Shows - Review
Doctor Who (1963-1989)
Episode: Temple of Secrets
Review by: Michael Hickerson
As most of us know, Doctor Who was originally intended to be an educational program, aimed at children. However, the early success of The Daleks led to the early years of the show adopting (for the most part) an alternating pattern of far-future sci-fi centered stories with the more educational, historical stories. And while it's some of the more sci-fi centered stories that tend to dominate the perception of the era -- mainly any story featuring the Daleks -- the historical stories are also an integral part of the early history of Doctor Who. And like the sci-fi driven stories, they are of varying quality. For every classic like The Aztecs or The Crusades, there is a Gunfighters or The Myth Makers.
Honestly, by the third season of Doctor Who, the historical stories were beginning to wear a bit thin. And The Myth Makers comes along at a time when, for the most part, the historical stories have become rather tired and routine, unlike the early excitment and drama of The Aztecs. I think part of the reason is that the central dilemma of The Aztecs is gone -- we can't change history. Also, The Aztecs was content to put us into the day to day life of the people it was focusing on and not have us meet "big" historical figures -- such as we see in The Romans or here. (Part of the reason The Crusades can do this and get away with it is simply the strength of the actors).
So, here we come to The Myth Makers, which is Dr. Who's look at the Trojan war. The problem is that the whole story feels like reheated leftovers of some of the strong points of the earlier historical stories. From The Aztecs, you have characters being mistaken for gods, from The Crusades you a hint of palace intrigue and leaders facing turmoil and from The Romans you get a bit of the tongue in cheek humor that affected so much of episode three. Add it all up and you get a story that is pretty much less than the sum of its parts, though the dilemma of whether or not the Trojan Horse is real or myth and the Doctor being forced to use it to escape the situation is a rather nice one. Too bad it's not really explored in any great detail.
All that said, there are some small bits that do work. The relationship between Vicki and Troilius is well realized and actually has the seeds sewn for a companion departing early in the story instead of coming out of left field. (I think the Hartnell years, on the whole, handled the transition of companions leaving fairly well in that it set up reasonable situations for them to leave). Also, there's the Doctor's initial attempts to get back to the TARDIS after he's been mistaken for Zues.
Of course, the only way we can experience the story these days is by the magic of telesnaps and the nicely done BBC release of the audio. In listening to the story, I can't help but wonder if we're missing something. Certainly seeing a Trojan Horse on Who's budget would be interesting and I wonder if there are some sight gags I'm missing that just don't come across well in the translation. Because of this, I find it difficult to be too hard or soft on the story. Instead, I chalk it up to being a story I'd love to actually see on my screen but not one that I'd put on my wish list of Who I'd like to see returned to the Beeb in the near future. Instead, it lands somewhere out there as a decent enough story, but not much more than that.
Last Updated: 10/25/2006
Other Reviews by Michael Hickerson
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