Doctor Who #89: Small Prophet, Quick Return

"Don't pay any attention to Cassandra, she takes the gloomiest view. I suspect it's a kind of insurance, so that if things do go wrong she can always say 'I told you so.'"TECHNICAL SPECS: Part 2 of The Myth Makers. Missing except for some brief home movie reels gotten from pointing a camera at the television. The online reconstruction will have to do (Part 1, Part 2). First aired Oct.23 1965.

IN THIS ONE... Odysseus asks the Doctor to come with a scheme to beat the Trojans, Steven lets himself be captured so he rescue Vicki, and she's doing fine chatting up Trojan Kings and Princes (until he shows up, that is).

REVIEW: If it wasn't clear this was a comedy in the previous episode, meeting the Trojan side certainly confirms it. As it turns out, Paris isn't held in much more esteem than Achilles is, and he's asked to "get back to the war" and kill his counterpart. And by war, they apparently mean a series of single combats. Paris whispering Achilles' name at the camp perimeter, hoping not to actually be heard, is hilarious. No Achilles, but Steven comes out in Diogenes' gear to fight him, and he immediately tries to back out of it, then is surprised to find himself the victor. Steven yields - his plan is to get into Troy as a prisoner of war - to which a befuddled Paris exclaims "this sort of thing is just not done!" Homer was never this funny.

The rest of the Trojan royal family isn't quite so extreme, though there is some mockery thrown at the seer Cassandra who's already had her prophetic dream about the Trojan Horse (or the Trojan TARDIS?). Much as Odysseus was the antagonist in Part 1, she's dangerous to Vicki's safety, lurking about with an accusatory finger. And yet, there's the sense that this is just a dysfunctional family, and that Cassandra is mostly motivated by ego (no one listens to her portents) and jealousy as Vicki is renamed Cressida and more or less adopted into King Priam's family as a seer of a sort. She's seen the future because she comes from there, stepping all over Cassandra's toes, though one has to wonder how long she can keep avoiding the subject of the Trojan Horse, or if she'll change mythstory by saying too much. No surprise that Vicki's charming personality would win over at least the Trojan men, and already, there's a flirtation between her and Priam's youngest son Troilus. On the point of making Vicki into an actual mythical figure, I only wish the name had been closer to her own. It would have seemed less forced. (See Theories for more.)

And since we're "myth making" here, the Doctor finds himself in the unique position of suggesting the idea of the Trojan Horse to Odysseus (credited with it in the Iliad), but he finds the whole thing absurd and probably a magical trope introduced by Homer. Well, a Trojan War story wouldn't be complete without the Horse, would it? It's expected that he'll have to show his cleverness in a predestination paradox kind of way. Donald Cotton's amusing conceit is that the Iliad might not have been Antiquity's bestseller if not for the actions of the TARDIS crew.

THEORIES: The Cressida of legend, the daughter of a Greek priest who defected to the Trojan side, had an eternal love thing going with Troilus, but is then sent to the Greeks in a hostage exchange and forges a liaison with... none other than Diomedes, the man Steven is impersonating. Those who know the story - born not of the Iliad, but of later Medieval and Renaissance texts - might see here Vicki's "out" from Troy. However, Cotton will subvert this story completely by having her choose Troilus. Sadly, Vicki's literary reputation will be as a betrayer of men.

I should also mention Cassandra's prescient dream. Unlike the rest of The Myth Makers, which presents myth as a domestic send-up, Cassandra still has a mythical power. In Doctor Who, precognition is often portrayed as an ability humans can obtain, usually through some exposure from a temporal anomaly of some kind. In effect, the time vortex pours into their heads and invades their dreams. Now, in this story, there's a strong but unmentioned undercurrent of paradox. The TARDIS crew was making events they've read about happen, sometimes consciously so. Vicki and Steven might not know everything about the characters they're incarnating, but the Doctor certainly knows about the Horse he is about to suggest as a ploy. That has to put strain on the Web of Time, and the consequence may well be Cassandra's access to "prophecy". Note how the one prediction we hear and know will come true is the one about the Doctor's paradoxical idea.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - I hope the comedy works for you, because it certainly works for me. Paris and Steven's scene is a real hoot, the Doctor falls prey to his own arrogance once again, and Vicki is, as always, charming.



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