Aired 16 October – 6 November 1965
‘The Myth Makers’ is an easily overlooked serial, missing entirely from the video archives and often seen as a disjointed placeholder for the upcoming Dalek epic teased in the previous one-off story and s not carrying as much weight as the more serious and dramatic historical stories. Taking a cue from ‘The Romans,’ however, ‘The Myth Makers has a much lighter tone and, due to very effective acting and score, easily makes the transition to audio in a visually evocative manner.
The regulars, as usual, are on fine form, and Peter Purves really gets a chance to prove once more prove himself- this time in comedy- after the misstep of ‘Galaxy 4’ when delivering lines not originally written for him. Steven and the Doctor have clearly developed a deep respect for each other, the short time taken to build this foundation a testament to how much the Doctor has changed since ‘An Unearthly Child.’ Hartnell also excels, spending the majority of the story paired with Odysseus whom he must help to keep his life. His impersonation of Zeus- manifesting himself in beggar guise, according to Achilles- is fantastic, but his struggle to maintain an air of self-respect and dignity when forced to admit he is not Zeus is perhaps the bigger highlight. Centred around the Greeks finding a way into Troy, this situation is mined for plenty of comedy as the Doctor tries to find a solution. While the ultimate decision to use a giant wooden horse is predestined, his suggestion of catapulting Greek soldiers over the walls on darts is, until he is told to try it himself first, perfectly in line with this lighter First Doctor.
While it’s a shame that the visual impact has been lost to time, ‘The Myth Makers’ is possibly best remembered for featuring the departure of Vicki. While Maureen O’Brien does excellent work as she traverses the hazards of Troy, making several friends along the way, it does seem at least a little odd that the Doctor would so easily consent to leaving his young companion whom he cares for so dearly to stay in such a primitive city because of a crush. This is perhaps intended to be one final mirror of Vicki to Susan, but at least Vicki does have one final chance to assert herself, proclaiming how independent she has become since meeting the Doctor, and the emotion underlying the departure, even as the Doctor seems to be growing accustomed to departing companions, is wonderful. Conversely, the introduction of Katarina as Vicki’s replacement seems rather rushed, but bringing aboard someone from such a distant time in the past is certainly brimming with potential.
The supporting characters are written with aplomb as well, both the Greeks and Trojans containing a great sense of individuality and personality. Odysseus has several scene-stealing moments as he uses threats of brute force and violence against the Doctor, and the sense of self-importance Achilles holds for himself is wonderful. On the Trojan side, the quarreling of the haughty royals contains some of the more overt comedic moments, conversations and declarations often built up in grand Shakespearean fashion only to be undone by a biting remark. There is also a bit of comedy grounded in realism simply with the portrayal of the Greeks as average, drunken people as described by Homer, and it is from classics such as The Iliad rather than factual history that so many of these events are drawn. Of course, the comedy ends as the Greeks come out of the wooden horse, leading to an incredibly violent climax, leading to the slaughter of the Trojans including Priam and his family who had been so jovial just moments before. This change in tone is incredibly effective, and the Doctor’s final decision to stand up to Odysseus and deny him access to the TARDIS works very well after playing coy for so long.
It’s again not often that Doctor Who forays into comedic territory, but ‘The Myth Makers’ is another stellar example of the genre done right. Its placement between ‘Mission to the Unknown’ and ‘The Daleks’ Master Plan’ remains questionable, but the story itself and the departure of Vicki are certainly highly memorable, again changing the trajectory of the programme.