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Lost Hartnell Stories: The Mythmakers

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.

Troilus and "Cressida" embrace

Troilus and “Cressida” embrace

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.

The suspicious Cassandra watches Priam and Vicki

The suspicious Cassandra watches Priam and Vicki

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.

The Doctor's plans for the Trojan horse

The Doctor’s plans for the Trojan horse

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?”

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5 responses to “Lost Hartnell Stories: The Mythmakers

  1. “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?”

    Wibbly-wobbly… timey-wimey…

    Excellent review. This sounds like an interesting story. I really wish that at least some of it still existed, so that we could see it in its original form. As huge a fan of Doctor Who as I am, I’ve always found it difficult to sit through the reconstructions of lost episodes. With the huge cast of characters you describe, this one sounds like it is especially complicated to follow based on the audio alone. Perpahs instead I will track down a copy of the novelization.

    • It goes to show that wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey was in use long before Moffat coined the term. I wish people would stop acting like Moffat is the first writer to use the concept; it’s kind of a necessity in a show about time travel.

      I don’t mind the reconstructions, but I’m not likely to listen to them multiple times. However, I’m skipping, at least for now, the reconstructions for “The Daleks’ Master Plan” because that seems like it would be terribly difficult to follow with just the audio (and it’s so long!).

  2. ayearwiththedoctor ⋅

    I just watched “The Time Meddler,” which raises even more questions about the Doctor’s behavior in “The Romans” and this episode. He berates the Monk for being reckless and breaking “the golden rule” of time travel, yet the Doctor himself does this a number of times. Granted, the Monk’s actions are in less of a time-travel etiquette gray area than the Doctor’s, but still…interesting that the Doctor seems a bit hypocritical in his condemnation of the Monk as a result.

    Great review! It’s a shame so much of the third season was lost , though the Troughton years were even more devastated by the junking. Still, between this and “Massacre,” its extremely frustrating. Galaxy 4…well…I’ll say no more.

    • You bring up a good point. The Doctor is upset at the Monk, but he has influenced the past through his presence as well, breaking the golden rule. The Doctor is never intentionally trying to alter history, like the Meddling Monk does, but he does nevertheless.

      It’s too bad that in the 70’s the BBC couldn’t see the value in the old episodes. Even though I know it’s unlikely, I still hope that somehow more missing episodes will be found. Since the episodes from “Galaxy 4” and “The Underwater Menace” turned up after all this time, maybe there are a few more out there somewhere. There are some great stories missing from the Hartnell era, but you’re right, the Troughton era was hit even harder. It’s hard to believe that only one story would survive intact from Troughton’s first two seasons.

      • ayearwiththedoctor ⋅

        I keep hoping more will turn up. You never know, they could be sitting in some box somewhere collecting dust, waiting to be found. It is difficult to listen to just audio, especially in the instances where relatively little visual material remains. I never feel like I can judge them accurately. When I get to season 3 and then Troughton’s years I’m really going to have to address how I approach reconstructions in earnest. It’s crushing to realize what we’ve probably lost for good.

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