“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
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
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.