[[caption-width-right:251: And we thought Rory was the only one who had [[NoodleIncident mostly unseen]] [[Recap/DoctorWhoS31E12ThePandoricaOpens adventures in the Roman Empire!]] ]]

-> '''The Doctor:''' I don't know! Isn't that brilliant? I love not knowing! Keeps me on me toes. It must be awful being a prophet, waking up every morning, "Is it raining? Yes, it is. I said so." Takes all the fun out of life.

This episode was inspired by the very similar AudioPlay/BigFinishDoctorWho episode "[[Recap/BigFinishDoctorWho012TheFiresOfVulcan The Fires of Vulcan]]".


The Doctor and Donna land in AncientRome, ready to have more fun than an amphora of monkeys.

Except after some searching, they discover that they've landed in Pompeii, on August 23, 79 A.D., which means it's the day before Mount Vesuvius erupts and Pompeii's streets get re-paved with lava. Donna immediately requests the Doctor's help to organize a mass evacuation and save everyone, but the Doctor claims to be unable to do anything about this: he doesn't ''say'' "[[Recap/DoctorWhoS1E6TheAztecs You can't change history, Barbara; not one line]]", but he is probably thinking it.

So they go for the ''other'' secret Time Lord manoeuvre: running away, much to Donna's frustration. Unfortunately, the TARDIS is missing; while they were walking around, a street merchant seized it (justified, as it ''was'' parked on his market's place) and sold it to Caecilius, a local marble merchant with a dysfunctional family (a hungover son and an oracle daughter) AND a taste for avant-garde art. It's not the first time [[Recap/DoctorWhoS17E2CityOfDeath the TARDIS has been mistaken for an art installation.]]

Caecilius is then attacked by a massive magma-thing (which is stopped by a bucket of water) and it is revealed that the volcano fumes inhaled by his oracle daughter to boost her visions are slowly turning her into stone. Also, a local prophet claims that there's something on Donna's back. This will be important [[Recap/DoctorWhoNSS4E11TurnLeft later]]. And he says that a planet has apparently gone missing. This will be ''very'' important [[Recap/DoctorWhoNSS4E12TheStolenEarth later]]. Meanwhile, Caecilius has a freaking computer circuit made of stone, so the Doctor decides to stick around a bit longer.

The Doctor confronts the oracles (with a Walther P38 water pistol) and finds out why someone ordered a load of marble power-converters.

The Doctor finds out that Vesuvius isn't going to erupt if he just leaves; he needs to ''make'' it erupt. If Pompeii doesn't erupt, then since the [[MonsterOfTheWeek alien menace of the week]] hasn't been destroyed, a race of lava golems will turn humans into more golems, boil the ocean and conquer the world. Donna realises for the first time that travelling with the Doctor can be very morally disturbing. They make the volcano erupt, both fully expecting to die, but it turns out the explosion device was inside an escape pod. Donna convinces the Doctor to go back and save Caecilius and his family. Because not everyone is an über-depressed near-suicidal Time Lord, and sometimes the Doctor forgets that. Six months later, Caecilius and his family have their lives back on track, the daughter is finally socialising like a (in our time, anyway) normal teenager, and that wastrel son is making good of himself, studying to be a doctor (not that kind). And their new house gods altar, with a box flanked by this man and this woman, look suspiciously familiar...

The casting for this episode turned out to be quite auspicious: Phil Davis ("Lucius") would play the first antagonist in ''Series/{{Sherlock}}'' (a series run by the same show runners as ''Doctor Who''); Tracey Childs ("Metella")[[note]]who had previously appeared in AudioPlay/BigFinishDoctorWho[[/note]] would go on to become a regular Big Finish companion; Creator/KarenGillan (Soothsayer scout) would return as [[YouLookFamiliar Amy Pond]], one of the longest-serving companions in the series; and Creator/PeterCapaldi ("Caecilius") would have a supporting role in ''Series/TorchwoodChildrenOfEarth'' and later take the helm of the show as the Twelfth Doctor himself.

* AccidentalArt: PlayedForLaughs, as Caecilius is sold the TARDIS as a work of modern art. His wife calls it a "great waste of space".
* AncientRome: Sort of; we do get there eventually.
* ArcWords: Medusa Cascade, Shadow Proclamation, something on Donna's back.
* BigNo: Lucius Petrus Dextrus and the High Priestess. Both do it twice.
* CallBack: The Doctor's mention of "Volcano Day" refers to a comment by Jack Harkness in ''The Empty Child'', who mentioned using Pompeii several times to pull cons where he'd sell alien ships or technology, only for the eruption to wipe away the evidence before his mark's realised that he'd actually sold them bits of old junk.
** Not to mention the Doctor mentioning that he had [[Recap/DoctorWhoS2E4TheRomans nothing to do with Rome burning.]]
* CityOfWeirdos: The Doctor assures Donna they won't stand out, as ancient Rome is "[[TakeThat like Soho, but bigger.]]" It still applies after it turns out they're in Pompeii.
* ClimacticVolcanoBackdrop: ''Inside'' Vesuvius, no less.
* ComeWithMeIfYouWantToLive: Although he doesn't say the "if you want to live" part.
* ContinuityNod: the Doctor's comment about the Great Fire of Rome is a reference back to "[[Recap/DoctorWhoS2E4TheRomans The Romans]]" (way back with the First Doctor).
** It's [[Recap/DoctorWhoNSS1E10TheDoctorDances Volcano Day]]!
** The Doctor admits that Donna was right -- sometimes he needs someone to stop him.
* ConvectionSchmonvection: [[JustifiedTrope Justified]]; most of the heat is being taken by the Pyroviles.
* CreatorInJoke: Latin students everywhere stand a chance of recognising Caecillius and his family. They feature in the ''Literature/CambridgeLatinCourse'', a widely used Latin textbook series.
** Well, Caecilius, Quintus and Metella do. Evalina is made up. [[GovernmentConspiracy Probably...]]
* TheCretaceousIsAlwaysDoomed
* DeadpanSnarker: The Doctor, when Donna is about to be sacrificed.
-->'''Priestess''': This prattling voice will cease forever.
-->'''The Doctor''': Oh, that'll be the day.
* EstablishingCharacterMoment: Donna sharing the burden with the Doctor of having to cause Vesuvius's eruption, and later pleading with him to save just one family. It's not hard to see why the Doctor became such good friends with her.
* FaintingSeer: The daughter, who faints after telling the Doctor that he is a "Lord of Time".
* {{Foreshadowing}}: The augur tells Donna that there is "something on her back". There will be, in "[[Recap/DoctorWhoNSS4E11TurnLeft Turn Left]]". He also tells the Doctor "she is returning", referring to Rose.
** "The explosion was so powerful it cracked open a rift in time."
* HappilyMarried: Caecillius and Metella.
* HistoricalDomainCharacter: In reality, Lucius Caecilius Iucundus was a Roman ''banker'' who lived in Pompeii at the time of the 62 AD eruption, during which he most likely died. He's most well known to modern audiences due to being fictionalised by the ''Literature/CambridgeLatinCourse'', in which he survived the earlier quake to perish during the Vesuvius eruption, seventeen years later.
* [[IAmSpartacus I Am.....Spartacus]]: "And so am I."
* ImMrFuturePopCultureReference: With bonus IAmSpartacus joke included absolutely free.
** Not to mention that 2000 years later, the English language itself still frequently throws ''Latin'' into everyday conversation.
* IncrediblyLamePun: The Doctor, while in the volcano: "Don't get yourselves in a lava!" (Turns to Donna) "Lava...no?" She just shakes her head.
* KeepItForeign: The TARDIS's telepathic field translates Latin phrases in Celtic phrases, and English into Latin.
* KillItWithWater
** Or a [[LethalJokeItem Walther P38 water pistol]]
* LivingLieDetector: Both augers/soothsayers visibly unnerve the Doctor and Donna by seeing right through their stories and made-up identities and telling them things about them they couldn't have possibly known.
-->'''Lucius:''' "Is that so? Man from Gallifrey. And you, daughter of... London!"
-->'''Evalina:''' "And you, you call yourself Noble...You are a lord sir, a lord of time."
* MassOhCrap: The Pompeiians, Herculaneans, and Stabiaeans have one.
* MeaningfulName: Lots. but particularly Lucius Petrus Dextrus (literally translating to Lucius '''Stone Right Arm'''!). These were all deliberate - Creator/RussellTDavies was channelling ''ComicBook/{{Asterix}}'' and asked James Moran to put them in.
* MistakenForExhibit: Not only is the TARDIS mistaken for a modern art installation, but an enterprising street trader has sold it to a wealthy marble merchant, kicking off the plot. Probably meant to be PlayedForLaughs.
* MistakenForSpecialGuest: Not addressed in the episode, but there's a subtle indication that Donna is seen as someone of high status, when the soothsayers note her true name is "Noble" and that throughout this episode she wears purple, which was seen at the time to indicate wealth and status.
* OhCrap: The Doctor is initially unimpressed (and slightly amused) by the supposed prophets. Then Lucius addresses him as "Man from Gallifrey", which clearly alarms him.
* OutrunTheFireball
* ProphecyTwist: The Doctor says Pompeii's destruction is "a fixed point" that he can't prevent, even though thousands will die. It's worse than that, he has to ''make'' Vesuvius erupt to {{save the world}}.
* PsychicPowers: The Sibylline sisterhood have them as a side-effect of the Pyroviles' presence.
* PunnyName: The producers must have had a lot of fun inserting any Ancient Rome puns they could, like Lucius ''Petrus Dextrus'', Donna asking Evelina if she's been to ''TK Maxx''imus, and an obligatory IAmSpartacus joke..
* RunningGag: Because of the TARDIS, Donna (and we) hear the Romans' Latin as English, so if you speak to them in Latin it's translated into Celtic.
** When the Doctor and Quintus are cornered by Lucius Petrus Dextrus and his men, the Doctor mutters, "morituri te salutant" ("those who are about to die salute you") and Lucius Petrus Dextrus says, "Celtic prayers won't help you now."
* SadisticChoice: Save Pompeii and let the Pyroviles convert everyone or save the world and let Pompeii be buried.
* ShoutOut to ''Series/FawltyTowers'' when the Doctor explains away some of Donna's remarks with "she's from... Barcelona".
** The scene of Caecilius's family rushing to their positions during the pre-eruption earthquakes could be one of the Admiral Boom scenes in ''Film/MaryPoppins''.
** Caecilius, Metella and Quintus come from ''Literature/CambridgeLatinCourse'', the most popular Latin textbook in the UK and US (not Evelina, though - she was created especially for the episode).
** The Doctor drops a reference to the upcoming 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Caecilius assumes "San Francisco" is the name of a new restaurant in Naples.
* TakenForGranite
* TakeOverTheWorld
* WatchingTroyBurn
* WeaksauceWeakness: A giant, badass-looking alien warrior made of magma and rock... and [[KillItWithWater a bucket of water]] [[AnticlimaxBoss takes it down instantly]].
** The Doctor later uses this to his advantage by arming himself with... a water pistol.
* WhatHaveWeEar: The Doctor does this to Quintus to bribe him into taking him to Lucius Petrus Dextrus's house.
* TheXOfY
* YouHaveGotToBeKiddingMe: Donna's rather atypical response to being turned into a ''very'' typical altar sacrifice. [[BigDamnHeroes Well, almost.]]
* YouHaveToBelieveMe: The Doctor tries to discourage Donna from warning people about Vesuvius erupting, saying she'll be dismissed as a mad soothsayer. When it does erupt, she tries to scream to people not to go to the beach (where the ash cloud will still be lethal), but no one listens to her.
* YouLookFamiliar: Retroactively. Oh look, it's [[Creator/PeterCapaldi the Doctor]] and [[Creator/KarenGillan a companion.]]