LOOKING FOR TELOS – “The Aztecs”

τέλος • (télosn (genitive τέλεος or τέλους); third declension

completion, accomplishment, fulfillment, perfection, consummation

The Whoniverse is wide, and rich, and crazy.

And sometimes, bits of it go overlooked. There’s no way around it, we, at DoWntime, are children of the New Series. Our cultural sensibilities and our tastes in Who have been shaped by it. And of course, when we’re embarking in the big task of producing Discourse, we naturally tend to tackle recent events, controversies and stories. But that doesn’t mean the twenty-six seasons of Classic Who are undeserving of some in-depth coverage – and what better way to deliver said coverage than to watch it.

ALL of it. In order. Without skipping anything.

We’re looking for our telos, and it starts now.

 

EPISODE 1: “THE TEMPLE OF EVIL”

SCRIBBLES: Interesting, isn’t it, the alternating sci fi with historicals? No contemporary stuff the way we get so often nowadays, but on the whole, interesting structure.

TIBERE: I mean, we did get “The Daleks” and “The Edge of Destruction” in a row. And hello John Lucarotti, nice seeing you here again after “Marco Polo“!

SCRIBBLES: It’ll be interesting to see how this compares to that for you. Already, as Barbara and Susan leave the TARDIS, we can see the production value and direction are just a tad bit less compelling, but god, it’s nice to see Barbara enthusing about history to Susan. The men haven’t even turned up yet and we’ve smashed the Bechdel.

TIBERE: It still looks good, though. The props department does some pretty amazing work here. And it’s interesting to see how Barbara, like, thirty seconds in, is already saying the conquistadors were acting on a very superficial understanding of the Aztec civilization. Go Barbara. Keep being awesome.

SCRIBBLES: I like how Susan and Barbara are both enthusiastic about exploring, be it pushing into secret passages or laughing at bubbles in paintings. They really do feel like they are driving the plot themselves. And Barbara calling Aztec world she’s stepped into “perfect” really sells the wonder of such exploration.

TIBERE: That priest actor is really kind of overracting, though, isn’t he? There is a teensy bit of foreign exoticism there. Tiny bit. Not to the point of being a deal-breaker, but still.

SCRIBBLES: It’s interesting how even the Doctor is talking in rather negative, exoticist terms toward the Aztecs, noting pretty quickly how he wouldn’t want to be sacrificed on a slab.

TIBERE: It fits with his established character, I would say. Like, if we put that in comparison with the “Red Indian” line from “An Unearthly Child”, there clearly is a pattern – he does have a sort of aristocratic arrogance that very much manifest through a colonialist streak. But I don’t think it’s a huge flaw of the show, be it again because it makes the different civilizations it showcases complex, three-dimensional characters and never allows the Doctor to stand as a moral, unchallenged authority. If anything, the authorities when it comes to historical stuff are Ian and especially Barbara – the power dynamics of the TARDIS are a lot more complex at this point in the show’s history than what we’re going to see later, with the Doctor being the one that bends the entire narrative around his persona.

SCRIBBLES: It’s a sort of intriguing arc to start the character with, isn’t it? He’s actively suspicious of any world he steps out to explore at this point, and loaded with xenophobic expectations and stereotypes. It’s Barbara who’s bounding out of the TARDIS and enthusing about the wonders she sees. She’s practically teaching the Doctor to be the Doctor. You can see how Gallifrey came to be extrapolated as a place of fusty, xenophobic paper pushers, too. Because there’s elements of that very much hanging over this Doctor, and it makes sense to define that as the world he comes from. Barbara, meanwhile, gets her curiosity leading her to being seen as a goddess in one of the best costumes in Doctor Who history.

aztecs

TIBERE: It’s gorgeous. And their little moment of bonding over being Barbara’s servants is an adorable, and well-written, beat. Also, the political and sociological tensions that defined “Marco Polo” are back in full force – the priests wanting to use the reincarnation of their master to comfort and reassure the people is a strong plot hook, in that it feels tied very specifically to this culture and civilization. There’s no over-reliance on plot clichés – the narrative feels pointed and precise.

SCRIBBLES: I love how Barbara really assumes control, and even keeps Susan with her, preserving the team the story started out with. It’s a bit shocking to hear how casually the Doctor responds to it by praising her doing it to keep her and Susan safe while the men go out and do things, though. Barbara’s working at heavy political and religious games of power, and it’s sad to see the Doctor still patronize her a fair bit even when he’s trying to praise her.

TIBERE: Barbara is too good for this show. Barbara is too good for any show. Barbara deserves to live in her own pocket dimension of pure liquid awesomeness.

SCRIBBLES: Less awesome, though, is the Ixta fight sequence.

TIBERE: Oh Jesus, you weren’t kidding about the fight scenes taking a drastic fall in quality after “Marco Polo”, were you?

SCRIBBLES: It’s a shame. The choreography is actually quite cool, with jumping and dodging and such. But god, the camera’s treating it in the most banal, static fashion so that it feels rather comical.

TIBERE: I mean, it’s certainly better than the Scooby-Doo fight scenes of “Keys of Marinus”. But that’s a low bar.

SCRIBBLES: That sort of hits at an interesting distinction, doesn’t it? So far, there’s far more investment in camp, pulp fun in the future stories, defined by Terry Nation’s writing, whereas these historicals, particularly by Lucarotti, go for heavy character drama in more serious, less exotic worlds. So a camp, crap fight in Marinus is perfect, but in The Aztecs,” it’s a shame.

TIBERE: “Edge of Destruction” is kind of the odd one out, I guess, but I agree, yeah. It’s interesting to see how the future, which was often used as channels for pretty trad stories afterwards, is just the campest thing here. Speaking of campest – Ian’s armor is truly something special, uh?

aztecs2

 

SCRIBBLES: Ian looks like a pissy penguin.

TIBERE: I was going to go with “death metal parrot”, but that works too. Anyway – the scenes are still driven by the First Doctor’s interactions with Cameca, which are utterly lovely – it’s interesting how Lucarotti sets up those intellectual rivals of the Doctor, I feel. First the Khan in “Marco Polo”, now Cameca – the writers are really trying to craft new angles for the character, in almost all the serials, it’s pretty damn lovely. Also, his clearest foils so far have been people of colour, which is pretty damn lovely (although, Cameca is played by a white actress, is she not?).

SCRIBBLES: Cameca is a truly special character (though, yes, I’m pretty damn sure everyone in this serial is white, which sucks a lot). Utterly sympathetic and utterly lovely. That’s the real value of these historicals, they try to portray any culture, even while exoticizing the differences, with emotional realism and sympathy. I love the little exchange between Susan and Barbara about it, “Beauty and horror developing hand in hand.” Because that’s true of every period of history, every single one. And I love that Barbara takes a stand for this one, commonly seen as a horrifying one, to try to preserve what made it good.

TIBERE: By accepting a new identity as a goddess. She is almost, in a way, rising to the supernatural level of the Doctor, when you think about it – using the supernatural and the science-fictional to make political and moral points. There goes the start of a really long tradition of companions being alien-ized. And we get one of the most famous lines of the show “you can’t rewrite history! Not one line!”, used by Moffat in a bunch of stuff.

SCRIBBLES: It’s striking, even if not the best directed, that the man Barbara tries to intervene and save dies anyway, sacrificing himself. The moment of him actually jumping’s on par with the camp cave chasm fight in “Marinus,” but god, the implications. I mean, religious suicide’s a heavy as hell to be engaging with for children’s telly. I can’t imagine what kids made of this serial. But damn, particularly for its time and the likely cultural understandings of the period, this is very sophisticated drama.

TIBERE: That executioner guy, Tlotoxl, hamming it up does undercut some of the scene’s majesty, I shall admit. “She’s a false goddess! And I shall … destroy heeeeer!”. Yeesh. Not the best cliffhanger.

SCRIBBLES: And I thought Tegana had issues with subtlety.

 

EPISODE 2: “THE WARRIORS OF DEATH”

TIBERE: And the events do validate the Doctor’s point of view. It’s a great scene – that takes the absolute opposite direction of what you’d expect from the show or the Doctor.

SCRIBBLES: The direction and acting in the Doctor confronting Barbara are absolutely stellar. I love the argument he provides, “Don’t you realise he wanted to be offered to the gods?” It’s pretty damn hard to debate the values of a culture as an outsider, particularly when harm done is to individuals who chose it. I struggle to believe this serial is entirely accurate to Aztec culture, but in terms of what it does engage with, it does quite well.

TIBERE: Him being called out on the extreme violence of his rant is a pretty nice touch, too – and seeing him mellow a bit and try to comfort Barbara is lovely. You do get to see his evolution from the beginning of the series – he still is in an ideologically complicated, and potentially problematic, position, but he balances that out with plenty of kindness and compassion behind his rough demeanour.

SCRIBBLES: I enjoy Ian’s cock contest with Ixta very much, too. It’s fun to see Ian rising to the ridiculous toxic masculinity challenge and end it with a bit of fingering, or, rather, with modern knowledge of nerves and weak spots. I think, really, that encapsulates values of the show. Cunning and knowledge can defeat militaristic bluster any day.

TIBERE: One of Who’s fundamental values is fingering. You’ll have learnt it here. “I can pull him down” – oh, damn, the homoeroticism is through the roof.

SCRIBBLES: It’s tied nicely into the manipulations of Tlotoxl, too, giving Ixta an extra reason to want to reject the TARDIS crew and teaming toxic masculinity with violent religious manipulation. This serial does rather nicely merge a bunch of character-driven subplots. Marco Polowas a few characters traversing great space for growth, whereas this is more an ensemble negotiating their way through growth in one space.

TIBERE: I absolutely love that little bit of dialogue with Cameca – the Doctor rejects the identity of healer, the one he’s going to assume in full swing in the New Show and the Moffat era especially; and instead defines himself as a “scientist”, a “builder of things”. I feel like there’s a really compelling dichotomy there – the First Doctor’s kind of craft is one centered on devices, on trickery in a kind of self-centered way; but which is also ruled by a strong code of conduct – much like adhesion to the scientific process. His arc throughout the show, if we can call that an arc, is to learn to turn this creative energy to help others – hence also the evolution of the TARDIS from strange, unpredictable machine created by a mad scientist to a safe space stolen from an old conservative race, its purpose subverted.

SCRIBBLES: Speaking of Cameca, it’s a rather great twist to make Ixta the son of the builder that the Doctor asked about. Again, it’s a sort of dichotomy. Ixta’s father was a literal builder, embodying the ideals of this Doctor. Whereas Ixta is more the violence that Barbara hopes to drive out. And speaking of learning, it’s wonderful to see Susan return to her original purpose as a student, being taught by the High Priest of Knowledge. Because as a character, that’s one of the aspects that works best for her, as a slightly alien and out of place information sponge.

TIBERE: And getting one of her best moments so far by insisting that she would never be married to anyone without her consent first. There’s a strong echo of “Marco Polo” there, with Ping-Cho’s predicament, but more generally speaking, it’s just nice to get a moment of Susan being proactive and effectively putting into practice what she has learnt during her travels.

SCRIBBLES: Speaking of learning, it’s nice to see the villains also learn in this. Ixta’s gambit to ask the Doctor for advice to defeat Ian is an extremely clever play.

TIBERE: I feel like Tegana might have been a bit better acted, and certainly was framed better by the camera end the director, but I probably like these two better – they feel more proactive, woven within the narrative in a more compelling way.

SCRIBBLES: Ixta in particular feels like a pretty rich and flawed character, I think, in terms of antagonists. He’s got much to prove, and then Ian just wanders out and one-ups him out of literally nowhere. And he’s a pawn in everyone’s power plays, just trying to maintain, well, his entire life that could be stripped away with his honor.

TIBERE: As far as critiques of toxic masculinity go, give me this over the Sontarans anyday.

SCRIBBLES: I like also how Barbara hears about it and immediately explains to the Doctor exactly what he did against Ian. She’s a very powerful force in every story of this era, but this in particular really is her showpiece. No wonder it’s so well regarded by the fandom, is it? Because it lets everything wonderful about her just stand out, and in a fully existing serial, no less.

TIBERE: I do think there’s a real sense of progression, there, too. The characters are placed into scenarios that truly put them to the test, ask them new and challenging questions, and require them to draw from the skills they previously built in the past stories.

SCRIBBLES: Meanwhile, the Ian and Ixta fight looks fairly lackluster, again, even while the character work shines. The drama driving it is good: of course we want to root for Ian, even though, really, Ixta winning just makes far more logical sense (aside from the to the death angle). But in terms of combat, it’s really lacking. It quite looks like angry hugs.

TIBERE: I feel like that should be censored, honestly. It must be said, I do think the fight picks up again near the end, where it’s just really tired and weakened people punching each other. There’s a sort of rough violence there that both the direction and choreography sell very well.

SCRIBBLES: Indeed. It’s a shame that we don’t really get much in the way of closeups, though. Probably not easy with the camera technology used for the time, but it’d elevate this a lot.

TIBERE: Also, the music is really strong. These creepy percussions up the tension in a  nice way.

SCRIBBLES: Oh, very much strong in the soundtrack department. It heightens suspense quite well, leading into a strong, character-based cliffhanger.

TIBERE: And the cliffhanger is great. It’s not just that Ian is dying – Barbara is asked to cure him. As far as little “how will they get out of that one?!” enigmas go, that’s a lovely one.

 

EPISODE 3: “THE BRIDE OF SACRIFICE”

[Barbara points a dagger at Tlotoxol’s throat, threatening to kill him unless he spares Ian]

TIBERE: HOLY FUCK BARBARA WHAT?! I LOVE YOU. I LOVE YOU SO MUCH.

SCRIBBLES: As cliffhanger solutions go, that’s the most hardcore and pragmatic yet.

TIBERE: The most perfect, too. The best cliffhanger resolution in the history of cliffhanger resolutions. And she keeps on being the most efficient companion possible by handily arranging the circumstances in her favour, asking for the support of the High Priest of Knowledge, and getting it too.

SCRIBBLES: To repeat an old argument, can we just agree the main protagonist of this era is Barbara Wright, as far as there can be said to be one? Because damn, she’s constantly at the forefront and constantly shines.

TIBERE: I think it is fair, yes. I mean, it is an ensemble cast, but Barbara is both the moral compass and the main action lead (which is nothing short of surprising, and fantastic, in the 1960s).

SCRIBBLES: Ian is also getting some very good material here, too, of course. I love how after this incident, Ixta reconciles with Ian, agreeing to be friends until a time comes where he needs to kill him.

TIBERE: Ah, murder bromances. There’s nothing like them. Joke aside, I do appreciate how it weaves some character development within the pretty comedic interactions – Ixta learning to use cunning and ruse after being bested by Ian’s Magic Finger (don’t laugh) is a strong little character arc that works in a way Tegana’s stuff never did.

SCRIBBLES: We were just saying how Ixta’s one of the most effective antagonistic forces, weren’t we? And here, he works particularly well as a dynamic character. Having him genuinely value honor and such and respecting Ian through that makes him a more rich force in the narrative. Tlotoxl, meanwhile, is still deeply camp, but in a fun way. The line about how “For once, the High Priest of Knowledge shall be in ignorance” is pure camp menace, but that savage appetite for scenery is rather wonderful.

TIBERE: Speaking of dynamic character, Cameca starts brewing a love potion out of cocoa beans. She’s allowed to lead the romantic subplot in a way you don’t often see in Who. Even in New Who, really. It’s utterly lovely. And her being full of joy and big smiles after the Doctor accepts to prepare some hot chocolate is just … precious. And of course, we jump from a great character scene to yet another great character scene. It’s a good point – the serial frames Tlotoxl as a villain, as a camp menace, as you just said, but, as Ian argues, he very much embodies that civilization. There’s the obvious duality of the two priests, the one of Knowledge and the one of Sacrifices – you need to take them both as a whole, you can’t draw artificial lines and make a foreign culture fit the lovely little boxes of your narratives.

SCRIBBLES: I like that Barbara is facing the futility of that kind of social revolution. I mean, in a way, it’s iffy. Faced with a whole culture bent on destructive, oppressive structures, of course you should fight that. Like, Barbara’s a career woman in the 60s, she’ll probably doing much of that already in her own life. But rather, the point I think should be that this isn’t her battle to fight, but rather that of the Aztecs, like Autloc and Cameca, to explore within their own culture and fight for themselves. Really, Barbara is quite straightforwardly trying to be a white savior, and I like that she’s coming to realize that her great ideals are worthwhile but that this isn’t the right place. And that makes her no less a badass. Her realizing that Tlotoxol tried to poison her and trash talking him in a political play is delightful to watch.

TIBERE: And then we get to the best scene in the history of Who. No, I’m not overhyping this. One’s face when he realizes he is engaged with Cameca. It’s … The most beautiful thing ever recorded on film. It’s like a moving, alien, fluffy Mona Lisa.

hartnell.gif

SCRIBBLES: I like how, after all that’s transpired, Tlotoxl decides he can only defeat Barbara by going after the rest of the TARDIS team, instead. “Itaxa’s weakness lies not in herself, but in her servants.” It’s an outright admission that she’s by far the most competent and badass lead going, and I love it.

TIBERE: Susan is chosen as the bride for the next sacrifice victim. Well … At least it’s going to be a short ordeal? Still, the horror of the situation is not glossed over, and Carole Ann Ford gets one of her best acting moments – her teary face is especially well framed and emphasized by the direction.

SCRIBBLES: I like how, in no uncertain terms, she lashes out and calls them all monsters. It’s a very feminist moment for her, isn’t it? It’s a nice counterpoint to what Barbara was just confronted with by Ian. She’s admitting that she can’t be the white savior, can’t fight a culture, but equally, nobody should have to stand for implicit social misogyny, and I like that Susan gets to take the stand.

TIBERE: There’s a strong divide in gender lines, here, really. “You’re all monsters” – it’s not so much the Aztecs that are the problem, but rather the Aztec men. Cameca is probably the most positive Aztec character – and both Susan and Barbara are framed as moral centers, offering critique of their civilizations. Yes, Barbara’s efforts are misguided in that they reframing an Aztec problem in white terms; but there is also this subdued idea that a civilization is judged on how it treats the women and that there is a fundamental issue in terms of gender dynamics at play here, with Susan and Barbara providing a counter-balance.

SCRIBBLES: Meanwhile, interestingly, it’s the Doctor and Ian who meet the good of the Aztec civilisation in some ways. The Doctor spends all his time here bonding with Cameca and investigating architectural genius of the society, while Ian, despite facing great danger in the weird, toxically masculine world of soldiers, also weirdly does seem to bond there with Ixta, much as the plot is built around their opposition. He’s perhaps the best suited, weirdly, to this society, much as he pleads with Barbara to realize things can never work.

TIBERE: “I made some cocoa and got engaged”. Best line. Of. The. Series.

SCRIBBLES: It’s Ian’s delighted “congratulations” that really keeps elevating it beyond.

TIBERE: Tlotoxl’s plot to frame Susan and have Barbara allow for her sacrifice is a pretty intelligent beat. I can’t say I am fascinated by him as a character, but at least they manage to sell a certain level of menace with him.

SCRIBBLES: And as ever when we discuss Tlotoxl, we go to a pretty awesome Ixta scene, him assisting the Doctor with the flooded passageway and threatening Ian in the process. It’s got a lot of dynamic character stuff going on to make for another strong cliffhanger.

 

EPISODE 4: “THE DAY OF DARKNESS”

TIBERE: These opening scenes with Ian running through the sewers slowly filling with water are great. Very stylized, and the use of the black and white is, once again, pretty fantastic – the fact most of the frame is blackened really helps to sell the claustrophobia and tension of the moment.

SCRIBBLES: I think the most striking shot is the return to the original table of artifacts from the chamber they first entered, focusing on grotesque shapes against black. All this time and they’re going back to where they started, a grotesque place. It’s rather poignant. The many strands of this narrative are by this point collapsing, much like Marco Polodid, into an escape and a big ploy by the villains, together. There’s a set end point and the danger is ratcheting up. Less to comment on, but it makes for some thrilling drama. Using Ixta to threaten Autloc is a particularly crafty way of tying in threads.

TIBERE: Cameca’s and the Doctor being torn apart is a fantastic scene, too. Both of them come to a point where they realize the inherent problems within their civilizations and spring to action. Much like Marco and Ping-Cho in Marco Polo, it’s the natives that drive the action to their apex, with the leads acting as a catalyst, and a way to frame moral dilemmas.

SCRIBBLES: It’s particularly good that we get a scene between Autloc and Cameca here, them working to free the TARDIS crew together and retreating from their society. It’s very much a vindication of Barbara’s belief that there is good in this society, and I like that their solution is to take their good away from the rot of their society.

TIBERE: Well, Ixta’s demise is … A bit stupid, really. Closing his eyes in the vicinity of Ian? Really? He falls prey to the same kind of tricks he thought he could play on people. Although, it does make sense – he is trapped in his traditions and rituals, and Cameca uses that against him. Doing what he does makes no sense, but in a way that’s the exact point of the scene.

SCRIBBLES: I like how Cameca says she’d hoped to stay by the Doctor’s side. If any classic character deserves to be a companion, she does. But there’s a quiet poignance in her realizing the Doctor will never invite her along, but helping all the same.

TIBERE: And we get a final showdown between Ian and Ixta. It’s … not the best, sadly.

SCRIBBLES: Again, it’s a structural trick we got in “Marco Polo,” though, which also built to a duel at the climax before the chase to the TARDIS. More lacking direction, and Ixta’s fall is a bit crap, but it’s a savvy structural approach.

TIBERE: Those close shots are just … not effective to convey tension and action. They make the action feel strangely paced and not very natural. I do love how Ixta’s fate is, in the end, to fall from the Pyramid in a way similar to the one the suicide victim in part one did. He falls victim to his civilization’s rituals in the most obvious way possible.

SCRIBBLES: I like how Barbara gets a moment of self-loathing here, though, as the crew return to the TARDIS. Not just for the fact that she couldn’t help, but because the political games she played for her own survival meant lying to Autloc, the one good person she found there. In essence, that she feels she became every bit part of the problem she hoped to resolve. And merging that with her undressing from the Yetaxa dress is a nice understated moment of symbolism.

TIBERE: The final cliffhanger is a bit basic, at this point, but not too bad either. The TARDIS is moving and yet immobile – it’s a decent mystery set-up.

SCRIBBLES: Odd, isn’t it, how some of these serials end with hooks into the next, while others don’t? I do wonder what prompts that choice to include it or not.

TIBERE: I mean, at that point, the show is still very much episodic, so the very idea of categorizing it into serial is something we are kind of applying retroactively to it. I mean, yes, there are common directors and writers within those serials, but I do feel that, as a well, it’s more of a production thing than an unit of storytelling freely embraced by the creative minds behind the show.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

SCRIBBLES: I suppose the trouble with a serial rightly regarded as a classic is that there’s not much to say in conclusion, is there? The Aztecsis pretty damn magnificent, and all of the fandom knows that.

TIBERE: I have to agree, there. It’s a fantastic story – I think I might prefer “Marco Polo”, in a way, because of its sheer scale and oddness, along with its aesthetics, though.

SCRIBBLES: Yeah, I think that’s the closest thing to a hot take that can be managed here. That Marco Polois a bit better and they’re both brilliant. There’s shortcomings to The Aztecs,” but they’re namely directorial, beyond that it’s a damn good showcase for Barbara. And I think that’s also a big thing in its favor. Marco Polowas a fair bit lighter on Barbara, choosing instead to foreground Susan. But it had a rawer power to it, too.

TIBERE: I mean, it is the original. You can kind of see the theme and variations technique at work, there – in many respects, it is a follow-up to “Marco Polo”. But not an identical copy, either – it’s shorter, and driven much more by character conflict than by environmental one. It’s of course silly to apply our little categories to a 1963 season of television, but it feels very much like a season finale, the conclusion of this season’s themes about civilization, savagery and survival. Of course, it’s not quite the case, since we have one historical serial left, one that also tackles a period of history known for its exceptional brutality.

SCRIBBLES: I think, in the end, the main conclusion to be drawn is that the Lucarotti historical is one of the greatest things the Hartnell era has to offer. It’s character-based drama that’s as much about the contemporary characters as it is about the dangerous environments they traverse.

TIBERE: I absolutely agree. It’s kind of a shame that it became a dying breed of stories pretty quickly, and that it was never truly brought back to life, not even in the New Series – then again, I can get why: the 45 minutes format, for all its immense virtues, makes it very hard to tell that kind of epic, multi-character narratives.

SCRIBBLES: I think, however, it does in spirit. Listenis very much of a mold with these, traversing strange spaces without alien threat to draw examinations of character. Of course, Listenplays a bit more of a meta game with asking why the show becomes so invested in the monsters in the first place, but I think it is every bit as much drawing from the tradition of a historical. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that it references the Cave of Skulls plot as its emotional climax, really. It’s a story about monsters and their absence that vindicates the spirit of these serials, even if it knows their storytelling methods are lost to the past.

TIBERE: Aaaah, “Listen”. Did I mention it’s my favourite episode of television ever? I feel like I don’t mention that nearly enough. But yes – really, the figure of the first Doctor hangs a lot over the Capaldi year, leading of course to his upcoming appearance in “Twice Upon a Time”. It’s an era that’s all about getting back to the origins of the Doctor, so of course, what better way than to dig into the origins of the show – the very explicit moral focus of some of the Capaldi stories, taking elements from the Divine Comedy or just turning, for one very special moment, into a lecture on the merits of kindness, does feel very reminiscent of the long, complex character interactions of the Hartnell serial. Made into a new form, of course, but still retaining that spark. And that’s the best way to put it, really – this original season has a spark. Somehow, the writers, actors and directors touched … Something that was impossible to really defined yet fantastically powerful and unique. And a lot of the show has been building from that point, commenting on it, embracing or rejecting its valours. The title of this marathon was a bit of a bad philosophical pun about “Tomb of the Cybermen”, but actually, I do think that if you go looking for the purpose, and the essence of Who, well, 1963 is a pretty good place to start.

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