The Romans is a truly enjoyable story. It has a great mix of humor, which was my favorite part. The story begins with the TARDIS falling off of a cliff into some bushes, an event I wasn’t exactly sure why it happened. I thought perhaps at the end they would wake up and it would all be a dream and they had been knocked out in the fall, but nope. Plus, it wouldn’t make sense for them all to have a dream together. I suppose maybe the Doctor could have dreamed it and they could wake him up and he could bust out “and you were there, and were there, and even you!” in classic Dorothy style. But, whatever, that wasn’t the case.
What WAS the case, though, was that our heroes were squatting in some rich dude’s Italian villa just outside of Rome. When we catch up with them, they’d been living there for almost a month! I felt like this was a bit out of their character…lounging in someone else’s house, uninvited, presumably wearing the owners’ clothes and drinking their wine. Also, they were selling his produce at bargain basement prices. Thieves.
It was an interesting historical/educational episode. Although I think the educational aspects were toned down a bit compared to the interminable Reign of Terror, they did a nice job making Nero look like an absolute loon, and worked in the burning of Rome nicely. It was amusing that it was the Doctor’s accidental idea.
We got to see Ian show off those fighting skills he learned in the Aztecs fighting as a Gladiator. It would have been better to see him fight in a giant arena.
Highlighting the humor was the scene in which the Doctor, Barbara, and Nero chased each other through the hallway a la Benny Hill. I could almost here the music playing as they ran up and down the corridor, poking their heads into different rooms and just missing one another.
We got our first look at Vicki in action and, unfortunately, she didn’t really do very much except follow the doctor around. She was kind of superfluous. I have a feeling this may be what they had in mind for Susan’s character, but Carol Anne Ford’s own thoughts on the character kept getting in the way. I hope that they realize it’s a mistake and give this character slot a more active role. Susan and Vicki both have so much more potential.
Finally, there is some indication that twentieth century English is not common to all beings in the universe ever. Barbara corrects Vicki once or twice to make her language seem more Roman/Latin (Londinium). A couple of characters also note the strangeness of the the names Ian and Barbara. I thought that was an acknowledgement a long time coming. I understand that they can’t have everyone speaking a different language….but a “the TARDIS helps us to communicate with all races” or something would be sufficient.
Strange note: the travelers’ Roman friend Tavius is shown holding a cross that he wears around his neck. 64AD is awfully early for any Romans in Rome to practicing Christianity. In light of that, I wonder why they chose to show the cross. Only Christians can be good people? Couldn’t he have been a good Roman without it? I tried to look him up to see if he was supposed to be someone famous, but found nothing. Just an odd production choice, I guess. Or maybe there’s a religious theme to the show that I have not yet picked up on…I’ll tag this one just in case.
Finally, the old romantic notion between Ian and Barbara reappears at the end of the story. Once they learn they have arrived back at the villa they are squatting in, it looks like they’re going to drink some wine and get busy. There’s even some good-natured pillow fighting. But, alas, they fall asleep and the Doctor returns.
I enjoyed this story a lot. I’ve found the historical stories so far to be rather bland, but the humor was good and the story moved along pretty well. It seems that Susan has been entirely forgotten, but Vicki is a suitable replacement for me. Let’s just hope they actually give her something to do. And forbid her to scream.