Hello again, Mithradates here, and back on the job, sans my erstwhile partner. While I catch up on old reviews, I am continuing forward from my last stopping point, and have decided to post my impressions while they are still fresh. This will mean going out of order, but you can keep up with all reviews past and present via the links on the right-hand side of the page.
On to Mythmakers. Or Myth Makers. Nobody seems quite sure what the title is. Which is appropriate, because the serial is quite forgettable. In fact, I would call it hands down the worst Dr. Who serial to this point in the series. Yes, yes, I know, The Web Planet. But as I will say in my argument for the defense (when it appears: watch this space!), at least Web Planet was ambitious. Myth Makers, by contrast, is puerile.
The curtain opens with the TARDIS appearing on a dusty plain outside of Troy. It appears as Hector and Achilles fight outside the city, and in a true Doctor ex machina the surprise appearance of the TARDIS allows Achilles to kill Hector. The Doctor is hailed as a manifestation of Zeus by Achilles, which is the first of many promising plot points that will be cast by the wayside.
The biggest flaw in the serial is the utter juvenility of the characters. It would seem that the writer wanted to show the Greek and Trojan heroes with feet of clay, and certainly the tradition from Homer forwards provides many human flaws to work from, but The Myth Makers takes this to absurdity. Menelaus is completely feckless and complains to Agamemnon that he didn’t really want Helen in the first place. Odysseus is sneering and scheming. Paris is a dimwitted coward. Cassandra is a shrewish harpy. Agamemnon is a waffling milquetoast. Priam is a naive bumbler. And on and on. Nobody seems to have any redeeming characteristics whatsoever.
There is a certain laziness in the entire serial. The sets are plain and cheaply made, not for the first time in the show’s history, but a symptom of the shoddiness that pervades the serial. The actors chew through their lines with little enthusiasm. Odysseus overacts as bad as Tlotoxl from The Aztecs. Priam and Paris bicker like a married couple.
In addition, plot points are picked up and discarded randomly. The Doctor decides to follow Achilles’ lead and pretends to be Zeus, but when his ruse is discovered he drops it without fuss and proceeds to reveal to the Greeks that he is from the future! Vicki does the same thing when she is discovered by the Trojans. Up until this point the Doctor and his companions have taken pains not to divulge their true identities when traveling in Earth’s past; even in Marco Polo when he has to explain how they got to the Himalayas he simply tells Polo that he has a “flying caravan”. He never reveals its ability to travel through time. Here, though, he barely seems to care. He even is willing to show the Greeks how to construct a flying machine!
There are issues with the period dialogue as well. I don’t expect perfect historical accuracy, naturally, particularly when dealing with what is essentially legend, but what is the idea having Cassandra call Vicki a “puny pagan goddess of the Greeks” and Vicki “a heathen sort of name”, as if those terms have any meaning in the Bronze Age! Moreover Vicki, called “Cressida” by Priam, develops a love interest with the Trojan hero Troilus, an obvious attempt to set up the story of Troilus and Cressida. Except that romance was invented by the 12th century French poet Benoît de Saint-Maure.
Plot holes abound as well. Steven is discovered by Odysseus prowling around the Greek camp and is suspected of spying for the Trojans. Yet later Stephen easily convinces Odysseus to let him dress as Diomede and go out to face Paris, even though that would be a perfect way to get back into Troy and report if he were a spy. Later, Stephen proves to be a skilled swordsman even though he comes from our future and would be unlikely to possess such a skill. Finally, the Doctor’s first scheme to defeat the Trojans takes the form of folding giant paper airplanes (ever try to fold parchment??) and shoot them into the city with soldiers attached. “Hare-brained” doesn’t even do it justice. And when Odysseus sees one he remarks that his son makes them all the time!!! Finally, Troilus kills Achilles at the end of the serial, which seems a curious departure from the legend when all had more or less gone according to “history” by that point.
That last bit is the final death blow to this serial, though. We know what happens to Troy. Although the Doctor makes a half-hearted attempt to convince us that the legend passed down may be very different from what actually happened in history, in the end everything happens as in history, except that Troilus kills Achilles instead of vice versa. There is some tension over whether the Doctor and friends will survive, but they are never in any real danger (although Steven does get a shoulder wound at the end which seems unusually incapacitating for a superficial injury).
Bad characters, bad acting, bad sets, bad dialogue, and bad plotting. That’s the Myth Makers in a nutshell. About the only interesting thing we discover in this episode is that the Doctor happens to carry around a 1920s Flapper outfit in the TARDIS, for reasons unknown. Oh, and Vicki departs. One wonders if a woman from the 22nd century will really find happiness in the 12th century B.C. No doubt she will have lots of time cooking, cleaning, weaving, and watching her many offspring die of childhood diseases to ponder her choice.