Whilst vacationing in AD 64 Rome, Ian and Barbara are kidnapped and sold
as slaves. Ian ends up on a doomed galley ship, while Barbara becomes a
handmaiden in Nero's palace pursued by the lusty Caesar himself.
Meanwhile, unaware of their friends' plight, the Doctor and Vicki become
caught up in the events culminating in the Great Fire of Rome.
The idea of doing a Doctor Who story set in Roman times had been
bandied about at least as early as April 1964. On the 14th of that month,
a document was issued outlining possible adventures should Doctor
Who proceed to a second recording block; a four-part
“Past”, “Roman” serial was included as its
penultimate storyline. On August 31st, Dennis Spooner was commissioned to
write The Romans -- though it's unclear whether this is the same
story referred to in the April schedule or an independent creation.
By this point in time, Spooner -- who had recently completed The Reign Of Terror -- had been appointed the
successor to David Whitaker as Doctor Who's story editor, although
the post would not officially change hands until October 31st. With a new
companion, Vicki, being introduced in Whitaker's The
Rescue, it was agreed that The Romans should follow it into
production so that Spooner could help define the character.
Producer Verity Lambert suggested to Spooner that The Romans might
be an appropriate venue to attempt a comedic Doctor Who story, part
of Lambert's efforts to test the boundaries of the programme's format.
Spooner's original idea was to spoof the 1951 film Quo Vadis,
which led him to choosing the time of the Great Fire of Rome as his
setting. Whereas previous Doctor Who historicals had paid often
scrupulous attention to accurately portraying events, Spooner eschewed
this approach in favour of the popular myths surrounding first-century
Rome, such as Nero's apocryphal fiddle-playing during the conflagration.
Spooner also drew liberally from true history to inspire his characters.
In addition to Nero and Poppaea, Locusta was real and allegedly did help
Nero poison some of his enemies, including his adoptive father, Emperor
Claudius, and his step-brother, Britannicus. Her position as “court
poisoner”, on the other hand, was invented. Flavius Guiscard was
named for the 11th-century Norman adventurer Robert Guiscard, while Delos
is actually a Greek island. Tigilinus drew his name from that of the
commander of Nero's imperial bodyguard. The creation of Tigilinus the
cup-bearer was in fact a late addition to the scripts; originally, the
Doctor saved Nero from being poisoned by accidentally knocking over the
Caesar's goblet. Other modifications included rewriting the end of the
scene in which Ian and Barbara are kidnapped to have Barbara, and not
Sevcheria, be the one who knocks Ian unconscious.
It was originally thought that Richard Martin -- who had recently directed
The Dalek Invasion Of Earth -- would handle
The Romans. However, by October it was agreed that The Rescue and The Romans would both use
the same production team so that they could essentially be made as a
six-part serial. The director's job therefore went to Christopher
Barry, who was also helming The Rescue.
Production on The Romans began at the Ealing Television Film
Studios, where model shots and the image of the burning map of Rome were
filmed on November 17th and 18th. Episode one, The Slave Traders,
was then recorded in Riverside 1 (where all four parts would be housed) on
December 18th. After a week's break for Christmas, All Roads Lead To
Rome was taped on January 1st, 1965. However, Barry was unhappy with
Nero's introductory scene, and during the next week there was some
discussion of remounting it while making Conspiracy on the 8th;
this does not appear to have been undertaken. Production then wrapped up
with Inferno on the 15th. Four days earlier, Lambert had been
informed that Doctor Who's second recording block was to be
extended from 26 episodes to 35, and that this would be followed by a
third block. Five episodes from the second block would be held over to
start Doctor Who's third season in September.
No story editor was named on-screen during The Romans in order to
avoid giving Spooner a dual credit. This was also the final serial for
which Mervyn Pinfield would be listed as associate producer, although he
had largely ceased his involvement with Doctor Who as of The Dalek Invasion Of Earth at the end of the
first recording block. Pinfield's decision was officially made on January
11th. The broadcast of episode one on the 16th marked a new milestone for
the programme, as it rose to seventh place amongst programmes airing that
- Doctor Who: The Handbook: The First Doctor by David J Howe,
Mark Stammers and Stephen James Walker (1994), Virgin Publishing, ISBN 0
426 20430 1.
- Doctor Who: The Sixties by David J Howe, Mark Stammers and
Stephen James Walker (1992), Virgin Publishing, ISBN 1 85227 420 4.
- Doctor Who Magazine #251, 7th May 1997, “Archive: The
Romans” by Andrew Pixley, Panini UK Ltd.
- Doctor Who Magazine Special Edition #7, 12th May 2004,
“I'm Into Something Good” by Andrew Pixley, Panini
|1: The Slave Traders
||16th Jan 1965
|2: All Roads Lead To Rome
||23rd Jan 1965
||30th Jan 1965
||6th Feb 1965
|1st Man in Market|
|2nd Man in Market|
|Title music by|
|with the BBC Radiophonic Workshop|
|Incidental music composed and conducted by|
|Costumes Supervised by|
|Make-up Supervised by|
|Raymond P Cusick|
|Doctor Who: The Rescue & The Romans
|Doctor Who: The Romans narrated by William
|Doctor Who: The Romans by Donald Cotton