Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,

The Myth Makers, The Massacre, The Five Doctors

Two audios and a DVD edited release this time, none of them therefore available as they were when first broadcast (in 1965, 1966 and 1983 respectively).

The Myth Makers (, .com) was the four-part story between the single-episode, Doctor-less Mission to the Unknown and the twelve-part epic The Daleks' Master Plan, bringing the First Doctor, Steven and Vicki to ancient Troy. Vicki here becomes the second regular to be written out after developing a love interest; the Doctor is mistaken for Zeus and helps Odysseus construct the wooden horse, though is somewhat obsessed with its fetlocks "no safety margin at all... if only you would have allowed me another day to fit shock absorbers!"

I liked the creative reinterpretation of the characters from the Greek legend. Priam takes a shine to Vicki, renames her Cressida and won't hear a word against her. Both Paris and Menelaus are incompetent, the former a coward and the latter drunk, making one wonder what Helen ever saw in either of them. (Menelaus: "I was heartily glad to see the back of her!" Paris: "I think this whole business has been carried just a little bit too far. I mean, that Helen thing was just a misunderstanding.") Helen herself never appears in person, the BBC beauty budget presumably not reaching that far. The interpretation of the story that will always remain with me, I think, is Roger Lancelyn Green's The Luck of Troy, but this will do as an sfnal version.

As with all the "lost" stories, one never knows what one missed, though I can make a couple of guesses - Frances White (Julia in I CLAVDIVS) as Cassandra, or Vicki in her dress. But Peter Purves' narration is, as ever, great, even though of the three regular characters his has the least to do. We end with a real acceleration of pace towards the next story; Vicki and the Doctor say their goodbyes off-screen, while Cassandra's handmaiden Katarina accompanies a wounded Steven aboard the Tardis as a new (but very short-lived) companion.

The Massacre (, .com) was one of the first stories I watched via fan reconstruction, and I was very unimpressed. However, the audio version, with again Peter Purves narrating, is, I think the single best Doctor Who audio I have heard. I very strongly recommend it - apparently it is also available as a pack of three with The Myth Makers and The Highlanders, which seems to me very good value (, .com). Tat Wood and Laurence Miles comment that since director Paddy Russell's specialty was people creeping around silently, probably the best bits were the bits we will never see.

It helps, of course, that Steven rather than the Doctor is the central character here, so Purves is telling his own character's story. Freshly arrived in Paris from the end of the Daleks' Master Plan, having lost three fellow companions in the recent past (Vicki through romance, Katarina and Sara Kingdom through horrible death), the Doctor now abandons Steven who has to make his way through a hostile and confusing environment. No wonder he walks out at the end, giving the First Doctor, alone at last, a great soliloquy.

As a future Englishman, Steven is C of E without ever having really thought about it, but now finds himself in a setting where "Catholic" and "Protestant" are terms which can cost you your life - a cognitive dissonance I've seen often enough, and I suppose experienced myself in reverse. While the program tends to side with the Protestants, who after all were the massacrees rather than the massacrers in this case, they are very definitely not completely innocent in their suffering.

The story is very neatly structured, with each of the first three episodes lasting from dawn to dusk. Tat Wood and Laurence Miles have some intriguing speculation as to what was happening after dusk, but you should buy their book to find out more. Unlike me, they can't forgive the end for the way in which new companion Dodo is introduced; I think Steven is a bit out of character (despite this being otherwise his best story) but I can roll with it.

The Five Doctors (, .com) was broadcast as a twentieth anniversary special in 1983, and I remember being a bit disappointed when I watched it first time round. I bought the DVD in London last week and watched it on the Eurostar on my way home, and to my surprise rather enjoyed it. Of course, the first time round I had only seen one Hartnell and one Troughton series (An Unearthly Child and The Krotons, both repeated in 1981) whereas now I have caught up with three quarters of the former and over half of the latter. I wonder also to what extend the DVD's vaunted improvements have made a difference; they don't offer an option for watching as first broadcast.

The plotting is peculiar, because it wasn't clear until quite late on which Doctors and former companions would be available (though of course it was obvious that Hartnell's part would have to be taken by a stand-in as he had been dead for several years). The pairing of Tegan plus One doesn't really work in terms of character dynamics, Turlough plus Susan even less; whereas the Brigadier/Two and Sarah Jane Smith/Three scenes are noticeably better. Indeed Troughton is just great, and it's not surprising that they asked him back once more a few years later (thought it is surprising that on that occasion it was such a bad story).

Of course you get sucked into it, and I started to play the continuity games. While Susan recognises Gallifrey (as ought to be expected) how come she recognises Cybermen, but not the Master (and nor does One)? Then again, in The Tenth Planet, One already knew about Mondas and the Cybermen, so perhaps he took the time to tell Susan about them at some (much) earlier point. And perhaps the Master and the Doctor didn't know each other all that well at the Academy. The moment of both Tegan and Sarah Jane recognising the Brigadier is pure squee. Presumably Sarah Jane's memories were wiped by the Time Lords after she went home, to judge by her reaction on meeting Ten in School reunion (and his statement then that he's regenerated "half a dozen times since we last met").

So yeah, villainous Time Lords, one useless Dalek, a solitary Yeti, lots of Cybermen, a Killing Plot Device Robot, but generally pretty good fun and far better than The Three Doctors. I was particularly amused by one detail that had completely escaped me in 1983: the spot in Cambridge where Four and Romana are swept into the time eddy is precisely under Clare Bridge, which was to be a major geographical feature of my life from 1986 to 1991.
Tags: cantab, doctor who, doctor who: 01, doctor who: 02, doctor who: 03, doctor who: 04, doctor who: 05, doctor who: audio, doctor who: sarah jane

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