1.27 The Aztecs Pt. 1 - The Temple of Evil Written by John Lucarotti, Directed by John Crockett
Barbara is mistaken for the reincarnation of an Aztec High Priest.
Well constructed opening episode, setting the scene beautifully. I love John Ringham's Tlotoxl, portrayed with more than a touch of Richard the Third. Everything is played straight, and Ian's horror at having to hold the human sacrifice feels totally genuine. But this is very much Barbara's story, and she shines right from the start.
"Barbara, one last appeal. What you are trying to do is utterly impossible! I know, believe me, I know!" - Willian Hartnell (Doctor Who)
1.28 The Aztecs Pt. 2 - The Warriors of Death Written by John Lucarotti, Directed by John Crockett
Tlotoxl begins to undermine Barbara, while the Doctor tries to find out about the temple.
Not as good as the first part, but the story keeps going and the plot keeps flowing. The Doctor's obvious deep affection for Cameca, and his delighted joy at his various plans, are great to watch. The deepening trust and respect between Barbara and Autloc is also nice.
"Famine, drought, and disaster will come. And more and more sacrifices will be made. I see a time when 10,000 will die in one day." - Jacqueline Hill (Barbara Wright)
1.29 The Aztecs Pt. 3 - The Bride of Sacrifice Written by John Lucarotti, Directed by John Crockett1.
Barbara still hopes to halt the sacrifices, while Tlotoxl continues to plot against her.
A set-up episode, but a very full-on one, in that rather a lot happens to various characters. Jacqueline Hill does a beautiful job of showing Barbara's strength, but also her doubts as she continues to make no headway, and has to deceive the one person who trusts her, Autloc, in the hope of ending human sacrifice.
"In all humility I beg you, do not deceive me or prove false to me." - Keith Pyott (Autloc)
1.30 The Aztecs Pt. 4 - The Day of darkness Written by John Lucarotti, Directed by John Crockett.
Tlotoxl plans punishment for Susan, death for Ian, and to have Barbara entombed alive.
A couple of additional twists help prevent the last episode from being too predictable, but it lacks the strength of previous episodes. That said, Autloc and Cameca's stories give it a needed additional depth.
"I'd hoped I might stay by your side... Then think of me. Think of me..." - Margot Van der Burgh (Cameca)
The Aztecs 8/10
Another story where the sum of the parts outweighs the strengths and weaknesses of individual episodes. After the first episode it basically becomes mainly about trying to thwart the multiple schemes of Tlotoxl, and it suffers a little because of that. However where it lacks in variety from a plot perspective, its strengths as a character piece are solid.
The Doctor's initial anger and dismay at Barbara wanting to change history, that gives way quickly to understanding of her reasons, even though he knows it to be a doomed ideal. Barbara realising that her attempts to make things better have resulted in a good man losing his faith. The Doctor's obvious deep feelings for Cameca, the barely hidden pain when he says goodbye to her, and his inability to leave behind the small broach she'd given him. In the modern series the Doctor may well have allowed her to come with him, but this was unthinkable for the old time traveller.
Both Cameca and Autloc come away having willingly lost much, Cameca her love, Autloc his faith and position. By the end of the story, the only winner is Tlotoxl. His power is, if anything, increased by the events in the story. This is where a pure historical can have a strength of story-telling that can lack in other semi-historicals - the bad guys can win, because they had to for history to remain unchanged.