The Romans – Story #012


Jael’s Judgment:

“There’s a great deal of difference between resting and being sort of bone idle.” -The Doctor. So true and yet sometimes so difficult to keep from falling into the latter when attempting the former.

So what I am wondering is, what are they doing for money this whole time? They seem to be making purchases during this month long hiatus. LOVE Barbara’s hair soooo much better than the way she normally wears it! I also love the togas the women get to wear. I like flowy things. As Barbara and Vicki perused cloth I thought about how I would enjoy making a dress with Barbara.

Unfortunately the episode continues on with little moments of sexism. Fortunately, Barbara usually has moments of sarcasm that make up for it a little.

Aside from the fashion, I thoroughly enjoyed the camera work. So many great end of scene shots where the camera zooms in for a head shot, “bum, bum, bum” music and a telling facial expression.

As Vicki states, it would be wonderful to be able to witness some parts of history first hand. I often wish I could view my location in the past. That is why I like to stand in ancient buildings, to reach out and touch ancient stone, to read about history. I like to connect.

  • Story Grade: B-


Tony’s Take:

“Oh yes!  How I do love Barbara’s hair and dress as well!” is what you will not hear coming from me.  May I go the more typical guy route and say, “TOGA!”  Yep, I think of John Belushi and fun college days, not of women’s fashion.  Now if only this story would have been able to time-travel to the future and steal some of Animal House’s humor, it would have been enjoyable.  Instead, The Romans teeters on humor, flirting with the idea a bit, but never fully committing to the notion.  There are the half-jokes, self-deprecation, and even the funny zoom-in to end scenes, but none of these things really spell laugh-out-loud comedy.

Now, as much fun as it would be to go back in time and enjoy different eras and different civilizations, I really dislike when Doctor Who touches on non-fiction in their telling of the past.  Sure, the random small influences that the Doctor or his companions have on those non-fictional characters can be funny, but I really don’t care when it is played out for the entire story.  If the story was set in Roman times, that is one thing, but to try to portray Nero and incorporate him into the Doctor Who universe for a significant amount of time… no thanks.  I am guessing that it is the love of theatre in England that influenced the writers to cast their stories in these “dramatic” times, and which actors do not want to try to play the “Roman Emperor”?

As Jael hinted at (and as we have hinted at in previous posts), the story touches on gender roles and even in doing so, there are many times where it is still just blatantly sexist.  Looking back on this story right now, it is hard to even remember Vicki’s role in this story… maybe that is because I have watched 2+ stories after this already, or because she is getting the Susan treatment – scream, ac helpless, say a couple interesting things, and then immediately play the part of “just a girl”.

The one part of the story that I somewhat enjoyed was the lute playing.  I almost found this bit funny; while I definitely found their acting skills of playing a lute HILARIOUS!  Oh, speaking of hilarious acting, The Doctor’s fight sequence as they await Nero is also fine acting.

Here are my notes:

And yet again an opening shot of a model TARDIS.
Glad we didn’t have to watch the first month of their Roman life.
The gang is being tracked and The Doctor is going a bit loony.
Ian gets a real Roman hairdo from Barbara, looks authentic to me.
Ian and Barbara get kidnapped, and The Doctor and Vicki found a dead body (and the Roman soldier believes he’s a lutist).
So you want a fight do you?! – The Doctor
It is toeing the line between comedy and absurd acting.  The music and the looks to the camera set it up, but there aren’t many over the top jokes.
Ian and Barbara are slaves, Ian on a ship and Barbara bought by a kind man.
The ship crashes and Ian is free!!!
Nero and The Doctor are such GREAT lute players.
Ian shall fight a lion! Excellent.
Seems that Nero is horny for Barbara, and the empress is none too pleased.
Ian gets to fight the other slave instead and is nearly killed.
Barbara is encouraged to escape, since the empress wants her gone.
And now Rome burns.
Ian and Barbara seem to be very flirty in this episode.
…dragged down, to THE WEB PLANET!
  • Story Grade: C-
  • I have said it before and I will say it again, I really dislike the historic pieces.  The comedy part of this could have been over the top and a nice precursor to such movies as “History of the World: Part I”, but it had to keep it’s grip and not commit to 100% comedy; what a shame.


Thank you, Roman culture, for playing the lute.  This out-of-date, seldom-used instrument provides for top quality humor when actors are forced to “play” a song.  Thank you to the camera crew, you did hit the marks, even if the writing didn’t set your jokes up nicely.


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