The third season of Doctor Who is full of a great deal more death and bloodshed than you would expect from a children’s show. It starts out innocently enough; in “Galaxy 4,” only the four Drahvins die (and they were clearly evil people). However, starting with the next serial, “The Mythmakers,” and continuing through “The Daleks’ Master Plan” and “The Massacre,” the body count quickly rises. “The Mythmakers,” the second story of the season, sees the Doctor and his companions, Vicki and Steven, land in the midst of the Trojan War. No episodes survive of this story, and the only footage is a few 8mm home movie clips, but the complete audio is available.
As always, it is difficult to truly judge the merits of a story that was meant to be viewed, but now can only be heard. There are a great many supporting characters in this story, and I’ll confess it took me a little while to finally get them all straight. There are almost no images from this story either, so I have very little idea of what the visuals were for the story. Obviously, I’m judging it based on the merit of the story alone.
The TARDIS materializes right where Achilles and Hector are engaged in a lengthy fight. They are so involved in their struggle that they fail to notice the TARDIS until the Doctor walks out of it. His sudden apperance distracts Hector, and he is slain by Achilles. Achilles believes that the Doctor is Zeus,who has appeared to grant him victory. The Doctor tries to go back to his “blue temple,” but Odysseus arrives and the Doctor is forced to accompany him to see Agamemnon. Vicki has a wounded ankle from their escape in “Galaxy 4,” so she stays behind in the TARDIS, while Steven follows the Doctor to the Greek camp.
Once at the camp, the Doctor’s divinity is under suspicion, but Agamemnon is unsure of what course to take until Steven is captured. The Doctor agrees to sacrifice him in his “blue temple,” thinking that this will allow them both to escape. Unfortunately, the Trojans have discovered the TARDIS and taken it into Troy, with Vicki still inside. The Doctor is forced to admit his true identity, and he is given two days to come up with a plan to help the Greeks win the war.
Meanwhile, Vicki has been discovered by the Trojans, who have named her Cressida. King Priam takes a liking to her and believes her to be a prophet, which angers Cassandra (who actually is one!). The Trojans, however, become suspicious of Vicki when they capture Steven, who they think is Diomedes, friend of Odysseus, and the two recognize each other. Vicki is then given one day to help Priam win the war, putting her and the Doctor on opposing sides of the struggle.
While this would not be one of the top stories from William Hartnell’s time, it is a good one. Unlike the previous story, “Galaxy 4,” there is a great conflict built into this story. It was an interesting idea to have the Doctor and Vicki tied to opposing sides in the war. It added suspense to a story for which many viewers already knew the outcome. Having the Doctor and Vicki on opposing sides limited what they could do to get out of their respective predicaments. For instance, even though Vicki knew that there would be soldiers hidden inside the Trojan horse, she couldn’t reveal the truth about it because she didn’t want anything to happen to the Doctor.
This story featured good roles for all of the regulars: there was a rather large supporting cast, yet the regular cast members all had important parts to play in the adventure. In particular, the story gave William Hartnell a chance to show off some of his comedic skills again. Who could resist watching the Doctor playing Zeus in the first episode? It seems to be a role that suits him well: the Doctor takes to playing the king of the gods almost immediately. Hartnell also got to show off the Doctor’s resourcefulness, as well as how he reacts to having his clever ideas fail. All of his attempts to fool Odysseus are thwarted, and eventually he is forced to actually hide in the Trojan horse with Odysseus and his men. It’s unusual for the Doctor to meet someone he can’t fool.
Additionally, Vicki once again shows off her own resourcefulness in this story. She is separated from the Doctor and Steven, yet she is able to manipulate the situation to become favored by the royal family. Vicki was the last female assistant for a while who was capable of taking care of herself. Her situation is actually worsened by Steven’s attempt to rescue her.
This story has more interactions between Vicki and Steven than the previous one, which is a good thing. The interactions between Steven and Vicki are always fun. They generally follow this pattern: Steven always thinks that he knows best, yet Vicki is usually right. Vicki is never obnoxious with Steven, but she does have the ability to good naturedly put him in his place when he gets too bossy, resulting in some funny moments. In this case, there is a very funny exchange between the two after they have been locked up in the dungeon. This is after Steven has come to “rescue” Vicki, but instead he has made things worse for both of them.
This story is loosely based on the story of Troilus and Cressida (both the Shakespeare and Chaucer versions), however it takes many liberties with the characters. From what I know about the Shakespearean version, this story also picked up a bit of the uneven tone of the play. While not as broadly comedic as “The Romans,” the story has many comedic moments, yet it ends in death for almost all involved. Both sides are portrayed as wanting the war to end, yet I felt that you got to know the Torjans better. This makes the ending even more disturbing, since I found myself sympathizing with the Trojans, yet they are the losing side; the likable King Priam and his son, Paris, both end up dead. Still, Vicki and her prince get a happy ending, unlike the play, keeping this from being a true tragedy.
This story is Vicki’s final story, as she falls in love with Priam’s youngest son, Troilus, and decides to stay with him. While I found this more believable than Susan’s romance in “The Dalek Invasion of Earth,” it is another rather whirlwind romance (and, curiously, they both leave in the aftermath of war, not exactly in ideal times). My only complaint was the lack of a farewell scene for Vicki and her companions. Her goodbye to the Doctor is off screen, and she never says goodbye to Steven. She and the Doctor had a great relationship; I think it would have been a very touching goodbye between them. I felt that not witnessing their goodbye left things feeling a bit unresolved at the end.
This episode also saw the introduction of the short lived companion Katarina. She was one of Cassandra’s handmaidens, and she is responsible for bringing Steven to the TARDIS after he is wounded. She nobly sacrifices herself a few episodes into the next story, after it was decided that having a companion from the distant past posed too many problems for the show.
Finally, this story brings up an interesting idea, that was touched upon (though a bit less directly) in “The Romans,” when the Doctor inadvertently gives Nero the idea to burn Rome. This story is the first to give the Doctor a very direct role in shaping a major historical event. In previous episodes, the Doctor has been very clear that you can’t rewrite history, “not one line,” yet without him, the Trojan horse would not have been built. It could be argued that the Greeks would have found another way to win, but at this point, they would not have won the war without the Doctor’s help. In stories like the “Reign of Terror,” the travelers discuss how events in the past cannot be altered by their presence (what is going to happen will always happen whether they are there or not). Does this mean that the Doctor was meant to be in Troy at this particular time? And, according to the Doctor’s own statements (from earlier historicals), does this mean that someone else would have suggested the idea if the Doctor had not been there? Of course, this also opens up the paradox that the Doctor only suggests the Trojan horse because he has read about it, so where did the idea really come from?
Overall, this story is a good one, even if it does bring up many unanswerable questions. It’s a fitting farewell to Vicki and an enjoyable story. I am glad that they did away with the jokey episode titles that were originally considered, as they would have made the tone of the final episode even more jarringly out of place. Is anyone prepared for terrible bloodshed after an episode entitled “Is There a Doctor in the Horse?”