The First Doctor, Steven and Vicki materialise not far
from the city of Troy, during the time of its siege by the
Greeks. Vicki is taken into custody by the Trojans, while
the Greeks coerce the Doctor into helping them gain access
the Yeti Attack! box set before it, this collection
contains audio material from 12 episodes of vintage Doctor
Who. But in this instance the set comprises three four-parters
rather than two six-parters, and so offers considerably more
variety. Although each tale is a historical one, their combination
demonstrates that such adventures cannot all be tarred with
the same brush. Here we have a sophisticated high comedy (The
Myth Makers), an earnest and educational drama (The
Massacre) and a genre pastiche (The Highlanders).
the earliest historical stories, Marco Polo and The
Aztecs, had set out to educate younger viewers about the
past, The Myth Makers relies on the sophistication
of its audience by assuming familiarity with the legend of
the Trojan horse, and with historical figures such as Achilles,
Agamemnon, Odysseus and Homer. Writer Donald Cotton also builds
upon a notion first suggested by the previous season's The
Time Meddler, that of time travellers actually influencing
the events of the past, rather than merely observing them,
by having the Doctor devise the famous Trojan horse.
This serial boasts great comic performances from the entire
cast, and in particular Barrie Ingham as the blustering, craven
Paris, Frances White as the melodramatic prophetess Cassandra,
and William Hartnell himself, who always seemed more comfortable
delivering comedy than complex scientific dialogue. Things
become more serious in the final episode (as they do in Cotton's
later serial, The Gunfighters) when the carnage of
Myth Makers is a wonderful example of the sheer diversity
of the Hartnell era, and it's a real shame that the visual
recordings no longer exist.
The Doctor and Steven arrive in Paris, 1572, a time of religious
unrest. The Catholic Queen Mother, Catherine de Medici, aided
by the visiting Abbot of Amboise, is planning to kill all
French Protestants. Steven is surprised to discover that the
Abbot looks exactly like the Doctor...
Massacre (or, to give it its longer title, The Massacre
of St Bartholomew's Eve, as Peter Purves does when narrating
the story) is almost as brilliant as The Myth Makers,
though the tone could hardly have been more different.
too, relies on the audience's sophistication, but not because
of any familiarity regarding the events that take place. Indeed,
writers John Lucarotti and Donald Tosh tackle one of the least
well known subjects of all the historical Who stories,
and tell a very talky tale to boot. As a result they educate
audience members, young and old alike, about a complex and
turbulent time in human history.
unfamiliarity of the subject matter also works to the benefit
of the drama, because we empathise with Steven's (Purves)
feelings of confusion and helplessness as a stranger in a
strange land. This is very much the companion's story. Steven
has never been better written during his tenure in the series,
and Purves rises to the occasion to deliver a splendid performance.
tragic tale is slightly marred at the end by an illogical
rationale regarding the heritage of new companion Dodo Chaplet
(Jackie Lane) [see our nit-pick section], but that is a very
The Second Doctor, Ben and Polly land in Scotland, 1745,
in the aftermath of the Battle of Culloden. Here they face
desperate Scottish rebels, ruthless Redcoat troops and a corrupt
solicitor who intends to sell prisoners - including Ben -
into slavery in the West Indies...
As an example of the genre pastiche style of historical story,
The Smugglers would have been a better example to include
in this collection, but I suppose the BBC wanted to provide
more variety by including a Patrick Troughton serial. The
Highlanders is the Second Doctor's only SF-free adventure
(there can be only one, you might say!) and it would be the
last one the TV series would ever attempt, except, perhaps,
for Black Orchid in 1982.
is little educational value in this story, which is inspired
by Robert Louis Stevenson's Kidnapped. Indeed, writer
Gerry Davis makes the common mistake of portraying the Jacobite
Rebellion as an Anglo-Scottish conflict, whereas the political
reality was more complex.
Doctor is a man of relatively few words and little action
in this serial - Ben (Michael Craze) and Polly (Anneke Wills)
have more active roles, the latter teaming up with Hannah
Gordon as Kirsty - but his antics are overtly eccentric. His
characterisation would settle down in subsequent stories,
but here he have him impersonating a German physician, with
a very dodgy accent that wavers into Irish, and even
dressing up as an old woman.
its inferiority to The Smugglers, The Highlanders
is entertaining enough. It is also notable for introducing
the popular and long-running character of Jamie, played by
Frazer Hines, who narrates this CD.
This box set offers great value for money, with a significant
reduction on the prices of the stories' individual CD releases.
So if you don't have them already, this is a great opportunity
to own several pieces of Who history.
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