(With “The Aztecs”, we reach Part 6 of our Name Dropping journey through the First Doctor’s character arc as represented by his changing ways of addressing Ian: in which the writers drop the first hint that the Doctor could be a woman, Ian fights like Spock and the Aztec priests feast on barbecue ribs.)
Barbara gets an opportunity for centre stage in The Aztecs but it tends to leave her sitting around a lot of the time, albeit on a fancy (if hard) throne. There’s never a nice soft hand to sit on when you need one. While she’s thereby removed from most of the action, she does get a lot of the philosophical wrestling in this story. More significantly, we’re used to writers in Modern Who dropping hints that male Time Lords can regenerate into females but who knew that the practice had such a Classic pedigree?
SUSAN: But the priest in the tomb’s a man! How can you be a reincarnation of him?
BARBARA: The form the spirit takes isn’t important, Susan. This is what’s important.
Now, I don’t know about you but, when it’s a windy day and I need to nip outside to put the dustbins out for emptying, I either put the front door on the latch or wedge it open with something solid to stop me getting locked out. The number of times they’ve landed on some alien world and wandered off to explore, leaving me screaming at the screen “Close the bloody TARDIS door! Monsters and naughty villains might get in.” – and they choose this opportunity to start locking up?
We do get a lot of educational tips about Aztec life. I had no idea that barbecue ribs were considered a delicacy among their priests. You do think that, for a man in a public position though, Tlotoxl would apply a lemon-soaked paper napkin to his mouth before leaving the table. He has BBQ sauce smeared from ear to ear, the mucky beast!
We’ve all familiar with the acting in Classic Doctor Who being more theatrical compared with the naturalistic acting of Modern Who, but The Aztecs takes this further than I remember. The script has either been written in an attempt at iambic pentameter or the actors playing the priests are trying to force it into something approaching it.
Ian suddenly seems to have developed a mastery of martial arts from nowhere.
Possibly one of the best exchanges yet.
DOCTOR: My fiancée.
IAN: Your what!
DOCTOR: I made some cocoa and got engaged.
Finally we appear to detect a distinct change in the Doctor’s means of addressing Ian. During “The Aztecs”, the Doctor addresses him as follows: Chesterton x 3, my boy x 2, my dear boy x 1 and man x 1 (in a moment of passion). However, he calls him Ian for the first time – twice to his face and another four times behind his back. Is our curmudgeonly Time Lord now softening towards the alpha male of the Sixties?