Friday, June 19, 2009

"The Day of Darkness"

Hello to you few, you silent readers. The Historian here, along with Ketina, Ronelyn and Schmallturm, bringing you this final episode in John Lucarotti's "The Aztecs." Let's get to the summary.

Episode Summary: First aired 13 June, 1964. Water is beginning to reach Ian's feet, so he has no choice but to continue exploring the tunnel into the temple. Back at the Garden, the Doctor demands Ixta remove the block of stone, but Ixta revels in his final triumph over his rival. Ian meanwhile has found several secret entrances and tunnels which let him out in the tomb! Grabbing a length of cord, he ties it above the door with the idea that they will be able to pull the door open from the other side, and then he leaves the tomb and enters the temple where Barbara is surprised to see him. But not as surprised and delighted as the Doctor, who has come to tell his friend the bad news. But now, they should be able to escape, once Susan has been freed. Ian goes off to do this. Meanwhile, Ixta tells Tlotoxl of his triumph and the priest tells the warrior he must guard Susan until her punishment. Most importantly, he must not release her to Autloc's care. After the priest and his guards leave, Ian enters and overpowers Ixta and he and Susan flee to the temple. The Doctor is examining the rope and realizing it will be very difficult to pull open the door without a pulley system--but Barbara reminds him the Aztecs did not have the wheel. She admits that she has realized she cannot change history, she now merely wishes them all to get away. Susan and Ian arrive, but the rope breaks as they pull it! Tlotoxl, meanwhile, is furious with Ixta and realizes that if it becomes known that Ian has come back from the "dead," it will cement Yetaxa's divinity. The two concoct a plan to frame Ian in an attack on Autloc using his club as the old priest walks in the Garden. Ian and Susan, having gone there in order to return through the tunnel, walk right into Tlotoxl's trap. Autloc now does not know what to believe! Tlotoxl tells Tonilla that he will destroy Yetaxa during the dark of the coming eclipse. The Doctor goes to the Garden the next day, idly whittling what appears to be some kind of wheel. Cameca approaches him and he convinces her to ask Autloc to go to talk with Yetaxa. Barbara attempts to convince Autloc that Ian did not attack him, but the priest does not know who to believe. He tells her he will help protect Susan, but cannot do anything for Ian. The Doctor has almost finished his pulley and Cameca realizes that he will be leaving her. Still, even in her sorrow, she and Autloc conspire to help them. Autloc has determined to go "into the wilderness" to find his faith, but gives Cameca the sign of his house and wealth to trade with a guard for Susan's life. Barbara is escorted to the place of sacrifice by Tlotoxl as Cameca goes to free Susan and Ian. Ian knocks the hesitating guard out and they flee. Tlotoxl discovers this and orders Ixta to kill the guard, then goes to confront the TARDIS crew. Ian overpowers the priest, who calls for Ixta and then escapes. As the other three run into the temple, Ian and Ixta fight their final battle which ends when Ian throws the other over the temple edge! The four then use the pulley and the rope to open the door and escape through just as Tlotoxl and the guards arrive--too late! But the sacrifice will go on...Inside the tomb, the Doctor and Barbara share a moment where he comforts her that she may not have been able to save a civilization, but she could save one good man--Autloc. The TARDIS takes off. Some time later, Ian and Barbara join Susan and a puzzled Doctor who tells them that one set of instruments on the console say they've landed, but another says their still moving. Have they landed on something? Or, perhaps, in something....?

Whew! These summaries are getting longer and longer, aren't they? Well, quite a lot happened in this episode, and in this story as a whole. We had a similar problem this week as last: it was just a really good episode, without a lot of nits to pick. We all enjoyed the writing and acting. I think Cameca, especially, came off well in this episode and last; a few weeks back I complained that we were being told more than shown how wonderful she was, but she's really managed to shine here. Her scenes with the Doctor were touching and her sorrow at his going felt real, and yet she loved him enough to help him to go where he needed to and to understand when he wouldn't let her accompany him. And Hartnell's moments with her shine as well...and that last moment where he starts to leave the medallion she gave him and then, as a second thought, pockets it instead is wonderful. We know that leaving her hurt him in a way and that he was not lying when he said he would never forget her.

Ian, too, shines here. In fact, Schmallturm was happy that this story gave him something to really do (in Schmallturm's opinion, anyway) for the first time since "100,000 BC." Ian comes across as very competent and smart in a physical way. Barbara continues to be wonderful; her sorrow at their predicament and her "What's the use of travelling in time when you can't help anyone?" is poignant, as is the Doctor's reply that she helped one man. The idea that you can help in the little ways, if not the big ones, is something that the show will continue to exploit over the years, and here is its origin. (And Ian's remembering to take the wheel pulley with him underlines the "not changing history" message in a nice, subtle way!)

Tlotoxl winds up being wonderfully evil and, uniquely at this point, is a villain who absolutely triumphs. No two ways about it--he wins! He gets rid of the false goddess, consolidates his power and gets rid of his only rival, replacing him with a man who will do his bidding in all things. The only thing Tlotoxl has lost is the might of Ixta, but there seems little sorrow for that in him. Ixta himself develops into a good antagonist for Ian. He's not a villain per se, but he is dangerous and I really enjoyed his story arc.

Basically, this was a strong end to a very strong story, a worthy successor to Lucarotti's "Marco Polo." The general consensus is that the historicals have been very strong scripts and productions to this point. Next time we return to science fiction. Hopefully, we'll enjoy it more than we did "Marinus!" Until then, I remain



Ketina here,

Well, that was a fun ending to an overall pretty fun story. I liked the resolution of The Doctor and Cameca, although her feeling that he would leave once he'd finished his project seemed a bit out of the blue. Again, the acting continued to feel Shakespearian to me, especially the scenes in the garden, but this wasn't a bad thing.

The final showdown with Ian and Ixta was cool, although the fight scene itself could have been better. There were either close ups of struggling combatants or wide shots where the two of them move in and out of the frame of an unmoving camera. The obvious mat paintings in the background didn't help with that scene either.

Silly moments that stuck out for me included the overlong stock footage shot of the eclipse, and Toltoxl's grimace in his final scene just before he sacrifices the "Perfect Victim". Boy, I really wanted Mr. Victim to somehow survive. Such as waste. ;)

In summary I found "The Aztecs" to be a lot better than I remembered from seeing it years ago. This format, of watching just one episode per week, may have contributed. Quite the reverse of how it made "Keys of Marinus" actually worse by stretching it out.



1 comment:

Alzarian said...

Great ending, and I'm just blown away by the calibre of acting in this story. Jacqueline Hill in particular is just so good!