February 15: "Horse of Destruction" / "The Nightmare Begins"

(The Myth Makers episode 4 & The Daleks' Master Plan episode 1)

The thing about "Horse of Destruction" is how different in tone it is from the previous three episodes.  Before it's been quite fun, largely larking about with Greeks and Trojans, but this episode is decidedly darker in tone.  There's little humor present, with the proceedings much more concerned about the drama of the situation.  Vicki convinces Troilus to leave Troy before it's sacked but without telling him why, but when he's out on the plains he encounters Achilles and has a fight with him which appears to leave him wounded.  Meanwhile Odysseus is shown to be a cruel man who hopes that Agamemnon or Achilles is killed so that he can gain more of the booty -- interested more in wealth than any sort of honor or pride.  And there's something quite upsetting about finding Priam and Paris dead, after we've spent two episodes in their quite pleasant company.  Death and carnage abound, and even Steven is gravely injured.  Yet Vicki decides to stay behind, apparently because she's quite taken with Troilus, and so the Doctor and Steven leave without her (but with Cassandra's servant Katarina instead) as she plans with Troilus and his cousin Aeneas to found another Troy (or in other words, Rome).  So good-bye to Vicki, who at least gets a decent farewell scene, even if we don't actually see her farewell to the Doctor.

I have to admit, before this I hadn't really given much thought to The Myth Makers -- I'd listened to the soundtrack once before and read the Target novelization, but that was about it.  But now, having listened more closely, I find this story has gone way up in my estimation.  Sure, the last episode is rather at odds with the other three, but it's at least somewhat appropriate for the tale ultimately being told, and those other three episodes sound like quite a delight.  The Myth Makers is now quite high on my wish list for missing episodes recoveries.

But it's time to move on, back to the planet Kembel (where we were four episodes ago), to find out what's been happening since "Mission to the Unknown".  Earth has sent someone to investigate the disappearance of Marc Cory, so say hello to Nicholas Courtney's first role on Doctor Who, as agent Bret Vyon.  He doesn't exactly make the best first impression though, seeing how he takes the TARDIS key from the Doctor and tries to hijack the ship -- albeit to warn Earth about "those things."  So not only is it the introduction of Nicholas Courtney, but also of not discussing the identity of the main villains, despite the fact that not only was the Daleks' return spoiled in the Radio Times that week, but also the fact that we're on the same planet as we were in "Mission to the Unknown" -- you know, the last episode to feature the Daleks.  But whatever.  At least Bret Vyon helps cure Steven's blood poisoning, acquired from his wound last time.

There's also a casual infodump where two technicians on Earth watch the news, where we learn about Mavic Chen, Guardian of the Solar System, the fact that it's currently the year 4000, and that there's been peace in the system for 25 years.  It's really quite lovely, and a long way from an "as well you know" speech.  But it also sets up Mavic Chen for his betrayal at the end of the episode, as he plans on selling the Solar System out to the Daleks.  And really, that's about it for this episode.  Not that much really happens, but the clips we can see suggest it was directed well, and to its credit it does keep things moving quite nicely, so that you don't really notice how little actually goes on this episode.  And it's got a nice evocative title too.