Doctor Who #88: Temple of Secrets

"He is a Trojan spy, but of such undoubted divinity he must be spared."TECHNICAL SPECS: Part 1 of The Myth Makers, a story almost entirely lost from the archive (except for some very brief 8mm home movie reel shots obtained by pointing at a television set from episodes 1, 2 and 4). Consequently, though I've listened to the Peter Purves-narrated BBC audio recently, I have once again gone to a reconstruction available on the Internet (Part 1, Part 2). First aired Oct.16 1965.

IN THIS ONE... The TARDIS lands in the middle of the Trojan War, but the Greek heroes aren't all the myths said they were.

REVIEW: It's the warriors of Greek myth, Hector and Achilles battling on the plain, but... is that comedy music? In fact, it is, because the TARDISeers are about to find out there's a big difference between myth and reality. While past historicals have vacillated between buying into legends (Marco Polo as hero adventurer and Nero's madness, for example) and researched revisionism (The Crusade), they dealt with HISTORY. Myth is something else entirely, and while we can certainly believe events such as those presented in the Iliad happened, we know they've been added to, exaggerated, and distorted the for the story's sake. Homer was the first Hollywood script writer. So who knows what these characters were really like, and how the stories really happened? Writer Donald Cotton drafts a spoof that deconstructs the heroes and events to most amusing effect.

Achilles is an effete coward who runs from fights and only kills Hector because the latter was distracted by the Doctor. No one believes him when he tells his story so little is he held in esteem. Odysseus is a nasty piece of work and really the antagonist of this piece. His Cyclops isn't a giant monster, but a one-eyed, mute servant who speaks in rudimentary gestures Odysseus hilariously understands and translates into long sentences. The Cyclops is basically Lassie. Menalaus was quite happy to see the back of his wife Helen, but still plunged the Greeks into a war of egos. And though there is a war on, aside from the single combat of Hector and Achilles, it seems like each side is content to remain encamped, eat and grow fat. And throw some wonderful insults at one another.

When the Doctor shows up, he is variably assumed to be either Zeus or a Trojan spy and gets treated half in reverence, half as an enemy, but he seems to enjoy the challenge. He means to prove his divinity by blasting Steven with a thunderbolt, but he seems to need the TARDIS for that and it's disappeared. Why sacrifice a friend? Well, if Steven's not gonna follow orders and stay in the ship... Without the video, it's hard to tell, but surely, they shared a look or gesture (Cyclops isn't the only insanely good sign language communicator) because Steven doesn't give the Doctor away. Meanwhile, Vicki is pretty disappointed to have to stay on the TARDIS on account of her sprained ankle so she won't get to meet all the heroes. But that's exactly the point: Just like Vicki, we're not gonna meet any heroes either!

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - A literate spoof which I believe would be more obviously funny if we still had the video. Alas...

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