Doctor Who #91: Horse of Destruction

"This is not Troy. This is not even the world. This is the Journey through the Beyond."TECHNICAL SPECS: Part 4 of The Myth Makers. Missing except for some brief home movie reels gotten from pointing a camera at the television. The online reconstruction then (Part 1, Part 2). First aired Nov.6 1965.

IN THIS ONE... The sack of Troy and Vicki stays behind with her new beau Troilus.

REVIEW: Though the sacking of Troy was in some ways inevitable, it does make for a rather extreme shift in tone. The witty dialog is replaced by violence and bloodshed. Characters we liked are killed, including Priam and Paris, while the baddies - Odysseus and Cassandra - survive to fight another day. Odysseus in particular deserves his doomed return voyage at sea, gloating as he does about his increased share of the loot if the other Greek heroes dies. And on screen, one of them does. The ineffectual Achilles is savagely killed by Troilus, the boy Vicki's in love with. Even on audio only, it's a harsh scene that because of Achilles' comedy portrayal earlier, doesn't seem fair at all.

The episode isn't helped by the fact that it's almost entirely missing from the archive. The quality of its production values depends on our imaginations now. How did they manage the sack of Troy? The battles and carnage? The soldiers slipping out of a giant wooden horse? The burning city? The jubilant crowds before all hell broke loose? We can imagine it as better and more realistic than it probably was, but that only makes the violence more shocking. Even the companions aren't immune, as Steven gets badly injured, getting a sword through the shoulder that puts him on death's door step. The ending has the Doctor in a state of anxiety, hoping his next destination will offer a store of drugs necessary to save his companion's life.

And of course, this is the episode where Vicki leaves, and that has problems all its own. She gets no onscreen goodbye scene with the Doctor and Steven, one that might have explained how the Doctor could have let her stay in a burning city with a prince from the losing side. But then, he left Susan to rebuild a destroyed culture as well. Love conquers all, I suppose, and Steven should probably not have mocked Vicki's infatuation with Troilus earlier with his natural cynicism (which he's fallen into since the cheery days on Mechanus). Are we happy with Vicki's fate? Whatever challenges she'll face in remote history, she's at least in charge of her destiny. She's the one who saved Troilus' life by sending him out of the city at the right time, and while he despairs, his world crumbling around him, she finds the silver lining and sees the potential for rebuilding. That's out Vicki, all light and enthusiasm, and she'll be missed, especially as the third season darkens further in the next story.

As for Katarina, the handmaiden of Cassandra who helps carry Steven aboard the TARDIS and gets carried away in the ship when the Doctor takes off hurriedly, Odysseus on his heels, well... She doesn't get much of an introduction. Her character doesn't appear before this episode and she hardly chooses to the travel with the Doctor (though the alternative is no doubt Grecian slavery or death). Adrienne Hill has a sympathetic face, and I for one, do like the extreme generation gap that makes her see the world in mythical terms - the Doctor as a god, the TARDIS as the conduit to the after-life. She thinks she's dead, and accepts it. It's too bad the production team ultimately didn't have faith in the idea. It's not like they don't have the Doctor explain 20th-century things to the companions/audience all the time! But I'm getting a bit ahead of myself...

VERSIONS: Donald Cotton also wrote the novelization. I don't know of any particular changes made to the story.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Tense and breathless, it's not a bad historical episode, and it's certainly a game changer. However, it's too dark and violent an ending for something that began as a comedy.

STORY REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - The Myth Makers has some of the funniest dialog on all of Who, and entertains with its revisionist look at mytho-history. The fact that it ends on an inappropriately harsh and realistic note is something it shares with Donal Cotton's other Doctor Who comedy, The Gunfighters.

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