Monday 20 April 2020

What's Wrong With... The Myth Makers

The Myth Makers, by Donald Cotton, is one of those stories which is not only lost, but there are no telesnaps and no orphan episodes or even surviving clips to give us any sense of what it looked like. There aren't even all that many photographs, so it's one of the least documented stories, visually. All we do have are 11 very short clips saved by a fan on Super 8 film.
As a Donald Cotton script, we can expect three episodes of humour, followed by a fourth episode where all hell breaks loose and many of the characters, a few of whom we've come to quite like, get slaughtered.
Last week, the viewing public would have been perplexed by the non-arrival of the Doctor and companions in a Dalek-centric episode. Tuning in this week, they might have been forgiven for expecting the TARDIS to finally materialise for the Doctor to put a stop to the Dalek plan.
Instead we get two Bronze Age warriors having a sword fight as the ship lands. The Doctor decides to step outside and ask them where they are, which seems a very silly thing to do. The Doctor doesn't seem to see any danger in placing himself into the middle of a fight. Not only that, but his sudden appearance causes the warriors to become distracted - fatally so for one of them, who we'll shortly discover is the Trojan hero Hector. Not only has the Doctor put himself into some considerable danger, but his actions have directly led to the death of a man.
The Doctor gets taken by the victor of the fight - Greek hero Achilles - to his camp, as he believes him to be Zeus. The Doctor goes along with this for a short while, which obviously stops him being killed for being a spy, but he then very quickly admits that he is not the Father of the Gods.
We here have one of Hartnell's more infamous fluffs, one Peter Purves always mentions in interviews:
"I am not a dog... I am not a god!"
Steven dons a disguise as a Greek soldier and sets off to find the Doctor, whilst Vicki gets taken into the city of Troy in the TARDIS, after the ship is found by Hector's brother Paris.
Vicki gets renamed 'Cressida' by King Priam, for no real reason other than to set up the Shakespeare gag, as she'll fall in love with Troilus and elect to stay behind with him.
In the Homer and Shakespeare version of these events Troilus is killed by Achilles when the city falls, but Cotton decides to change things to give Vicki a happy ending.
The Doctor has previously argued about changing history, and yet he seems quite happy to have the Greeks invent the glider millennia early.
The Doctor instead leaves with Katarina, a character who doesn't appear in the first three episodes. She's a handmaid of Cassandra who only turns up towards the end.
Behind the scenes, this was not a very happy production. William Hartnell had suffered a bereavement - his aunt who had brought him up had died - but producer John Wiles wouldn't give him time off to attend the funeral. This cemented his dislike for Wiles. He also felt that he didn't have a very big role in the story, and was aggrieved that the guest stars had better parts - leading him to give Max Adrian and Francis De Wolff the cold shoulder. De Wolff is also reported to have insulted his acting - stressing the first half of the word "ham-bone" whilst looking directly at Hartnell. Hartnell also sustained a shoulder injury when he was hit by a camera.
Maureen O'Brien had returned from a holiday to find that she was to be written out of the series in this story, supposedly because Wiles and script editor Donald Tosh believed that she was desperate to leave. Though very unhappy, and vocal in her criticisms of recent scripts, she did not want to leave at this time. Had she known when she was going to be let go, she would not have gone on holiday and instead would have sought new work.
Tosh bitterly regretted the way her departure was handled.

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