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The Romans
Serial M

Written by Dennis Spooner
Directed by Christopher Barry


“The Romans” marks the first attempt by the makers of the programme to present the viewer with a radically different type of story to anything shown before. The serious historical epic of the first season gives way to a something very different in execution as the crew of the TARDIS find themselves in a comical 1st century Rome that bears little resemblance to the reality of those times.

It is Ian who undergoes the more traditional adventure as he becomes first a galley slave, then a gladiator. Barbara becomes a house slave in the imperial palace whilst the Doctor and Vicki are honoured guests in Nero’s palace, however a farcical case of mistaken identity means that there presence there has more sinister overtones.

It is the “adventures” of this latter pair and their encounters with the mad Emperor which deviate most from the norm as regards what is perceived to be the standard “Doctor Who” adventure. This manifests itself mostly in the performance of comic actor Derek Francis as Nero. The real Emperor at the time of the events depicted was twenty-six years of age and his wife, Poppaea was several years older than him. Derek Francis, at forty-one years of age at the time of production, was much older than the historical figure and this, when added to the presentation of his character, means that there is little reality achieved in showing the viewer how the historical Nero looked and acted.

When viewed out of context, the four episodes do overall add up to an amusing romp with a plot that never flags and performances that sparkle - all the cast seem to be enjoying themselves enormously. However, viewers in 1965, a scant three weeks after the huge success of “The Dalek Invasion of Earth” had a very different opinion: “This programme gets more and more bizarre; in fact it's so ridiculous it's a bore”, “suitable only for morons" and “transparently phony”.

These harsh views contrast with the huge success of this story in terms of viewing figures with episode 1 gaining an amazing 13 million viewers with the story as a whole obtaining an average figure of 11.6 million.

The four episodes had a small amount of pre-filming which was completed at the Ealing studios on 17th and 18th November 1964. The four episodes were committed to videotape at Riverside studio 1 on 18th December 1964 (followed by a one week break for Christmas) then 1st, 8th and 15th January 1965. The story is one of the few Hartnell historicals that exists in full in the BBC archives.

See Also:
BBCi Episode Guide
Doctor Who Reference Guide
Doctor Who's Tragical History Tour (Photographs)

Click to read: Broadcast Dates Broadcast Times
The Slave Traders 16th January, 1965 5:40pm - 6:05pm
All Roads Lead To Rome 23rd January, 1965 5:40pm - 6:05pm
Conspiracy 30th January, 1965 5:40pm - 6:05pm
Inferno 6th Febuary, 1965 5:40pm - 6:05pm

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