Doctor Who: The Fires of Pompeii


When the Doctor plans to take Donna to Ancient Rome, he manages to mess up once again, landing them in Pompeii- on volcano day. Naturally, Donna wants to change the past, but the Doctor insists that they don’t interfere- at least until he learns that aliens are already at work in this time period. Can the Doctor foil an alien plot without changing a fixed point in history?

Alien Guide

  • Pyrovile: aliens composed of stone and magma, they can dwell in hot places but are highly susceptible to water. They also have the ability to awaken the latent psychic abilities in humans and transform them into stone by inhaling Pyrovile vapour.

Episode Thoughts

I’m going to hand over to my grandmother for her opinion on this one- “it was like a provincial stage play”. I didn’t think it was that bad, but despite some amusing dialogue, the whole thing felt vaguely unsatisfying, especially Catherine Tate in shouting mode. I suppose it was good when viewed in terms of typical Doctor Who silliness, but not worthy when judged by my own high standards.

Nitpickers’ Corner

  • Where did the Doctor get the gold coin and water pistol from? Are they standard issue for all exploration? And why did the water pistol never run out (for one thing, how could it kill the aliens when a little squirt of water wouldn’t have that effect on regular fire, let alone magma?)
  • I can understand that the TARDIS can make English sound like Latin to the people of Pompeii, but why would Latin sound like Celtic? It might sound like gibberish if the speaker didn’t know the meaning of what they were saying, but surely if they knew the meaning it would make sense to the listener.
  • Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Vesuvius erupt so quickly that people were still doing their daily activities when the falling ash killed them? Well, we can chalk this one up to narrative necessity and historical vagueness.

2 thoughts on “Doctor Who: The Fires of Pompeii

  1. Your quibble about the Pompeiians is based on a misapprehension about the eruption. I have an 11 year old son who not long ago went to a travelling exhibit about Pompeii and came home armed with facts and books and questions we had to wiki every few days.

    Anyway… Vesuvius erupted for something like 19 hours, began approximately midday, and there was ample time for probably all residents of Pompeii AND Herculaneum to have escaped had they taken prompt action as the eruption began.

    So if there’s a quibble, perhaps it’s that the eruption engulfed the city with deadly ash and so forth much too quickly in this episode – that in fact there was much more time from start of the eruption until the holocaust at Pompeii than would make taut escape drama.


    (I just quickly pulled up the first citation I saw…

    [quote]It was approximately 1 PM and lunchtime in Pompeii and Herculaneum when Mt. Vesuvius’ 19 hours of sustained eruptions began that left both towns buried in volcanic ash and rock, and frozen in time. By the end of Vesuvius’ massive eruption, more than 2,000 people had perished even though there had been sufficient time for everyone to flee. Although the actual death toll is not known since some victims perished in flight and others were swept into the Bay during the tsunami, the remains of 1,150 persons have been recovered in and around Pompeii, 350 victims in Herculaneum[1] and two on a road north of Pompeii.[2]


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