Trash Culture’s Dr. Who Reviews – The Romans (1965)

By Chad Denton

As soon as the TARDIS lands, it falls over in a pit. Next time we see the crew the Doctor and Ian are in a Roman villa dressed in togas and eating grapes while reclining on sofas. They’ve been resting in a small village miles away from Rome for more than a month and telling the locals that they are “villa-setting” for a Roman general off on campaign in Gaul. On their way to the village marketplace, Vicki complains to Barbara about the lack of adventure, but Barbara advises her to be thankful for the vacation. Unfortunately, they are spotted by two slave traders, Didius and Sevcheria. They assume from eavesdropping on their conversation that Barbara and Vicki are Britons and thus superb candidates for slavery. The Doctor decides to head off to explore Rome and invites the bored Vicki to accompany him, but, irritated at Ian and Barbara, tells them that if they want to go to Rome they can go themselves. That night Sevcheria and Didius invade the villa and abduct Ian and Barbara.

On the way to Rome, the Doctor and Vicki find the corpse of a musician. Vicki thinks the man was killed by robbers, but the Doctor disagrees, noticing that the musician’s lyre was left next to the body. A centurion comes across the Doctor while he’s holding the lyre and mistakes him for Maximus Pettulian, the murdered musician. Suspecting that the centurion knows something about the murder, the Doctor plays along, and finds out that Pettulian has been scheduled to perform at the court of Emperor Nero. While staying the night at Assysium, the centurion confronts the mute assassin, Ascaris, who killed the real Pettulian. The centurion chides him for failing to carry out his orders to kill the musician and tells him to rectify his “mistake.” The Doctor fights off Ascaris, who flees through a window, and Vicki finds that the centurion has left too. Despite Vicki’s misgivings, the Doctor decides to keep heading on to Nero’s court. Meanwhile Ian is immediately sold and placed as a rower on a galley while Barbara is taken to be sold at a slave auction in Rome. Barbara is purchased by a man named Tavius, who felt Barbara was worth helping because he saw her being kind to another slave. Tavius tells Barbara that he works for the imperial court and that she will be assigned to be a servant to Nero’s wife Poppaea, the cushiest position a slave could hope for. Although he’s sympathetic to Barbara’s plight, he also warns her that any attempt to escape would also lead to an automatic death sentence. Ian is saved when a severe storm sinks his ship; only him and a fellow slave he befriended, Delos, survive. Despite Delos’ protests, Ian vows to go to Rome and try to find Barbara, and Delos agrees to accompany him. Their expedition is cut short as at Rome both Ian and Delos are promptly arrested and condemned to fight in the arena. Ian quickly finds out that their opponents will be live lions.

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