Sunday, 11 October 2009

Doctor Who: The Myth Makers 4, Horse of Destruction


This episode, even more than the previous episodes in this serial, really suffers from being basically audio-only, as a lot of it is action-based. I suspect that, in full, televised form, it was rather good - unfortunately, in audio form, it's still a bit hard to follow and there are long stretches where we're left looking at a still image while listening to men go 'urnngh!'

At the opening of the episode, Vicki lets Steven out of prison, then goes to get Troilus out of Troy. The story she comes up with is that 'Diomedes' has escaped and Troilus should go find him and re-capture him - which is not a great story, but eventually it works. Cassandra is still predicting doom, and still being ignored. Everyone credits Vicki with saving them, much to her discomfort. Cassandra tells a handmaiden in service to her, Katarina, to follow Vicki.


The Doctor is still in the Horse, being threatened by Odysseus, who is hoping that Agamemnon and Achilles will be killed so that he can get more of the booty. It's never quite clear how interested he is in booty as a prize to show off his kleos, in Homeric fashion, or whether he acts from pure financial greed and desire for things. His actions later, as he gives Cassandra to Agamemnon and boasts that now Agamemnon will have to accept a prize from him, suggest some interest in prizes as signs of honour and glory, but his conversation with the Doctor sounds more like sheer greed.

Outside the city, Troilus bumps into Achilles and they fight, and Troilus manages to kill Achilles in revenge for the death of his brother, Hector. Seeing the destruction and hearing that Diomedes is already dead, Troilus think 'Cressida' has betrayed him.

Inside the city, the Greeks have come out of the horse and chaos reigns. Odysseus orders Priam and Paris killed. Vicki finds the Doctor and sends Katarina off to find Steven. (I'm not sure why Katarina, who is supposed to serve Cassandra, obeys Vicki and Steven, the enemy, but perhaps she's just fightened and will do anything anyone tells her to do). Steven has been discovered by a Trojan soldier, they fight, and Steven is badly wounded. Katarina finds him and takes him to the TARDIS.

Odysseus declares his intention to give Cassandra to Agamemnon and she is dragged away. This is rather creepy and horrible (in a good way) but loses some pathos because Cassandra is so insufferably annoying. As she is dragged off, Cassandra tells Odysseus it will be ten years before he sees his home - it's a prophecy, like her other prophecies, but she throws it at him as if it were a curse, which is rather effective.

Odysseus finds the Doctor and the TARDIS, but Doc manages to get away, and as the TARDIS vanishes before his eyes, Odysseus wonders if he really was Zeus after all.

Vicki finds Troilus outside the walls and reassures him that she didn't betray him (which is lucky - he had been shouting her name terribly melodramatically and would give himself a sore throat). The Doctor and Steven have gone and Vicki has decided to stay with Troilus, who is hurt but apparently OK. Troilus says there's nothing left, but Vicki assures him that it will be all right. Just as I'm thinking they should go off and found Rome, they bump into Aeneas, and leave to do just that.

(I hope Vicki has really thought this decision through. I mean, prehistoric Ionia isn't Rome - there's no decent plumbing, no central heating and no ice cream. She must really love Troilus to want to live as a wandering, city-less woman in the ancient world).

Back on the TARDIS, Katarina thinks she's died and is in the afterlife, Steven is delirious and screaming for Vicki and the Doctor is hoping Vicki will be all right and trying to work out how to save Steven... (and I don't know what happens next, I haven't seen it!).

It's such a shame this episode has been lost, as so much of it sounds like it must have been really exciting when you could see what was happening! Vicki's exit is rather sweet and bringing in the Roman tradition concerning Aeneas always brightens up a Trojan War story a bit and makes the ending that bit less depressing (Troy did the same thing). Katarina is a bit of a mystery so far, but looks like an intriguing companion. One of the things that drives me crazy about New Who (other than their apparent inability to leave Earth) is that every companion is a woman, usually in her early 20s (except Donna) from modern London (I think the next one is a woman in her early 20s from Scotland, so there's a slight difference). I love the idea of a Trojan priestess as a companion (perhaps I should blog all her episodes, since she is from the Classical world?!). Her motivations so far are really murky and I would hope that she would lose the notion that she is dead and the Doctor is a god pretty quickly, but the set-up is promising.

It's interesing that I don't think we saw Helen at all (unless I missed it while looking in the other direction, as does tend to happen when a lot of the action is on title cards). She was mentioned, but dismissed. Presumably this is because, since this is supposed to be history, she would have to be properly ten years older than she was when she left Menelaus, and, as Terry Pratchett observed, this might have some effect on her most-beuatiful-woman-in-the-world status. (In myth, this tends to get skimmed over, though the Odyssey has some lovely references to the fact that the Odysseus who finally returns to Penelope is not the young Odysseus who left).

TARDIS new addition Katarina

I didn't enjoy this serial as much as 'The Fires of Pompeii', but it grew on me as it went on, and I think a lot of the problems with it are down to the lack of visual, which is not the fault of the original crew. I like the way it plays with the mythology, though it was very confusing at first, for someone who isn't familiar with the Shakespeare play. Odysseus' characterisation is particularly interesting, as it's unusual to see such a negative portrayal of him - Odysseus is usually one of the most likeable Homeric heroes, through a combination of cleverness and so much bad luck you just ahve to feel sorry for him. There were also elements that didn't really seem to mean anything or go anywhere, like 'Cyclops', and the odd grating characterisation. All in all, though, if we allow it to represent the Trojan War as history (at which I grind my teeth in frustration, having had to explain why Agamemnon wasn't real to a hundred confused first year students last week) then it is rather effective and introduces some nice ideas.

3 comments:

  1. Keeping Helen off-screen I'm sure is deliberate, as it allows her beauty to continue to be idealized, rather than undermined by reality. Berlioz pulls the same trick in Les Troyens.

    Odysseus is likeable in Homer, but overall he gets a much less sympathetic press in the tragedians, and then even less sympathetic in Latin literature.

    Blogging Katarina's other episodes wouldn't take you long, as he only lasts for four.

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  2. Odysseus did suffer in most post-Homeric tales. Things like his revenge against Palamedes and his dispute with Ajax over Achilles' armor reflect rather poorly on him. While he fits with our modern sensibilities rather well, I suspect he wasn't heroic enough for the ancients, what with preferring to use his brain rather than wanton slaughter (suitors excepted). In some ways, he has more in common with Near Eastern heroes, like many in the OT, who use their wits more than their brawn.

    You can't blame New Who too much for their companion demographics. They aren't that far off of their predecessors, really, especially in age range and gender. Thinking about Doctors 3-7 (with whom I am most familiar), I can only come up with 2 male companions (not counting various UNIT personnel who came and went): Adric (ugh) and Turlough. Of the females, I can only come up with 4 not from Earth (Romana I and II, Leela, and Nyssa) and the rest, except for Tegan and Peri, were all British if not from London. And didn't Capt. Jack and Mickey both travel with the Tenth Doctor? (Not sure, I haven't seen those yet.)

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  3. Captain Jack and Mickey did travel with the 10th Doctor and are counted as companions by Who fans, but neither lasted very long and the general public don't seem to count them - there was loads of press when Freema Agyeman joined about her being the first black companion, even though Mickey had travelled with the Doctor for several episodes the year before.

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