Sunday, 1 March 2015

The Mothership Who Reviews: The Romans by Simon Mallinson

Who Reviews - The Romans

Written by Dennis Spooner
Broadcast 16 January – 6 February 1965
Reviewed by Simon Mallinson

The Romans is the fourth serial of the second season in the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in four weekly parts from 16 January to 6 February 1965. The story is set during the era of the Roman Empire in the reign of Nero.

Now this is the first time I reviewed the TV programme itself so here goes.

In this story we see the Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Young Vicki living it up in a Roman Villa, on holiday and not wanting to do anything but eat, study and shop, oh and lie around on their sides, and who can blame them, well maybe everyone get up I say and do something.  The writer seems to have the same idea, so enter two strange and not very bright slaves.  Maybe it’s just me but I thought the Romans got slaves from other countries, unless they can’t be bothered to travel far???  As per normal with the first doctor, his companions tend to get into trouble while he stays one step or cord ahead.

Just when you think it’s just a simple plot, up turns Nero and a raft of funny and menacing times begin.  Nero is smitten at first with our Barbara, then upset at being spurned. Vicki seems to either act as a Susan replacement or maybe a  shadow clone of his earlier granddaughter.  The Doctor adopts a role of a lute player after he is murdered and causes lots of chaos and fun.  Ian on the other hand sees the real horror of slavery in Rome, THE GALLIES and THE ARENA.  Poor Ian, virtually everywhere he tends to get into fights and problems.

Special effects and set design actually seems to excel in this story, maybe the budget went up or the guys found some left over Roman stuff from another production.  As well the writer Dennis Spooner, does a good job for the time at making the story seem relevant.  Christopher Barry deserves credit for the great directing in this story.  Special mentions has to go to William Russell for this story, as we see a rounded character from a fantastic actor and Maureen O’Brien for finally getting Vicki under control and becoming, a crew member almost seamlessly. But of course William Hartnell steals the show and is a great foil to Derek Francis’s Nero, never since I Claudius have I seen a better Nero.

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