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Episode Guide
The Romans
Production Code: M
Season 2, Story Number 12
Written by John Lucarotti
Directed by Christopher Barry

Each episode is identified with date of transmission, duration, ratings in millions, and (for 1963-1974 only) archive status.

The Slave Traders
16 January 1965 | 24'14" | 13.0 | 16mm t/r
All Roads Lead to Rome
23 January 1965 | 23'14" | 11.5 | 16mm t/r
30 January 1965 | 26'18" | 10.0 | 16mm t/r
06 February 1965 | 23'09" | 12.0 | 16mm t/r
Archive Status: All four episodes exist on 16mm telecine recordings. Negative film prints of both episodes were recovered from BBC Enterprises circa 1978. Telesnaps (off-air camera photographs) from this story exist in the hands of private collectors.
William Hartnell (Dr. Who), William Russell (Ian Chesterton), Jacqueline Hill (Barbara Wright), Maureen O'Brien (Vicki), Derek Sydney (Sevcheria), Nicholas Evans (Didius), Dennis Edwards (Centurian), 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 (Galley 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)
The Doctor and his companions are enjoying a rare holiday from their travels, resting up in a vacant villa not far from Rome in 64 AD. However, the Doctor soon becomes restless and sets off to visit the city, taking Vicki with him. In their absence, Ian and Barbara are kidnapped by a band of slave traders led by a man named Sevcheria (Derek Sydney) and his deputy Didius (Nicholas Evans).

Having been mistaken for the famous lyre player Maximus Pettulian (Bart Allison) and asked to perform at the Court of the Emperor Nero (Derek Francis), the Doctor is forced to devise ever more elaborate schemes to avoid revealing that he cannot actually play the instrument.

Barbara is presented at a slave auction and bought by Tavius (Michael Peake) as a servant for Nero's wife, the Empress Poppaea (Kay Patrick). Ian is meanwhile sold as a galley slave, but the galley sinks in a storm at sea and he and a Greek friend named Delos (Peter Diamond) manage to escape and make their way to Rome. There he is eventually reunited with Barbara, who is helped to escape by Tavius, now revealed to be an early Christian.

Events reach a climax when, by accidentally setting light to the Emperor's plans for the rebuilding of Rome, the Doctor gives him the idea of having the city razed to the ground. Nero sits playing his lyre while Rome burns around him. The four time travellers escape back to the villa, the Doctor and Vicki knowing nothing of the adventures experienced by Ian and Barbara and vice versa.

Synopsis from Doctor Who: The First Doctor Handbook by David J. Howe, Mark Stammers and Stephen James Walker, reprinted with permission; further reproduction is not permitted.

Production Team
Valerie Wilkins (Assistant Floor Manager), Mervyn Pinfield (Associate Producer), Daphne Dare (Costumes), Raymond Cusick (Designer), Peter Diamond (Fight Arranger), Dick Bush (Film Cameraman), Jim Latham (Film Editor), Raymond Jones (Incidental Music), Sonia Markham (Make-Up), Verity Lambert (Producer), David Maloney (Production Assistant), Dennis Spooner (Script Editor), Brian Hodgson (Special Sounds), Howard King (Studio Lighting), Richard Chubb (Studio Sound), Delia Derbyshire (Theme Arrangement), Ron Grainer (Title Music)
Story Notes
The first "comedy" story told within the Doctor Who framework, at the behest of producer Verity Lambert, though much of the comedy is limited to the third episode. Commissioned from new story editor Spooner, although before he came to the position (story editors at the BBC were not allowed to commission their own work). The final story credit for Mervyn Pinfield, associate producer.
For more in-depth information about the contents of this story, a complete episode-by-episode detailed breakdown can be found at the Doctor Who Reference Guide.
Additional, more detailed information about the production of this story can be found at Shannon Patrick Sullivan's A Brief History of Time (Travel).
Video release
Released as "The Rescue/The Romans" box set in the UK [September 1994] and Australia/New Zealand [November 1994] (BBC catalog #5378), US/Canada [March 1996] (WHV catalog #E1313); cover art by Andrew Skilleter; episodic format.
In Print
Novelised as "Doctor Who - The Romans" by Donald Cotton (Target #120), first released in 1987, with cover art by Tony Masero.
For more details on the various novelizations of this story, with additional background material, artwork and details of both UK and foreign releases, visit On Target.
Screencap Descriptions
Descriptions of each story screen capture above right, top to bottom:
  • The Doctor (William Hartnell) and Ian (William Russell) get into the spirit of things
  • Tavius (Michael Peake), the slave master
  • Emperor Nero (Derek Francis) romances Barbara (Jacqueline Hill)
  • Rome burns in the great fire
  • the Doctor learns to play the lyre
  • men on the Roman galley