Tuesday, 1 December 2009
“I suppose I’ll have to drive you like a Grecian cur into the city… Come, dog!”
Review: THE MYTH MAKERS
Audio soundtrack of missing story, written by Donald Cotton, directed by Michael Leeston-Smith, 1965
The Myth Makers is one of those stories which, despite knowing what it’s about, I’ve never really heard much about… So it was a bit of a delight to find it’s a total gem.
I’m an enormous fan of Hartnell’s years, but I find that I can still be swayed by the general view that the stories were ‘a bit shoddy,’ ‘too slow,’ etc (despite the fact that I think, at its best, this period’s production values were at an all-time high compared to the majority of the later years, relatively speaking) – so it almost came as a (pleasant) surprise just how snappy this story is!
It's wonderful to hear a ‘comedy’ Doctor Who story that is genuinely funny – I love The Romans, but I wouldn’t describe it as pant-wettingly funny, as it is often portrayed. I don’t want to just list quotes, but, er, I think I’m going to. Paris is particularly good value for money – I love the re-imagining of a Trojan warrior as an inept Carry On imbecile; he reminded me of Hugo in The Vicar of Dibley, actually, crossed with David Hemmings’ Dildano in Barbarella (“I’ll put it round your secret neck”). I particularly like Paris’ “Now I suppose I’ll have to drive you like a Grecian cur into the city, won’t I… Come, dog!”
All the derogatory stuff about Cassandra was entertaining too (“Oh, go and feed the sacred snakes or something”). Her, “You’re not putting THAT in my temple!” of the TARDIS tickled me too.
Also: the comment about “galloping religious mania”;
“It seems there’s a man lurking behind that flaccid exterior after all!”;
“Catapults? Sounds like a vulgar oath to me.”
Not being particularly action-packed (although, thanks to the wordplay, it never drags either – if anything, four episodes felt too short), the story transfers wonderfully to audio, which is particularly nice as it emphasised the links between this and Marc Platt’s grown-up-Vicki Frostfire audio. I’m not particularly sold on the idea of the audio adventures, so I’ve never become very involved with Big Finish – well, I say ‘very’; Frostfire is the only one I’ve actually listened to. (Audio just seems like a slightly clumsy medium to me – compared to novels and televised stories, it has the worst of both worlds… But I digress.) I could really feel the links between young Vicki leaving the TARDIS here, and the older Vicki/Lady Cressida in the catacombs in the Companion Chronicles story. Maureen O’Brien even sounded exactly the same. Having listened to the audio first, there was a nice sense of continuity (not in the fan sense) between the two stories.
It’s also amazing how far Vicki has come since The Rescue. It’s often said that there’s little character development in the companions, so it’s wonderful that even one with relatively little status within fandom like Vicki really has matured by now – and she’s completely charming. Even her romance with Troilus is sweet and well played, and doesn’t become trite. Also a nice ending for her – I wasn’t convinced at first (it just seems as if she’s been forgotten), but her telling the Doctor that she has decided to leave off-screen is really effective; it fits with the frantic events of the Greek attack, and is slightly less 'literal' than the thinking that these scenes always need to be shown.
Whilst on the topic of companions: Katarina – what the hell?! I’ve previously listened to The Daleks’ Master Plan (ooh, I love a Doctor Who with honest-to-god grammar in the title…); I wasn’t expecting miracles from her debut (in fact, I’d forgotten about her until she randomly showed up), but I thought she might at least have some part to play here. Ah, well… she’ll soon be a space popsicle.
The other main thing that strikes me: Hartnell, wonderful as ever - but why has no-one ever really picked up more on the whole ‘the Doctor is responsible for the fall of Troy’ element?! I know he regrets giving the Greeks the idea for the horse once he’s actually in it, but it sounds like it’s motivated more by self-preservation than guilt at instigating a massacre! Very strange how sometimes the Doctor’ll emote for ages about one little character (or whatever… can’t think of an example off the top of my head. Erm, Lytton), and then doesn’t trouble himself about causing the fall of an entire city! Not to mention The Aztecs’ patented ‘messing around with history’ thing.
All in all, The Myth Makers is deeply underrated; it feels very effortless, loads of fun, but with a pleasingly dramatic ending, which stops it feeling too inconsequential.