Doctor Who: The Aztecs

The episode “The Aztecs” brings religion to the foreground once again. The travelers find themselves in ancient South America among the Aztecs, and Barbara is mistaken for a goddess. When she learns that they are planning to offer a human sacrifice, she decides to try to persuade the people that the rains will come with or without such sacrifice. The Doctor tries to dissuade her, urging that there is nothing that she can do, since this is their religion. It might be suggested that the Doctor at this point holds to some sort of prime directive, but unlike the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise, which always seems to manage to challenge “primitive religions” they encounter in spite of the prime directive, the Doctor is adamant about the point.

The Doctor also emphasizes (in contrast to the more recent series) that it is impossible to rewrite history, adding “I know. Believe me, I know.” His words and tone are intriguing, as though the Doctor had previously tried to change history, and failed. Could this have something to do with his backstory, we are led to wonder, with the reason he and his granddaughter are in exile, with what happened to the rest of his family? The gist of the discussion suggests that the impossibility is more of a practical than a theoretical one. Living things and cultures are on trajectories, and while we can make a difference for one individual, we cannot simply turn a society to suddenly move in the opposite direction.

Barbara asks towards the end what the point is of traveling through time if you can’t change things, and the Doctor emphasizes the difference that Barbara made on one individual, Autloc. While Barbara had persuaded herself that those who wanted to engage in human sacrifice were the exception, Ian says that in fact those who are willing to change and rethink their beliefs and practices are the exception.

This episode also witnesses the first of the Doctor’s romantic entanglements, as he prepares and drinks cocoa with an intelligent woman that he has taking a liking to, symbolizing (without the Doctor realizing it) their engagement. The Doctor strings her along, and ultimately says goodbye to her. The Doctor’s relationships may have been updated in some respects, but this focal element of recent seasons has roots in the very first season of the show.

I was struck by the music in the episode, and was not surprised to learn that the incidental music was composed by Richard Rodney Bennett.

The next episode in the first Doctor’s adventures will be The Sensorites.

  • Just Sayin’

    “The Doctor’s relationships may have been updated in some respects, but this focal element of recent seasons has roots in the very first season of the show.”

    What is new, and facile in my opinion, is the obsession with sex.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    The show has an obsession with sex? How did I miss that?!

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    The show has an obsession with sex? How did I miss that?!

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    The show has an obsession with sex? How did I miss that?!

  • Just Sayin’

    What else can you expect from twenty-something actors and ageing hippy producers/scriptwriters?

  • Just Sayin’

    “You can probably chart the demise of the paternalistic Reithian tradition at the
    BBC with Doctor Who’s changing relationship with his young female
    assistants.
    It was once fatherly, or even grandfatherly (I’m going right back to William
    Hartnell here), but the re-booted 21st-century version has seen the assistants
    becoming romantically entangled with their various Doctors – Billie Piper’s Rose
    Tyler with Christopher Ecclestone and Freema Agyeman’s Martha, unrequitedly with
    David Tennant. But neither companions quite so brazenly attempted to seduce
    their Doctor as did Gillan’s Amy Pond last season, throwing herself on her bed
    and suggesting that the Time Lord “sort her out” to calm her pre-wedding
    jitters. Mediawatch-UK, the current form of Mary Whitehouse’s censorship
    movement, accused the show of bringing casual sex to Saturday tea-time.”

    – The Independent newspaper, 7 May 2011

  • Just Sayin’

    I mean . . . can you really imagine Bonnie Langford doing that with Sylvester McCoy??? 

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    I can’t imagine that, but I may just be lacking adequate imagination.

    On the other hand, the Doctor was a perfect gentleman with Amy, whereas the Doctor strung Cameca along, got her hopes up and then dashed them. :)

    I get the impression that increased reference to sex is typical across the board in the realm of TV, and not just on Doctor Who.

    But at any rate, it certainly is an aspect of the current show that you are not alone in finding a bit annoying – and I myself have wondered what the point is of some such plot elements being introduced. 


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X