Episode 12: The Romans
Companions: Barbara, Ian, Vicki
Written by Dennis Spooner
Directed by Christopher Barry
The Slave Traders
All Roads Lead to Rome
As the Doctor and his companions take a month-long vacation in the Roman Empire, they are pulled into the world of one Emperor Nero.
I’m still not sure if I like this episode. Don’t get me wrong. It’s still pretty good. But for some reason it left an unsettled feeling in my stomach. The story lines are split between with the Doctor and Vicki in one plot line and Ian and Barbara in another.
The Doctor and Vicki story line is whimsical in that the Doctor finds himself involved with a plot to kill Emperor Nero. As with the case with comedy, nothing seems to go right for everyone involved. The Doctor is gleeful in his discoveries and you see a glimpse of the whimsy that will be showcased in future Doctor incarnations.
The problem that I have with this is that it is a large contrast between the whimsy and the dark plot lines of Ian and Barbara. They are kidnapped, sold off as slaves, forced to work to survive, battle against Roman soldiers (or in Barbara’s case against an insane Emperor), and somehow make it back to the TARDIS in one piece. The contrasts are very startling and unnerving. Ian and Barbara in real, tangible danger while the Doctor and Vicki are out enjoying the Roman city. Even when the Doctor does face danger, it is, again, more whimsy than suspenseful.
The set designs and the costumes are delightful as well as the background characters. The Doctor’s interactions with Nero provide for some of the best scenes in the episode.
The Doctor was the inspiration of the Roman fire that destroyed the city during the reign of Nero. The Tenth Doctor hints at his involvement later on in the Fires of Pompeii.