Homer's `The Iliad' breaks off his epic tale of the Trojan War, abruptly and annoyingly, soon after the death of Hector, Prince of Troy, at the hands of Achilles. Now we know why. Even an audience accustomed to stories about all the gods and goddesses of Olympus simply wouldn't have believed what happened next ...
Donald Cotton's superb novelisation of his story `The Myth Makers' brings William Hartnell's Doctor to Troy for a brilliantly entertaining, mostly comic conclusion to the war, with the Wooden Horse and all that ... and some rather confused Greeks and Trojans confronted with a magical blue box and its three occupants, one of whom may or may not be Zeus, but who claim to be travellers in Time and Space. No wonder Homer left that part out!
Sadly, the television episodes are mysteriously `lost', I assume since Odysseus and his Ithacan horde stormed Television Centre, because obviously nobody would just wipe the tapes of these classics, would they? (!) The soundtrack exists and tells an excellent and (in part 4 especially) different and far more serious story than the novel, but having now heard the two surviving versions I prefer the novelisation and it's the wonderful Audiobook of that which is reviewed here.
Donald Cotton's sparkling 1985 novelisation of his scripts turns the original story into a `Homer's-eye view' account of the closing events of the Trojan War, as witnessed by the poet as a young man and now told by him, in old age, to a visitor to his olive grove. There, Homer sits in the sun among ancient ruins, eating goats' cheese and recounting his astonishing adventure.
And he does so, splendidly, in a literary voice somewhere between P.G. Wodehouse and Jerome K. Jerome, dripping with ironic wit and loaded with puns and humorous historical and contemporary references spanning all the millennia from Classical Greece to 1980s Britain. It turns out that Homer has met the Doctor a few times since the Fall of Troy and the Doctor must have told some tales himself, because Homer's knowledge of the future and mischievous modern allusions are spot on!
From jokes about the Judgement of Paris to `La Vie Parisienne', from Classical one-liners to puns on song titles from 1950s musicals and references to 1980's `demo' chants, the Socialist view of `progressive' history, the row over the `Elgin' Marbles and even a saucy joke about orgies, the wonderful narrative flow keeps coming up with one gem after another. I never expected classic `Doctor Who' to be this funny; it's brilliantly written high comedy that had me laughing out loud again and again.
Not that it's all comedy, there is a war on you know. There are two suddenly stomach-churning moments that both happen to Homer himself, all the more shocking for the surrounding frivolity and the determinedly light way the poet manages to carry on the story, come what may. As the doom of Troy approaches in part 4, the ominous presence of the Horse moving towards the city is very well written, as it seems in Homer's mind to gather about it some evil power and become far more than wood, almost a living force of catastrophe.
The Doctor, Steven and Vicki play somewhat reduced roles in this Greek tragicomedy, partly because of the way the story is told and partly because of the larger than life, irreverent portrayals of the Greeks and Trojans. Greek hero Achilles becomes a Narcissistic type compared (unflatteringly) with a body-building male model, King Agamemnon is a fat, cynical warlord with his own domestic worries, his royal brother Menelaus is a drunk who isn't too bothered about getting Helen back and Odysseus, while intelligent and humorous, is also a brutal pirate. On the Trojan side, King Priam is polished but casually despotic, Hector is a vast mountain of muscle who doesn't last long and Paris is (though good with a sword) a self-preserving type and it's a mystery how he ever got up the effrontery to `abduct' Helen in the first place. His brother Troilus is a young fool in love and their sister Cassandra is a wailing priestess full of woes and omens and the doom of Troy - and it must be said, this time she's right!
Stephen Thorne's performance of the Audiobook (far more than just a `reading') is magnificent, bringing Homer's mostly tongue-in-cheek narrating voice to life and giving wonderful portrayals of all the characters. His Odysseus enjoys an accent from somewhere southwest of Bristol, Prince Paris becomes Bertie Wooster with a sword and Cassandra wails and carries on splendidly. He catches the tone and style of the Doctor, Steven and Vicki very well too as the Doctor is forced to come up with a way to break into Troy to reclaim his TARDIS and rescue his companions, while they are faced with the prospect of doing the exact opposite - saving Troy to save themselves.
`The Myth Makers', in this novelisation, is a comedy mirror-image of `The Aztecs'. That was a deadly serious warning about the perils of attempting to "rewrite history". Here we see the Doctor busily writing `history' (or is it myth, even the Doctor isn't sure), following Homer's (as yet unwritten) account of the Wooden Horse, which Homer will write *after* witnessing the event - a predestination paradox or simply a terrific send-up of time travel fiction? Either way, it's great fun.
From the moment King Priam renames Vicki as `Cressida', her fate is bound with that of Troy. The ending for `Cressida' and her friends in this novelisation is lighter than in the television version and more in keeping with the feel of the rest of the story. Instead of the violent battle of `Horse of Destruction', here, the Trojans are relaxed and feasting, confident the Greeks have sailed away, and Steven (believed to be the Greek hero Diomede) is now forgiven as a gallant, defeated enemy. He and `Cressida' (believed to be a powerful and friendly sorceress who scared away the Greeks!) are welcomed guests of King Priam. Only Homer's account of the Horse, drawing ever nearer and filled with vengeful Greeks (and one reluctant Time Lord) carries a sense of doom made sharper by the party atmosphere in the palace.
Telling the story from Homer's viewpoint casts a veil over the brutal end to the original television narrative, as the Fall of Troy is now witnessed only from a distance and the escape of the Doctor, Steven and Trojan priestess Katarina in the TARDIS is planned for but not witnessed directly. Troilus and Cressida now have a more certain love-story to make a positive ending, and for final reassurance that all did go well with Vicki there is an appealing epilogue, with a nice twist to complete the tale.
I'd like to thank Timelord-007 for the helpful review that led me to this Audiobook version.
Don't look this gift horse in the mouth, buy it! Thanks for reading, 5*
on 22 March 2013
'The Myth Makers' happens to be amongst the many Doctor Who serials that have become lost following the BBC's purging of what they deemed 'irrelevant' material, and the biggest shame is that not a lot of the programme remains other than the television soundtrack (due to a very loyal fan-base pointing their portable recorders up to the television screen at time of broadcast). Broadcast Between October and November 1965, this entry is among the show' s historical genre of serials, in contrast to the more science-fiction oriented, and the setting this time is in (Mythical) Ancient Greece, in the midst of the Trojan War. It seems something of a teaser/ filler episode, set in between the single episode serial 'Mission to the Unknown' (famous for including none of the main cast, but focusing on the menacing daleks) and the twelve part epic 'The Daleks' Master Plan'.
The story leads straight on from the previous serial 'Galaxy 4', and involves the First Doctor, Vicki and Steven becoming embroiled in the war between the Greeks and the Trojans, during the infamous Battle of Troy. Donald Cotton's script utilises a lot of the Homeric characters of Achilles, King Priam, Helen of Troy (never actually seen, but mentioned), Troilus, Odysseus and so on. The historical factor is slightly marred by the fact that the events of the Trojan War have never been revealed as factual, but more of a mythical story told by bards and poets of ancient times. However, the educational factor is still there, and Cotton uses his various sources of Homer, Virgil and Shakespeare well to create a well-paced four-part drama that also delivers a high level of entertainment.
It is at the end of 'The Myth Makers' that Vicki decides to stay behind after the battle in order to make a life for herself with her newfound love Troilus, and goes on with Troilus' cousin Aeneas to 'start again'. This move on the writer's part was due to Maureen O'Brien, who played Vicki, wanting to leave the series at an agreed time. Therefore, at the end of the serial, amidst the bloody battle still going on and alongside a badly injured Steven, a new companion is brought into the fold in the form of Katarina, the handmaiden to Cassandra (the Seer who is cursed to receive prophecies that no-one believes).
It really is a shame that 'The Myth Makers' has no surviving visual material, save from a few 8mm off-air clips recorded by fans, and included in the DVD 'Lost in Time: Collection of Rare Episodes - The William Hartnell Years 1963-1966'. According to the surviving crew and actors, the set designs and costumes were particularly lavish, and happens to be Maureen O'Brien's favourite story purely down to that reason. It certainly is much help having the surviving original television soundtrack, otherwise there would be no way whatsoever to enjoy this well-crafted piece, sewn into Doctor Who lore (apart from the Target novel, which is available in hard/paperback and audio form). Additionally, it aids in bridging the gaps between the missing serials in the programme's third season, and explains why Vicki decided to leave the company of the Doctor and Steven.
The linking narration provided by Peter Purves, who played Steven Taylor in this story, manages to give a sense of what is occurring during the scenes that rely less on dialogue and more on visual cue. However, I would have liked to hear a bit more of this descriptive linking narration, as it is sometimes quite difficult to grasp what is happening simply by the clashing of swords, or by a desperate bass tone. This is only minor though, and 'The Myth Makers' on Audio CD is a media item that every devoted Whovian should have on their shelves, as a testimony to what made Doctor Who so great during this innocent phase in the show' s run.
N.B. Please note also, that this release was later included in the 2010 release of 'Doctor Who: The Lost TV Episodes Collection One: 1964-1965', which has its sound quality digitally remastered since the initial release. This set includes other lost stories that have not been recovered yet and also some interviews with the original cast.
on 27 May 2012
Pretend you're at the Siege of Troy right now. You have just seen Achilles slay Hector. You know that the subterfuge with the Trojan Horse is soon to follow. But there is a change. You suddenly hear a loud groaning hum. A small light appears. With it, a wooden blue police telephone box. You stare in amazement as it all appears before your eyes. The TARDIS has arrived.
Based on the television serial of the same name, Doctor Who: The Myth Makers sets the Doctor and his companions Steven and Vicki to one of the most infamous wars of ancient history. Unfortunately, none of this serial exists anymore, save for a few seconds of footage. The only way you're going to know the events at this point of time is to read this book. Anyway, the Doctor is the first to exit the TARDIS and is believed by the Greeks (most of them) to be Zeus, because of the way the TARDIS appeared. Steven goes out after him while Vicki remains behind. The TARDIS however is found by Paris and he orders his men to carry it into Troy. Vicki comes out and is assumed to be a priestess of power, much to the displeasure of the city's high priestess Cassandra.
At the Greek camp, the Doctor's disguise is soon foiled and he is forced by King Agammemnon and hero Odysseus to construct a means of ensuring their victory over the Trojans. King Priam expects a similar thing of Vicki by predicting what the Greeks are going to do, and renames her Cressida. Steven aims to rescue them both, with the the willing help of one Greek poet named Homer, the legendary author of epics The Illiad aoctornd The Odyssey. The heroes must now work on separate sides to rejoin one another and return to the TARDIS. It will not be easy, as one of them faces an agonising choice. And when that choice is made, it is the Doctor who pays the price.
Doctor Who: The Myth Makers. The television episodes that make up the story are a myth within themselves as with also being lost celluloid they are as per usual told from the points of view from the TARDIS crew members. With the book however it is told completely from the viewpoint of Homer as he is relaying it to an audience much later in his life. So are you willing to see the story of the fall of Troy in a new light, told by the man who wrote two great epics about it, with the characters we all know and love from a science fiction television program? Or are you afraid to have an adventure with a history you believe you already know? Well, this is my opinion. Always ready for a new adventure with... DOCTOR WHO!!!
on 12 November 2014
The Myth Makers was always a great slightly left field story for the Police Box Show (try out the soundtrack CD and you'll also be wishing they had all the episodes intact). The tardis is dumped on the plains of ancient Troy as Achilles fights Hector and the emerging Doctor is taken for Zeus. He and Steven get 48 hours to devise a way to defeat the Trojans, while Vicki emerging from the Tardis later as it is taken to the city of Troy by Paris is taken as a prophetess and tasked to defeat the Greeks.
For the novelisation, Donald Cotton put in the famous classic writer Homer (Iliad, Oddysey) as narrator. This works even better than Ned Buntline in the Gunfighters because Homer is put into the story. in fact he becomes the main character (which may upset some purists), regaling a visitor with his tale of what happened at the siege of Troy, the strange people he met who came out of a blue box & how he lost his sight.
Just as in the original, here are mythical figures of legend, portrayed as real people, fed up to the back teeth with an interminable war. Oddyseus fears his wife will never believe the war has gone on this long and Paris is certain that if he could have just talked to Menelaus about stealing his wife Helen then it could all have been sorted out.
Menelaus for his part is actually glad to see the back of her and not at all interested in his brother's insistence that he ought retrieve her or die trying!
Homer provides a commentary on events e.g. observing that the Doctor did not know when to leave well alone as he asks Odysseus what will happen if they fail in their task.
There's a great deal of humour and wit plus some anachronistic references-e.g. Homeer describing the Hartnell Doctor as a "superannuated Flying Dutchman!" much more of the original dialogue has been retained than in the Gunfighters novelisation and rightly too. Who would want to miss out on clever jokes and all the corny ones?
Homer helps to illustrate the brutality of the time e.g. turning up at a bad moment loses him an eye! This is also a development of a last minute rewrite in the original. While he's down to 1 eye, Homer is nicknamed "Cyclops". In the original Cotton titled an episode "Is there a Doctor in the Horse?" This was dropped (although it reappears here) in favour of "Death of a Spy". there being no spy to kark it, one was written in and having one eye was called "Cyclops"
Adding Homer to the story gave Cotton the opportunity to Moffat the story. Now the 1st Homer hears of the Trojan Horse is the Doctor remarking it's probably something Homer made up. There's a lovely paradox. There's also a nice moment where Achilles gets his heal caught in a fight "His heal?" muses Homer.
Add in a lovely prologue where Homer asks us to sit down and share his Goat's cheese while he tells us a story and a lovely coda where the Doctor visits him again and you've got a great read.
it is of course read for us and beautifully by Stephen Thorne. He has a reputation for playing his characters loud although in fairness Azal, Omega and Eldrad (male version) might not have worked quietly. In many ways he was the Brian Blessed of Who before the real one got in on the act!
But here he does none of that and offers a range of character voices, all of which work. His Paris is very like Barrie Ingham's original performance!
When I 1st read the paperback, with references to the Doctor getting younger later, I did not assume that it was the Hartnell Doctor at the end of the book. Stephen Thorne makes it clearly the 1st Doctor and this makes the enquiries about Vicki more poignant.
It's a shame Cotton only did 3 Who novels (let's hope the Romans gets taking book treatment soon). I think we'd all have enjoyed a novel of his Loch Ness monster and the aliens unused story. Had there been Big Finish in the 80's he might have done a fine companions story too.
As it is we only have the 3 novels and 2 talking books, of which this is the better one and very highly recommended..
on 8 February 2015
‘The Myth Makers’ sees the Tardis dematerialise upon the plains of ancient Asia thrusting the Doctor and his companions into one of the most pivotal periods of human history, the Trojan War.
In terms of quality of text this is often superbly written. There are some wonderful turns of phrase, a keen wit throughout the writing, some amusingly clever chapter titles, virtual paraphrasing of Classical texts and even a little bit of toying with Iambics. The characterisation of Homeric/historical figures is frequently delightful in the way it mocks their flaws and weaknesses rendering them more human than heroic and thus making them more realistic.
Unlike the usual Target novelisations it is written in the first person from the perspective of Homer. This places the author of the foremost work concerning the Trojan War, the Iliad (albeit only concerned with a brief period during said war), at the heart of the action. This involves his interaction with events not just with the Greeks and Trojans but also with the Tardis crew. There is a satirical edge that runs throughout the narration and brings the historical figure of Homer to life.
Of course this approach does come with a few problems. Ostensibly the author of the Iliad (and ‘The Odyssey’ if you hold to the view that the two great epics were written by one and the same author) wouldn’t have recounted such events until several centuries after which the time they were set. Furthermore, this is something unique to the novelisation, Homer not appearing in the televised serial. It also makes this quite a Doctor light adventure. The Doctor is featured very little as the plot follows Homer’s movements throughout the Greek encampment and the city of Troy. He becomes more of a background figure. This is very much a story about Homer rather than the Doctor or his companions.
Vicki and Steven adopt the roles of historical/mythical figures. In fact, Vicki turns out to actually become the Trojan princess Cressida (a minor figure of mythology that retrospectively becomes more famous with later works entitled Troilus and Cressida by both Shakespeare and Chaucer). The love affair with Troilus has a lack of attention but is given more detail than what appears in the televised version. Steven adopts the role of supposedly dead hero Diomedes. However, according to ancient sources and mythology Diomedes was one of the few figures of the Trojan War to actually survive it and the events that followed.
Even though there is clearly a fair knowledge of Classical texts there does appear a few errors and some glaring anachronisms. A reference to Hercules should really be about Theseus for example. There are mentions of Diana which is the later Roman name for Artemis and a mention of Gibraltar that would have been known as the Pillars of Herakles at the time, and for considerable time after. There is also talk of Alexandria which was founded by Alexander the Great eight or nine centuries after the approximate datings for the Trojan War. There is even a forward looking allusion to Virgil’s Augustan propaganda epic, ‘The Aeneid’. But, I suppose, artistic license can just about excuse all this as it doesn’t detract from what is an extremely well-written and enjoyable read and a Doctor Who novelisation with a difference. It is also a much better way to enjoy this story than the surviving photo stills.
on 29 July 2009
This is another enjoyable release in the range of audiobook versions of the Target range of DOCTOR WHO novelisations first released in the 1970s and 1980s. THE MYTH MAKERS was one of the later entries in the range and is a rather loose adaptation, by the original author, of his own television episodes, but they are adapted in such a way that I think he in many ways manages to improve upon them. Whilst it is undoubtedly the early Target novelisations that were amongst the strongest in the entire range, this release certainly gives them a run for their money.
Basically, the story is told from the point of view of the aged and blind poet Homer, reworking parts of his works late in his life. In earlier versions of his tales, he realises that he completely failed to mention the part the occupants of a certain Blue Police Box played in the fall of Troy, and now he wants to set the record straight. Or maybe he's just decided to "reimagine" his early works to maximise his profits...? Whatever the reason, when The Doctor (in white-haired old man mode), Steven and Vicki emerge from one of Zeus's portable temples at a crucial moment in the battle between Hector and Achilles, events start to unfold at a rapid pace and (after the dismissal of other notable plans) a certain legendary horse tends to reluctantly become a racing certainty of playing a pivotal role in history.
You might have been led to believe that the early years of DOCTOR WHO are a little slow and humourless, but this version is far from either, as it positively rattles along over its 4 CD running time and Donald Cotton has fashioned an amusing and witty take on his original that in many ways surpasses it. At times this is just very, very funny, and any student of the classics would find a lot to enjoy in this jolly spin on the usual myths and legends with its knowing nods and winks towards other literary works and some of the most excruciating puns you're ever likely to come across.
Stephen Thorne narrates in a jaunty and avuncular manner and his various characterisations - with the occasional Somerset (?) burr - employed throughout are great fun. Actually it is his performance that really makes this release. His Doctor Who performances (Azal in "The Daemons; Omega in "The Three Doctors") tended towards the "booming evil villain" end of his range, so his approach here is a rather pleasing revelation.
By the way, if you do want to experience the original version of this story, the television version is probably lost forever, but the audio soundtrack CDs of the original episodes have been released by BBC Audio. However, that release also is rather unfortunately titled "Doctor Who - The Myth Makers", so you'd better be sure which version you're after when you order.
on 24 January 2010
Another great example of how the Target novelisations often transcended the TV stories they adapted, Donald Cotton's novel is a historical tour de force; the epic scale of the story is beautifully brought across with lashings of detail that the small screen could never accomodate, whilst Stephen Thorne's reading is superb. Narrated by the long-suffering poet Homer, shortly after having his eye gouged out by the barbarous Odysseus, the story is actually an early 'Doctor-lite' adventure, with the Time Lord and his companions bit-part players on a stage that pits Greek against Trojans, and gives a light-hearted yet compelling accurate portrayal of classical mythology. Stirring stuff indeed, and a fine addition to the Target audio range.
on 31 January 2008
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! Oh ye (me) of little faith.
It was 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 Companions Chronicle 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 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.
(I've got The Massacre primed to go next - ooh, expectations are sky-high!)
on 7 August 2013
Noy quite legend but enjoyable and a good listen. Shame the BBC lost it. Sound creates great images of Troy.
on 1 May 2013
this book is quite a good story made more important by not being on film no more well worth a read