Saturday, September 19, 2015

The Myth Makers - "But this is not Troy; this is not even the world; this is the journey through the beyond."

BBC - Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide - The Myth Makers - Details

Season 3, Story 3 (Overall Series Story #20) | Previous - Next | Index

This story wrong-foots me a few ways, leaving me without much to say much about it. Working against me: am painfully weak on my classics being this far from my high school days, sure, I remember the basics, but boning up on Troilus and Cressida for this story just isn't on my to-do list; I didn't see it when it aired, haven't read the Target novelization in decades, and am working strictly off the reconstruction, so feel a distance from the story in a way that retards ambition to place it in some kind meaningful context; the nagging perception that it would have been fun to watch as it aired, and it being significant for having a companion departure -- Vicki, a terrible loss for the show -- serve to raise the hurdles. Wanting to be engaged in watching it, but not getting there, is dispiriting. This one I very much wish would be recovered, or a decent animated reconstruction made, so I could watch it without the constant sensation of being one of Plato's cave prisoners who had escaped, but been recaptured, cognizant how inadequate the flickering shadows on the rock wall are.

Even as a reconstruction though, it's easy to love a story that takes the piss out of these famous characters, and tells the story of Troy without even bothering with Helen. It's irreverence towards Zeus and the Olympians (as well Achilles, Hector, Agamemnon, Priam, Menelaus, Cassandra, and the rest). It's for this fractured fairy-tale aspect that I recommend the story. The Doctor doesn't want to do the horse thing, proposes a catapult-launched aerial attack on Troy instead; Odysseus threatens to the launch the Doctor from a catapult so he goes back to the drawing board to draft a plan for a hollow horse; the bickering of the Trojan royal family: it's all good fun. And it's all turned on its head when the bloodshed breaks out in the final episode. That last should be a jolt, but a reconstruction only gets you so far.

Coming back to Vicki, after her, and discounting Katarina and Sara Kingdom as barely-if-even companions, things on the supporting character front are pretty bleak. Steven has never replaced Ian in my heart. Dodo, Ben, and Polly are probably my least favorite companions. Victoria I'm not caught up on, but not fond of what I've seen so far. So it's not until Zoe joins Jamie in the TARDIS crew that the Doctor has strong support again.

Wood and Miles in About Time have this to say:
Fandom has long had a low opinion of the story. It's still written up in our "official" chronicles as a farce, marred by the star's prejudices and some ponderous dialogue. Nobody who's actually listened to it, or remember seeing it broadcast, shares this opinion. The worst you can say about it is the final act seems oddly uneven; comedy and tragedy do mix, but none of the antics in the first three-quarters carry even a hint of the horror that unleashed at the climax. This, though, maybe a result of the lack of moving pictures. Events must seem far more threatening, when you can see all the huge men waving swords in your face. It's a story about perception versus reality, people who are acquainted with war and people who are enthusiastic about it, the version we all think we know and what actually happened. Ironic, then, that the story itself should be so misperceived.
Worth checking out. More so than the epic that follows.

Additional Resources:

Loose Cannon's Reconstruction

Wikipedia page

Tardis Wikia page transcript

Sandifer post

Shabogan Graffiti review
After this story, Doctor Who descends into weeks and weeks and bloody weeks of pompous, bloated, OTT, Dan Dare bullshit... so it's delicious to see such stuff mocked in advance. The warring races, invasions and swaggering heroics of Terry Nation have already been given a slow puncture by Donald Cotton. Heroes aren't brave and semi-divine supermen, they're cowardly or outright villainous. Odysseus is vile, but he's preferable to just about everyone else in the story because he's the only one with irony or self-awareness. He's the only one who really knows that gods are always fake, heroes always drunks and fools, honour little more than ideology, heroics always little more than murder. 
And here we come to another triumph: the seriousness of the depiction of the slaughter. The trouble with irony is that it can become overpowering and put us at a distance from the emotional effect that drama should have on us. Cotton switches the irony off at the last moment and allows the dirty brutality of war to suddenly jump out at us. The effect is quite startling. 
A thousand curses upon whoever burnt this one.
Wife in Space post

TV Tropes page

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