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Doctor Who story number 19

Donald Cotton only agreed to write for Doctor Who if he was allowed to choose the subject matter and have some of the people he'd been writing for on the radio appear in the story. He was interested in Greek mythology, and so the fall of Troy was a natural choice for him. The script editor and producer wanted a high comedy, so we get a view of the mythical heroes that is, well, more like real people.

One criticised aspect of the story is that it's pretty silly to have a humourous opening and then a tragic ending, and like all good epics the fall of Troy is pretty bloody. What's interesting is the way some of the heroes are portrayed as putting on a show of bravery - the opening fight is scripted saying that Hector and Achilles are both wary of being hurt and prefer to hurl insults. When Paris fights Steven (masquerading as "Diomede") he is reluctant to fight even though he's no slouch with a sword - he knows what fighting means: Fighting means someone gets hurt. People have compared this to the image we have of young soldiers in the World Wars - all full of eager bravado but somewhere inside they know it's for real.

Cotton also emphasises the horse worshipping aspect of the Trojans, so as to not make it just a pony fetish that wins the day for the Greeks - at one point one of the characters even cries out "Great Horse of Troy" in the same way we say "Jesus Christ" when something exasperating is going on. Some of this is probably gentle jokes thrown in for the older audience who know the mythology, but it works.

Cotton also pillages the story of Troilus and Cressida for a handy couple of names to throw into the romantic subplot. This makes things a little more confusing if you don't know the proper stories concerned, and it's debateable whether or not he made a good choice, particularly considering Doctor Who in general is not supposed to merrily mangle things like this - as a BBC funded children's show it probably should have been trying to leave kids unconfused about the classics.

This story is the last featuring Vicki - Maureen O'Brien was tired of the role but was still surprised to be told she was getting written out of the show (the producer was annoyed that she complained about her lines in Galaxy 4). The writer went for the usual option of having two characters who barely know each other fall in love, and the rumour is that O'Brien and James Lynn insisted on some scenes to make their characters romance seem more likely.

Yet another missing story, but the audio track is available on CD, Peter Purves again providing the linking narration. You can also find a transcript at the bottom of this page:

There's also a small sample from the first episode here:

Donald Cotton

This story has episodes with individual titles:

  • Temple of Secrets
  • Small Prophet, Quick Return
  • Death of a Spy
  • Horse of Destruction

Plot Overview
The TARDIS materialises on the plain of Troy, right next to two fighting men: Hector of Troy and Achilles. The Doctor decides that because they are spending more time trading insults than fighting he can go and ask where he is. They have not noticed the TARDIS, and are arguing who's gods are greater. The Doctor, coupled with a few fortuitous peals of thunder, has Hector convinced Zeus has appeared to aid Achilles - who runs Hector through. the Doctor is apalled that anyone should kill in his name, but at his most two-faced and conniving he quickly starts to enjoy deceiving Achilles - until Achilles insists on taking "Zeus" back to the camp....

Achilles and the Doctor run into Odysseus, who makes fun of Achilles even when hearing he killed Hector. Odysseus does not believe for a minute that the Doctor is Zeus, but he escorts the Doctor to the camp anyway. Steven and Vicki have overheard this, and Steven leaves the TARDIS to try to rescue the Doctor. Back at Agamemnon's tent we find his brother Menelaus drunk, lamenting having to lay seige to a city for ten years and not wanting Helen back because she's always getting herself abducted by strange men. Agamemnon says they must recover her for family honour and it's Menelaus' fault for marrying her as he knew what she was like. Oh, and controlling the trade routes through the area will be handy too. The Doctor is indiginant about his abduction, and tries to pass himself off as Zeus. His opening trick of informing Agamemnon of his wife's unfaithful ways is met with laughter as just about everyone in the Mediterranean knows this. The Doctor says they are close to victory, and earns himself a job as tactician. Meanwhile Odysseus talks with his mute, one-eyed spy and discovers Steven sneaking about the camp. He drags him to the leader's tent and the Doctor says he does not know him, and Steven plays along - but is a little surprised when the Doctor tells them to execute him. It's a cunning ruse - he plans on killing Steven himself inside his temple, you know, the blue one. Unfortunately this plan will not work, Odysseus happily tells them the temple has dissapeared....

The next day they go to the landing site, and see the TARDIS has been dragged to Troy. The Doctor must admit he is not Zeus, and Agamemnon leaves them there to be executed by Odysseus, but he instead asks the two who they really are. Meanwhile Paris is presenting a strange blue box to his father, Priam, King of Troy. Priam is not particularly impressed, but pessimistic Cassandra says it probably has Greeks inside - she deamed of a gift that was used to sneak men into the city, so she decides to burn the box. Meanwhile Steven and the Doctor have finished teling Odysseus the truth about themselves and the TARDIS. He takes the pragmatic view that the story must be true - it's too fantastic to be false. He says he will set them free on the condition they find a way to enter Troy in two day's time. Back in Troy Vicki has left the TARDIS, and she is confronted with Paris and Cassandra, one pleased to see her (you know, Paris kidnapped the most beautiful woman in the world and he's already bored with her. I guess Helen snores) and the other still looking for some burnt offerings. Priam is quite calm about it all, and gives Vicki the name Cressida and takes her under his wing.

On the other hand, Steven and the Doctor are brainstorming ideas on how to get into Troy. The Doctor refuses to even consider a wooden horse, convinced that it's just a literary invention of Homer. He asks that Vicki be spared, but Odysseus says there's no way he can find one woman in the middle of a battle. Steven decides he will get captured and try to escape with Vicki - conveniently Paris is outside, having been sent to fight Achilles. Paris is reluctant to fight, but can easily take Steven, who surrenders and is taken prisoner. Back in Troy Priam is talking to Vicki, who nearly lets slip what she knows about the Trojan Horse. When Paris brings in Steven Vicki calls out his name, and Cassandra, waiting in the wings for any excuse, strides in and orders them killed.

Priam decides that rather than having the spies killed he will have them locked up, giving Vicki one day to find a way for them to defeat the Greeks. Meanwhile the Doctor has come up with an ingenious plan, involving sending gliders over the walls of Troy via a giant slingshot. Odysseus is amused, but tells the Doctor that there will only be one person trying out this scheme unless a new one is presented. Back in Troy Steven sees Odysseus' spy from his cell and asks him to take news to the Doctor, and then Troilus turns up and starts to chat up Vicki. The Doctor decides he's got no other options left and resigns himself to having to go with the horse. Odysseus is much happier with the horse, and decides that he won't fire the Doctor over the walls in the catapult. The other commanders eventually get the idea and it's agreed: they will attack Troy in a wooden horse, and to the Doctor's despair he's going along for the ride.

Vicki is set free as the horse is dragged into the city, she releases Steven and joins him later, tailed by one of Cassandra's handmaidens, Katarina. Steven knows she's fallen for Troilus and tells her to get him out of the city, and when she returns to the palace she gets Troilus out of the city by asking him to look for Steven outside Troy. Troilus fights Achilles outside the city and kills him as the Greeks enter the city. Odysseus revels in the killing and destruction, having Priam and Paris killed (offscreen) and taking Cassandra for Agamemnon to rape (this is not directly mentioned in the story, but thats what happened). Vicki finds the Doctor with the TARDIS, sends Katarina to find Steven and tells the Doctor she wants to stay behind. Steven has been wounded by Trojans and must be helped back to the ship. Odysseus attempts to claim the TARDIS as spoils of war, and the Doctor shuts him out - but Vicki has slipped out when he was arguing with Odysseus. As the TARDIS dematerialises and his soldiers stare in awe Odysseus simply laughs and wonders if the Doctor really was Zeus.

Vicki mets Troilus on the plains near Troy and they head off to see Troilus' cousin and it's all very cheesy. Back in the TARDIS Katarina believes she has died and is travelling to the afterlife, and the Doctor is adamant that he and Steven are not gods, but doesn't have time to argue, he has to land and get Steven medical attention....

Main Cast

  • Ivor Salter - Odysseus
  • Cavan Kendall - Achilles
  • Alan Haywood - Hector
  • Francis de Wolff - Agamemnon
  • Jack Melford - Menelaus
  • Tutte Lemkow - Cyclops
  • Max Adrian - Priam
  • Barrie Ingham - Paris
  • Frances White - Cassandra
  • James Lynn - Troilus
  • Jon Luxon - Messenger
  • Notes

    • This is the first time we see the Doctor directly influencing history.
    • William Hartnell made things difficult in his one - He "didn't approve" of Max Adrian being Jewish, or gay (one version of events says he refused to appear in scenes with him, but it may be the case the scenes were written that way anyhow).
    • Some of the actors managed to injure each other in fight scenes, forcing later scenes to be changed

    It wasn't the first time she's allowed herself to be abducted. I can't keep on going off to the ends of the Earth to get her back. It makes me a laughing stock. - Menelaus

    There is no node for Katarina, though she is a Companion of the Doctor she has so little time to develop there is nothing to say that can't be said in her two stories

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