088 – Small Prophet, Quick Return (The Myth Makers Part 2)

Written by Donald Cotton
Directed by Michael Leeston-Smith

The Doctor is revealed to not be Zeus and Odysseus demands his help in formulating a plan to conquer the Trojans.  In Troy, Vicki becomes the guest of King Priam.

“Don’t pay any mind to Cassandra.  She always takes the gloomiest view.”

Perhaps what stands out the most in this story is King Priam’s son Paris.  He is the instigator of the war, being the man who stole away Helen from Menelaus.  It turns out that Paris isn’t so much a dashing rogue, but a foppish idiot.  He seems to have no stomach for fighting, his father has little respect for him, and he is more talk than action.  When admonished by King Priam and told to find and kill Achilles, Paris bristles, feeling it is more Troilus’ thing to do than his.  And when Paris goes out to find Achilles, he really doesn’t wish to be successful.  He calls out for Achilles in a whisper, finding instead Steven, who has convinced Odysseus to let him find Vicki.

You see, it was Paris who took The TARDIS to Troy.  Cassandra felt The TARDIS was an ill omen, believing it to be from a dream, a gift from The Greeks that would spill out Greek soldiers who would conquer the city.  Instead, The TARDIS spilled out Vicki, who made the bold claim of being from the future, something which caused Cassandra  great offense.  Someone from the future is a threat to a prophetess.  King Priam takes kindly to Vicki, however, and renames her Cressida.  At this point we have a fascinating dynamic occurring.  King Priam has Vicki, who he seems to believe is from the future.  In the Greek camp, The Doctor is no longer thought to be Zeus, but he is now under Odysseus’ thumb.  Odysseus seems to believe The Doctor and Steven’s claim to be time travelers and wants them to use their knowledge to conquer Troy.  So, both sides have their advisers, The Doctor to the Greeks, Vicki to the Trojans.  Both advisers know the story of Troy.  The Doctor doesn’t suggest The Horse because he believes it to be foolishness invented by Homer.  Vicki doesn’t warn about The Horse because she doesn’t want to upset history, but she is growing attached to Priam.  In truth, Priam is a likable man, caught up in the consequences of his son’s foolishness.  This may well show something that an historical has yet to show:  sympathy for the other side.  I think the closest to this we have seen is in The Aztecs where Tltoxol must ultimately win even though we like Autloc better.  Vicki is obviously torn and wants to manipulate conversations away from who she is and what she knows.  She doesn’t want to have to choose.  Being in a post-Whitaker world, the future could be altered.  It won’t happen, this being Earth history and all, but it is a potentiality.  However, given that The Trojan War is more mythology than history, there would certainly be the possibility to break with the story, if done in an interesting way that would require Homer to one day change the story.  This isn’t what Donald Cotton is doing, though.  He is doing more of a straight-forward telling with our characters stuck in the middle.  He is playing with the formula, but not departing from it.

The more I think on it, the more I want to see someone in New Who really take on the straight historical.  In the past, the show has treated the historical as historical drama, more theater than science fiction television.  It certainly worked for the time, and many of them were well written.  While I long to see what BBC Wales would do with an historical that was devoid of the usual Doctor Who cliches, I wonder if a writer could do something to really shift the concept of what an historical is capable of.  Perhaps, much like The Myth Makers, we could take a myth but explore the historical context of it, but along the way have some sort of twist that completely redefines not only our view of the history, but the original myth.  In the case of this story, perhaps Troy doesn’t fall.  Maybe some tragedy occurs to cause both sides of the conflict to rethink their positions and achieve an uneasy truce, but for reasons unknown to us in the present day, the story of the fall of Troy must be perpetuated.  Perhaps a myth would exist to keep people from looking to close at the historical event.

Doctor Who typically presents us with monsters.  Even the historicals do this.  But what if a story was done to examine the possibility of history as a lie.  In this case, history wouldn’t be something to protect, it would be something to create.  In much the same way the Tenth Doctor always claimed The Time Lords were destroyed when in reality they had been imprisoned in a temporal lock, perhaps it is better to think the Greeks conquered Troy because the reality of the situation was something quite different and much more horrific.  Again, this isn’t what is happening in The Myth Makers, but it is an idea of playing with the format, something I think New Who should consider.

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