(With “The Romans”, we reach Part 12 of our Name Dropping journey through the First Doctor’s character arc as represented by his changing ways of addressing Ian: in which the Doctor Who tries comedy or full-on farce for the first (but by no means the last) time and Ian shows a bit of leg.)
We begin with a reprise of the TARDIS toppling over a cliff which reminds us that the monsters can be as scary as you like but they’ll rarely match the fear that comes from our heroes losing access to the TARDIS.
For some reason, they leave the TARDIS lying on its side in a ditch and spend a month squatting at a local villa while the owner is away and guzzling away to their hearts content. This gives us an opportunity to see a bit of science teacher flesh as Ian shows off some leg while draped on a couch. He’s quite enjoying playing the Roman but I don’t approve of his casually throwing around his grape pips. Still, in two more stories he’ll be a Knight of Jaffa and therefore seedless.
The most significant character development here comes as we see that Susan was just holding the Doctor back. Freed from his grandfatherly duties, he seems to have left his crochety persona well behind and begun to develop into some kind of elfin sprite. Vicki is certainly a much more fun sidekick for him than Susan ever was. No doubt this transformation is helped by the decision to treat this story as an outright comedy bordering on farce as the TARDIS crew constantly miss each other by seconds as they wander around Rome. Surprisingly for the more serious era of the First Doctor, this works very well. Certainly better than the unintentional farces of later years.
It’s quite a shock to see the Doctor engaged in the “gentle art of fisticuffs” (with none other than Drax, a.k.a. the Midsomer pathologist). Do we ever see William Hartnell being anything like as physical as this during his era?
All in all, a fun romp of a story enlivened by slave auctions, arson and the odd poisoning.
Now to the really important stuff. In the story, the Doctor calls Ian: Chesterton x 1, Chesterfield x 1 (but as a deliberate joke), young man x 1, my dear boy x 1, dear boy x 1, my boy x 1, my dear chap x 1.
(select NAME DROPPING from the list of Categories in the left hand menu to catch the rest of this series)