Monday, 1 October 2012

Story 20 - The Myth Makers

In which the TARDIS materialises on the dusty plains of Troy. Unfortunately for him, its arrival distracts Trojan warrior Hector and he is killed by his Greek opponent, Achilles. Hector was the son of the Trojan King, Priam. The Doctor emerges from the ship and Achilles takes him to be the god Zeus, disguised as a beggar. He takes him to the Greek camp, meeting Odysseus on the way. He is not quite so believing as Achilles and thinks the Doctor a spy. Steven follows and is captured by Odysseus. The Doctor pretends not to know him, and to save him from execution claims he will strike him down with a thunderbolt tomorrow back at his "blue temple". However, Odysseus reports that this has vanished.

The TARDIS has been taken into the besieged city. Priam's daughter, the prophetess Cassandra, has had a vision that a gift to the city will spell its doom - and thinks this may be it. She orders it burned. Vicki emerges and is believed to have come from the gods. Cassandra thinks her a rival prophetess, but Priam and his son Paris are smitten with her. The King renames her "Cressida".
The Doctor is given two days to come up with a plan to break the siege. He is reluctant to use Steven's suggestion of the wooden horse - believing it an invention of Homer's. Paris (reluctantly) wants to fight Achilles in revenge for the death of his brother. Steven goes instead, pretending to be the Greek warrior Diomede, hoping to be taken prisoner and thus find a way of rescuing Vicki. When she recognises him, both are assumed to be spies and locked up. In the cells, Vicki is visited by Priam's third son, Troilus, who has fallen in love with her.

With time running out, the Doctor proposes the building of the wooden horse. It will be left on the plains as the Greek fleet withdraws. It will be taken into the city as a gift, but at nightfall troops will emerge and open the gates. The Greeks will have sneaked back and will enter the city in force. The scheme works. Priam and Paris are killed and Cassandra taken captive as the city falls. Vicki tricks Troilus into leaving the city. Steven is badly wounded in the fighting and is taken to the TARDIS by Cassandra's handmaiden, Katarina. Vicki tells the Doctor that she is going to stay behind with Troilus, and he reluctantly gives his blessing. The TARDIS departs with Katarina onboard, tending the sick Steven. Vicki - now very much Cressida - finds Troilus, who has killed Achilles, and they leave Troy with his cousin Aeneas.

This four part story was written by Donald Cotton and broadcast between 16th October and 6th November, 1965. It marks the debut of new producer John Wiles and another shake-up for the TARDIS crew. Maureen O'Brien departs, and Adrienne Hill (Katarina) joins the line-up.
The story no longer exists, other than its soundtrack.
These changes rattled the insecure William Hartnell, as he lost the last connection with the original production team. His first co-stars had gone, and now his producer, as well as O'Brien who had helped him get through the last period of change. Hartnell and Purves were both very unhappy at the way O'Brien had been informed of her departure. She had returned from an expensive holiday to discover she had only another 8 episodes of regular work.
Hartnell and Wiles never saw eye to eye. Firmly established in the role, Hartnell was becoming increasingly vocal about how he thought the programme should be made. Story editor Donald Tosh would spend the next few months having to mediate between producer and star.

Despite its doom laden storyline (we know how it's all going to end) and numerous deaths, the story is played very much for laughs. Its closest comparison would be the second series' The Romans. Barrie Ingham (the cinematic Alydon) plays Paris as he might have been written by Noel Coward. He's rather camp.
Max Adrian lends Priam a certain world weariness - an old man whose heir has just been killed and who is tired of war. Agamemnon and Odysseus are played by performers who have appeared in the programme before - Francis de Wolff (The Keys of Marinus), and Ivor Salter, relishing much better material than he had to contend with in The Space Museum, respectively.
The regulars are all well served in this - Hartnell always responding well to a bit of humour. Ultimately it is O'Brien's story. Shakespeare gets rewritten to give her a happy ending.
Episode endings for this story are:

  1. Temple of Secrets - The Doctor has only two days to find a way of breaking the siege. We see a plaque on the walls of Troy, bearing a horse head motif.
  2. Small Prophet, Quick Return - Cassandra accuses Vicki and Steven of being spies, and orders the guards to kill them.
  3. Death of a Spy - Cassandra: "Woe to Troy!". Paris: "It's too late to say whoah to the horse". The wooden horse is brought into the city.
  4. Horse of Destruction - Steven's wounds have become infected. The Doctor is concerned that their next landing offers hope for the necessary medical help.

The Myth Makers has always met with a mixed response - mainly due to the level of humour. Only having the audio to go by, I rather like it.
Things you might like to know:

  • Oddly, for a story about the Trojan war, Helen does not feature at all.
  • For centuries, the story of Troy was regarded as myth - an epic poem created by the blind bard Homer and first written down around the 8th Century BC. This was the Iliad (another name for Troy was Ilios). The Homer-obsessive German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann finally identified the location of the city in modern day Turkey in the 1870's. Whilst the details of the tale can never be proven, the Bronze Age context of the Trojan conflict has now been confirmed by on-going archaeological investigation. If you want to know more, I would strongly recommend Michael Wood's excellent TV series and book "In Search of the Trojan War".
  • Cassandra was given the gift of prophesy - but cursed with the fact that no-one would ever believe her. Those Greek gods were a duplicitous lot.

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