The Myth Makers

Doctor WhoThe Doctor is suitably bemused when the TARDIS lands him in the middle of a fight on the plains of Greece, where his appearance fatally distracts one of the two combatants and convinces the other that he is Zeus. Vicki and Steven watch helplessly as the surviving warrior, Achilles, tries to recruit “Zeus” in his quest to topple the city of Troy. More of Achilles’ countrymen appear, led by Odysseus, who doesn’t believe that the Doctor is Zeus, and he is taken prisoner. Steven insists that Vicki, still nursing a sprained ankle, remain in the TARDIS while he goes to help the Doctor. Faced with no choice, the Doctor decides to masquerade as a god, proving his “powers” with foreknowledge of events to come in the Trojan War. The ruse works too well, though – his captors decide that he’s too valuable to let go, but at least they grant him some hospitality. When Steven tries to come to the Doctor’s rescue, he is captured and brought before Agamemnon; to save Steven’s life, the Doctor claims him as his own personal “sacrifice to Olympus”, promising to make him disappear at the dawn of the next day at his “blue temple”…but when the appointed hour comes, the temple – the TARDIS – has vanished. The Doctor and Steven are declared spies, and fast talking is required to save their necks from Agamemnon’s sword for impersonating a god. The TARDIS has in fact been spirited away, and now lies within the walls of Troy. Cassandra admonishes the Trojan soldiers for bringing an unknown object into the city, warning that she has foreseen that a “gift” from the Greeks will result in the fall of Troy. Vicki emerges from the TARDIS, where she too claims to have knowledge of the future. She is given the name Cressida, and Cassandra immediately objects to having competition in the prophecy field. To recover the TARDIS and Vicki intact, the Doctor must propose an outlandish plan that may just prove Cassandra’s grim predictions correct…

Order this story on audio CDwritten by Donald Cotton
directed by Michael Leeston-Smith
music by Humphrey Searle

Guest Cast: Cavan Kendall (Achilles), Alan Haywood (Hector), Ivor Salter (Odysseus), Francis de Wolff (Agamemnon), Jack Melford (Menelaus), Tutte Lemkow (Cyclops), Max Adrian (Priam), Barrie Ingham (Paris), Frances White (Cassandra), Jon Luxton (Messenger), James Lynn (Troilus), Adrienne Hill (Katarina)

Doctor WhoBroadcast from October 16 through November 6, 1965

Notes: The master tapes of this episode were destroyed by the BBC in the early 1970’s, and no video copies exist. An audio recording of the entire story is available. Barrie Ingham has two unusual distinctions: for many years, he was the only actor to be seen in both the TV series and in one of the Peter Cushing Doctor Who movies. He also later guest starred in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. This story marks the exit of Maureen O’Brien as Vicki – whose age is established as being in her late teens – and the introduction of Adrienne Hill as Katarina.

LogBook entry & review by Earl Green

Review: If the name wasn’t already taken, I’d say this story should be renamed Mythbusters. It’s quite refreshing to see – or, sadly, since it exists only in a series of audio recordings of the missing TV episodes, hear – how “postmodern” The Myth Makers is. The heroes of myth are reinterpreted with modern foibles, and some thirty years before Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena came along to do the same thing.

Sharp, funny dialogue keeps the whole thing thundering along, bringing new dimensions to a story that everyone knows – or at least they think they know it. There are a few bizarre moments, such as Vicki abandoning the shelter of the TARDIS because the Trojans are about to burn it as a sacrifice – something that in future years would be established as an impossibility. But obviously Doctor Who’s mythology was still just beginning to evolve at this point, and the Time Lords hadn’t been invented yet, along with many of the TARDIS’ less obvious attributes. That can be overlooked in favor of The Myth Makers‘ wickedly funny dialogue, though – my favorite example being Cassandra’s “Woe to try!” followed by King Priam’s “You might as well say whoa to the horse.” There aren’t many classic Doctor Who stories that have me laughing out loud while I’m listening to the audio recordings, but this is an exception.

It would seem that none of the Doctor’s companions have ever gotten along with anyone named Cassandra.

If there’s anything disconcerting or out-of-place with The Myth Makers, it’s the sudden and seemingly tacked-on arrival of the quite literally short-lived TARDIS traveler, Katarina. She’s the show’s first companion from a distant past, but that idea wouldn’t find a real expression until the arrival of Jamie during Patrick Troughton’s era. The fundamental problem, from a standpoint of character, is that Katarina is from too far in the past to relate to anyone else in the TARDIS at all; to her, the Doctor is a god and the TARDIS is his temple. But given that her demise just a few weeks later in an early installment of the 12-episode epic The Daleks’ Masterplan is prophesied here, it would seem that she wasn’t destined to be much of a character anyway – just enough of a character to sacrifice to raise the next story’s stakes. As such, I don’t consider Katarina as a “companion” at all, any more than I would consider Adam from 2005’s Dalek and The Long Game a true companion. She simply wasn’t around long enough, and I get the impression that the producer and writers knew that would be the case.

That aside, The Myth Makers is a delightful listen. It’s sad that the video component of this story is forever lost, but it’s filled with such witty dialogue and characterization than it survives into a purely audio medium.