Reviewed By: Drew Vogel
Review Date: 8/14/17 7:22 pm
0 out of 1 found this review helpful.
This story is probably better than I'm giving it credit for, but it's just not to my taste. I don't mind historicals, but it's the religious themes that bug me. Like "The Marian Conspiracy", this story basically just takes it as a given that people on the wrong side of a religious disagreement are in for some heavy-handed oppression. I understand that this is, to say the least, historically accurate, but it's also categorically wrong. There is a very simple yet very important moral principle at stake: that people shouldn't be punished for having dissenting religious views. I don't expect such a modern concept as religious pluralism to carry the day in the 4th century Roman Empire, but it at least merits a mention.
The abstractness of the doctrinal point at issue in this story should serve to underscore this point. Peri was right to laugh at Arias's description of the conflict. It's irredeemably silly. People are violently clashing over a question with no answer. Indeed, there is no way the question ever could be answered. It simply isn't the sort of question that can be tackled through observation and reason, which renders all possible equally arbitrary. What possible justification can there be for punishing people who adopt the wrong arbitrary, evidence-free alternative? None at all.
The script sidesteps the religious question by centering on politics. The issue isn't the nature of God (how could Erimem possibly care about that?), but rather the fairness of the process by which the question is to be decided. That almost works, but it's undermined slightly by putting all the focus on Constantine, who ultimately takes no part in the actual decision. Arias still never gets the kind of fair hearing Erimem thinks he decerves, and the bishops are under no obligation to consider the views of the people at all. Nothing was really accomplished.
So what was the story all about? Well, like some of the best Hartnell historicals, it's really just about visiting an important historical event and running around for four episodes. And there's nothing wrong with that. The conflict between Erimem and her friends is quite powerful, even if it is a bit irritating. I don't find Erimem's behavior to be very credible, nor very laudable for that matter. But without it, there's no story, and the dramatic conflict is good even if the moral conflict is not.