Title of the work
Studio / Production Company
Country of the First Edition
First Edition Date
First Edition Details
Dr Who (Series 2): The Slave Traders (Episode 1): 5:40 pm, January 16, 1965 / All Roads Lead to Rome (Episode 2): 5:40pm, January 23, 1965 / Conspiracy (Episode 3): 5.40pm, January 30, 1965 / Inferno (Episode 4): 5.40pm, February 6, 1965
Date of the First DVD or VHS
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Author of the Entry:
Richard Scully, University of New England, firstname.lastname@example.org
Peer-reviewer of the Entry:
Elizabeth Hale, University of New England, email@example.com
Daniel Nkemleke, Universite de Yaounde 1, firstname.lastname@example.org
Christopher Barry (Director)
, 1932 - 1986
Dennis Spooner Cotton (1932-1986) was an English writer and script editor. He specialised in spy-stories and espionage drama, as well as for children’s television. An early contributor to ITV’s soap opera Coronation Street (1961), he wrote four episodes for The Avengers (1961-1968), and one for Tony Hancock’s comedy series on ATV (1963). Spooner became closely associated with Gerry Anderson and his successive television series: Fireball XL5 (writing 9 episodes, 1963); Stingray (12 episodes, 1964-5); Thunderbirds (6 episodes, 1965-6); and UFO (1970). At the same time, he wrote 21 episodes (across five serials) for the BBC series Doctor Who (then-starring William Hartnell as the first incarnation of The Doctor), including the historically-themed The Reign of Terror (1964) and The Romans (1965); the science-fiction/historical mashup The Time Meddler (1965); the epic alien-invasion story The Daleks’ Master Plan (1965-6); and the iconic The Power of the Daleks (1966), which introduced Patrick Troughton as the second actor to play The Doctor. Spooner continued to write prolifically for series such as The Baron (1966-7), The New Avengers (9 episodes, 1976-7), and The Professionals (1978); before his career began to tail-off in the 1980s. He wrote three episodes of Bergerac for the BBC, and one episode of the American-produced Remington Steele (1984). He died following a cardiac arrest on 20 September 1986.
Bio prepared by Richard Scully, University of New England, email@example.com
William Hartnell – The Doctor
Jacqueline Hill – Barbara Wright
William Russell – Ian Chesterton
Maureen O’Brien – Vicki
Barry Jackson – Ascaris
Dennis Edwards – Centurion
Tony Lambden – Court Messenger
Peter Diamond – Delos
Nicholas Evans – Didius
Gertan Klauber – Galley Master
Ann Tirard – Locusta
Bart Allison – Maximus Pettulian
Derek Francis – Nero
Kay Patrick – Poppaea
Derek Sydney – Sevcheria
Edward Kelsey – Slave Buyer
Michael Peake – Tavius
Brian Proudfoot – Tigilinus
Dorothy-Rose Gribble – Woman Slave
Sequels, Prequels and Spin-offs
Cotton, Donald, Doctor Who – The Romans, London: Target, 1987.
‘The Romans’ is a key example of the early format of Doctor Who (1963-1989; 2005-present), which sought to mix science-fiction adventures with historically-themed storylines (as an extension of its intended educational role). A playful comedy, the story sees the crew of the TARDIS (the time/space machine) materialise in the countryside outside Ancient Rome, and take a well-earned holiday at an abandoned Roman villa. Their rest is soon disturbed, however, when Barbara Wright and Ian Chesterton are captured by a pair of slave traders, and the Doctor (an alien ‘Time Lord’ from the Planet Gallifrey) is mistaken for Maximus Pettulian (a recently-assassinated lyre-player and conspirator against the life of the Emperor Nero). The action is then shifted to Ian’s travails aboard – and escape from – a slave galley in the Mediterranean; Barbara being sold to the imperial household as a handmaiden to Empress Poppaea; and the Doctor’s sparring with Nero himself. The imperial court is a hive of stereotypical conspiracies and double-crossing; poisoning attempts and lavish banquets; and is characterised by the unbalanced emperor and his pretensions to artistic genius. In accidentally burning Nero’s architectural plans for the refurbishment of Rome, the Doctor unwittingly gives the deranged emperor the idea for the Great Fire. The TARDIS crew eventually escape from all the dangers they have faced across four episodes, are reunited, and escape the conflagration, as the Eternal City goes up in flames, to the accompaniment of Nero’s lyre-playing.
‘The Romans’ is a notable example of mid-1960s educational television entertainment. Watched by between 10 and 13 million viewers during its broadcast, the serial is a key example of a science fiction intervention into the Classical world/ancient history. The time travelling theme of the program was a handy device for justifying the incursion into Classical Rome. The Doctor and his companions serve as useful avatars for the young audience-members as they are introduced to and familiarised with the Classical/ancient history context of the storyline, or reacquainted with matters with which they were supposed to be familiar (such themes were still central to British elementary-level schooling in the 1960s). The accidental triggering of an important historical event – in this case, the Great Fire of Rome (AD 64) – shares similarities with the narrative of the later ‘The Myth Makers’ (1965).
BBC Online, Doctor Who – The Classic Series: ‘The Romans’ [Archived website], at bbc.co.uk (accessed: August 17, 2018) [comprises analysis and details from: Paul Cornell, Martin Day & Keith Topping, The Discontinuity Guide, 1995; David J. Howe & Stephen James Walker, Doctor Who: The Television Companion, 2003].
Harmes, Marcus K. Doctor Who and the Art of Adaptation; Fifty Years of Storytelling, Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014, esp. pp.68 ff.
Howe, David J., Mark Stammers & Stephen James Walker, Doctor Who: The Handbook: The First Doctor, London: Virgin Publishing, 1994.
Howe, David J., Mark Stammers & Stephen James Walker, Doctor Who: The Sixties, London: Virgin Publishing, 1992.
Keen, Anthony G. ‘It's about Tempus: Greece and Rome in “Classic” Doctor Who’, in Space and Time: Essays on Visions of History in Science Fiction and Fantasy Television, edited by David C. Wright, Jr., and Allan W. Austin, Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2010, pp.100–15.
Keen, Anthony G., ‘Sideways Pompeii! The Use of Historical Period to Question the Doctor's Role in History’, in Impossible Worlds, Impossible Things: Cultural Perspectives on Doctor Who, Torchwood, and The Sarah Jane Adventures, edited by Ross P. Garner, Melissa Beattie, and Una McCormack, Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars, 2010, pp.94–117.
Episode 1: 13 million
Episode 2: 11.5 million
Episode 3: 10 million
Episode 4: 12 million