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I've got a friend who specialises in trouble. He dives in and usually finds a way.—Ian
Fun with the Romans, as the TARDIS arrives during the reign of Nero and take a little holiday at a villa outside Rome. The Doctor quickly gets bored and heads off into the city with Vicki while Ian and Barbara stay behind - only to be kidnapped by slave traders.
Meanwhile, the Doctor is mistaken for a famous musician and ordered to play the lyre for Nero, and goes through ever more ridiculous zany schemes to avoid having to reveal he can't play a note - at one point claiming that only the most musically-attuned ear can even hear his playing, before silently waving his fingers in front of the instrument.
Ian is sold as a galley slave while Barbara ends up as a servant at Nero's palace. Ian escapes when his ship is wrecked and heads to Rome to try and rescue Barbara, but is recaptured and made into a gladiator.
Eventually Ian escapes again and is reunited with Barbara, while the Doctor and Vicki make their escape after the Doctor accidentally sets fire to Nero's plans for the new city of Rome, giving him an idea about how to clear the space.
- Ancient Rome: A more humorous take.
- Badass Grandpa: The First Doctor takes on a centurion with his cane.
- Black Comedy Rape: That wacky Nero trying to rape Barbara all the time!
- Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: "Oh something else I forgot to tell you: I think I've poisoned Nero."
- Breather Episode: Compared to the two preceding serials, The Romans is presented more like a farce than a drama, with slapstick fight scenes, sharp dialogue and much mistaking of identity. This odd-seeming choice was made to increase the dramatic range of the series.
- The Caligula: Caesar Nero
- Deadly Decadent Court: It's Emperor Nero, what else would you expect?
- Did Not Do the Research: Tavius is shown clutching a cross pendant, indicating that he is a Christian. However, at the time of Nero, Christians would have used the ichthys as a symbol. The cross, reminiscent of Jesus' torture and death, would have been viewed negatively by early Christians.
- On the other hand, very few viewers (especially children) are going to recognise the ichthys.
- Did They or Didn't They?: Ian and Barbara, alone in the villa.
- Galley Slave: Ian and Delos
- Gladiator Games: What Ian's trying to avoid.
- Historical Domain Character - Nero, Poppaea, Locusta, ...
- Made a Slave: Ian and Barbara
- Master Poisoner: Locusta
- Missed Her By That Much: In the middle two episodes, the Doctor and Vicki repeatedly almost bump into Barbara, who would have been very glad to see them. In the end, they only meet her back at the villa and never realise she was in Rome at all.
- My Name Is Not Durwood:
Doctor: I don't know that I was under any obligation to report my movements to you, Chesterfield.
Doctor: Oh, Barbara's calling you.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Barbara's heart was in the right place when she tried to attack the intruders in the villa, but hitting Ian on the head with an urn didn't exactly help them.
- Poisoned Chalice Switcheroo: Unusual in that the goblets are switched by a third party (Vicki).
- Psychopathic Manchild: Nero.
- Running Gag: "It's in the fridge."
- Zany Scheme: Everything the Doctor does to keep people from finding out he can't play the lyre.