Doctor Who – The Fires of Pompeii

Quite simply, this is the kind of episode I watch Doctor Who for. It has everything. There’s a little bit of humour, a good dose of action and some truly threatening alien monsters to get to grips with. The Fires of Pompeii isn’t a particularly complex story, but it’s a well-presented piece of entertainment.

It’s good to see that the BBC forked out some good money for this fantastical yarn. Using a good solid studio lot for the street scenes really added to the feel of ancient Pompeii and the shots of the exploding mountain added a dimension to the spectacle that the production teams of the seventies and eighties could only dream of. This was a wonderful way to spend a Saturday evening.

As a historian, though, I think Doctor Who has lost its way a bit. Gone now is the educational aspect of the historical shows, leaving us with an Asterix-esque parody of the Roman world. I don’t buy the idea that the Romans had no word for “volcano” before Pompeii – Virgil wrote about the eruption of Etna almost a century before the eruption of Vesuvius. Furthermore, where were the slaves belonging to Caecilius and his family? A caring man like Caecilius would never have left his household slaves behind to die. It just goes to show, moral discussion in Doctor Who has fallen away a bit in favour of pushing a bland modern agenda. Can’t have a sympathetic character owning slaves now, can we?

Mind you, to us Latin-readers who were first milked with the Cambridge Latin Course, the appearance of Caecilius is a fantastic piece of fan-wank. May the words “Caecilius est in horto” echo through the ages!

~ by Scary Rob on 9 May, 2008.

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