Most people are no doubt familiar with the Doctor Who of the ‘70s
and ‘80s starring Tom Baker – thanks to endless re-runs. Then in
2005 everyone was introduced to the revitalised Doctor Who series
but did you know that the 2005 series was actually season number 27?
This is following a movie in 1995 that is part of the canon too. So
where did it all begin? Let me load you into an imaginary TARDIS as
we travel back to the year... 1965.
Back then, you see, not only was television technology and acting
quality more rudimentary than what we are used to today, but the BBC
was even more strapped for cash. The end result is a wonderful ride
back to the time of blissfully naive sci-fi, black and white
reproductions and laughably unreal sets.
The Romans is the Doctor’s first visit to 64AD and the time of Rome
and Nero. The Doctor and his four companions get separated and all
make their own way to Rome and have adventures with slave traders,
banquets and the Caesar himself. This episode has quite a bit of
“humour” scattered throughout, interspersed with madness and
brutality. At least, that’s what is attempted. It’s all tinted with
40 year-old production values, of course.
Make no bones about it – this is a low quality episode. Clearly they
could only work with one camera, one sound boom, and limited editing
tools. This gives us varying sound levels which can make the
characters a little hard to understand at times, laughable set
pieces, and even misspoken lines. Having said that though, these are
the things that make an old classic like this so much fun!
The original Doctor, played by William Hartnell is played more as a
‘nutty professor’ as compared to the later incarnations. He appears
to have misplaced his wits most of the time, but is able to tap into
a vast knowledge and able to grab clarity just in time to see
through the puzzle and save the day. The Doctor’s evolution
throughout the years is fascinating and it’s great to see where it
The special effects, such as Rome’s skyline (an obvious scale model)
are what you can expect here. This is all augmented with cheesy
settings, and fairly poor acting. You’ll get some chuckles from The
Doctor’s “emperor’s new clothes” routine, and the “sword fighting”
in the poorest representation of Circus Maximus ever screened.
The writing is passable, however, with some classic moments – such
as the old hallway-with-many-doors-chase routine which has clearly
been around since at least the 1960’s.
This four-part episode has very little sci-fi and is more of a
history adventure, but it’s unlikely a modern audience is watching
this for any science fiction anyway. You’ll need an appreciation of
classic television, really, but if you do, it’s worth a few
chuckles. There are no special features on this disc.