12) THE ROMANS

16 January - 6 February 1965

Average Viewing Figure: 11.6M

Plot

Arriving in Rome in 64AD, The Doctor and companions must escape before the great fire of Rome starts

Cast

William Hartnell (The Doctor), William Russell (Ian Chesterton), Jacqueline Hill (Barbara Wright), Maureen O'Brien (Vicki)

Derek Sydney (Sevcheria), Nicholas Evans (Didius), Dennis Edwards (Centurion), Margot Thomas (Stall Holder)

Edward Kelsey (Slave Buyer), Bart Allison (Maximus Pettulian), Barry Jackson (Ascaris), Peter Diamond (Delos), Michael Peake (Tavius)

Dorothy-Rose Gribble (Woman Slave), Gertan Klauber (Gallery Master), Ernest Jennings (1st Man in Market)

John Caesar (2nd Man in Market), Tony Lambden (Court Messenger), Derek Francis (Nero), Brian Proudfoot (Tigilinus)

Kay Patrick (Poppaea), Ann Tirard (Locusta)

Uncredited Cast

Rosemary Devitt, Rilla Madden, Gladys Bacon, Barbara Mansfield, Pat Amrbose, Ursula Granville,  (Women in Market)

John Fry, John de Marco, Frank Wheatley, Harry Davies, George Dale, David Brewster, Ronald Adams, Jack Collins

John Sagar, Nigel Clayton,(Men in Market), Vez Delahunt, Roy Reeves, Pat Donoghue, Jim Appleby, Paul Andrews, Tony Lee

Les Wilkinson, Richard Widling (Gallery Slaves), Roy Reeves, Pat Donoghue (Soldiers), Paul Duval, Janos Kurucz (Gladiators) 

Diana Chapman, Alison Leney (Woman Slaves at Banquet), Paul Blomey, Steve Peters (Men Slaves at Banquet) 

Crew

Dennis Spooner (Writer), Ron Grainer (Title Music), Raymond Jones (Incidental Music), Peter Diamond (Fight Arranger)

Daphne Dare (Costume Supervisor), Sonia Markham (Make-Up Supervisor), Howard King (Lighting), Richard Chubb (Sound)

Raymond P Cusick (Designer), Mervyn Pinfield (Associate Producer), Verity Lambert (Producer), Christopher Barry (Director)

Uncredited Crew

Delia Derbyshire (Theme Arrangement), Dennis Spooner (Script Editor), Valier Wilkins (Assistant Floor Manager)

Dick Bush (Film Cameraman), Jim Latham (Film Editor), David Maloney (Production Assistant), Brian Hodgson (Special Sound)

Broadcast

Filming Locations

  • Ealing Film Studios: Stage 2

  • Riverside Studio 1

Deaths

  • Sevcheria [killed by Delos]

  • Centurion [killed under the orders of Tavius]

  • Maximus Pettulian [murdered by Ascaris]

  • Tigilinus [dies after drinking a poisoned drink]

Production Days

  • 6 days between Tuesday 17 November 1964 - Friday 15 January 1965

Production Errors

  1. A piece of wood hits the camera at one point causing a white line to appear across the screen

  2. A lens flare appears across the camera during the scene when Nero chases Barbara around the room 

  3. During episode one, Didius attempts four times to puts his sword away, before putting it away in his scabbard

  4. Derek Francis is far old to play Nero, since Nero was middle aged in 64AD and not a grown adult 

  5. Some of the swords are not the right shape

Working Titles

  • [no known working titles]

Verdict

Unlike its historical predecessors, The Romans manages to blend both comedy and drama to create scenes intended to give the audience a laugh. William Hartnell and Derek Francis are the best comedy duo pairing in the show’s history, continually playing off on and other, and always trying to outwit the other through visual and verbal jokes. Dennis Spooner goes for a more subtle approach to the comedic elements of the story; The Doctor playing the lyre and Nero painstakingly trying not to look like a common fool, the poisoning of the mute Tigilinus, and Nero’s reaction are just a couple of highlights. Comedy aside, there is also a darker side to the story, with no cheerfulness in the depiction of slavery and slave labour or gladiator combat. Ian for a while is sold as slave, and is almost killed in a freak storm, we don’t find out that Ian survived the shipwreck until later on. It’s a haunting image that Ian could have died, and The Doctor would be none the wiser as to the fate of his closest friend. The burning of Rome is also a haunting moment. Firstly, it is The Doctor who inadvertently gives Nero the idea to burn Rome down so he can build a new one, revealing that The Doctor’s exploration across space and time does have its consequences. Secondly, Nero is portrayed as a man who can be calm and collective one moment, and diabolically insane the next. Look at the way he cackles whilst playing a lyre as Rome burns. He’s the epitome of all villains. 
The plot is both sleek and highly engaging, where The Doctor/Vicki and Ian/Barbara continually miss each other, as they venture through Rome, with both pairs remaining oblivious to the other’s presence. There’s a funny idea at the end, where each pair presumes that the other has been waiting for them to return to the Villa which they have been borrowing, without any second thought as to another explanation for their short-term absence. There are a few timing issues, now and again, but it’s the comedy which keeps the story afloat. 
The Romans is a beautiful piece of television buts it not without its shortcomings. Whilst sets like Nero’s palace and the Ship’s gallery are a success, others like the country path and market are rather underwhelming and not that visually stunning to look at. Again, these are forgivable due to the brilliant cast, gorgeous costumes, and impressive visual effects: arguably the best historical narrative in Doctor Who history. ****