Doctor Who (1963–1989)
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The Romans: Part 1 - The Slave Traders 

The travelers decide to take a holiday near ancient Rome, but after a month the Doctor gets restless. He and Vicki determine to visit Rome, and while they are gone Ian and Barbara are ... See full summary »


Christopher Barry


Dennis Spooner

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Episode cast overview:
William Hartnell ... Dr. Who
William Russell ... Ian Chesterton
Jacqueline Hill ... Barbara Wright
Maureen O'Brien ... Vicki
Derek Sydney ... Sevcheria
Nick Evans Nick Evans ... Didius (as Nicholas Evans)
Dennis Edwards Dennis Edwards ... Centurian
Margot Thomas Margot Thomas ... Stall Holder
Edward Kelsey Edward Kelsey ... Slave Buyer
Bart Allison Bart Allison ... Maximus Pettulian
Barry Jackson ... Ascaris


The travelers decide to take a holiday near ancient Rome, but after a month the Doctor gets restless. He and Vicki determine to visit Rome, and while they are gone Ian and Barbara are abducted by slave traders. All roads lead to Rome, however, and the travelers find themselves at the mercy of the country's petulant emperor, Nero... (Originally broadcast in four parts.) Written by Sarah Hadley

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Release Date:

16 January 1965 (UK) See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


This was the last story on which Mervyn Pinfield would serve as associate producer, although he would return to the series to direct "The Space Museum" and some of "Galaxy 4". See more »


The stall holder suggests that Flavius is campaigning in Gaul, but by 64 AD, when this episode is set, Gaul had been subjugated for more than a century. See more »


Vicki: [referring to The Doctor] Well, it's all right living here, but it's boring! No wonder he gets irritable.
Ian Chesterton: That's got nothing to do with living here, believe me.
See more »


Featured in Dennis Spooner: Wanna Write a Television Series? (2009) See more »

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User Reviews

The Romans
15 July 2008 | by ametaphysicalsharkSee all my reviews

"The Romans" is an absolute delight. The reason I never seemed able to enjoy the early historicals as much as many other "Doctor Who" fans is that as a minor history buff I knew exactly what was going to happen and what purpose the characters would serve. The only great historical story prior to "The Romans" is "Marco Polo" which overcomes the predictability and lack of intriguing plot by the sheer quality of its script and characterization.

With "The Romans" Dennis Spooner takes a more novel approach to the "Doctor Who" historical and makes the story the first true "Doctor Who" comedy. Of course, much of the comedy would now be considered dark, cruel, and even hopelessly politically incorrect (the most comedic episode of the story is based around attempted poisoning and attempted rape or at least sexual harassment). I don't think the story is THAT dark, certainly much of the comedy would have seemed black even in 1965, but it's all done with such a panto vibe that it's hard to take it seriously on any level, at least the more obvious flat-out jokes- there's a few ones that'll slip by you if you aren't paying attention that were clearly aware of how serious the situations actually were. The script is just generally superb, with all the characters, gags, and dialogue working wonderfully well in the story. "The Romans" works especially well for me now that it's not a bootleg audio cassette my father bought when I was five because I can pick up on the pastiche and satire elements in "The Romans". In many ways it is the first historical to really do something daring and interesting with the material as opposed to simply excel at something good but obvious ("Marco Polo").

'Directed by Christopher Barry' is basically a statement regarding the quality of direction in the story. "The Romans" is excellently directed, and if you give Barry any credit at all for Derek Francis' utterly hilarious take on Nero we can call his work 'superlative'. Derek Francis may steal the show, but Maureen O'Brien makes quite an impact in her first real adventure with the Doctor. I always found it a bit aggravating when people dismiss Vicki as Susan 2.0 as despite the similarities I found the dynamic between Vicki and the Doctor very different than the dynamic between Susan and the Doctor. Vicki is also just more fun to watch as she exudes glee and thrill at her suddenly adventurous lifestyle. The rest of the regulars also get a chance to shine, with William Russell, Jacqueline Hill, and Hartnell all clearly having fun with the material, especially Hartnell who can't have imagined he'd be getting to do a fight scene at his age.

"The Romans" is perhaps my favorite "Doctor Who" historical. It is really just an absolutely wonderful story that never stops being thoroughly entertaining.

Episode 1: 8/10, Episode 2: 9/10, Episode 3: 10/10, Episode 4: 9/10.

Average: 9/10

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