Doctor Who #90: Death of a Spy

"Upon my soul, you're making me as nervous as a Bacchante at her first orgy."TECHNICAL SPECS: Part 3 of The Myth Makers. The episode does not exist in the archive, so I have used a reconstruction (Part 1, Part 2). First aired Oct.30 1965.

IN THIS ONE... Steven and Vicki spend all their time in a cell, though only she gets amorous visits from Troilus. Meanwhile, the Doctor finally suggests the Greeks build a giant wooden horse.

REVIEW: On the Trojan side of the story, Vicki and Steven land in jail, sure, but it doesn't stop the actors from having a good time. Steven puts on a show, doing his best cod-Greek, but not getting anywhere. Vicki follows him to the goals thanks to a fierce hissing performance from Frances White as Cassandra (precursor to her Julia in I, Claudius... I can see why the reconstruction made us of that material). And in the cell, there's a sweet blossoming romance (even the music agrees) between Vicki and her visitor Troilus, who seems motivated as much by a desire that she not be a spy as he is by jealousy of Steven/Diomedes. The teenage relationship is kept from becoming too cheesy by Steven teasing his companion about it, and she good-naturedly secreting food for him.

On the Greek side, the story achieves an odd tone. On the one hand, you have nasty old Odysseus talking about orgies, and on the other the Doctor demonstrating how to make a paper airplane and catapult for the kiddies. Who is this for, Mr. Cotton? Of course, once Odysseus decides the Doctor will be the first man to fly on a giant-sized paper plane, he has to fall back on Plan B - the wooden Horse. He may have ridiculed Homer's idea, but from what we've heard in the story, the Trojans do worship these beasts and it could work. Surviving pictures of the model make it look pretty good, though we still have to wonder how well its shots matched those of the actors, and what the set of the horse's belly looked like.

The connective tissue between the two enemy camps is provided by the always humorous Paris, who basically says "oops" to the death of the Cyclops (the title's spy), charged by Steven to deliver a message to the Doctor. Upon seeing the horse, he answers Cassandra's "woe to the House of Priam, woe to the Trojans" line with "I'm afraid you're a bit late to say 'whoa' to the horse". Paris is SO the best role in the story. That kind of sly pun is something Cotton really revels in, and I'm only sorry he wasn't allowed to call this episode "Is There a Doctor in the Horse?", nor the first episode "Zeus ex Machina". If puns are the lowest form of humor, I just don't want to be high.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - Tonal missteps aside, this continues a fun mytho-historical spoof in the style of, but more extreme than, The Romans.



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