Importance: One of the first times the Doctor insists that some parts of history can’t be changed.
Synopsis: The TARDIS crew arrive in Mexico in the 15th Century. With the TARDIS trapped in a tomb, Barbara is mistaken for a female reincarnation of the ancient high priest Yetaxa, and assumes her guise and identity. From her new position of power, Barbara sees her chance to bring an end to human sacrifice. As something of an expert on this period, she sees how advanced their culture really is and believes that if sacrifice were abolished, they would be spared destruction at the hands of the Spanish. The Doctor’s urgent warnings that Barbara cannot change history fall on deaf ears, much to his fury.
The bloodthirsty Tlotoxl begins to suspect Barbara is not Yetaxa returned. He sets a series of elaborate traps for her and her companions. One of which leads to Barbara almost being poisoned.
Susan and the Doctor have meanwhile both become involved in marriage-making scenarios. Susan has transgressed Aztec law by refusing to marry the Perfect Victim, who has been scheduled for sacrifice by Tlotoxl on the day of the next eclipse; while the Doctor, who knows little of Aztec customs, has become accidentally engaged to an Aztec woman named Cameca.
Despite her efforts Barbara realizes that she cannot change an entire culture. The Doctor and his companions leave knowing that despite their intervention, history will take its pre-destined course. The Doctor comforts Barbara by telling her she did help Autloc find a better belief system. (synopsis modified from Wikipedia)
Thoughts: Barbara’s knowledge of history comes in handy in this episode. We also learn that this time period is actually one of her specialties, so her knowledge of the Aztecs is relatively extensive. When Barbara sees a chance to change history, possibly for the better, she jumps at the opportunity, but the Doctor knows that it can’t be.
There are many times in Doctor Who when the Doctor claims that there are fixed moments in time that cannot be rewritten. We see this with Pompeii, “The Waters of Mars”, and various other times. Barbara doesn’t listen to him and tries her best to stop human sacrifices, but ultimately fails. In the end, the Doctor, rather than saying, “I told you so” instead comforts Barbara. He knows that she didn’t listen, not out of rebellion, but because she wanted to make the world a better place. She wanted to try and save the Aztec society from destruction by the Spanish. The Doctor can’t be mad at her for that.
Barbara is a very kind person who was able to see past the human sacrifices and realize that the Aztecs were actually rather advanced for the time. She tries to see the best in people which is, what I believe, makes her so important to the group. The Doctor has learned not to judge as quickly as he used to, and seems to be more likely to give people chance, even if he doesn’t agree.
This episode also makes Ian’s rule as a kind of protector a little more obvious. Whenever there is any sort of physical peril, Ian is there to fight it off. He does this multiple times throughout this story. However, it does make me wonder how on earth Ian knows how to fight. Mostly, he seems to just be winging it, but he has taken on some pretty impressive opponents and won. I just find this interesting.
Watch It?: I think it’s a pretty valuable episode and would suggest watching it. It’s a strong episode for Barbara and Ian, and those tend to be my favorites.