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Recap: Doctor Who S2 E4 "The Romans"
I've got a friend who specializes in trouble. He dives in and usually finds a way.
Ian

Fun with the Romans, as the TARDIS arrives during the reign of Nero and take a little holiday at a villa outside Rome. The Doctor quickly gets bored and heads off into the city with Vicki while Ian and Barbara stay behind - only to be kidnapped by slave traders.

Meanwhile, the Doctor is mistaken for a famous musician and ordered to play the lyre for Nero, and goes through ever more ridiculous zany schemes to avoid having to reveal he can't play a note - at one point claiming that only the most musically-attuned ear can even hear his playing, before silently waving his fingers in front of the instrument.

Ian is sold as a galley slave while Barbara ends up as a servant at Nero's palace. Ian escapes when his ship is wrecked and heads to Rome to try and rescue Barbara, but is recaptured and made into a gladiator.

Eventually Ian escapes again and is reunited with Barbara, while the Doctor and Vicki make their escape after the Doctor accidentally sets fire to Nero's plans for the new city of Rome, giving him an idea about how to clear the space.

Watch it here.

Tropes

  • Artistic License - Religion / History: Tavius is shown clutching a cross pendant, indicating that he is a Christian. However, at the time of Nero, Christians would have used the ichthys as a symbol. The cross, reminiscent of Jesus' torture and death, would have been viewed negatively by early Christians. On the other hand, very few viewers (especially children) are going to recognise the ichthys.
  • Ancient Rome: A more humorous take.
  • Assassin Outclassin': The First Doctor runs rings around the mute assassin Ascaris sent to kill him, and ultimately ends up shoving him out of a window.
  • Badass Grandpa: The First Doctor takes on a centurion with his cane.
  • Black Comedy Rape: That wacky Nero trying to rape Barbara all the time!
  • Blofeld Ploy: After an unsuccessful attempt to break her out, Barbara is held by a guard. Nero advances on her with a sword, stabs... and the guard drops dead.
    Nero: He didn't fight hard enough.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: "Oh something else I forgot to tell you: I think I've poisoned Nero."
  • Breather Episode: Compared to the two preceding serials, The Romans is presented more like a farce than a drama, with slapstick fight scenes, sharp dialogue and much mistaking of identity. This odd-seeming choice was made to increase the dramatic range of the series.
  • The Caligula: Caesar Nero
  • Deadly Decadent Court: It's Emperor Nero, what else would you expect?
  • Did They or Didn't They?: Ian and Barbara, alone in the villa.
  • Gag Echo: In the first episode, Ian and Barbara are drinking in the villa. During a refill, Ian mentions there's no ice and Barbara says "there's some in the fridge." He actually starts to go until he realizes she's joking and they share a laugh. During the last episode, when the two get back to the villa, Barbara says that she's hungry and wonders if there's any food in the house. Ian tells her to look in the fridge. Barbara starts to go look, then realizes the joke and hits Ian with a pillow.
  • Galley Slave: Ian and Delos
  • Gladiator Games: What Ian's trying to avoid.
  • Good Old Fisticuffs: In Ian's absence, The Doctor gets a much-appreciated opportunity to practise his own skills at the noble art.
  • Grapes of Luxury: Barbara feeds Ian grapes in the opening scene.
  • Historical-Domain Character - Nero, Poppaea, Locusta, ...
  • Made a Slave: Ian and Barbara
  • Master Poisoner: Locusta
  • Missed Her By That Much: In the middle two episodes, the Doctor and Vicki repeatedly almost bump into Barbara, who would have been very glad to see them. In the end, they only meet her back at the villa and never realise she was in Rome at all.
  • Mistaken for Special Guest: The Doctor is mistaken for the famous lyre player Maximus Pettulian.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Barbara's heart was in the right place when she tried to attack the intruders in the villa, but hitting Ian on the head with an urn didn't exactly help them.
  • Noodle Incident: The Doctor recalls a couple: not only has he been to Rome before (an ad-lib by William Hartnell) but he also claims he trained the "Mountain Mauler of Montana" (presumably a famous boxer or wrestler).
  • Poisoned Chalice Switcheroo: Unusual in that the goblets are switched by a third party (Vicki).
  • Psychopathic Man Child: Nero.
  • Running Gag: "It's in the fridge."
    • In the first few episodes, the Doctor keeps forgetting the name of the man he is supposed to be impersonating.
  • Self Offense: Barbara hits Ian over the head with an urn while trying to hit the intruders.
  • Shoot the Dog: Tavius and the actual Petullian's plan is to off Nero.
  • Squee: Vicki's reaction when the Doctor says she can come to Rome with him. She does it again when she sees Nero for the first time.
  • What The Hell, Doctor?: Granted the First Doctor wasn't quite as pacifist as most of his successors, but it's still a bit alarming to see him looking delighted and cackling with glee when he realizes he was partly responsible for the burning of Rome.
  • While Rome Burns: Nero shows why he's the Trope Namer in his last scene.
  • Zany Scheme: Everything the Doctor does to keep people from finding out he can't play the lyre.

Doctor Who S2 E3 'The Rescue"Recap/Doctor WhoDoctor Who S2 E5 'The Web Planet"

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