The Fires of Pompeii:
|–||Look sharp during the market scene at the start of the episode to see the everyday sight of carrots among the various fruit & vegetables on the market stalls. I'll ignore the question of whether the carrot was a common sight in Pompeii in 79AD... but instead focus on the fact that carrots from this era should be purple or white. The now-familiar orange carrot was a mutated variety which didn't emerge until the late 16th century!|
|–||You may be surprised to learn that Caecilius (Peter Capaldi) and his family were real people — i.e. there really was a Lucius Caecilius Iucundus living in Pompeii, who had a son named Quintus, etc. Unfortunately the real Caecilius had been dead for 17 years at the time of the 79AD eruption! It's generally believed that he died in the Pompeiian earthquake of 62AD.
[For this one, maybe we can't blame the BBC — the Cambridge Latin Course (a series of secondary school textbooks written in the 70s) also features a fictionalised version of Caecilius and his family; and like the episode, the books also depict Mr. C alive in 79AD. Presumably scriptwriter James Moran dug out his old schoolbooks when penning this episode?]
|–||Quintus (Caecilius's son) is shown wearing a bulla — a spherical charm on a string around his neck. In Roman times this was only worn by boys until they turned 16 — and he looks a lot older than 16! (Although I grant you, Donna does have a line about him being 16, but that's just her guess) Even if you let that one slide, his sister Evelina is not wearing an amulet. Girls in Roman society had a similar moon-shaped amulet called a "lunula" which they were supposed to wear continuously until marriage. There's no sign of hers!
[Unless her induction into the Sibylline Sisterhood was treated as a marriage of sorts, like nuns being the "Brides of Christ"...?]
|–||The relationship between Caecilius and his children is not in step with Roman norms. The first scene in Caecilius's house shows Quintus being "cheeky" to his parents, and the very final scene shows Evelina disobeying her parents over her choice of outfit. Roman fathers (or pater familias) had absolute power over their children — even after the children had grown up. Children would frequently be flogged for misconduct, and in extreme cases, even killed by their father for "serious" offences such as disrepecting the family honour or offending the gods.
[Kids these days, they don't know how lucky they are...]
|–||On the pronunciation of Latin names — kudos that they got "Caecilius" right (the "C"s are correctly pronounced as a hard K instead of a soft S), however the C in "Lucius" should also have had a hard K sound.
[In the same vein, bet you didn't know the correct pronunciation of Caesar is actually "Kaiser" — hence the title of Kaiser Wilhelm]
|–||When Donna changes into her Roman dress in Caecilius's house, it's purple. Why is this a problem? Due to the rarity of purple dye in Roman times, purple clothes were reserved for VIPs — specifically, the emperor and senior magistrates.|
[It's conceivable that the missing section broke off and fell on the floor, but that would have made quite a racket, and no such noise is audible during the scene]
|–||Furthermore, how does the Doctor know that Lucius's arm has been turned to stone? He's not aware of anyone turning into stone at that point. (Donna's earlier discovery that Evelina's arm was turning to stone was after the Doctor had left, and he hadn't seen her since)
[Maybe he figured it out from his name: Lucius Petrus Dextrus translates as "Lucius of the Stone Right Arm"!]
|–||While Donna is tied to the altar, the Doctor refers to her dress as a "toga". Unfortunately her dress looks nothing like a toga! Not to mention, after the 2nd century BC, togas were worn exclusively by men (the female equivalent was called a "stola") and for women to wear a toga was associated with prostitution and adultery!
[Maybe the Doctor knew this and was making a subtle dig at Donna...?]
|–||So the Doctor's water pistol is able to hurt the Sibylline high priestess because it's implied she's made of molten magma (like the "adult" Pyroviles). So how do her clothes — not to mention the bed she lounges on — manage NOT to burst into flames?|
|–||After the Doctor and Donna climb down through the vent in the Sibylline temple, watch out for their breath occasionally fogging as they talk, spoiling the illusion that they're walking through a hot volcanic passageway, but instead are tramping through a damp, chilly Welsh cave!|
|–||When the Doctor and Donna are ejected from Vesuvius inside the "escape pod" — pause for a moment to notice that the pod is entirely made of stone and appears to have no padding inside to protect squishy humanoid bodies. Then marvel at how our squishy humanoid heroes emerge completely unscathed from the pod after it crash-lands!|
|–||Despite it making for a great special-effects shot, the depiction of lava pouring down the side of Vesuvius is historically inaccurate — unlike more recent eruptions of Vesuvius, the 79AD event produced little or no lava. Instead the city was destroyed by a "pyroclastic flow", which is basically an avalanche of superheated ash. As it happens, this appears to be what the Doctor and Donna run away from after they climb out of the "escape pod", but the problem there is that pyroclastic flows travel much faster than shown on-screen (up to 700 km/h or 400mph). In other words, completely impossible to outrun one!|
|–||At the end, Metella expresses pride that her son Quintus is becoming a doctor. While this makes sense from a modern perspective, the reality is that being a doctor was nothing to be proud of in ancient Rome: It was an occupation that freed slaves usually took up, as they only had to study for 6 months to qualify (since obviously the science of medicine was extremely primitive compared to today). In other words, a middle-class family wouldn't have wanted a son of theirs to do something so vulgar and common!|
|–||Two mistakes are visible in the end credits: the Director of Photography Ernie Vincze is listed as "Ernie Vince" (no "z"), plus the majordomo character played by Gerard Bell is listed as "Major Domo".
[Did he work his way up through the ranks, starting out as Corporal Domo, Sergeant Domo, etc...??]