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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Doctor Who: The Myth Makers

Serial Title: The Myth-Makers
Series: 3
Episodes: 4
Temple of Secrets (Proposed title was "Zeus ex Machina" - or Zeus in the machine- which would have been awesome!)
Small Prophet, Quick Return
Death of a Spy
Horse of Destruction (Proposed title was "Is There a Doctor in the Horse?" which would have been HILARIOUS!)

Doctor: William Hartnell
Companions: Steven Taylor (Peter Purves), Vicki Pallister (Maureen O'Brien)

Picking up where "Galaxy 4" left off, the TARDIS materializes in 1200 B.C. Troy, right beside a pitched battle between Greek warrior Achilles and Trojan warrior Hector. The materialization distracts Hector and he is slain- the Doctor's emergence from the TARDIS convincing Achilles that he is, in fact, Zeus. The Doctor is escorted to the Greek camp, where Odysseus believes the Doctor is in fact a Trojan spy, while Agamemnon, in charge, enlists Zeus' aid in conquering Troy.

Vicki and Steven observe the Doctor's capture via the TARDIS monitors. Since Vicki's ankle is injured from the events of "Galaxy 4," Steven ventures out on his own. He is captured at night, brought in as a spy, and initially pretends not to know the Doctor to maintain the ruse, as Zeus plans to magically strike him down with a bolt from the gods as a sacrifice at his 'temple' the next morning (I.E. Jump into the TARDIS and disappear)- but when the TARDIS vanishes from the plains, the two must admit the truth. They spell the whole thing out for Odysseus, who, though skeptical, seems to believe them... giving them two days to use their 'future knowledge' to come up with a way of defeating Troy, or face execution.

Within the besieged city, Paris, prince and brother of the deceased Hector, a fop and first-class wimp, arrives with his prize- the TARDIS. His father, Kind Priam, berates him for using his captured 'prize' as an excuse to return to the city and put off the matter of honor- finding and challenging Achilles to avenge his brother's death- that he was sent out on... but is intrigued by the 'shrine' of the Greeks. The Prophetess Cassandra, Paris' sister and Prias' daughter, has foreseen the demise of Troy and orders the box burnt- but before it can be, Vicki emerges in period clothing. She is taken as a sign from the gods and renamed Cressida by the king; Cassandra, suspicious of her, is furious.

In private, Steven suggests to the Doctor that hey propose the Trojan Horse, but the Doctor rejects it as an absurd notion obviously invented by storytellers, not chronicled by historians.

Paris is dispatched again to challenge Achilles, and Steven convinces the Greeks to send him instead. Donning Greek armor and taking the name of its deceased owner, Diomede, Steven allows himself to be captured and taken prisoner by playing to Paris' ego, intending to search for Vicki and the TARDIS in Troy. When Paris brings him in to present his prisoner to the king, Vicki and Steven visibly recognize each other- a sure sign that they are both Greek spies. Vicki and Steven are taken to the dungeons with the warning that, if Vicki cannot use some of her divine power to help the Trojans win the war within 2 days, they will both be killed.

The Doctor proposes catapult-launched hang-gliders for the invasion of Troy... but when he is told that he will be the first test-pilot, he reluctantly and resignedly proposes... a large wooden horse.

In prison, the youngest of King Priam's sons, Troilus, brings food to Vicki, and the two begin to develop feelings for each other.

The Trojan horse is left as a gift by the Greeks, secretly housing a Greek invasion army... and the Doctor, forced along for the ride.

The Trojans, seeing the disappearance of the Greeks (who sailed away, intending to double back under cover of darkness that night, as part of the ruse) as 'Cressida' using her divine powers and summoning an image of the sacred Horse god of the Trojans to rout their enemies, frees Vicki (though not Steven, as Troilus is jealous of him, believing him to be a potential rival suitor.)

Vicki slips away during the Trojan celebrations and frees Steven- but suspicious Cassandra has her followed by handmaiden Katarina, and so she leads Steven to a hiding place before returning to the palace. Knowing full well what will soon happen, Vicki begs Troilus to go after the 'fleeing' Diomede out on the plains, to bring him honor... so that he will be away from Troy that night.

The Greeks exit the horse under cover of darkness, open the gates for the now-returned army, and the fall of Troy commences. Priam and Paris fall, and Cassandra- prophesying to a victorious Odysseus that he won't see home for another 10 years (get it???) is taken away to become Agamemnon's new plaything.

She is, however, proven right about the whole 'doom of Troy' thing. (NFS: I hate it when that happens.)

Out on the plain, Troilus encounters and kills Achilles in battle, avenging his brother. He despairs to see the city in flames in the distance.

Vicki slips away with the Doctor's blessing as Katarina, at the Doctor's bidding, retrieves Steven, who has been wounded in the chaotic battle. She carries him aboard and the Doctor makes a hasty departure when Odysseus arrives, intent on pressing the Doctor's useful knowledge into permanent service, leaping aboard the TARDIS and demateralizing- bringing Katarina with him and leaving Vicki behind- something that she had requested.

Out on the plains, Vicki finds Troilus and declares her love for him- the two starting out on a new life together as Trojan reinforcements led by Troilus' cousin help them to escape the area.

Back aboard the TARDIS, Katarina believes she is dead and traveling through the afterlife, Steven's wounds are grave, and the Doctor hopes that their next stop will be able to provide the needed medical care as the TARDIS hurtles into the unknown...

Despite my prior fury at the loss of Mission to the Unknown (The Thing/Rockbiter!!!! Nooooooo!!!!!!) I was somewhat mollified by the fact that wikipedia informed me that he and the other alien compadres would return again later. Thus, Myth Makers now crowns my list of tragically missing lost episodes. Epic battles, astounding sets, awesome humor, a romantic farewell... this one has it all, and it's a blasted shame that we can't see it in motion! The re-creation had very VERY little to work with, and intersperses sparse stills with old-style title-cards with narration, in the style of a Greek myth storytelling. And some truly heinous camera-filming, a-TV-screen shots of a re-constructed Trojan horse miniature that looks to be all of 6 inches tall. Not a stellar reconstruction- but partly due to the fact that there was NOT much to work from, and far more difficulty in recreating the more complex props, costumes, and landscapes than a serial like Galaxy 4; they did the best they could, but you can only make so good a project out of rubbish. Still, as it turns out, there were no tele-snaps for this serial and very few photos, so what is there is almost 100% photoshopped composites of actors, locations, etc. taken from other images or media in which the same actors have appeared. In light of that, I can’t be too harsh on it!

This serial's strongest suit was humor, and tons of it- especially in the case of Paris, and to a lesser extent, king Priam. Paris' effete, aside-prone, jokester nature was great, and tons of fun- the 'confrontation' between Paris and Steven was a rolling-on-the-floor hilarious moment- the definite highlight of the episode. Likewise, the Doctor's stubborn refusal to give the Trojans the idea of the Trojan Horse- believing it a silly myth that couldn't possibly have occurred- as he tries to draft all manner of assault strategies (NFS: "Perhaps if we built this large wooden badger....") including primitive, catapult-launched hang-gliders, until desperation finally forces him to suggest, with chagrin, "Have you considered a horse?" - this was pure gold.

Meanwhile, the hissable Cassandra, a shrill and annoying antagonist to Vicki, was made all the more tragic by the fact that she was right- and while her completely prescient and completely unsubtle certainty of what was to come was overplayed a little, I think, at the end, with Paris and Priam dead and Troy in flames, one feels somewhat bad for disliking her; after all, she was trying to save her home and her family.

The ending was a fantastic cliffhanger- with a wounded Steven, an unintended new companion who cannot be shaken of the belief that she is dead and undergoing a journey through the underworld afterlife, and the audience's knowledge that the Daleks are coming...

It is somewhat overshadowed, though, by the abrupt departure of Vicki! While it is foreshadowed somewhat, it still comes as a bit of a shock- especially because, in the slide-show version, it's not entirely clear that she wasn't on board the TARDIS until she shows up after it's departure. The love story is rushed, but sweet- and we can be content in the fact that Vicki's fate, and the story of her love, WAS completed.... by both Chaucer and Shakespeare. (Well, not really... in those stories, Cressida betrayed Troilus for Diomede- but clearly that was garbled historical records.)

I shall miss Vicki; she was a bit flighty, but a wonderful companion. (Note from future Andrew - At time of posting, we are mid-way through the third Doctor's tenure; we've met every companion up through the fan-beloved Sarah Jane Smith that would define the beginning of the Fourth Doctor's reign. And through it all, I think I can honestly say that Vicki was my favorite female companion- possibly tied with Zoe, but possibly winning out- sweet, adorable, with a brilliant and tender rapport with the Doctor- she felt like the perfect younger sister that you never had, and even if she was never the brightest torch in the temple, she was always enthusiastic and wonderfully devoted tot he Doctor; as Zoe and Jamie will be with the Second Doctor, so it is with Hartnell and Vicki- the bond between them seems like that of family, far more than it ever did with Hartnell and Susan; and that is what makes her time with the Doctor so special in the archives of classic Doctor Who.)

And talk about a CLIFFHANGER!!!

Overall, I loved this episode. I know it would have been twice as excellent if it was in video! Still, even as poor-quality audio, it was a comedic highlight and the best by far of the (admittedly fledgling) third Series.

Great moments:
The 'battle' between Steven and Paris is a crowning highlight. And the fantastic ending, touching but intense...

3.5 out of 5 Chumblies for the reconstruction efforts, averaging between technical skill (4.75 at least, considering the composite images) and watchable enjoyability (a 2, since there’s only so much you can do)- it seems unfair that so much work can still result in something that, while it can be appreciated technically, is just not all that enjoyable to watch… but c’est le vis.

As for the story itself… an ‘epic’ 5 out of 5 Chumblies; it's funny, smart, witty, clever, and thoroughly enjoyable, even as just audio with a re-creation! And that's saying something! This one is BRILLIANT!!! A legend in its own right, even if its video has fallen like Troy to the Achilles Heel of BBC shortsightedness… like the horse about which it was written, its outward construction conceals within a great and mighty surprise that its outward appearance would not suggest- a fantastic and side-splitting comedy, and that’s no myth! (NFS:....were you writing that in LeVar Burtons voice just then? I was waiting for you to say "...But you don't have to take my word for it!")

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