The Myth Makers
Doctor Who - The Myth Makers
|ISBN||0 426 20170 1|
|First Edition Cover||Andrew Skilleter|
|Back cover blurb: Long, long ago on the great plains of Asia Minor, two mighty armies faced each other in mortal combat. The armies were the Greeks and the Trojans and the prize they were fighting for was Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world. To the Greeks it seemed that the city of Troy was impregnable and only a miracle could bring them success. And then help comes to them in a most unexpected way as a strange blue box materialises close to their camp, bringing with it the Doctor, Steven and Vicki, who soon find themselves caught up in the irreversible tide of history and legend...|
Live from Troy, it's Doctor Who! by Andrew Feryok 23/5/06
"And from that instant she was lost forever, and at last found her proper place in Time and History! For we are the prisoners of our names, more than ever we are what we imagine to be our destinies. They shape our lives, and mould our personalities, until we fit them. We are only what our names tell us to be, and that is why they are so very important. And why, incidentally, the Doctor never revealed his own. It preserved his independence from Fate, and made him an unclassifiable enigma; which was an advantage in his line of work, as you will appreciate. I mean, suppose his real name had been... but no - never mind!"This one has been sitting on my shelf for a while after I bought it at a sci-fi convention. I mainly bought it because it was a novelisation of a lost '60s story rather than being a particular favorite of mine. After reading endless novels on Cybermen and vampires, I wanted something different. Remembering how I enjoyed The Highlanders even though I was reluctant at first, I decided to give The Myth Makers a chance as well.
- Homer explaining how Vicki became Cressida, The Myth Maker, Chapter 12, pages 64 - 65
Now I am normally a slow reader, but I managed to get through this book in two days. This book surprised me in being one of the most originally written and structured Doctor Who novelisations since I read David Whitaker's Doctor Who in an exciting adventure with the Daleks! The story is told from the perspective of Homer who is characterized as a sarcastic nightclub comedian rather than a sagely and ancient poet. It is from him that most of the book's humor comes as he often wanders off from the main action to discuss whatever humorous observation is on his mind, only to spring back to the action of the story. It is sort of like reading Monty Python's the Life of Brian only zanier and with a LOT more sarcasm about history and fate. This is also clearly not a children's book. Donald Cotton is like a children's PG Woodhouse using very long and complicated words which I doubt any Greek would have know at the time in reality. But it allows for some very wacky verbal humor that probably would have gone right over the heads of most young children, not to mention the insinuations of rape and adultery when it comes to some of Homer's comical nudges towards Helen, the kings and princes.
If you are looking for a faithful retelling of the original TV story, then this not the place to be going. You are far better off reading the script online or getting to the audio of the story. Donald Cotton is not interested in preserving his story for future generations of fans as many of the series' authors do. He writes it purely for the point of entertaining the reader and it comes across marvelously. Homer takes a much larger role in the proceedings, going back and forth between Troy and the Greek lines instead of Steven, and he even takes on the role of Cyclops throughout the story as Odysseus gouges out his eye at one point after he mistakenly states that he likes the Trojans. The only point at which this sacrificing of the original story really doesn't work is in the story's conclusion. Donald Cotton builds the tension of the story as the Trojans slowly bring the wooden horse into the city and Homer runs all about trying to save as many people as he possibly can. But after all this prep work, Homer then gets his other eye gouged out, and since he is our only form of information of what is going on in the story, we are virtually left out of the climactic battle of Troy and the Doctor's escape. All we know is what Homer hears from outside: a few screams and the sudden sound of the TARDIS materializing away. A rather anti-climactic cheat to an otherwise exciting build up.
The characters in this story really shine, although the sarcastic humor does begin to grate towards the middle of the book. While it is funny and original to see characters taking the piss out of each other and not quite living up to their "myths", after a while you begin to tire of the sarcasm and begin to wonder how so many idiotic characters have remained alive for ten years and the moment in which their myths are redeemed in Episode 4 are left out!
The regulars are very well characterized. Cotton gets Hartnell's Doctor perfect to a tee and I can clearly see that this must have been a story that Hartnell had a lot of fun in, since it really would have given him a chance to flex his humor muscles. Vicki is also spot-on, but I'm not sure if that is a good thing. Vicki was always a bit of a smart aleck know-it-all who tended to grate in her relationship with Ian and Barbara during the second season. That know-it-all attitude also comes across here, but she finally gets someone her own age who is able to give it back to her in Troilus. In fact, her and Troilus' relationship is built up rather nicely early in the story when she first arrives in Troy. Since I have not (and probably never will) seen the original story on TV, I can't compare how it was handled there, but it seems from the script that it wasn't nearly as well dealt with as the novel does it.
Steven is the only one of the regulars who comes across as very odd. Now, I haven't seen many stories with Steven, mainly because most of them no longer survive. But from his surviving episodes, I always gathered him to be lovable, nice, protective, and heroic. However, he is none of these things in this story! Cotton writes him as arrogant, self-centered, pig-headed, chauvanistic and mean. This particularly comes across in his interactions with Vicki. He even admits in the jail cell to Troilus that he often times has a hard time calling Vicki a friend. This is not a faithful adaptation of Steven and I hope others did not taint the memory of Steven in this way, otherwise it would explain why Steven became a largely-forgotten companion.
Katarina is pretty much relegated to one scene with Homer towards the end of the book. It is a gentle scene which actually paints Katarina as a capable but sensitive young girl. But once again, because Homer is not privy to events during the seige, all of Katarina's other scenes have essentially been dropped from the story. Oh well, at least there is The Daleks' Master Plan Part 1.
While this story truly wowed me, there was something bothering me about this adventure. I couldn't put my finger on it and it was something that I had felt long before I read this book. After much thinking, I finally figured it out: The Siege of Troy and the Trojan Horse are too obvious a time period for the Doctor to visit. This sounds like a rather ridiculous statement. After all, the Doctor can travel anywhere in anytime. Why should someplace like Troy be restricted. I am not saying it should be restricted, but that it's too obvious to make an effective plot. Everyone knows the outcome of the Trojan war, and for three episodes the reader/watcher (although we can't watch it these days) is waiting impatiently for the arrival of the horse for which this story is clearly heading towards. Cotton tries to make up for this with his humor and exploring the concept of how the reality of history stands up to myth, but while this may distract the reader for a short time, by the midway point of the book, I was still waiting for the darn horse to show up so that events could actually move forward. I suspect similar problems would occur if the Doctor explored such events as the Titanic.
On the whole though, this was a very originally-written story that entertains despite its obvious plot and narrative direction. Once again, Cotton is clearly intending this novel for an older fan audience and is purely out to entertain rather than preserve. Because of the obvious plot, I would give this a 8/10. However, due to the originality of the presentation which is far more ambitious and daring than the average novelisation, I will give this a final score of 10/10. Maybe I should check out Donald Cotton's The Gunfighters next?
PS: One of the great ironies of this story is that anyone who doesn't want to be captured, usually is and ends up under the threat of death. But when someone like Steven actively tries to get captured, he gets virtually ignored, even when he begins using some of the worst insults possible! Great comedy!