Doctor Who/The Aztecs

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The Aztecs
Airdate May 23, 1964
Production Number F
Writer(s) John Lucarotti
Director(s) John Crockett
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The Keys of Marinus
007 →
The Sensorites
Doctor WhoSeason One


The Aztecs is the sixth serial of the first season of Doctor Who, and the sixth serial overall.

Guest Stars: Keith Pyott (Autloc), John Ringham (Tlotoxl), Ian Cullen (Ixta), Margot Van der Burgh (Cameca), Walter Randall (Tonila), Andre Boulay (The Perfect Victim), Tom Booth (First Victim), David Anderson (Aztec Captain)

Plot Overview

The Temple of Evil

The TARDIS lands in an ancient Aztec tomb. When Barbara emerges wearing a bracelet (found within the tomb), she is mistaken for the goddess Yetaxa. The others are presumed to be her servants. This is fortunate, since the passage they used to leave the tomb sealed itself, and they can't get back in.

At the high priests' urging, she grants her "servants" free movement throughout the city. Ian is forced to accept leadership as their Chosen Warrior. The current Chosen Warrior, Ixta, is not pleased with the change, but he is polite and well mannered. One of Ian's duties will be to assist in the human sacrifice. Not only that, but he will have to fight Ixta in order to win his position as the Chosen Warrior.

The Doctor meets Cameca, a widow, whose husband helped build the tomb they so desperately need to get back into. She will arrange a meeting with her son who has some of the construction drawings.

Barbara creates a stir and makes an enemy of the High Preist of Sacrifice, Tlotoxl, when she forbidds a human sacrifice. All participants obey her except the would-be victim. Not willing to be denied the honor of being sacrificed, he leaps to his death instead. Tlotoxl accuses her of being a false god.

The Warriors of Death

As the high preist Autloc looks on Ian defeats Ixta using only his thumb in a two-handed "attack" that renders his opponent unconscious. Tlotoxl, refusing to accept the verdict of this defeat, conspires to have the Perfect Victim request a rematch. The Perfect Victim is a willing victim chosen for an upcoming sacrifice. His requests in the days before the sacrifice are not to be denied.

Tlotoxl formally challenges Barbara's status as the goddess Yetaxa. However when Autloc quizzes her, she draws upon her knowledge of Aztec studies and passes his tests, remaining a god in his eyes. Privately however, Tlotoxl still does not believe she is a god.

Susan is in a seminary as punishment for speaking out of turn. There she is studying The Code of the Good Housewife with Autloc as her teacher.

The Doctor meets with Cameca's son, still unaware that he is Ixta, the man against whom Ian must fight. He agrees to help Ixta win the challenge so that he will show him drawings of the tomb's construction.

For the second time Ian fights Ixta, this time bare handed. Ian seems to be winning until Ixta scratches him with a thorn: a thorn given to him by the Doctor. The medicine on the thorn drains Ian's strength bit by bit until Ixta can easily beat him. With Ian weakening, Tlotoxl changes the nature of the contest to a fight to the death.

The Bride of Sacrifice

Having heard of the medicine that the Doctor uniwttingly gave to Ian's opponent, Barbara rushes to the site of the challenge. She arrives just in time to save Ian with a divine proclaimation. A groggy Ian overhears Ixta tell Tlotoxl that no drawings exist of the tomb's construction. He used the promise of the drawings to deceive Yetaxa's eldest servant (the Doctor).

Still dissatisfied with Yetaxa's meddling, Tlotoxl enlists Tonila's help in poisoning Yetaxa to test whether or not she is a true god. With Ian hiding in the shadows Barbara realizes they have come to poison her. In a fitting display of divine rage she smashes the cup on the floor and sends them away. Tonila leaves with Tlotoxl lagging behind. Barbara tells him privately that she is, in fact, not a god. She adds an angry warning that she can denounce him at any time, destroying him in the eyes of the others.

Meanwhile the Doctor and Cameca share a drink of chocolate that he prepared. But it is not the simple pleasure the doctor believes it to be; it is a proposal!

More conniving than ever, Tlotoxl again conspires with the Perfect Victim. This time he chooses Susan to be his bride. Susan's subsequent refusal is a grave misstep -- the Perfect Victim's requests cannot be denied. She will be punished at the Day of Darkness (an eclipse) in two days time.

Ian, who has been sleeping at Ixta's house, sneaks away to meet the Doctor, who has found an opening leading under the tomb. Ian uses his strength to remove the cover and borrows the Doctor's torch (battery-powered). However after Ian is in the tunnel, Ixta appears. Ian was followed. He replaces the cover. With Ian sealed inside, Ixta tells the Doctor that the tunnel is a water channel used to flood the garden from time to time.

The Day of Darkness

The Doctor admits that Ian is inside the tunnel and pleads with Ixta to reopen it, but Ixta already knows. He leaves Ian sealed inside. Despite the water, Ian is able to make his way back into the tomb. He ties a leather strap to the door so that this time they will be able to get back in.

Ian then frees Susan, who is being guarded by Ixter, and brings her to the tomb entrace. With everyone at the temple they try to re-open the door to the tomb, but the leather strap breaks. Ian decides that that he will just have to go through the tunnel again.

Susan and Ian go to the tunnel entrance in the garden. They find Autloc unconscious on the ground. Ian's weapon is lying nearby. It's a set up! Guards come to take him away. He is sentenced to death.

Autloc, disillusioned with the Aztec way of life, bribes the man guarding Susan with the deed to his house and property. The man isn't very receptive to the offer, so Ian knocks him over the head and takes his uniform.

The time has come for the Day of Darkness ceremony. Tlotoxl makes his move and attacks Barbara, but Ian (posing as a guard) foils the attempt. Tlotoxl calls for Ixta; and high upon the pyramid Ian and Ixta fight until at last Ian throws Ixta off the pyramid to his death.

Using a wooden pulley the Doctor carved, they open the door and make their escape, just before Tlotoxl and his guards arrive. Outside, the eclipse begins and the sacrifice proceeds.


Arc Advancement



  • When Barbara is planning to forbid the human sacrifice, the Doctor tells her that it is impossible to change history. He then adds that he knows, implying that he has tried to change history before.
  • The Doctor leaves the token (of affection) that Cameca gave him with the corpse in the tomb, perhaps signifying that he is letting go of her and trying to leave his feelings for her behind as well.



The Show

Behind the Scenes

Allusions and References

Memorable Moments


Having failed in her attempt to stop the Aztec practice of human sacrifice, Barbara asks the Doctor, "What's the point of travelling through time and space if you can't change anything?"


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