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The Aztecs
Series: Doctor Who - TV Stories
Season Number: Season 1
Story Number: 6
Doctor: First Doctor
Companions: Susan Foreman
Barbara Wright
Ian Chesterton
Enemy: Tlotoxl
Setting: Mexico c1454
Writer: John Lucarotti
Director: John Crockett
Broadcast: 23rd May -
13th June 1964
Format: 4 25-minute Episodes
Previous Story: The Keys of Marinus
Following Story: The Sensorites
"You can't rewrite history. Not one line!"
―The Doctor

The Aztecs was the sixth story of Season 1 of Doctor Who. It was the first story to address the issue of altering the course of history.



The arrival of the TARDIS in 15th century Mexico leads the crew to encounter the doomed Aztec people, a mixture of high culture and brutal savagery side by side; and matters are further complicated when Barbara is mistaken for a god and the Doctor becomes engaged to be married...


The TARDIS crew arrive in Mexico in the Fifteenth Century. With the TARDIS trapped in a tomb, Barbara is mistaken for and assumes the guise and identity of Yetaxa, an ancient high priest of whom the Aztecs think she is a reincarnation. In her new position of power Barbara sees her chance to bring an end to human sacrifice. She sees the good side of Aztec culture manifested in Autloc, the High priest of knowledge, and the gruesome side manifested in 'the local butcher' High Priest Tlotoxl. As somewhat of an expert on this period, she sees how advanced their culture really is and believes that if sacrifice were abolished, they would be spared destruction at the hands of the Spanish. The Doctor's warnings that she cannot change history fall on deaf ears.

The bloodthirsty Tlotoxl, High Priest of Sacrifice

The bloodthirsty Tlotoxl begins to suspect Yetaxa is not what she seems, especially because she is trying to bring an end to human sacrifice. He sets a series of elaborate traps for her and her companions. For example, Ian has been conscripted into the military and must fight the strongest warrior, Ixta, to prove his ability to command the Aztec forces. Thus Ixta develops a grudge against Ian and is used by Tlotoxl to try and prove Barbara is not Yetaxa. The Doctor unwittingly tells Ixta how to defeat Ian in combat using a drugging agent. The battle nearly ends in the Doctor witnessing his friend's death. When this fails to be conclusive, Tlotoxl convinces the priest Tonila to make a poison for Barbara; the death of Barbara following consumption of the poison would prove she is not immortal and therefore not a god. Barbara refuses to drink the poison and tells Tlotoxl that she is not Yetaxa but warns him not to tell the people. He now knows the truth - but must find a way to unmask the false goddess.

Susan and the Doctor have meanwhile both become involved in marriage-making scenarios. She has transgressed Aztec law and has been promised to the Perfect Victim, who has been scheduled for sacrifice by Tlotoxl on the day of the next eclipse; while the Doctor, who knows little of Aztec customs, has become engaged to an Aztec woman named Cameca after they shared a cup of cocoa. Cameca is a kind lady and helps the Doctor and Ian find a way to re-enter the tomb by a secret entrance, despite realising this will help her beloved leave her. Ian braves a treacherous tunnel to re-enter the tomb by a secret door and soon tells his friends that they can flee.

Despite her efforts Barbara realises she cannot change an entire culture, although she does succeed in changing the views of one man, Autloc. He helps her become reunited with her friends before departing to meditate in the desert on what remains of his faith. In a pitched battle to gain access to the tomb door, Ian kills Ixta in a fight to the death to protect the TARDIS crew.

The Doctor and his companions leave knowing that despite their intervention history will take its pre-destined course. As they depart Tlotoxl is very much in control and sacrifices the Perfect Victim to end the naturally occurring eclipse.




  • Barbara is an expert in Aztec history.
  • Ian performed National Service and is therefore a trained fighter.

Story Notes

  • All episodes exist in 16mm telerecordings.
  • Negative film prints of all episodes were recovered from BBC Enterprises in 1978.
  • John Lucarotti spent a lot of time researching the real Aztecs before writing this story.
  • Carole Ann Ford was on holiday during the filming of episodes 2 and 3 and appeared only in pre-taped film sequences which were shot during rehearsals for episode 5 of the preceding story, The Keys of Marinus.
  • The credits at the end of episode 3 had to be re-filmed as they were not acceptable for broadcast.


  • The Temple of Evil - 7.4 million viewers
  • The Warriors of Death - 7.4 million viewers
  • The Bride of Sacrifice - 7.9 million viewers
  • The Day of Darkness - 7.4 million viewers


  • The costumes used by the Aztecs covered more of their body than was the case in reality so as not to offend 1960s standards of decency (The costumes used had been researched before filming and were accurate reflections of those worn by the real Aztecs. It's cold in Mexico!).

Filming Locations

Discontinuity, Plot Holes, Errors

  • During the fight sequences in episode 4 it is clear that doubles are being used for William Russell and Ian Cullen.
  • The Cliffhangers in episodes 1 and 2 do not match with the reprises. At the start of episode 2, Tlotoxl says the whole line to camera when only the last part of it was to camera in episode 1. The episode 2 cliffhanger sees Barbara move away from Tlotoxl towards Ian - something that doesn't happen in the reprise.
  • There was apparently no consensus as to the pronunciation of Tlotoxl's name given the varied pronunciations given by cast various members.
  • None of the actors playing Aztecs looks even a little bit Aztec.
  • The line 'You can't rewrite history, not one line!' means that changing history is temporal interference. And yet by The War Games, it was known that one of the Doctor's crimes is temporal interference. So why does he say this line to Barbara when clearly it also applies to himself? Fixed points in history cannot be changed such as Aztec history, also the Doctor is a Time Lord so as the name suggests he probably has more right to change history than a human.


  • One of the few examples of The Doctor being involved in a romantic relationship. Other examples include BFA: Loups-Garoux, BFA: The One Doctor, DW: Doctor Who, ST: The Queen of Eros, EDA: Casualties of War, Sam Jones especially in EDA: Seeing I, and DW: The Parting of the Ways.
  • The Doctor tells Barbara "You can't rewrite history! Not one line!" It is unclear if this means it is impossible to alter established history or that it is an ethical principle. By contrast, the Time Lords explicitly ask the Doctor to change history in DW: Genesis of the Daleks. By the time of his tenth incarnation it's clear the Doctor no longer believes this as an absolute and at one point says outright that "History can be rewritten." (DW: Forest of the Dead)
  • In NA: Timewyrm: Exodus it is suggested that only Time Lords or other very powerful individuals can change the course of history.
  • By contrast, EDA: Interference suggests that any individual can change the course of history, including the Doctor, but he has chosen not to do so. In Interference, he actually influences events to allow Sam to change the course of history.
  • In DW: The Unquiet Dead, the Doctor tells Rose that history is always in flux, and it can change "just like that." This theme is later developed in DW: Father's Day; however, it was suggested that since the destruction of the Time Lords, time has become more flexible.


DVD, Video, and Other Releases

DVD Releases

Released as Doctor Who: The Aztecs.


PAL Region 2 - BBCDVD1099
NTSC - Warner Video E1719


Rear Credits:


Video Release

Released as Doctor Who: The Aztecs. This was originally going to be a Woolworths exclusive release, but at the last minute the company decided on a colour release instead (The Twin Dilemma).


PAL - BBC Video BBCV4743
NTSC - CBS/FOX Video 8100
NTSC - Warner Video E1257

Notes: The 'Next Episode' caption has been removed from Episode 4.


Main article: The Aztecs (novelisation)

External links

  • BBC Episode Guide (with video clips) for The Aztecs
  • Doctor Who Reference Guide: Detailed Synopsis - The Aztecs
  • A Brief History of Time (Travel) entry for The Aztecs
  • Encyclopedia of Fantastic Film and Television - The Aztecs
  • BBC Production Information for The Aztecs (PDF)
  • - The Aztecs
Season 1
An Unearthly Child  • The Daleks  • The Edge of Destruction  • Marco Polo  • The Keys of Marinus  • The Aztecs  • The Sensorites  • The Reign of Terror
This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at The_Aztecs_(Doctor_Who). The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with the TARDIS Index File, the text of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License 3.0 (Unported) (CC-BY-SA).

This article uses material from the "The Aztecs" article on the Dr Who wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.


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