happen while changing others.
The definitive answer would come years later to Donna Noble while she and the tenth Doctor battle the Pyrovilles in Pompeii. History is filled with fixed points and the Tardis has landed the crew right in one of the most bloodiest.
The setting is rich in culture and would have looked radiant in colour. While historicals died off quickly and proved the least popular in viewing figures, the Aztecs stands as true drama, not only in terms of the politics and in Barbara and the Doctor’s battle over changing history. Barbara being a history teacher sees it as a chance to make the Aztec culture a better place but the Doctor knows it will be impossible.
Ian gets the usual dose of action man story while Susan is Barbara’s hand maiden. I wonder how much more interesting it would have been if Susan, as a time traveller, tried to convince Barbara too. The Doctor meanwhile has his first romantic encounter of the series as he becomes engaged and really does break a woman’s heart. If only she had been able to talk to Rose and Martha the world might have been a happier place. Hartnell is spot on as the softening Doctor as he becomes fonder of the two school teachers with every story, a far cry from his first meeting with them.
But while this was is a story that has already been released on DVD, putting it out again was seen as a bit of a push on fans. Why? Because last year missing episodes thought lost forever were returned. All they needed was a relevant DVD to put it out with. To be honest it can be seen as a kick for fans forking out twice for a story they have already bought but in this case it is worth it.
The episode in question was Galaxy 4 and shows the alien Rill for the first time on film, the only aliens I believe that were only seen in photos. In this story, the Doctor, Steven and Vicki battle the beautiful Amazon-like female Drahvins who claim the Rills are monsters. It is the classic ‘never judge by appearances’ story and to see a lost episode in the 50th year really is quite a thrill. You also get a beautiful reconstruction of the story using stills and animation against audio tracks. It’s almost like getting to see a lost story once more. Other extras include a look at Doctor Who toys, behind the scenes of filming the Peter Cushing movie Dalek Invasion of Earth and an interview with its director Gordon Flemyng plus a documentary about the restoring of the Aztecs for this new release.
All in all, a quite brilliant little package.