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Customer reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
16

TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 9 January 2015
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*
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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..
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 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.
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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!!!
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on 3 October 2017
Good book. Jon pertwee signature on the inside cover which is pretty odd
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on 16 April 2015
great item
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on 29 May 2016
Good story
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on 7 August 2013
Noy quite legend but enjoyable and a good listen. Shame the BBC lost it. Sound creates great images of Troy.
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on 27 January 2001
The prospect of spending an hour and a half with Doctor Who, especially the Hartnell black and white vintage, and not even on television, but some off-air recording of a 'junked' story, tarted up by a bit of narration, can't fill many people's hearts with excitement. So, I assume, this release is meant for the die-hard fans. The same people who dismiss this, and the writer's other contribution to the programme, The Gunfighters, as among the worst stories ever in the series, and you can imagine the stiff competition. So, who is this meant to appeal to? Anyone with a sense of fun and an appreciation of clever dialogue. Set during the Trojan War, the story rattles along with a casual disregard for historical, or literary, accuracy and is all the better for it. The events are restructured to fit the Doctor Who world in the same way that Shakespeare was more interested in telling a good story, than give a history lesson. Featuring a line up of stage and screen stars, notably Max Adrian as King Priam and Francis de Wolff as Agamemnon, this is still Hartnell's show. Seeming to delight in the freedom from technobabble and the historical stories usual forced gravitas, he puts in a comedy performance the right side of tongue-in-cheek and send-up, something that future Doctors could have done well to echo. The story is by no means light, especially the more down-beat final episode, and it contains a fair amount of Doctor Who 'business', namely the departure of a long-standing companion. Not being made for an audio-medium, however wordy the script, can make listening to an adaptation of this sort hard work. Although cleaned up magnificently, these amateur mono recordings are of poorer quality than would normally be expected of a professional product. Still, due praise should be given to the fan who had the foresight to record it way back in 1965. And boos and hisses to the BBC for not recognising the programmes significance. This is never going to appeal to anyone but a Who-fan or TV nostagist but it does deserve a better reputation even amongst that scene. And a wider appreciation too.
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on 16 August 2008
Stephen Thorne gives a fantastic reading of one of the finest ever Doctor Who novelisations from Target books. Since reading it on first publication I have studied literature (including Homer) at university, and I have to say that whilst a knew Donald Cotton's book to be good as a teenager revisiting it as an adult was again a fantastic experience. Mr Thorne - now a less prolific audio book reader than was once the case - gives a spirited rendition of each character, including a suspiciously West Country-sounding Odysseus! It is such a shame that BBC Audiobooks chose to follow this gem with a feeble offering like Black Orchid. But as the Trojans in this book would doubtless tell you (were they not the stuff of myth), you can't win 'em all...
5 people found this helpful
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