Sunday, 29 January 2023

Episode 55: All Roads Lead To Rome

The mute assassin Ascaris sneaks into the chamber where the Doctor and Vicki are staying...
He is spotted before he can attack and a fight ensues, which ultimately sees him leap out of the window and flee into the night. The Doctor proudly informs Vicki that he is no stranger to unarmed combat.
The next morning, they find that their Centurion escort has vanished, and so they set off alone on the last few miles to Rome.
Ian has been sold as a galley slave, and with his new friend Delos is planning a means of escape. An attempt to snatch the keys to their chains fails, but the vessel they are powering soon runs into a terrible storm. It is wrecked, but Ian is saved by Delos who drags him to the shore. Delos wishes to head for his home but Ian explains that he must go to Rome to find Barbara. Delos elects to accompany him. They remove their chains and make for the city.
Barbara is brought to a slave compound where a man named Tavius attempts to purchase her after seeing her kindness towards a fellow slave. Sevcheria insists that he must wait for the public auction.
The Doctor and Vicki arrive in the city and only narrowly miss Barbara being put on display.
Tavius outbids everyone else and buys her anyway, for 10,000 sestertia. She discovers that he is little more than a slave himself - a member of the Imperial household. He has bought her to act as a servant to the Empress Poppaea.
The Doctor and Vicki arrive at the palace. Tavius greets them, and seems to know all about Maximus Pettulian. They are then presented to the Emperor Nero, who arrives with his entourage. He claims to have been looking forward to meeting Pettulian and immediately orders him to play. The Doctor cannot play a note of music, however, and manages to bluff his way out of this by appealing to the Emperor's vanity. However, he realises he will have to perform for the Emperor sooner or later.
Tavius later tells the Doctor that the Centurion they had met on the road is now in the apodyterium. When they go there, they find the soldier's dead body. The Doctor had suspected that the elderly lyre player was involved in some form of intrigue, and this confirms it.
Ian and Delos arrive in the city, but are quickly captured. They are handed over to Sevcheria, who informs them that they will now be trained to fight in the arena. On hearing Ian's name, the slave woman who was earlier helped by Barbara is able to tell him that she has been sold on.
Ian and Delos wonder who or what they are to fight, and discover that it will be wild animals...
Next episode: Conspiracy

Written by: Dennis Spooner
Recorded: Friday 1st January, 1965 - Riverside Studio 1
First broadcast: 5:40pm, Saturday 23rd January 1965
Ratings: 11.5 million / AI 51
Designer: Raymond P Cusick
Director: Christopher Barry
Additional cast: Derek Francis (Nero), Kay Francis (Poppaea), Peter Diamond (Delos), Michael Peake (Tavius), Gertan Klauber (Galley Master), Brian Proudfoot (Tigilinus), Dorothy Rose-Gribble (Slave Woman)

Last week we mentioned some bad history - and there is a lot more of it to come in this story. This week, we have the representation of the Emperor Nero.
Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus was the final Emperor of the Julio-Claudian Dynasty, coming to power on the death of step-father Claudius in 54AD. In 64AD, the year in which this story is set, he was only 27 years old.
He and his mother, Agrippina the Younger, were alleged to have poisoned Claudius so that he would inherit the throne. He was also thought to have murdered Claudius' natural son Britannicus and his first wife - the latter so that he could marry Poppaea Sabina. His mother hoped to rule through him, but he quickly grew tired of her influence over him and so he engineered her death - sending her home from a feast in a ship which was designed to fall apart once out at sea. She survived this and swan to shore - only to be killed by his soldiers a short time later.
Poppaea was born in Pompeii in 30AD, and married Nero in 62AD - her third husband. It is claimed she encouraged him to kill his mother, intent on being the only woman in his life.

The actor chosen to play Nero - Derek Francis - was 41 at the time of production, so far too old to match the historical figure.
Francis was one of the first actors to approach the series requesting a role. He was an old friend of Jacqueline Hill and her husband, director Alvin Rakoff, and had also enjoyed working with William Hartnell in the past.
Francis and his wife ran a puppet theatre at their home, and during production they invited the cast and crew to parties each week.
It is a myth that Francis was selected for this role as he was a well-known comic character actor, suitable for a more comedic story. It was only later that he featured in a few of the Carry On... films - Doctor, Abroad, Camping, Loving, Henry and Matron - and appeared in TV sitcoms Oh Brother! and All Gas and Gaiters
Up until now he had mostly played policemen and other authority figures.

Notable performances as Nero in other productions include Christopher Biggins in I, Claudius (BBC 1976); Anthony Andrews in Anno Domini (1985); Klaus Maria Brandauer in a TV version of Quo Vadis? (1985); Peter Ustinov in the 1951 Hollywood film version; and Andrew Lee-Potts in Boudica (2003) - in which Alex Kingston played the title character.

Some unusual background to the Doctor is revealed as he enthuses to Vicki about the gentle art of fisticuffs - or unarmed combat. He mentions having trained with the "Mountain Mauler of Montana". This sounds very much like a wrestler. He mentions sparring with John L Sullivan whilst in his third incarnation, so perhaps the "Mauler" might also be a bare-knuckle-boxer.
William Hartnell injured his hand in this opening fight sequence.

The galley set consisted of only a small section of oarsmen either side of Russell and Diamond, who all later appeared as citizens, soldiers or members of Nero's entourage. Buckets of water were thrown over them to simulate the storm, coupled with lighting effects and erratic camera moves. The camera noticeably knocks into part of the set at one point. Footage of a Roman type ship was provided by the Rank Organisation.

  • The latest historical story is not proving very popular. Ratings drop by one and a half million, and the AI falls to 51 - the lowest score to date. 
  • Critics, on the other hand, are really enjoying it. There are some very positive reviews in the press, who like the educational aspects of the story.
  • Owing to the Christmas break, there is now only a three week gap between recording and broadcast.
  • To set the scene for the move to Rome, the word "ROMA" was shown on screen, superimposed over a model of the city from the Museo della Civilta Romana. This model actually depicts the city as it was during the time of Constantine - centuries after Nero's reign.
  • Brian Proudfoot had portrayed the Doctor for the location filming on The Reign of Terror.
  • To save employing Dennis Edwards to play the corpse of the Centurion, the legs of an extra are seen in the apodyterium. Edwards would make a return to the series, but not until 1978 when he played the Time Lord physician Gomer in The Invasion of Time.
  • Gertan Kaluber had just played a slave trader in Carry On Cleo (Marcus of Marcus and Spencius...). He would return to the series sooner - as security chief Ola in The Macra Terror.
  • Kay Patrick was another friend of the director, and he had been promising her a decent role for some time. He would later use her again in The Savages.
  • An apodyterium was a changing room associated with bath houses.
  • The sestertius was a brass coin, equivalent to 5 pence today.
  • "Second Man in Market" is played, appropriately for this story, by extra John Caesar... Caesar was a background actor in a number of stories from The Dalek Invasion of Earth (as a Roboman) to Invasion of the Dinosaurs (as RT operator / soldier).

No comments:

Post a Comment