Hello, everyone, the Historian here. With me are Ketina, Ronelyn, Schmallturm and, for the first time in about a year, the triumphant return of Mr. Spoo! (Well, it was nice for us to see him.) Before we get down to things, I wanted to talk about my question from last week, regarding the summaries. Thanks to those of you who commented. Ketina and I think we have a plan. Basically, starting next week (we didn't want to change things in the middle of a stories), we're going to try to figure out Blogger's jump-cut feature. From then on, behind the cut, I'll write the summary. And yes, it will be just as complete, and yes, I will use paragraph breaks. The main reason I hadn't before was that it would have made each entry a mile long; with the jump-cut feature (which I think I've figured out), that won't be an issue. It'll also be easier if you want to completely skip the summary. (Unfortunately for those of you reading this via an RSS/LJ feed, they don't recognize the jump-cut. So either you'll have a very long entry to wade through or you might want to consider reading here at the blog. If I can figure out a good way around that, I will.)
All that being said, let's get to the summary!
Episode summary: First aired 6 February 1965. As Delos' sword is poised above Ian's neck, Nero shouts out, "Cut off his head!" Instead, after a tense moment, Delos leaps onto the dais and attacks Nero himself! The emperor hides behind Barbara, as Ian and Delos fight soldiers who have run in. Barbara tries to pull away to run to Ian, but Nero has close hold on her. Ian yells that he'll come back for her, and he and Delos escape. Nero calls his guards back and tells Sevcheria (who had been commanding them) to set a strong guard on the palace that night. That way, when Ian returns to Barbara, he'll catch them all! Back at the palace, Poppaea commands Tavius to get rid of her new slave (Barbara) immediately. If not, Poppaea will get rid of her. Tavius leaves, very worried, and meets Barbara outside. She tells him of Ian's coming rescue that night and he promises to help her as much as he can. She also asks him if he knows Maximum Pettulian and mentions Nero's plans to set the lions on the musician when he plays in the arena. Meanwhile Sevcheria posts guards around the palace to trap Ian. In the streets of Rome, Ian and Delos hide in plain sight. They have no real plan; Ian has decided to follow the Doctor's example and dive in, hoping to figure things out as he goes. Back in the palace, the Doctor, wearing his spectacles, is examining Nero's plans for Nova Roma. The Doctor explains to Vicki that Nero wishes to rebuild Rome...and realizes that they are in 64AD! Soon, Nero will burn Rome to the ground to rebuild it! Even Vicki (from the far future) has heard of the Great Fire of Rome. Just then, they hear a hissing. It is Tavius, once again working to surreptitiously get "Maximus'" attention. He tells the Doctor of Nero's plans for his...concert in the arena and suggests the Doctor leave before this would take place...but after going through with his plan to murder Nero! The Doctor is momentarily taken aback, but realizes that this is the conspiracy he had tried to uncover and understand before. Pettulian had contacted sympathizers at court, sending word he would kill Nero. But the centurion had got word of the plot and sent out an assassin. But when Maximus had shown up, his "friends" at court had taken heart. Now, Tavius says, is the time to put your plan into effect! He leaves, and the Doctor and Vicki try to take the whole thing in. The Doctor announces that they must leave Rome at nightfall. Just then, Nero arrives. The Doctor, not wanting the emperor to see, hides his spectacles behind his back, as Nero tries to surprise him with an announcement. But the Doctor already knows about the arena concert (though he claims to have guessed), angering the emperor. As the Doctor makes more jokes alluding to the lions, Nero gets more and more upset...but, behind the Doctor's back, the sun has caught the glass of his spectacles, refracting the light onto Nero's city plans...and setting them on fire! Nero is incensed, calling for guards, until, looking at the burning of the "city," he gets a marvelous idea. If the Senate won't vote to use his ideas to rebuild Rome, he'll burn down the city; then they'd have to let him rebuild it! He runs out, telling the Doctor he'll make him rich for that idea, rich! This allows the Doctor and Vicki to brush off the guards who are trying to arrest them. Nero, still holding the burning map, meets Poppaea, who asks why guards are surrounding the palace. He tells her of his plans to trap Ian, Delos and Barbara and leaves, muttering. Poppaea, however, is smiling. Later, Nero and Tavius await his "torchbearers." Tavius sends a guard outside to look for them. The "torchbearers" are a rabble of men. As they make their way into the palace, Ian and Delos manage to join the line without Sevcheria seeing them. Inside, Nero scatters coins to the rabble and begins to give them orders to set certain buildings in the city on fire, promising more money to all. Tavius, meanwhile, sidles up to Ian and tells him that he is a friend of Barbara's. The two leave as the torchbearers start to exit and Nero muses to himself about naming his new city "Neropolis." In the corridor, Ian asks Tavius how he knew Ian would be there. It's what I would have done, answers Tavius. He reunites Ian and Barbara, who are overjoyed to see each other. Then Tavius gives Barbara a cloak to disguise her and they start to get ready to escape. Outside, Sevcheria hears a rustling in the bushes and sends a man to see whether it is Ian, Barbara and Delos. But it is Vicki and the Doctor, who fobs the guard off by saying, "It's only us." The guard leaves...and so do the Doctor and Vicki, away from the palace! In the confusion of the torchbearer's rush out of the palace, Ian, Barbara and Delos encounter Sevcheria. Delos thrusts his burning torch in the slaver's face and the three flee North, Ian and Barbara to the villa in Assessium and Delos to his home near there. Back in the palace, Tavius watches through a window as they flee. He wishes them good luck as he fingers a once-hidden wooden cross. Just outside the city, the Doctor and Vicki stop to look back at burning Rome. Vicki is amazed to really be seeing History, to realize that she's seeing something that will be talked about for thousands of years. Of course, she says, the books got it wrong: it's the Doctor himself who gave Nero the idea to burn Rome! The Doctor protests; Nero would have gotten the idea some other way, surely. But, as Vicki moves down the road, the Doctor looks back and laughs, tickled by the idea that he might be responsible. Inside the palace, Nero, too, is laughing as he plays his lyre, watching the city burn around him. Sometime later, Ian and Barbara arrive back at the villa to find things unchanged since they left--the shards of the pot Barbara accidentally hit Ian with are even still on the floor. Obviously, the Doctor and Vicki had not been there. After some horsing around, they decide to get cleaned up before their friends arrive. Later, the Doctor and Vicki do arrive, finding Ian and Barbara much as they'd left them: sleeping on couches in the villa. Believing that Ian and Barbara have been "idling away their days," the Doctor makes fun of the two, while Vicki tries to tell them of her adventures. The Doctor suggests they make their way back to the TARDIS and he and the girl leave. Ian and Barbara give each other a wry smile and follow, but not before Ian picks up a goblet and amphora of wine as a souvenir. Back in the TARDIS, Vicki refuses to believe that even the Doctor doesn't know where they'll go next. As she and Barbara leave to change, Ian leans over to see what the Doctor is doing at the console. The Doctor is worried; they have materialized and been caught by some unknown force and the TARDIS cannot break free. And the strange force is dragging them downwards. But to what....?
Whew. Next week, paragraph breaks! (We'll see how that goes.)
A great ending to a great story, this episode manages to wrap up and bring together all four plotlines successfully. We all had a blast, even Spoo (who'd only read/been told about the other three episodes). That being said, there were plenty of points where things that might not have been intended to be funny...were. For example, there's this small scene where Tavius just stops and stares blankly towards the camera, which caused me to almost involuntarily invoke Mystery Science Theatre's version of "Bride of the Monster" by saying, "Tor hungry." (Um, if you've never seen either this episode or a Tor Johnson movie, that...won't make much sense. Sorry.) And then, as the map began to smoke and burn with a small ring of fire burning in the middle of it, my mind immediately leapt to the opening titles of "Bonanza." Thankfully, I kept that one to myself. Still, for the most part, the humor was intentional (Schmallturm's invoking of another MST quote "I hate it when the women wear longer skirts than the men" aside).
And, honestly, there was a lot to like here, from Nero's scenery chewing to Tavius' wonderfully understated faith. Man, I loved that bit at the end. It was a perfect explanation for a lot of his character's motivations and made him, if anything, one of the most human of the guest cast. It's hard to find fault with this episode, or this story as a whole; one of the things I plan to talk about in the story wrapup is the contrast between the Ian/Barbara and Doctor/Vicki plotlines and how those differences inform the characters' reactions as the story ended. Really, really well-written, I think. Ronelyn loved, for example, Nero's wonderfully insane rant about punishing the Doctor for burning his plans (especially the alligators)...before doing an about-face and praising him to the skies. Just well-written, well structured and, I'd argue, well acted. Yes, Derek Francis chews enough scenery to build another Rome in his performance as Nero, but it's perfectly pitched in a portrayal of an off-his-rocker emperor. And yeah, the "fiddling while Rome burned" is a myth, and the "Nero orchestrated the burning" an ahistorical slander, but what the hey, it's wonderfully fun! Spoo, coming back to the Project after his long absence, absolutely loved the Doctor, and his "old coot crazy dodderiness," I believe was the quote. (Feel free to correct me in the comments, Spoo.) We do see a Doctor who is able to manipulate those around him nicely, improvising like mad and succeeding to a surprising extent, possibly because he does appear to be slightly senile. Again, I hope to be talking more about the regulars in the wrapup, so I'll leave that point here for now.
And, in fact, I think I'd better leave all my points for now. The wrapup should be coming sometime in the next week. Until then, I remain
The silly continues this week with the finale of the Romans. Nero continues to be at his best, Ian reclaims his status as "action man", and Barbara's hair continues to take center stage.
The episode starts off with Ian getting the thumbs down from Nero, and his dueling partner jumps the emperor only to get attacked by the guards. The good choreography from last week appeared to be missing this week, as everyone clang clanged swords again. Delos proceeded to "kill" a guard by sliding a sword somewhat near him, but Nero's fantastic kick knocking the guard off the dais made up a bit for that lameness. All of Ian's fight training verses Aztecs, Cavemen, Voord, Mongols, assassins and other ne'er-do-wells has apparently paid off, as he and Delos managed to fight off about five guards (at least I think so, again fight scene very hard to follow) and escape.
Loved Nero's scene with the Doctor and the burning map. Spoo was especially amused by Nero running around with this big burning rolled up paper, waving it close to the matte painting, the Roman curtains, and the drapey costumes. Was the look of horror on the Empress's face due to fear of Nero, or of fear of being set on fire?
Ronelyn suggested a silly moment during the mob scene, as Nero shouted "Quiet! Okay, now, everyone riot and burn the city!" Like, everyone calm down so you can go crazy.
Less than impressive was the forward-rewind-forward-rewind of the burning Rome set. Spoo's comment was that it looked like the city was breathing. On fire. The full city burning on the horizon looked pretty good, though.
And I loved the bits as everyone returned to the villa. Especially Barbara and Ian's banter over cleaning things up. I nearly expected them to kiss, but there was no tension between them. Their relationship, while mildly romantic, is also very relaxed, which does make it enjoyable to watch.
Not much from Vicki this week, other than to act as a sounding board for the Doctor's antics. Although her gleeful comment about watching history was especially disturbing, given the tragedy of the number of lives being lost in that fire. But then again, she's also the one who was willing to kill Nero the week before. She's very detached in this story.
Not looking forward to the return of Barbara's helmet hair next week. Keep the Roman 'do!
Until next week,
NEXT EPISODE: "THE WEB PLANET"