Doctor Who: The Romans (Story #12)

7.0 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 7/10

Humor part works

The slave part doesn't work as well


A Roman holiday? This should be fun!

The Doctor (William Hartnell), Ian (William Russell), Barbara (Jacqueline Hill) and the Doctor’s new companion Vicki (Maureen O’Brien) have landed in Rome under the control of Nero (Derek Francis) in 64 AD.  With Ian and Barbara are captured for slavery and Vicki and the Doctor are ushered into Nero’s court under the belief that the Doctor is a musician named Maximus Pettulian, the Doctor finds himself in the center of history and once again could turn the tides of time.

Doctor Who:  The Roman aired as part of the long running BBC series’ second season.  The serial aired in four parts from January 16, 1965 to February 6, 1965 with the titles of “The Slave Traders”, “All Roads Lead to Rome”, “Conspiracy”, and “Inferno”.  Following Doctor Who:  The Rescue, the serial was collected as part of The William Hartnell Years as Story #12 (and generally packaged with Doctor Who:  The Rescue on DVD).


Sit back and listen to the cool jazz of the Doctor

I really enjoy Doctor Who episodes where the Doctor arrives in a fixed point of Earth history.  It forces the Doctor into our history so you know that certain things can’t change…but it also generally leads to some laughs as history rights itself with the Doctor’s involvement.

Here, we see Nero’s Rome and an assassination attempt with the Doctor at the center of it.  Hartnell is mistaken.  This leads to a great almost meta-like performance by Hartnell of a lyre performance which no one can hear but everyone loves (aka like The Emperor’s New Clothes as the Doctor brings up).  It is quite ridiculous but works in the context of a story where you have the Doctor giving Nero the idea to just burn down Rome and start again.


Nope…not psycho at all here

This is contrasted with a weirdly serious secondary story with Barbara and Ian thrown into the slave pits and fighting for survival.  The two contrasted stories don’t necessarily work, and I would have rather the writers stick with the “funny” Nero story than go into the slave issue (which does become the joke at the end with Barbara and Ian and the Doctor and Vicki never crossing paths during their adventures).

I am thankful that this isn’t a six episode series.  With the short “The Rescue” storyline leading into this, I could have easily seen this episode expanded and drawn out into six episodes.  I think four episodes is probably the perfect length for Doctor Who at this time (if not still one episode too long).

I had a hard time getting the Hartnell Doctor figured out and I still find him a bit inconsistent.  The early episodes had him too hard, but he works much better in this format where there is some humor involved and he is less stodgy.  It feels closer to the tone of the current series than the first few storylines.  Doctor Who:  The Romans is followed by Doctor Who:  The Web Planet.

[easyazon-block align=”center” asin=”B001U3ZYXO” locale=”us”]

Preceded By:

Doctor Who:  The Rescue (Story #11)

Followed By:

Doctor Who:  The Web Planet (Story #13)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

Leave A Response