The TARDIS gang arrives in Mexico just before the arrival of Hernán Cortés, tequila and syphilis.
Barbara gets mistaken for a reincarnated Aztec god, tries to stop centuries of grisly sacrifices and then ends up having to leg it with the rest of the gang when things get a little hot. Will they all be killed by the Aztecs? Can Barbara change time? Spoiler: no and no.
The Doctor here is the original long-haired grumpy cantankerous old sod. Very much unDoctorish in his attitude but slowly becoming the hero that we all love and adore. He is quick to anger but ultimately he doesn’t make much effort into stopping Barbara from trying to change history even though he knows it can’t possibly work. Perhaps he is teaching her a lesson? The Doctor does have a sort of quasi-romance with a woman called Cameca after becoming accidentally engaged to her after they shared a cup of cocoa. This humanises him even though he is using her to get into the tomb where the TARDIS is, he does have some affection to her. Does he love her? Maybe not. Does he have feelings for her? I should cocoa!
Ian doesn’t have much to do in this story but fight and fight some more. He joins the Aztec military and annoys Ixta, who thought he would be in charge. The villain of the piece, Tlotoxl plots with Ixta to get Ian and Barbara killed by, respectively, sword and poison. At one point, they plot against Ian while talking audibly a few metres away from him. All without Ian hearing them. Chesterton must have left his hearing aid in the TARDIS Again. Silly boy.
In the 1960s, there was no ‘fixed points’ in Doctor Who. As the Doctor says in this adventure, “You cannot change history. Not one line.” So which is true? Can time be rewritten? if you can’t change the writing, perhaps you can change the ink or the paper instead? In any case, the more likelier answer is that the Doctor, at this point in time, doesn’t have the same grasp on temporal mechanics as the later Doctors have. Maybe the First Doctor is good with the theory but not the practical? Remember, he was a bit of a dunce at the academy. No doubt because he is half-human…
While I am waffling on about ‘fixed points’, can I just say that this is absolute rubbish? No, really, think about it. You can rewrite time but not certain random fixed points? For example, William Shakespeare is born at Point A and dies at Point B. If B is fixed and A isn’t, that implies that the unfixed first point can’t be changed because William Shakespeare must always die at B. So what is the point of fixed moments in time if you can’t change the unfixed moments? You might as well say that all time is fixed.
The fixed time rule can only work if all of time can be rewritten, even the fixed bits. Think of it as cause and effect. You can change the cause but the effect is set in stone. The cause doesn’t matter but the effect must always happen. The effect can be changed but you can’t have no effect or an effect that does not relate to the cause. Does that make sense? Let me try to rephrase it another way. You can change A but if you travel to B, nothing can be changed. So, deep breath, if the TARDIS crew went back in time to the point when some Aztec had the bright idea that killing people as sacrifices to the gods was a good idea, they could change it and stop it from happening if it was unfixed. But they can’t change the events of The Aztecs because the cause has happened and the effect is therefore fixed. Simples!
At this point in the unreview, you may want to have a very stiff drink to clear your mind of my deeply geeky Whovian theories.
The star of this story (besides Barbara) has to be John Ringham as Tlotoxl, the High Priest of Sacrifice. He chews up the scenery like it is going out of fashion. Plus he has this funky black stripe across his mouth … either it is meant to be paint of the Aztecs had weird ideas about beards (jokey observation courtesy of Doctor Who Magazine). Ringham is in full Shakespeare mode like a cross between Brian Blessed and Gollum. Simply bonkers. I love it!
There are two morals to this story:
Don’t change time unless you want to be sacrificed
Beware of spinstery cougars and don’t share cocoa with them.
All in all, I really enjoyed this adventure. Yeah, there are no monsters but who needs them when you have a story which is this good?