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TME > Video > Commercial Releases

The Aztecs

The TARDIS takes the Doctor and his companions back in time to fifteenth century Mexico, the centre of the Aztec civilisation. But when Barbara is mistaken for the reincarnation of the High Priest Yetaxa, the time travellers find themselves caught up in a vicious political struggle which could cost them their lives.

    -- from the DVD release, 2002

The DVD release of this, the highly acclaimed first season story, was postponed, as the new VidFIRE process had been recently successfully tested on the video release of Planet of Giants.

Switching places with Carnival of Monsters, the disc proved to be worth the wait...

Episode timings on DVD: 23'54", 24'07", 25'24", 25'25"
Episode timings on PasB: 23'56", 24'11", 25'28", 25'31"


VHS releases

02/11/1992: UK - BBC Worldwide - BBCV4743
03/2/1993: Aus/NZ - PolyGram - BBC47432 [not pictured]
??/??/1994: US - CBS/Fox - 8100 [renumbered E1257 in 2000 by Warner Home Video]

The end of the final episode was cut to remove the "Next episode" caption, as was a brief moment in the same episode where Ian spots a skeleton in a tunnel.

In 1994, Hollywood Online joined forces with Fox to offer a free floppy disc with purchases of The Aztecs, Terminus, Robot, City of Death, Resurrection of the Daleks and Planet of the Spiders - this promotional item is available to download here (2.25mb).

In order to comply with BBFC guidelines, the video opened with a caption, shown right. Cover art by Alistair Pearson, based on work he had completed that year for the reissue of the Target novelisation.

DVD releases

21/10/2002: UK - BBC Worldwide - BBCDVD1099
02/12/2002: Aus/NZ - Roadshow - B006149
04/03/2003: US - Warner Home Video - E1790

Cover for UK/Aus by Clayton Hickman.

DVD Bonus features

Remembering The Aztecs (28'19")
New interviews with actors John Ringham, Walter Randall and Ian Cullen.
  • Ian Cullen talks about the newness of televison.
  • John Ringham talks about how many people were involved in an average production.
  • Walter Randall and and Ringham on the limitations and excitement of as-live TV.
  • Cullen on recording continuously.
  • Ringham on Hartnell's pomposity, but also his pleasantness.
  • Randall, Ringham and Cullen on Hartnell's talent and his intolerance of foreigners.
  • Older actors getting used to television, and Verity Lambert.
  • Ringham talks about his history in television.
  • Ringham, Cullen and Randall on John Crokett.
  • Cullen on the restrictiveness of the costumes, and Ringham and Randall on how wonderful they were.
  • Ringham and Cullen on tension.
  • Cullen on purposely fluffing lines and on fight sequences.
  • Cullen on making the slab look heavy.
  • Ringham on not wanting his work resurrected on DVD.
  • Cullen on Ringham's wonderful acting and everyone looks back on how they felt abour their work...

Interviewed by Richard Bignell
Lighting: Roger Mogale
Camera: John Kelly
Edited & Produced by Peter Finklestone.
(C) BBC Worldwide MMII

Cortez & Montezuma (5'55")
A 1970 Blue Peter feature describing the history of The Aztecs. This feature does not refer to the Doctor Who story, but serves as a useful historical basis for the show.
Artwork: Bob Broomfield
Written by Dorothy Smith
Producer: Rosemary Gill.
Restoring The Aztecs (8'08")
A short piece demonstrating the audio and video work carried out, with lengthy demonstrations of VidFIRE (including clips from Terror Of The Autons and The Krotons), for this release.
Colourist: Jonathan Wood
Film Retouching: Steve Roberts, Peter Finklestone
Vidfire Processing: www.vidfire.com
Sound Restoration: Mark Ayres
More Information At: www.restoration-team.co.uk
(C) BBC Worldwide MMII
TARDIS-Cam No. 3 (1'05")
The third of these specially shot sequences produced for BBCi.
Visual Effects Supervisor: Mike Tucker
Lighting Cameraman: Peter Tyler
Gaffer: Alan Graham
For BBC Fictionlab:
Editor: Jamie Cason
Commissioning Editor: Martin Trickey
Producer: James Goss
Executive Producer: Richard Fell
(C) BBC Fictionlab 2002.
Intro Sequences
At the behest of the BBFC, an opener had to be added to episode 1 with the title 'The Aztecs'. For this, six voice-overs were added, in character, by John Ringham, Walter Randall and Ian Cullen, which play at random.

Designing The Aztecs (24'33")
New interview with Barry Newbery. He talks about starting at the BBC, being allocated to Doctor Who just for being free, preferring the historicals, researching, freeedom around the scripts, directors cutting around his design, practical realities of leaving safety space, the shooting schedule, the space he had to work in, compromising on Doctor Who, the budget, working with John Crockett, Verity Lambert's presence, the benefits of black and white television, lighting, the clean-up work on The Aztecs, the pyramid set, and his pride over the tomb door.
Interviewed by: Richard Bignell
Photographic Material Courtesy of Barry Newbery & The BBC Design Department
Thanks to David J. Howe
Edited by John Kelly
Produced by Peter Finklestone
(C) BBC Worldwide MMII
Making Cocoa (2'29")
Originally intended as an easter egg, this South Park-style animation accompanies sound by John Ringham and Walter Randall, in character, describing how to make cocoa.
Animation by System Enterprises Ltd.
(C) BBC Worldwide MMII.

Arabic soundtrack
Entire alternate soundtrack for The Day of Darkness.

Gallery (3'51")
35 b/w photos and 10 colour photos.

Verity Lambert, William Russell, Carole Ann Ford - recorded in Dub3 at TV Centre on 15th April 2002.

Production Subtitles
By Richard Molesworth
Easter Egg: BBC Enterprises Globe
On the special features menu, highlight Intro Sequences, nudge left and click on the Doctor Who logo.

Restoration Notes

Following the brief clip on the 2002 release of 'The Tomb of the Cybermen' and the video release of 'Planet of Giants', this would be the first full story to receive the VidFIRE treatment on DVD. Little could be done about the relative poor quality opening to the first episode, as it appears that all copies held by the BBC are sourced from the same negatives, the start of which was replaced with a section from a poorer quality recording. The audio track of the Arabic version of the final episode was transferred, with a view to it being included as an alternate track. The use of different music may, however, preclude this. The Temple of Evil had around 2000 blemishes removed using Scratchbox. 


10/11/1992 - Story passed as 'U' by the BBFC for the UK
10/12/1992 - Story passed as 'G' by the OFLC for Aus/NZ
28/06/2002 -  Designing The Aztecs and Making Cocoa (2'27") passed as 'U' by the BBFC for the UK
14/08/2002 - All remaining bonuses passed as 'U' by the BBFC for the UK following 2 seconds of cuts (see below).

Following the BBFC's viewing of the bonus features in August 2002, a '12' rating was offered due to 2 uses of the word f*ck. The BBC chose to bleep the words and resubmit, rather than accept the '12' rating (although the TVM release of the previous year had set a precedent for '12' releases, the BBC did not feel that the bonus features should be pitched so much more highly than the main feature, itself a 'U'). Oddly, an early version of the cover did in fact feature a 'U' certificate.
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