Monday 10 October 2011

The Myth Makers

"If you take notice of them, I think you'll find they're doing more talking than fighting."

Animated reconstruction courtesy of DrWhoAnimator.

To say that The Myth Makers is irreverent would be a bit of an understatement. This serial is a complete send-up of the ancient story of the fall of Troy. The heroes of the ancient legend are made into a laughing stock and to cap it all, it has the Doctor providing Odysseus with the plan of building a wooden horse. The Myth Makers is hilariously funny. It is blessed with one of the wittiest scripts in Doctor Who, with almost every line getting a laugh from me, especially the continued ridicule of Cassandra ("Oh go and feed the sacred snakes or something"). Comedy stories in Doctor Who are always a little problematic because you have to believe in the fictional world you are watching. If you can't take it seriously, you can't believe in it. Perhaps it is difficult to imagine both The Myth Makers and The Massacre taking place in the same universe, even if the two stories are separated by over two thousand years. Nevertheless, there is enough violence and brutality in this story to remind one that this is history, even if it is being handled in a less than serious fashion.

Cassandra, by Evelyn De Morgan

The non-regulars give some very enjoyable performances in this story, of particularly note is the cynical King Priam and the thuggish Odysseus. Everyone seems to be really enjoying the story. Perhaps the big letdown is Adrienne Hill as Katarina. For somebody who is about to be introduced as a companion, she makes no impact whatsoever.

The Doctor is used highly effectively in this story. Here he is ensnared by his own cleverness, pretending to be Zeus, then finding himself unable to prove his own credentials. His protracted rage against his captor and tormentor Odysseus is quite amusing. Steven also gets a few good moments, particularly his hilarious interplay with Paris.

Maureen O'Brien is especially strong in this story. I have never really liked her performances; there was always a sense that she was not taking the stories all that seriously. That this is a comedy enables her to offer a characteristically knowing performance. Her relationship with Troilus is not at all convincing and is a typically rushed Doctor Who romance, but I don't think it is meant to be taken all that seriously.

Interestingly, the Doctor has no concern that Vicky will be unable to communicate with Troilus after the departure of the TARDIS. This would indicate that, contrary to the BBC Wales series, the ability of the Doctor and companions to communicate with non-English speakers has nothing to do with any 'TARDIS translation circuit." It would seem that it is an almost supernatural ability that the Doctor bestows on his companions and is acquired permanently, not temporarily.

It is quite tragic that so little footage of The Myth Makers is available.

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