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Doctor Who: The Aztecs- Special Edition DVD Review

Doctor Who- The Aztecs- Special Edition DVD

“The Aztecs” offers up some great character moments with the Doctor and his companions.

The plot: After the Doctor, Ian, Barbara, and Susan arrive at a tomb in Mexico, Barbara is almost immediately mistaken to be the reincarnated high Priest Yetaxa by the Aztecs. Knowing the culture’s barbaric and violent rituals, traditions and sacrifices, Barbara sees her new position as an opportunity to change history by eliminating sacrifices. Of course, she soon learns (with the Doctor’s sagely advice) that she is unable to change history.

In terms of the early historical “Doctor Who” serials, “The Aztecs” stands as one of the strongest efforts. Sure, the camerawork is clumsy, the sets are cheap looking, the direction is stagey, and the plot is relatively simple, but the episode wastes no time and gets straight down to business (which is rare for early Who). From a character standpoint, this is a significant adventure as it really encapsulates what the first Doctor is all about. Thanks to the skilled acting by William Hartnell, we see the full personality of the Doctor as he’s grumpy, curious, stuffy, smart, rebellious, compassionate, understanding, and yes, even a bit temperamental throughout the course of this 99 minute 4 parter. Of course, the most intense and notable moment here is when the Doctor chastises Barbara about her attempt to change the past.

On the subject of Barbara, this is a rare first Doctor era episode where a companion does more than just stand around. Much has been said about the early companions being underdeveloped, but Barbara really gets a chance to shine here as she is given a position of power. Even more interesting than that is seeing Barbara interact and argue with the Doctor (which didn’t happen too frequently). Not only did it give us some insight into the characters of Barbara and the Doctor, but it also put the notion of time travel into perspective for the audience.

Video/Audio:

“The Aztecs,” which is presented in fullscreen, has been remastered for this release and it looks as good as can be right now.  The B&W print is a bit blurry and fuzzyin spots, but the scratches (and much of the grain) are absent and the picture quality is noticeably clearer.

The Dolby Digital Mono audio track is more impressive than the video quality. A lot of Hartnell era serial adventures have been prone to audio issues, but this is a surprisingly clean track.

Extras:
* “Doctor Who” series 7 and “The Ice Warriors” trailers, info text, photo gallery, Radio Times Listings, an Arabic audio track for episode 4, and 6 episode introductions by Tlotoxl, Tonila and Ixta.
* “TARDIS Cam No. 3”- Another random model F/X shot.
* “Making Cocoa”- A weird animated short.
* “Restoring The Aztecs”- Not a featurette, but a random collection of restored (and unrestored) footage of certain scenes from “The Aztecs” and ‘The Krotons.”
* “Remembering the Aztecs” is a making of that contains cast and crew interviews, discussions about the early days of TV, and behind-the-scenes stories. This is a little different than the usual making of as it’s more of a series of recollections and stories than anything else.
* “Designing The Aztecs”- An interview with production designer Barry Newbery.
* “Cortez And Montezuma”- A historical segment from the “Blue Peter” show.
* Commentary by William Russell, Carole Ann Ford, and Verity Lambert. Lots of quiet spots here, but there are a few interesting comments from the trio of commentators.
* “A Whole Scene Going”- Set footage and interview with “Daleks-Invasion Earth 2150 AD” director Gordon Flemyng.
* “Chronicle- The Realms Of Gold”- A 50 minute factual BBC TV program about the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs and Mexico. Worth a watch if you’re a history buff and or want to know more about the setting/backdrop of “The Aztecs” episode.
* “It’s A Square World”- A comedic “Doctor Who” sketch featuring a First Doctor impersonator.
* “Doctor Forever!- Celestial Toyroom”- A highly entertaining featurette about the “Doctor Who” toys from the 60’s to now. Expect to see interviews with everyone from RTD to Paul Cornell. Among the items covered here are cards, toys, Dalek merchandise, tents, model kits, Dapol and Product Enterprises products, and new series figures.
* “Galaxy 4”- Last, but not least we have the reconstruction of the lost serial “Galaxy 4” complete with the newly found full episode 3. Anytime a new lost episode is discovered it’s worth rejoicing over. Now, fans finally have a chance to see it for themselves. You can’t ask for a better extra!

Summary: “The Aztecs” may be flawed, but it’s worth watching just for the character moments alone.

March 20, 2013 - Posted by | DVD review | , ,

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