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24 September 2014

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The Myth Makers

Production Code: U

First Transmitted

Temple of Secrets - 16/10/1965 17:50

Small Prophet, Quick Return - 23/10/1965 17:50

Death of a Spy - 30/10/1965 17:50

Horse of Destruction - 06/11/1965 17:50


When the TARDIS arrives on the plains of Asia Minor, not far from the besieged city of Troy, the Doctor is hailed by Achilles as the mighty god Zeus and taken to the Greek camp, where he meets Agamemnon and Odysseus. Forced to admit that he is a mere mortal - albeit a traveller in space and time - he is given just two days to devise a scheme to capture Troy.

Steven and Vicki, meanwhile, have been taken prisoner by the Trojans, and Vicki - believed to possess supernatural powers - is given two days to banish the Greeks and thus prove that she is not a spy.

Having initially dismissed the famous wooden horse as a fiction of Homer's, the Doctor is eventually driven to 'invent' it himself, thereby giving the Greeks the means to defeat the Trojans.

In the climactic battle Steven is wounded by a sword-thrust to his shoulder and Katarina, handmaiden to the Trojan prophetess Cassandra, helps the Doctor to get him back to the TARDIS.

Vicki meanwhile, having adopted the guise of Cressida, elects to remain behind on Earth with the Trojan prince Troilus, with whom she has fallen in love.

Episode Endings

The Doctor has only two days to help the Greeks to capture Troy. Night has fallen on the sandy plains outside the city, but still visible is a Trojan plaque bearing the symbol of a horse's head...

Cassandra denounces Vicki as a spy and orders that both she and Steven be killed. Vicki runs to Steven's arms as the guards draw their swords.

Paris dismisses Cassandra's cries of woe by telling her that it is 'too late to say woe to the horse' and that he has given instructions to have it brought into Troy.

As Katarina tends to the wounded Steven in the TARDIS control room, the Doctor laments Vicki's departure and hopes that the ship will land somewhere where he can get proper drugs to treat the young astronaut.


Homer's Iliad and Odyssey.

Virgil's Aenid.

Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde.

Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida.

Donald Cotton's early 60s adaptations of Greek tales for the BBC Third Programme (starring Max Adrian, with music from Humphrey Searle).

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.

Dialogue Triumphs

The Doctor : "How you can sit there so peacefully defeats me. Have you no feelings, hm? No emotions?"

Odysseus : "I was thinking, Doctor... With luck, either Agamemnon or Achilles will not come through."

The Doctor : "Do you think they'll desert us, hm?"

Odysseus : "No - die! That hope... A greater share in the booty for me..."

The Doctor : "That is a most immoral way of looking at life!"

Katarina : "The princess Cressida tells me all will be well." [She looks around the TARDIS control room.] "And I knew it was to come."

The Doctor : "What was to come?"

Katarina : "That I was to die."

The Doctor : "My dear child, you're not dead! That's nonsense!"

Katarina : "But this is not Troy; this is not even the world; this is the journey through the beyond."

The Doctor : "No... Yes, yes, yes - as you wish, child. Now, I want you to keep an eye on that young man, will you?"

The Doctor : [On Hector] "You have killed this poor fellow!"

Achilles : [Thinking the Doctor is Zeus] "Ah, but in your name!"

Dialogue Disasters

Cassandra : "Woe to Troy!"

Paris : "It's too late to say 'woe' to the horse."


The TARDIS is light enough to be carried by Paris and his men (cf Full Circle). The Doctor, for the first time, directly influences history (he only hinted at the burning of Rome in The Romans: here, despite thinking the wooden horse to be an invention of Homer's, he tells Odysseus what to do).


The Doctor's Doctorate


Just outside Troy, [1184 BC].



There are fine sets and an excellent wooden horse model courtesy of designer John Wood.

There is a poignant and well-written departure scene for the always underrated Vicki.

During recording of the first episode, William Hartnell was struck on the back by a camera and sustained a bruised left shoulder.

A comment by Vicki in this story implies that she is sixteen years old.


William Hartnell refused to appear in scenes with Max Adrian as the latter actor was both Jewish and gay. (He didn't. It was coincidental that the scripts contained no scenes in which the two actors appeared together.)

Actress Frances White, who played Cassandra, was uncredited. (She was credited at the end of each episode in which she appeared, although at her own request her name was not included in any publicity for the story, including the entries in Radio Times.)

Cast & Crew


The Doctor - William Hartnell

Katarina - Adrienne Hill from Horse of Destruction

Steven Taylor - Peter Purves

Vicki - Maureen O'Brien

Achilles - Cavan Kendall

Agamemnon - Francis de Wolff

Cassandra - Frances White

Cyclops - Tutte Lemkow

Hector - Alan Haywood

King Priam - Max Adrian

Menelaus - Jack Melford

Messenger - Jon Luxton

Odysseus - Ivor Salter

Paris - Barrie Ingham

Troilus - James Lynn


Director - Michael Leeston-Smith

Assistant Floor Manager - Dawn Robertson

Costumes - Daphne Dare

Costumes - Tony Pearce

Designer - John Wood

Fight Arranger - Derek Ware

Film Cameraman - Peter Hamilton

Film Editor - Caroline Shields

Incidental Music - Humphrey Searle

Make-Up - Elizabeth Blattner

Make-Up - Sonia Markham

Producer - John Wiles

Production Assistant - David Maloney

Production Assistant - Richard Brooks

Special Sounds - Brian Hodgson

Story Editor - Donald Tosh

Studio Lighting - Ralph Walton

Studio Sound - Dave Kitchen

Studio Sound - Bryan Forgham

Title Music - Ron Grainer and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, arranged by Delia Derbyshire

Writer - Donald Cotton

Bottom Line - from The Discontinuity Guide

'You're not putting that thing in my temple!' The massacre of Trojan soldiers and some reasonable fight sequences form the odd back drop to a 'high comedy' that, like Cotton's The Gunfighters, concentrates on perceptions of history (Troilus and Cressida derive from medieval romance rather than classical legend). Despite the presence of some fine actors the whole thing feels uneasy.

Analysis - from Doctor Who, the Television Companion

The Myth Makers, like The Romans, is a historical story with a distinctly humorous slant. As in the case of that earlier story, however, the importance of this factor has sometimes been over-stated, as Mark Wyman argued in Flight Through Eternity No. 2 in 1986: 'I'm not denying that there were many funny lines in the script, and not all the characters were played wholly straight..., but there was also a genuine atmosphere of doom, danger and chaos, especially in the last episode.'

A further consideration is that the style of humour in evidence in The Myth Makers is rather different from that seen in The Romans, as Wyman went on to explain: 'The BBC press release described Cotton's scripts as "the most sophisticated used in the series", and to a large extent that [was] true. Many of the Hartnell stories had wonderful ideas, and were brilliant achievements... But The Myth Makers was one of the very first to feature the blend of sparkling dialogue and intellectual (as opposed to simply educational) references that came to be such an integral part of Doctor Who in later years.'

In a further parallel with The Romans, one of the most frequently discussed issues in reviews of The Myth Makers has been that of its faithfulness to historical sources.

'The stories by Homer and Virgil make up... the original legend of the Trojan war,' noted Felicity Scoones in TSV 29, dated July 1992. 'The romance of Troilus and Cressida was not part of these original poems. Its first known source is the twelfth century French poet Benoit de St Maure, but the Chaucer/Shakespeare versions are the most familiar.

'...In a post-Homeric poem Paris [kills] Achilles... However in Cotton's version Troilus kills Achilles... This is an ironic change... because in Troilus and Cressida Troilus himself is killed by Achilles. It is difficult to see why Cotton made this reversal. Except in that it allows Troilus to live and thus keeps Vicki happy, it does not enhance the story.'

'The story of Troy was familiar to everyone who had studied Greek at school,' pointed out Trevor Wayne in Doctor Who - An Adventure in Space and Time in 1982. 'However, by the 1960s Greek and even Latin were being taught at very few schools; so the idea to make a joke from the subject matter... was a rather dated one...'

Donald Cotton's characterisation of the Greeks and Trojans, and the way in which they were brought to life by the actors, drew favourable comment from Wyman: 'The performance of Barrie Ingham as Paris - which lies somewhere between Bertie Wooster and Black Adder, if you can imagine such a thing - tends to turn the whole Trojan court into a theatre of comedy. Cassandra is thus a spiteful high priestess of wonderfully ludicrous fury, Priam the cynical warlord and so on. But Odysseus is a real threat in his tempestuous changes of moods, capable of a hearty belly-laugh, sure, but also a piratical adventurer with more than a hint of barbarism.' Wayne, on the other hand, was less generous: 'Despite an impressive cast the characterisation is generally weak and superficial....Although Barrie Ingham's camp Paris is rather engaging... most of the time the players exude the air of a tired music hall act.'

The failure of The Myth Makers to deliver on Mission to the Unknown's promise of an exciting Dalek story was a source of some irritation to viewers at the time, as evidenced by the BBC's Audience Research Report on the Temple of Secrets episode: 'This episode had scant appeal for a substantial number of the sample. Some reporting viewers, having seen the previous week's Doctor Who in which the Daleks turned up again, were apparently unprepared for the switching of the scene back in time to the Trojan war... (several, in fact, wondered if a mistake had been made, and the wrong programme put out) and were perplexed and rather resentful... "I had been looking forward to the sequel of the previous week's excellent episode. The result - acute disappointment."... In fact Doctor Who in this setting struck some of the sample as quite ridiculous - "A travesty. A doddering old man trying to be smart in the presence of Greek heroes. Or is it an attempt to debunk?" A few reporting viewers, in criticising this particular story, gave it as their opinion that Doctor Who as a series had outstayed its welcome - "This programme has run too long and appears to have run out of ideas, episodes lately very poor and do not even tie up with the previous weeks."'

Fortunately, there were others who took a different view, as the Audience Research Report went on to note: '"One has to take this programme for what it is and not be too critical," commented an architect, and a good proportion of the sample liked Temple of Secrets moderately well (and several who were not themselves much taken with the episode admitted that children watching with them took a more favourable view), and about a quarter seemed very intrigued. According to various comments, Doctor Who's spaceship had landed in a fascinating period, it made a change to go back in time, also to have "all humans" in the episode and to be spared "weirdies from outer-space", and the story had originality and a welcome touch of humour.'

Also in the story's favour is its polished production - including, as Wyman observed, a fine incidental music score: 'The music by Humphrey Searle... was, again, an element taken to almost unprecedented levels of sophistication in The Myth Makers. Strident and militaristic in the opening scenes, subdued and soothing as a backdrop to the courtship of Vicki (sorry, Cressida) and Troilus. I don't suppose an orchestral score in a vaguely modernist style is in keeping with everyone's taste (I'm not sure that I really liked it myself!) but it was a bold innovation... and for that it must be applauded.'

Perhaps, in the final analysis, this is the most fitting verdict that can be returned on the story as a whole.

< Mission to the UnknownFirst DoctorThe Daleks' Master Plan >

This episode guide is made up of the text of The Discontinuity Guide by Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping, and Doctor Who: The Television Companion by David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker.

The Discontinuity Guide © Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping 1995.
Doctor Who: The Television Companion © David J Howe and Stephen James Walker 1998, 2003.

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