The four time travellers are enjoying a rare holiday, staying at a villa not far from Rome in the year 64 AD. The Doctor soon becomes restless and sets off to visit the city, taking Vicki with him. In their absence, Ian and Barbara are kidnapped by slave traders.
Having been mistaken for the famous lyre player Maximus Pettulian and asked to perform at the Emperor Nero's Court, the Doctor has to devise ever more elaborate schemes to avoid revealing that he cannot actually play the instrument.
THE ROMANS. For many DOCTOR WHO fans the very title causes night-sweats, uncontrolled bowel movements and psychological anxiety. Regarded as a "turkey", it has garnered a reputation for being too far removed from the DOCTOR WHO brand - a theatrical farce.
However, if Robert (writer of NEW SERIES, DALEK episode) Shearman can describe it as his favourite CLASSIC SERIES story - as he does in the DVD EXTRAS for this release - then fans must be missing the point.
Personally, the combined release of both THE ROMANS and THE RESCUE will give the Hartnell stories a new lease of appreciation. And THE ROMANS will come off the better.
Dennis Spooner's second penned story (following THE REIGN OF TERROR ) should be regarded in the same exemplary way that Russell T Davies' ROSE premiere re-tooled the DOCTOR WHO legacy for the preceding four years. It created an opportunity for storytelling to be "real", witty and horrific in the same measure.
THE ROMANS is clever storytelling. A delight to watch.
Re-watch this superbly cleaned-up, re-mastered and VIDFIREd (you can even delineate Hartnell's wig cap "hairline" due to the clarity) classic, focus your attention on the theee-way story "arc", the balance of light & dark humour and the attention to detail across the production (sound effects, costume and set design).
Although THE RESCUE's DVD presentation was disappointing, its DVD boxset cohort's content is entertainingly addictive. A highlight? Singular? No. Multiple. ROMA PARVA, WHAT HAS THE ROMANS EVER DONE FOR US?, GIRLS! GIRLS! GIRLS! - THE 1960'S and DENNIS SPOONER: WANNA WRITE A TV SERIES? are fascinating and genuine.
ROMA PARVA is like a having a large bag of M&Ms. You know you should share them with others but you don't want to. This short feature is a personal guided tour of THE ROMMANS set-design courtesy of (Director) Christopher Barry (in summer shorts!) and Raymond Cusick's art department ¼" scaled cardboard model. The Director examines the limitations of studio D at the Riverside Studios circa 1965, with "lackies" having to untangle numerous camera power cables and how just two corridors can be re-shot to make a DOCTOR WHO set feel labyrinthine. At the end of nine minutes you can only wonder in awe at how DOCTOR WHO ever got made in the first place without CGI and experts at THE MILL.
WHAT HAS THE ROMANS EVER DONE FOR US? is revelatory for Robert Shearman's comment, as was Kay Patrick's (Pompaea) thought provoking comment that the story was akin to the computer-generated movie, SHREK.
It has been long over due but DENNIS SPOONER's appreciative documentary is marginally the DVD release highlight. A consummate professional writer (ahead of his time?) whose career spanned other legendary TV series is frequently overlooked (primarily due to his unwarranted reputation created by THE ROMANS ). This documentary readdresses the balance, even to the extent of drawing a comparison to former Script Editor, Douglas Adams. DENNIS SPOONER: WANNA WRITE A TV SERIES? is affectionate and enlightening, and with a tea-cosy balancing on the end of the sand-wedge club what more could you ask for.
With Jean Marsh categorically stating that she never thought that she was a DOCTOR WHO companion, and Deborah Watling cheekily admitting that she loved every minute of the swinging sixties (.and we all know what she means by that.), GIRLS! GIRLS! GIRLS! - THE 1960'S is a rendezvous with the salacious small screen stalwarts of time & space travel. You dig? I dig.
BLUE PETER. Attero vices pro totus .
The DVD EXTRA commentary is more upbeat than that of THE RESCUE , and includes touching memories of both the story's Production Assistant, David Maloney and it's Producer, Verity Lambert
Christopher Barry on Verity Lambert: The most supportive Producer and one you respect her immensely. Young, bright and of that day. She was extraordinarily diligent. She had a very natural authority. Very natural. She'll be missed.
DOCTOR WHO - THE ROMANS DVD release will redefine existing views of jaded CLASSIC SERIES fans. With a higher than usual "body-count" (Nero dispassionately despatching two of his undervalued household on a whim), a sexual undercurrent of debauchery and production values that exceed the norm, Spooner's template for WHO future deservedly needed to be re-evaluated. It was overdue.
Vicis can exsisto inhumanus tamen can exsisto pensus.