The Myth Makers ****

Comedy turns nasty as Troy falls to the Greeks and Vicki leaves the Tardis – to become immortalised as Cressida

Comments
Doctor Who story guide
Mark Braxton
Mark Braxton
The Myth Makers ****

Season 3 – Story 20

"The arrival of a horse is a little puzzling" - Paris

Storyline
Landing outside the ancient city of Troy, to which the Greeks have laid siege for a decade, the travellers soon become separated. The Doctor, initially mistaken for Zeus, is taken to the Greek camp, Steven follows him, and the Tardis containing Vicki is transported to Troy. The Greeks force the Doctor to devise a way of conquering their enemies while Vicki, christened Cressida by King Priam, must prove she is not a spy. The Greeks enter the city via the Doctor's Trojan horse, and the Doctor and an injured Steven leave in the Tardis with Katarina, a Trojan handmaiden. Vicki stays behind with Priam's son Troilus, with whom she's fallen in love.

First transmissions
1. Temple of Secrets - Saturday 16 October 1965
2. Small Prophet, Quick Return - Saturday 23 October 1965
3. Death of a Spy - Saturday 30 October 1965
4. Horse of Destruction - Saturday 6 November 1965

Production
Location filming: August/September 1965 at Frensham Ponds, Surrey
Filming: September 1965 at Ealing Studios
Studio recording: September/October 1965 at Riverside 1

Cast
Doctor Who - William Hartnell
Vicki - Maureen O'Brien
Steven Taylor - Peter Purves
King Priam - Max Adrian
Agamemnon - Francis de Wolff
Odysseus - Ivor Salter
Paris - Barrie Ingham
Cassandra - Frances White
Cyclops - Tutte Lemkow
Hector - Alan Haywood
Achilles - Cavan Kendall
Menelaus - Jack Melford
Troilus - James Lynn
Katarina - Adrienne Hill
Messenger - Jon Luxton

Crew
Writer - Donald Cotton
Incidental music - Humphrey Searle
Designer - John Wood
Story editor - Donald Tosh
Producer - John Wiles
Director - Michael Leeston-Smith

RT Review by Mark Braxton
This rollicking historical works like a Trojan to distract viewers from the fact that this isn't a Dalek adventure - something they would have expected after the little tease that was Mission to the Unknown. And while there isn't a plunger to be seen, this is still a belting effort from former radio writer Donald Cotton. It shares The Romans' blend of the bawdy and the barbaric, but ultimately achieves a more serious, even tragic tone.

Sprightly playing and frolicsome lines ("You superstitious, dart-dodging decadent"/"Why can't you learn to behave like a king instead of a dropsical old camp follower?") make it all the sadder that The Myth Makers is yet another adventure that received the "delete" directive. As do the memorable if vaguely comic-strip characters, including the unaccountably rabid Cassandra (Frances White) with her voice to grate onions, Barrie Ingham's effete and funny Paris, Tutte Lemkow's shifty mute Cyclops, and Ivor Salter's rambunctious Odysseus, cackling dementedly and rolling his "r"s with piratical glee.

You couldn't want more from the episode endings, either: (1) the Tardis's disappearance with Vicki on board; (2) Vicki's link to Steven effectively outing her as a spy; (3) Paris giving instructions that will doom Troy to annihilation; and (4) the Doctor's bewilderment at Vicki's departure. Tremendous stuff.

Maureen O'Brien was badly underused as Vicki, as were many early female companions, but in this story her touching self-effacement ("I'm nobody of any importance. I'm just someone from the future") and unstinting optimism ("We can build another Troy") shine through in all her scenes. Outgoing companions were ill served by later scripts (I'm thinking of poor Leela in 1978). Not so here: Cotton gradually paves the way for Vicki's bold decision, which is captured with painful sweetness by her words to Troilus: "The main thing is I belong here, now, if you'll have me."

Two facets of the story stand out. First, the less-than-heroic Doctor. Where once the testy Time Lord chastised Barbara for her pretence of deity among the Aztecs, he does precisely the same thing before his Greek captors: "Do not hinder me, or I will strike you with a thunderbolt!" And for all his distress at the killings in Troy, he must have anticipated the domino effect of his actions. Hypocrisy? Or just another dimension to the Doctor's character? It's a great talking point, if nothing else.

And second, the complexity of the central idea - that of making history happen. Is the pivotal siege engine Homer's idea or the Doctor's? Do the travellers fulfil Katarina's prophecy in whisking her away from her own time and place? And might Shakespeare's tragedy have been called Troilus and Vicki? Discuss.

There's little fluidity to the proceedings, which also suffer narrative naivety (nothing suggests the passage of time between the Doctor consulting his Trojan horse blueprints and the finished behemoth), but The Myth Makers is imaginatively written and always fascinating. Even if it isn't the Daleks.

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Radio Times archive material

Introductory feature

RT billings 
1. Temple of Secrets
2. Small Prophet, Quick Return
3. Death of a Spy
4. Horse of Destruction

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[Soundtrack available on BBC Audio CD]