Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Doctor Who: The Myth Makers Review


STORY

The Doctor has adopted many guises in his time, so when the TARDIS lands on the plains of Asia Minor, near the besieged city of Troy, he is hailed as the god Zeus! Taken to the Greek camp by Achilles, the Doctor meets Agamemnon and Odysseus and is forced to admit his less-than-godlike status -  he is given just two days to come up with a strategy for defeating the Trojans.
Vicki meanwhile, has been captured by the Trojans who have taken the Ship into 
the city to be presented to King Priam. Her task - a plan to vanquish the Greeks!
The Doctor's initial scheme of a catapult is abandoned when the famed (but 
wholly fictional) wooden horse appears to be his only option. The Trojan horse is constructed, and as it delivers it's deadly cargo of Greeks, the Doctor is reunited 
with his companions. But as the sacking of Troy rages, Vicki elects to stay behind 
- like Susan before her, she has found love, with Troilus, and they escape the 
carnage. The badly injured Steven is helped onboard the departing TARDIS by handmaiden Katarina - The Daleks' Master Plan beckons.

ANALYSIS

In Greek mythology, the Trojan War was waged against the city of Troy (located
in modern Turkey) by the Achaeans, after Paris seized Helen from her husband, Menelaus, the King of Sparta. The decade-long siege finally ended when the Greeks apparently sailed away, but the city fell to their Trojan Horse ruse. The end of the conflict is narrated by Homer in the Iliad. The Romans later settled on the site, 
now called Ilium - they believed that Trojan survivors had fled to ancient Italy.  

"The Myth Makers [set circa 1184 BC] carries the standard for that splendid 
diversity of styles for which Doctor Who is beloved" says the CD sleeve notes. 
The serial veers "ever so slightly from the 'history as education' brief agreed at 
the programme's inception, veteran TV and radio writer Donald Cotton (1928-1999) chose to retell ancient Greek myth as high comedy." This was Cotton's first script for the show - described by the BBC press release as "the most sophisticated used in the series" - and was intended to build on the success of The Romans
A tongue-in-cheek historical (no doubt based on his own radio plays) is very much in evidence in the first three episodes, and William Hartnell and company make the most of the Carry On style humour. The final installment however, sees a noticeable shift in tone, and much like The Massacre (only three months away), 
the full horror of the ensuing genocide is blatantly portrayed. "Not even the 
TARDIS crew emerges unscathed, the departure of [Vicki, and the] serious 
wounding of [Steven] left 1960's viewers shell-shocked." The prophetess 
Cassandra casts a dark shadow over future episodes, when she predicts the 
death of the newest time traveller, Katarina (Adrienne Hill) - she became the 
first of the Doctor's companions to die on-screen, in Day of Armageddon.

BACKGROUND

  • this four-part adventure originally aired in October and November 1965, and achieved average ratings of 8.35M
  • the working titles were The Trojans and The Trojan War
  • the original title for episode one was Deux Ex Machina (literally a "god in the machine" meaning a contrived plot device) - a reference to the Doctor's alias as the Father of the gods, Zeus
  • the third installment was originally called Is There a Doctor in the Horse?
  • location filming took place at Frensham Ponds, Surrey - later used for The Highlanders
  • this was the ninth and final TV story for the much under-rated Vicki, played by Maureen O'Brien - here she is aged 16, and Priam christens her 'Cressida': later immortalised by Chaucer and Shakespeare (actual influences for Cotton) - Steven assumed the alias of 'Diomede' 
  • Keith Topping's novel Byzantium! (BBC Books, 2001) gave Vicki the surname 'Pallister'
  • John Wiles (1925-1999) became the series' second and shortest serving producer with The Myth Makers (he replaced Verity Lambert), and because he chose not to employ John Cura (1902-1969) and his telesnaps service, there is very little visual record left of his time on the show
  • all four episodes are missing from the BBC archives
  • Peter Purves (Steven Taylor) provided linking narration on the CD soundtrack, issued in 2001, 2003, and 2010
  • Cotton novelised his scripts for Target in 1985 (book #97 in the range) - he also penned The Gunfighters, and the rejected submission, The Herdsmen 
  • the cast included Barrie Ingham (as Paris) - recently seen as Alydon in the second Dalek film; Max Adrian (Priam) had appeared in Nothing Like Publicity (1936) with Hartnell; Francis de Wolff (Agamemnon) was Vasor in The Keys of Marinus; Tutte Lemkow (Cyclops) starred in two earlier historicals, Marco Polo and The Crusade; and Ivor Salter (Odysseus) featured in The Space Museum and Black Orchid
  • directing his only contribution to Doctor Who, Michael leeston Smith (born 1916) had been a cameraman on the first two Quatermass dramas of the 1950's

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