Written by Donald Cotton
Directed by Michael Leeston-Smith
The TARDIS materializes outside Troy and The Doctor is mistaken by Achilles to be Zeus.
This is one of the first instances of Doctor Who tackling Greek myth. Later instances will be science fiction adaptations of the myths, but this story retells the Trojan War as an historical event. The Greek forces have been camped outside of Troy for ten years. No real progress has been made in this time. The TARDIS arrives as Achilles and Hector are fighting. The Doctor arrives as the two talk of Zeus, Hector mocking him. Using the surprise appearance to his advantage, Achilles slays Hector as a sacrifice to The Doctor, who he believes to be Zeus. The Doctor immediately slides into this part, going along with Achilles’ assertions. Everything goes well until Odysseus arrives. He is skeptical of Achilles’ belief of The Doctor as a deity. Both men urge The Doctor to go to the Greek camp, each for his own reasons.
I have to admit that it has been quite some time since I have done any type of study on Greek mythology. I have only a passing knowledge of The Trojan War. I remember that the war was started when Paris of Troy had Helen kidnapped because he fancied her. The Greeks attacked to get her back. These details are implied in this introduction to the story (for that is the primary function of this first episode). And while Homer’s telling of the war includes the Greek gods, I think we can assume this telling will not. The Doctor as Zeus is probably the closest we will get. I rather like this idea. The Greek myths have much material to mine, and it is believed in some circles that many of them have roots in actual events. I recently read an article that attempted to analyze the possibility that the story of the Minotaur was actually a symbolic retelling of an ancient war. It is a fascinating read. Approaching The Trojan War in this way makes this story an historical in essence, but it is still merely speculation. I’m excited about this story.
Back to my knowledge of Troy, keeping the names straight, especially working with voices rather than visuals as this is a missing story, is difficult at first. Reacquainting myself with the names and connecting them to the voices may be a bit of a challenge, especially since we have only met half the cast. We have met the Greeks. I expect to meet the Trojans soon enough. And Homer’s epic does have a lot of characters.
The Doctor is quite sharp in this episode. In the past he has occasionally reacted with indignity first and intelligence second. Here, he goes along with Achilles, playing along as Zeus, even when Steven sneaks into the Greek camp as he looks for The Doctor. The Doctor pretends he knows and cares nothing for Steven, but promises to show the Greeks a miraculous display in the morning at Zeus’s Traveling Temple (The TARDIS) when he executes Steven. Presumably, this would be how The Doctor and Steven leave Troy. Unfortunately, Odysseus informs The Doctor that “the temple” has vanished. This is distressing as Vicki was still inside.
Not a bad introduction to this serial. The characters seem well written and acted. My biggest fear is that they will be hard to keep straight as the cast grow.