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I'm settled in to watching the First Doctor era sequentially at the moment, but the next two stories to come up on that basis are ones I've already seen and reviewed: The Rescue and The Romans. That was way back in January 2008, so very much at the beginning of my Who-watching Odyssey, and at a time when I'd only seen three other First Doctor stories (An Unearthly Child, The Daleks and The Edge of Destruction). Nonetheless, looking back over my comments on them at the time, I do seem to have given them both quite a full treatment, and done a fairly good job of understanding how they fitted into the developing direction of the series at the time.

So I don't think it's actually necessary to re-watch them or re-review them now: although I certainly will need to revisit The Romans before next Easter, as the panel on Classics and Doctor which swisstone is organising has now been accepted, so my paper on Doctor Who and history is go! On the other hand, this did seem like a good opportunity to watch the extras for both stories included on the DVD releases, which did not even exist when I first watched both last year. Under the cuts are a few extra thoughts prompted by doing so.

First Doctor: The Rescue (DVD extras)
I don't think I picked up previously on the ambiguity of the title for this story. I just thought of it straightforwardly as Vicki's rescue - but now that I've seen Susan's departure in The Dalek Invasion of Earth, I'm more aware that it is also about the Doctor being rescued from the sadness which follows the loss of his granddaughter.

I did notice previously that the name of Vicki's home planet (Dido) is a rather nice lead-in to the next story, which is about Rome. At the time, I was thinking of the TARDIS crew, and particularly the Doctor, as Aeneas, visiting Carthage on their way to Rome, but departing somewhat from ancient mythology by taking Dido=Vicki with them. Now, though, it occurs to me to read Vicki herself as Aeneas, rather than as Dido. She isn't, after all, native to Dido - she is a visitor there herself, who has got stuck against her will and needs to be taken onwards on her travels. By that reading, the TARDIS crew would then be the gods, whose intervention in the Aeneid reminds Aeneas of his duty and prompts him to leave Dido. I can't really follow up on that reading by arguing that Vicki then somehow goes on to 'found' Rome in the next story - if anyone does that, it's the Doctor, who prompts the fire and thus causes the city to be rebuilt. But I still think I like Vicki-as-Aeneas better than Vicki-as-Dido now, especially given the divine role it then assigns to the TARDIS crew.

Finally, New Who watch notes that when Vicki is invited to leave Dido with the TARDIS crew, she exclaims "In that old box?" This seems to me to fit with a lot of instances in the new series where characters refer to the TARDIS as a 'blue box' or just a 'box', and reveals that this isn't as new a phenomenon as I'd assumed.

First Doctor: The Romans (DVD extras)
I noted when I first watched this that it serves up quite a schizophrenic view of Roman society, as decadent lovers of luxury on the one hand, but brutal and militaristic on the other. What I hadn't quite picked up on before, but was pointed out on one of the DVD extras, was the way this bi-partite view also relates to the division of the story into two separate plot strands. It is the Doctor and Vicki who get most of the fun out of this story, while Barbara and Ian get captured and sold into slavery (though obviously the division isn't absolute, since Barbara and Ian have a rather lovely time at the beginning too). It's almost as though the script is deliberately acknowledging the inconsistency between these two strands in popular conceptions of the ancient Romans, and refusing to try to reconcile them.

Secondly, I'm more aware now of how this story differs from the previous historicals, and how much the particular approach of Dennis Spooner is responsible for this. I noted when I watched The Reign of Terror that some of his characteristic traits are visible there, too - particularly the use of comedy. But it's as though he were holding himself back and testing the waters in The Reign of Terror, and has been given free reign here.

The most important consequence of this for me is that he is clearly more interested in self-referential commentary on the fictional nature of the programme than John Lucarotti, who had handled the previous historicals. Dialogue which plays around the issue of what language it is appropriate to speak in Roman Italy is a good example, since it draws attention to the fictional convention of having all aliens, past humans and future humans speaking contemporary English - though without attempting to offer any in-story explanation for it. This is very much part of what I see as a wider pattern of an increasingly theoretically-sophisticated approach to history over the first three seasons of Who, and central to what I'm going to talk about in my CA paper. So hooray for that.

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( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 11th, 2009 04:33 pm (UTC)
There are two interesting stories about Vicki's post-Tardis life which I recommend (not vital for your current project but tying in nicely). One is the very first of the current run of Companion Chronicles, Frostfire (2007), by Marc Platt, which has Vicki/Cressida in Carthage reminiscing about an adventure in early 19th-century London (with Jane Austen, no less). The other is a short story in the 2002 Short Trips: Companions anthology edited by Jacqueline Rayner, "Apocrypha Bipedium" by Ian Potter, which has her meeting the Eighth Doctor shortly after her escape from Troy (and his escape from the Daleks in the rather crap Big Finish The Time of the Daleks (which you can definitely skip, except for the fact that Eight and Charley are for obscure reasons travelling with the very young William Shakespeare). I imagine the former will be easier to get hold of than the latter!
Oct. 11th, 2009 04:49 pm (UTC)
Cor, you're great, you are! Again, many thanks for the input.

As you intimate, I'm leaving spin-off material out of the CA paper, to concentrate purely on the early TV series - I have to if for no other reason than that I only get 20 minutes to speak at the CA. But I'm definitely interested in any Classically-related spin-offs on my own account, and so much the more so when they tie in with the early stories I'll be treating in my paper. So I'll come back to these when I get the chance, and in the meantime many thanks for the recommendations.
Oct. 14th, 2009 10:06 pm (UTC)
For Vicki post-TARDIS, there's also the end of Cotton's novelization of The Myth Makers, though that's fairly brief.
Oct. 14th, 2009 10:09 pm (UTC)
Referring to the TARDIS as a 'blue box' or 'box' is pretty constant throughout the show's history. It's certainly in Carnival of Monsters, and elsewhere. It's not an innovation of New Who.
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