Thursday, 14 April 2011

20: The Myth Makers - A Landmark Story & Hilarious Historical.

Written by: Donald Cotton.
Companions: The Doctor, Vicki, Steven Taylor.
Monsters/Villains: Cassandra.
Brief Synopsis: The TARDIS lands in Ancient Greece during the Trojan War.
Rating: 9/10.

This story is packed to the eyeteeth with memorable moments, hilarious high jinks, a fond farewell, and a not so contemporary companion. We have a truly classic story, wonderful comic performances by Barrie Ingham and Francis de Wolff, we bid adieu to Vicki and welcome a new companion, Katarina. I have to say that so far this story has to be the biggest loss of the gaps in the archives. Only eleven 8 mm film clip recordings made by fans off-air still exist; they were made available on the Lost in Time DVD boxset release. The Myth Makers really takes the comedy element of Doctor Who and cranks it to factor 11. 

The Doctor or Zeus?
Our story kicks off in the fields of Asia Minor, not far from the besieged city of Troy where we discover Hector of Troy battling the Grecian warrior Achilles. The TARDIS arrives unnoticed in the background and out steps the Doctor just at the right time to distract Hector, giving Achilles the upper hand. After besting Hector, Achilles mistakes the Doctor for "the father of the Gods and ruler of the world" Zeus, and he doesn't deny it. Even after all that stuff in The Aztecs telling Barbara that it was wrong to impersonate a deity, here he is doing exactly that. Then, Odysseus arrives and questions the Doctor's god status demanding that he come to the camp of Agamemnon. Steven follows him. Francis de Wolff is excellent as Agamemnon with Jack Melford as his insidious brother Menelaus. De Wolff here makes his second appearance in Doctor Who after previously appearing as the horny trapper Vasor in The Keys of Marinus. It has been commented that the modern equivalent of De Wolff would be Brian Blessed, and I must say I agree. At the camp the Doctor admits that he is in fact mortal, and a time traveller; he is then given just two days to concoct a plan to seize Troy. He returns to the field where the TARDIS landed to discover that it is gone!

The incomparable Barrie Ingham as Paris. 
The second episode has the wonderful title "Small Prophet, Quick Return." We discover that the TARDIS has been stolen by the Trojans and taken to Troy. Here we get our first portion of the wonderful Barrie Ingham as the brilliantly pusillanimous Paris, who is the one who captured the "Shrine" a.k.a the TARDIS for his father Priam. His sister the prophetess Cassandra played madly by Frances White, correctly prophesies what will happen, but mistakes the TARDIS for the Wooden Horse. 

The Trojans are just about to burn down the TARDIS when out steps Vicki, dressed in full Grecian attire. Vicki claims to be from the future and is mistaken for a prophet. She tells King Priam her name is Vicki, but he disregards it as outlandish and renames her Cressida. Back in the Grecian camp the Doctor rejects the Wooden Horse idea saying that Homer probably dreamt it up as a dramatic conceit. Steven is sent to spy on the Trojans and given the armour of a dead soldier, Diomedes. There's a wonderful scene where Paris is sent to fight Achilles, and instead of calling him out loudly, he whispers his name, "Achilles!" He meets Steven a.k.a Diomedes in battle. Steven purposefully loses and allows himself to be captured, heralding Paris with flattery. Vicki a.k.a Cressida meets Troilus and there is instantly a romantic connection.

King Priam with Cressida (Vicki).
The Doctor tries to best the Wooden Horse idea by getting the Greeks to build flying machines to be fired from catapults.When this idea fails he resorts to saying, "Have you ever thought of a horse?" And the rest as they say is history. The Doctor is forced to ride in the horse along with Odysseus and his Ithacan soldiers. Vicki uses her feminine whiles to get Troilus to free her. Then the news arrives that the Greeks have left and the war is over. Cassandra was right all along and she laments, "Woe to the house of Piam. Woe to the Trojans." To which Paris brilliantly replies, "I think you're a bit late to say woe to the horse, I've just given instructions to have it brought into the city."

The Wooden Horse of Troy.
Vicki sends Troilus to find Diomedes (Steven) so that he won't be in the city when the Greeks attack. Enroute he comes across Achilles. They fight and Achilles is eventually bested, but not before badly wounding Troilus. He credits his recovery with, "I live to love Cressida." The Greeks attack and kill Paris and Priam, keeping Cassandra as a 'gift' for Agamemnon. Vicki and the Doctor reunite, she introduces him to Katarina, one of Cassandra's handmaidens and sends them to find an injured Steven. Katarina helps Steven into the TARDIS. Suddenly Odysseus bursts in and tries to claim the ship but the Doctor escapes. Odysseus ponders whether the Doctor truly was Zeus or not as he and his soldiers watch as the TARDIS dematerialises leaving Vicki, now Cressida, behind to become a part of history.

The new companion Katarina.
Troilus watches from the plains, as Troy burns. Cressida finds him declaiming "I belong here now, with you." Troilus' cousin arrives and Vicki says, "We can build another Troy." The two will go on to be written about as two of the greatest lovers of all time, Troilus and Cressida. Meanwhile in the TARDIS, the Doctor knows Vicki had made her choice to stay. She has also practically gift wrapped the Doctor's unexpected new companion, Katarina (from our point of view our first historical sidekick) as she has explained what will happen to her. Katarina misunderstands and thinks that the Doctor and Steven are Gods and that she will die. She says "This is not Troy; this is not even the world; this is the journey through the beyond."For now the Doctor cannot deny this as he knows that he must land somewhere. My sweetheart pointed out to be that she doesn't like the way that the Doctor looses and acquiers companions in this way. It's funny at this point in the series how a new companion nearly always joins accidentally, whereas fast forward to 2005 and it is always a clear choice. Hartnell has really been on form this whole story but then he makes his most hilarious fluff of all time with, "You must call me Doctor, I'm not a dog... I'm not a god."

I have some very exciting news and something extra-special for you coming soon. As the incomparable Barrie Ingham, who plays Paris in this story, is an old family friend I asked him if he wouldn't mind talking a bit about his time working on The Myth Makers. So tune in at some point for A Conversation With Barrie Ingham.

Barrie Ingham.

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