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File:The Fires Of Pompeii 8560.jpg


The Doctor: I don't know! Isn't that brilliant? I love not knowing! Keeps me on me toes. It must be awful being a prophet, waking up every morning, "Is it raining? Yes, it is. I said so." Takes all the fun out of life.

Donna and the Doctor land in Ancient Rome, ready to have more fun than an amphora of monkeys.

Except they land in Pompeii, 23 August of 79 A.D., which means that Pompeii's streets are about to get re-paved with lava. The Doctor claims to be unable to do anything about this: he doesn't say "You can't change history, Barbara; not one line", but he is probably thinking it.

So they go for the other secret Time Lord maneuver: running away. Unfortunately, the TARDIS is missing; it's been sold to a local marble merchant with a taste for avant-garde art. It's not the first time the TARDIS has been mistaken for an art installation.

The marble-worker who bought it is then attacked by a massive magma-thing (which is stopped by a bucket of water) and it is revealed that his oracle daughter is turning to stone. Also, a local prophet claims that there's something on Donna's back. This will be important later. And he says that a planet has apparently gone missing. This will be very important later. Meanwhile, the marble-worker has a circuit made of stone, so the Doctor decides to stick around a bit longer.

The Doctor confronts the oracles (with a water pistol) and finds out why someone ordered a bunch of marble power-converters.

The Doctor finds out that Vesuvius isn't going to erupt if he just leaves; he needs to make it erupt. If Pompeii doesn't erupt, then since the alien menace of the week hasn't been destroyed, a race of lava golems will turn humans into more golems, boil the ocean, and go conquer the world. Donna realizes for the first time that travelling with the Doctor can be very morally disturbing. They make the volcano erupt, both fully expecting to die, but it turns out the explosion device was inside an escape pod. Donna convinces the Doctor to go back and save the marble-worker and his family. Because not everyone is an über-depressed near-suicidal Time Lord, and sometimes the Doctor forgets that.

While otherwise a rather bog-standard episode of RTD's run, "The Fires of Pompeii" was extremely notable for featuring the first appearances of Karen Gillan (who would go on to play future companion Amy Pond) and Peter Capaldi (who would go on to the play the Twelfth Doctor) in the Whoniverse.

Tropes

  • Above the Ruins: the Doctor and Donna watch from the hillside as Pompeii is destroyed.
  • Accidental Art: Caecilius is sold the TARDIS as a work of modern art.
  • Ancient Rome: Sort of. We do get there eventually.
  • Anticlimax Boss: The first Pyrovile.
  • Arc Words: Medusa Cascade, Shadow Proclamation, something on Donna's back.
  • Big No: Lucius Petrus Dextrus and the High Priestess. Both do it twice.
  • Call Back: The Doctor's mention of "Volcano Day" refers to a comment by Jack Harkness in The Empty Child.
  • Climactic Volcano Backdrop: Inside Vesuvius, no less.
  • Continuity Nod: the Doctor's comment about the Great Fire of Rome is a reference back to "The Romans" (way back with the First Doctor).
    • It's Volcano Day!
    • The Doctor admits that Donna was right - sometimes he needs someone to stop him.
  • Convection, Schmonvection: Justified, most of the heat is being taken by the Pyroviles.
  • Creator in Joke: Latin students everywhere stand a chance of recognizing Caecillius and his family. They feature in the Cambridge Latin Course, a widely used Latin textbook series.
  • Deadpan Snarker: The Doctor, when Donna is about to be sacrificed.

 Priestess: This prattling voice will cease forever.

The Doctor: Oh, that'll be the day.

  • Establishing Character Moment: Donna sharing the burden with the Doctor of having to cause Vesuvius's eruption, and later pleading with him to save just one family. It's not hard to see why the Doctor considered her to be his best friend.
  • Foreshadowing: The augur tells Donna that there is "something on her back". There will be, in Turn Left. He also tells the Doctor that "she is returning", probably referring to Rose.
  • Happily Married: Caecillius and Metella.
  • I'm Mr. Future Pop Culture Reference with bonus I Am Spartacus joke included absolutely free.
    • Not to mention that 2000 years later, the English language itself still frequently throws latin into everyday conversation.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: The Doctor, while in the volcano: "Don't get yourselves in a lava!" (Turns to Donna) "Lava... no?" She just shakes her head.
  • Kill It with Water: Specifically, a water pistol!
  • Mass "Oh Crap": The Pompeiians, Herculaneans, and Stabiaeans have one.
  • Meaningful Name: lots, but particularly Lucius Petrus Dextrus (translating as stone right arm). Apparently these were all deliberate - Russell T. Davies was channelling Asterix and asked James Moran to put them in.
  • Mistaken for Exhibit: Not only is the TARDIS mistaken for a modern art installation, but an enterprising street trader has sold it to a wealthy marble merchant, kicking off the plot.
  • Mistaken for Special Guest: Not addressed in the episode, but there's a subtle indication that Donna is seen as someone of high status, when the soothsayers note her true name is "Noble" and that throughout this episode she wears Purple, which was seen at the time to indicate wealth and status.
  • Morton's Fork: Save Pompeii and let the Pyroviles convert everyone or save the world and let Pompeii be buried.
  • Outrun the Fireball
  • Prophecy Twist: The Doctor says Pompeii's destruction is "a fixed point" that he can't prevent, even though thousands will die. It's worse than that, he has to make Vesuvius erupt to Save the World.
  • Running Gag: Because of the TARDIS, Donna (and we) hear the Romans' Latin as English, so if you speak to them in Latin it's translated into Celtic. Several "Oh, you're Celtic" comments result.
    • Although, the first time this occurs, when Donna walks up to a man and says "Veni, vidi, vici," she's mispronouncing it. She pronounces the V's as, well, V's, when in Latin, V's were pronounced as W's, she also pronounces the C in "vici" as "ch" when it's a K sound. Granted, the writer most likely just didn't know how Latin was pronounced.
      • This is a point of some debate, seeing as Latin hasn't been in general usage for 2000 years and no-one knows for certain how it was pronounced
      • It's also strange to walk up to a street vendor and say "I came, I saw, I conquered." for no reason.
    • Which lends itself to some wonderful Fridge Brilliance that the TARDIS is actually translating Donna's Latin into period specific English, hence the reason why it comes off as sounding Welsh.
  • Shoot the Dog
  • Shout-Out: To Fawlty Towers when the Doctor explains away some of Donna's remarks with "she's from Barcelona".
    • The scene of the marble worker's family rushing to their positions during the pre-eruption earthquakes could be one to a similar scene in Mary Poppins.
  • Taken for Granite
  • Take Over the World
  • Watching Troy Burn
  • Weaksauce Weakness: A giant, badass-looking alien warrior made of magma and rock... and a bucket of water takes it down instantly.
  • What Have We Ear?: The Doctor does this to Quintus to bribe him into taking him to Dextrus's house.
  • The X of Y
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