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Doctor Who - The Aztecs
Doctor Who - The Aztecs
Actors: William Hartnell, William Russell, Jacqueline Hill, Carole Ann Ford
Genres: Action & Adventure, Drama, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Television, Cult Movies
NR     2003     1hr 38min

`You can't rewrite history, not one line.' When the TARDIS materializes in an ancient Aztec temple, Barbara is mistaken for the reincarnation of the Aztecs' High Priest, Yetaxa. The time travelers soon find themselves caug...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: William Hartnell, William Russell, Jacqueline Hill, Carole Ann Ford
Genres: Action & Adventure, Drama, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Television, Cult Movies
Sub-Genres: Action & Adventure, Drama, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Drama, Science Fiction, Sci-Fi & Fantasy
Studio: BBC Video / Warner Bros.
Format: DVD - Color,Full Screen - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 03/04/2003
Original Release Date: 09/29/1975
Theatrical Release Date: 09/29/1975
Release Year: 2003
Run Time: 1hr 38min
Screens: Color,Full Screen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 16
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

Opposing eras showcase The Doctor
(5 out of 5 stars)

"BBC Video has released two further adventures from their long running TV series Doctor Who on DVD. The two stories come from the very early days of the programme, and one of its much later seasons, twenty two years later. Comparing the two stories now, 1964's The Aztecs and 1985's Vengeance on Varos, it's very hard to accept that they are even part of the same series.When William Hartnell first stepped before the cameras as the original Doctor in 1963, so little was known to the viewers about this enigmatic character, and indeed much of what we know about the Doctor now was invented years after the series began. The initial brief for the producers was to inform as well as to entertain, and as such the Doctor and his travelling companions often found themselves going way back into Earth's history to encounter real events. The Aztecs is the second of these purely historial stories to be broadcast. I for one was never very fond of these stories as a child. Ironically, the things that bored me then are what really makes this story stand up so well nearly forty years later. As with all early TV drama in the UK, the show had a tiny budget, miniscule TV studios, a limited cast and was recorded "as live" with no room for editing. Despite these handicaps, the story is still remarkably enthralling to watch. The DVD is packed with extras, many of which go a long way to perhaps explaining why this four part story has aged so well. Producer Verity Lambert, and the two surviving members of the original Tardis crew, Carole-Ann Ford (Susan) and William Russell (Ian) provide a genuinely interesting commentary, where they recall many of the production issues they faced at the time, with on-screen captions filling in the gaps from their memories. Also here, other members of the cast have been interviewed for a separate 25 minute extra "Remembering the Aztecs" and set designer Barry Newbery appears in another 25 minute special "Designing the Aztecs." You'll also find an animated feature describing how to make Cocoa (in a very "South Park" style) and a clip from another BBC classic show "Blue Peter" telling the story of Cortez and Montezuma. And that's not all! There's an Arabic dub of episode 4, subtitles, a look at the restoration process, an easter egg and some standard photo galleries and character backgrounds. The story is very reliant on characterisation and performance, and played dead straight by all the actors involved. Sadly, this cannot be said of the tongue in cheek camp playing of the sister release, Vengeance on Varos.The quality of the images are astounding. The original master tapes were destroyed back in 1967, and only a washed out film print exists in the BBC archives. However, it has been painstakingly restored, cleaned and improved, and finally the restored print being "Vid-Fired" to recreate almost exactly the original quality of the video tapes. It's an amazing technical feat, and the results are very, very impressive. I just wish they had applied the technology to the earlier released "Tomb of the Cybermen."It's a terrific piece of TV drama, but I admit it may not be to the liking of fans of the sci-fi based Doctor Who. If you like Vengeance on Varos, you almost certainly won't like The Aztecs. I however give it the full five stars!"
Wonderful historical - 1960s Dr Who at its best
scottish_lawyer | 02/09/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)

"When Doctor Who began in 1963 the intention was that the childrens programme would have two elements as a mix in the stories. Having a machine that could travel through time and space, the TARDIS, meant that two types of story could be used: science fiction and history. The basis of the show could be seen in the original cast. Of the Doctor's original companions two are school teachers, Ian Chesterton - a science teacher; Barbara Wright - a history teacher. The interests and strrengths of each were used in these early stories.In the early days of Doctor Who historical alternated with science fiction; but from late December 1963 with the popular and critical success of the first appearance of the Daleks it was apparent that the series was to focus more on science fiction than history. In some ways that is unfortunate. Science fiction tends to reflect the time in which it is produced, and years later ideas that seemed futuristic at the time of original production later seem laughable. This is the case with much of the early sc-fi in 1960s Doctor Who. In the surviving stories (or parts of stories) from this era it is apparent that the historical stories have worn better. The king of the historicals was scriptwriter John Lucarotti. During William Hartnell's reign as the Doctor Lucarotti produced three excellent scripts, Marco Polo (soon to be available in an audio only CD version); The MAssacre of St Bartholomew's Eve (available in the UK in an audio version as all original episdoes have been destroyed); and the story under review, The Aztecs. The Aztecs is one of the best early stories. The TARDIS arrives in the tomb of an Aztec high priest some years before the arrival of Cortes. While exploring Barbara is mistaken for the reincarnation of the high priest and is acclaimed a goddess. The Doctor, Ian, and Susan are viewed as her servants. Barbara fascinated by the strengths of Aztec culture takes it upon herself to use her position as goddess to change the Aztec culture of human sacrifice. The Doctor is askance concerned that time travellers cannot change history.While Barbara enjoys some success with persuasion of one of the high priests, her position upsets the high priest of sacrifice who determines that he must show she is a false goddess, and must deal with her companions.The four parter is just the right length and - for what was at the time still children's television - the characterisation is subtle and revealing of aspects of Aztec culture. Particularly impressive is Lucarotti's drawing of the two high priests - the head and the heart of Aztec society. Both have clear beliefs, both have their beliefs challenged by the time travellers intervention.There are fight scenes, a putative love interest for Hartnell's Doctor (the scenes played by Hartnell with his ageing female companion are a delight), and consideration of big cultural and moral questions. When in another culture simply because you, with western liberal values, disapprove of the characteristics of that culture, do you have a right to demand that it change? In one stark conflict barbara is presented with a sacrifice she attempts to prevent, where the victim wishes to die for the honour that will be brought upon him and his family.This is highly recommended for Doctor Who fans. While in black and white, the picture quality has held up reasonably well, and the regular cast are well settled in their parts. This coupled with the superior script, and the neat characterisation make this a must have for Time Lord fans.if you enjoy this try to get hold of The Crusade, two episodes of which are available on video (together with CD for the missing episodes) coupled with Glyn Jones' The Space Museum."
Great Doctor Who DVD, a "Must Have"
bills-the-fire | Pompton Lakes, New Jersey United States | 07/06/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

""The Aztecs" is considered by many to be the First Doctor's finest episode. Having seen it many years ago on public TV, at the time I thought it a bit dull. But I have I to report that this DVD is one of the best Who discs to date.
First off, using some fancy new restoration program, the Aztecs now looks as it was originally transmitted all those years ago. Suddenly, the whole thing comes to life. Now I love the story. You can appreciate the actor's performances so much better. The story of the restoration is one of the documentaries on the DVD.
There are also a ton of extras including interviews with the actors who portrayed the Aztecs and the set designer.
This is a "Must Have" for any Who enthusiast. I hope they give the same treatment to "An Unearthly Child" some day."
Superb DVD of one of the best 1960s Doctor Who stories
D. M. Farmbrough | Wisconsin, USA | 04/08/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The Aztecs was one Doctor Who story where it all came together - cast, director, set design, writer, and musicians all worked well to make an interesting, educational story about one of our most fascinating ancient civilisations. Forget science-fiction for a minute, this is a story about people and how they behave to one another. Barbara's disgust at the Aztecs' sacrifice and the Doctor's acceptance of different cultural values will no doubt reflect our own feelings. The way the TARDIS crew behaves towards the indigenous people tells us something about how early colonisers behaved, and also how explorers and documentary makers now treat isolated tribes and peoples. There is a strong dramatic story here, and John Ringham's Tlotoxl makes an excellent villain, while all of the regular cast are good in their own way. There are a few shortcomings which can be put down to the television production values of the day, such as the rather choreographed look of the fight sequences and the painted look of some of the backcloths, but the accompanying documentaries explain these. It is remarkable to consider that the story was made in Studio D at Lime Grove which in its later years the BBC considered only suitable for current affairs programmes and far too small for drama.The DVD is one of the best I have seen. The BBC seems to be taking a pride in their picture and sound quality now, as well as giving a decent number of well-made extras.The picture has been extensively restored from a filmed copy of a video recording, with much effort spent to eliminate scratches, missing frames, distortion and sound problems. This release also benefits from the new Vidfire system which converts the sometimes jerky look of filmed television into a smooth looking video picture. This looks so good, you would think it was recorded yesterday if it had not been black and white.The commentary is interesting, featuring the two surviving lead actors, Carole Ann Ford (Susan) and William Russell (Ian) plus the series' producer Verity Lambert. There is an element of memory loss which is unsurprising after nearly forty years, and this means that it is probably about right to have three people doing the commentary. The information subtitles are similarly useful but more thorough, however I think these should be written after the commentary to avoid duplication and to correct any mistakes the cast may make in remembering things.There is a comic section on how to make coffee Aztec style with John Ringham and Walter Randall supplying voice-overs to a South Park style cartoon of their Doctor Who characters Tlotoxl and Tonila. This has to be seen to believed. Unfortunately Randall seems to have forgotten how to act, but full marks to him for taking part. The same two actors are featured in a short documentary 'Remembering The Aztecs', alongside an impossibly young looking Ian Cullen. All three have interesting things to say about the story, its production, and its stars. The actors also each contribute two spoken introductions to the story, selected at random when the story is played.Set designer Barry Newbery contributes another short documentary about his work on the serial, well illustrated with his own superb photographs (some in colour). Another short piece shows the viewer what efforts have been made to restore the picture and sound, a textbook example of video restoration. I usually find DVD photo galleries rather boring, but the gallery on this disc is presented more imaginatively - the pictures fade swiftly from one to the next with a nice frame and sound effect.There is the now standard TARDIS Cam - all very well done, but what is the point of them? Except to show what the BBC Special effects department could do these days if only the BBC commissioned another series of Doctor Who! Another odd inclusion (Useful for completists) is the option to select an Arabic soundtrack for episode 4. I think I might try this one day for fun! The disc is rounded off with a small except from Blue Peter with Val Singleton sitting on the steps of a Ziggurat telling the story of Cortez and Montezuma.I recommend this disc for anyone who is interested in 1960s television production, Aztec history, or who just wants to watch a cracking Doctor Who story."