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'Doctor Who' top 10 best stories: 10 - 'The Aztecs'

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Digital Spy readers named David Tennant as Doctor Who's greatest ever Doctor - now, with just 10 weeks to go until the 50th anniversary, DS is embarking on a new quest... to list the top 10 Who stories of all time.

We kick off with a William Hartnell classic - a sublime character drama set in 15th century Mexico that saw Doctor Who confront the dangers of time-travel and changing history for the first time...

10. THE AZTECS (1964) - Four episodes - written by John Lucarotti

William Hartnell and John Ringham in 'The Aztecs'

© BBC

William Hartnell and John Ringham in 'The Aztecs'



Narrowing down Doctor Who's (as-of-writing) 239 stories to the 10 best was an incredibly difficult task, but one serial that was always guaranteed to make it into this writer's own personal 'Best Of' list is John Lucarotti's fantastic jaunt into history, 'The Aztecs'.

William Hartnell's first Doctor struck gold early on - his sixth story is his very best, with a multi-layered and powerful script, excellent guest performances and great turns from the regular cast. In particular, Hartnell and Jacqueline Hill (Barbara) are incredible here.

One of many unfair accusations sometimes levelled at classic Who is that it lacks romance - that, pre-2005, the series was entirely lacking in heartfelt emotion and that any humour was unintentional, with the only laughs on offer being provoked by wobbly sets and rubber monsters.



Watch the four episodes of 'The Aztecs' now and try making that argument. There's intrigue - as Barbara bluffs her way into the role of of the goddess Yetaxa, there's humour - as Ian (William Russell) must face down bullish warrior Ixta (Ian Cullen)...

...And, yes, there's romance - as the Doctor falls for sweet and kindly Aztec lady Cameca (Margot Van der Burgh). The scene in which our hero learns that he has accidentally proposed to his new love is brilliant, featuring some hysterical work from Hartnell, and the plot's climax, in which he abandons her but cannot leave her gifted brooch behind, is as moving as anything in new Who.



Of course, aspects of the story have dated - it is, after all, almost half a century old, so some elements of the physical production don't hold up and John Crockett's direction of the action scenes is severely limited by the studio space.

But watch Hartnell and Hill debate the ethics of altering history in one of Doctor Who's all-time great scenes ("But you can't rewrite history - not one line!"), watch John Ringham's superbly slimy, Richard III-inspired performance as High Priest of Sacrifice, Tlotoxl, watch Keith Pyott's fantastic work as High Priest of Knowledge, Autloc, as he finds his long-held beliefs challenged.

'The Aztecs' is quite simply 100 minutes of sensational drama - it's William Hartnell's finest hour on Doctor Who and one of the show's very best offerings.

Are you a fan of 'The Aztecs'? Does it deserve a place in our Doctor Who top 10? Share your thoughts below!

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