The Myth Makers

So really, we arrived in your time entirely by accident. It’s just another miscalculation by the Doctor.

Steven Taylor


The TARDIS materialises on the plains beyond the besieged city of Troy where the Doctor meets the Greek warrior, Achilles, who believes him to be the god Zeus.


I’ve decided that I really like the Hartnell pure historicals, but this is coming from someone who loves history and likes seeing twists on real events. The show is successful in these early years by playing around in ancient history in stories like The Aztecs and The Romans, where myths and facts could almost be the same thing which is an ideal playground for the Doctor and friends to get involved in. I listened to this story with the linking narration by Peter Purves, and watched some parts of the Loose Canon telesnap reconstruction. From what I can tell, the production level seems quite decent, but it is difficult to see

Donald Cotton does something that few writers of the show have done with the historical format before, which is to use the Doctor and his companions’ knowledge of future events against them. The Doctor and Steven and Vicki are held hostage and given deadlines to give the Greeks and Trojans respectively the knowledge they want to defeat the other and end the war, which has been going on for a decade when this story starts. It’s powerful storytelling and really establishes stakes for all three of the leads in this story, which some stories seem to struggle to generate. By first separating Vicki from Steven and the Doctor, then the companions from the Time Lord makes them all more vulnerable. The story ends of a really grave note, despite the promise that Vicki makes Troilus that they will rebuild the city of Troy. The Doctor finishes the story with a severely injured Steven and new companion, Katarina, who believes that she has died and that they are on their way to the afterlife. I’m not quite sure the show quite knew what it was doing with this new companion, as Adrienne Hill seems rather shoehorned in the final episode and might not be prototype companion material, although she’s certainly not simply going to be another companion to play granddaughter to the Doctor.

There are two major elephants in the room when it comes to tackling a story about the Trojan-Greek war. The first is the infamous Helen of Troy, whom this story mentions but she never actually makes an appearance. The second is the Trojan horse, which the Doctor resists building for the Greeks, citing that it was part of a story made up by Homer in the Odyssey. It’s in the Trojan Horse that the story manages to realise most of its more humorous moments, such as the Doctor and Odysessus squabbling whilst contained in the horse, or when the Doctor proposes using a flying machine involving catapults to fling soldiers over the walls of Troy, only to learn that Odysessus intends for him to be the first to use this mechanism.

Odyssesus is a really rather nasty piece of work and it is nice to see Ivor Salter given a role that he can really get his teeth into, unlike his other two characters in Doctor Who, and the rest of the guest cast are pretty strong, including the kindly and fatherly Priam and the less than heroic Achilles and Paris. There are moments that play up the humour of the story, like Steven playing to Paris’ ego when he wants to get captured, but they are countered by the bleakness of the destruction at the end. When we end the story, the humourous characters are dead, leaving only a screaming Cassandra and ruined city.

William Hartnell does not seem to be terribly disgruntled in this story, and even seems to be largely enjoying the more playful moments of the script, such as when he pretends to be Zeus to Achilles in the first part. Hartnell seems delightful, but it is a shame that he does not spend a lot of time with Vicki in what is her departure story, only really being with her in the TARDIS in the opening episode and then again in the concluding part, which makes her departure feel all the more abrupt. By the end of the story, the Doctor rather wearily tells Katarina that he is not a God, and it feels as though this story has almost hammered this point home to him. He is responsible for the myth of the Trojan Horse, but was utterly powerless to stop its creation or the destruction the Greek tactical advantage caused.

Oh my dear Vicki, I hope you’ll be alright! I shall miss you, child.

The First Doctor

And so, we say goodbye to Vicki Pallister, or should I say Cressida, who departs the show in this story. I’ve found Vicki a much better character than her predecessor, Susan, even if they do essentially have the same reason for leaving the TARDIS, and does seem to have inherited the Doctor’s granddaughter’s glass ankles at the beginning of this story. I think that Susan and Vicki’s development of their relationship with David and Troilus respectively is quite well handled, especially when thinking about some later companions who leave for love, and barely get any scenes with their supposed paramour. I’m not the biggest fan of companions being written out in this way anyway, but cannot deny that Maureen O’Brien and James Lynn had some pretty good chemistry in their scenes together and make Vicki’s reasons for leaving the TARDIS feel as realistic as they can. It is a shame too, given the dynamic that Vicki and Steven have in this story, which is almost at the level of squabbling siblings that we do not get a bit more of it here.

Verdict: The Myth Makers is a story that really would be interesting to see animated. Despite my problems with the departure of Vicki, I enjoyed a lot of it, especially the performances of William Hartnell and Maureen O’Brien. 8/10

Cast: William Hartnell (The Doctor), Peter Purves (Steven Taylor), Maureen O’Brien (Vicki Pallister/Cressida), Adrienne Hill (Katarina), Cavan Kendall (Achilles), Alan Haywood (Hector), Ivor Salter (Odysseus), Francis De Wolff (Agamemnon), Jack Melford (Menelaus), Tutte Lemkow (Cyclops), Max Adrian (Priam), Barrie Ingham (Paris), Frances White (Cassandra), Jon Luxton (Messenger) & James Lynn (Troilus).

Writer: Donald Cotton

Director: Michael Leeston-Smith

Producer: John Wiles

Composer: Humphrey Searle

Parts: 4 (Temple of Secrets, Small Prophet, Quick Return, Death of a Spy & Horse of Destruction)

Original Broadcast Dates: 16th October – 6th November 1965

Behind the Scenes

  • The working titles for this story were The Trojans, The Trojan War and The Myth Makers. Episode 1 had the working title of Zeus ex Machina, whilst Episode 4 had working titles of A Doctor in the Horse or Is There a Doctor in the Horse?. Dennis Spooner liked these titles because of the puns, but the BBC vetoed them. Only Small Prophet, Quick Return retained its humorous title due to the intervention of Donald Tosh.
  • All four episodes are missing from the BBC Archives.
  • William Hartnell was noted to be particularly unhappy during production of this story:
    • His health had begun to deteriorate, and his arteriosclerosis made it harder for him to remember his lines.
    • His Aunt Bessie, who had looked after him during his difficult childhood, passed away during production. Due to the filming schedules, Hartnell was unable to attend the funeral. This is believed to have made him increasingly difficult, refusing to speak to Francis de Wolff and Max Adrian and calling director Michael Leeston-Smith “a fool”.
    • Hartnell was also concerned by what he perceived as his diminished role in the scripts and also feared he was being upstaged by prominent guest stars like de Wolff and Adrian.

Cast Notes

  • Ivor Salter had previously played the Morok Commander in The Space Museum and would go on to play Sergeant Markham in Black Orchid.
  • Francis De Wolff had previously appeared as Vasor in The Keys of Marinus.
  • Tutte Lemkow had previously appeared in Marco Polo as Kuiju and The Crusade as Ibrahim.

Best Quote

Woe to Troy!

It is too late to say “whoa!” to the horse.

Cassandra and Paris

Previous First Doctor story: Mission to the Unknown

For more First Doctor reviews, click here

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s