The TARDIS arrives right in the middle of a fight between Hector and Achilles, who are too busy to notice a materializing box. The Doctor, Vicki, and Steven watch the fight via the monitor. Right away the Doctor is eager to go out and find out when and where they are, noting that the men outside are “doing more talking than they are fighting.” As the Doctor approaches them, Hector and Achilles argue, with Hector challenging Zeus to save Achilles and destroy Troy himself. With the Doctor’s appearance distracting Hector, Achilles stabs him to death. Given the timing, Achilles right away assumes that the Doctor is Zeus in the form of “an old beggar.” The Doctor plays along, but tries to talk his way back to the TARDIS after Achilles begs him to come to the camp of Agamemnon outside the walls of Troy. Odysseus, whom Achilles contemptuously describes as a “pirate”, scoffs at the idea that the Doctor is Zeus and suspects he is a Trojan spy. The Doctor describes the TARDIS as his “traveling temple” and imperiously demands that he be allowed to leave, but Odysseus has his men take the Doctor into captivity.
Vicki and Steven monitor the situation. Steven becomes worried and sets out, leaving behind Vicki whose ankle is too injured for her to travel. At the Greeks’ camp, Menelaus and Agamemnon argue. Menelaus is happy to let Helen stay at Troy, complaining that this hasn’t been the first time she’s been “abducted”, and calls Agamemnon on the fact that he’s just using “family honor” as an excuse to wage a war that would give him sole control of the trade route through the Bosphorus. Achilles interrupts their bickering by excitedly telling them that Zeus has arrived to help them; Agamemnon laughs and says he’s been listening to too much of their own propaganda. Still, Menelaus is concerned that the old man might actually turn out to be Zeus and orders for “Zeus” to be brought to him. Meanwhile Steven is spotted by Cyclops, Odysseus’ deaf, one-eyed servant, who uses sign language to report his findings to Odysseus, leading to Steven’s capture. Brought before “Zeus” and Agamemnon, Steven pretends not to recognize the Doctor, who claims Steven as his sacrifice. Soon enough, though, the Doctor is disturbed when Odysseus laughingly reports that Cyclops also discovered that “the temple” has disappeared.
So what’s happened to the TARDIS? Well, it turned out the curious Trojans took it into the city (after all, they had yet to learn about bringing strange objects behind city walls). Paris insists on keeping the TARDIS, while Cassandra, who had a vision of the “Trojan Horse” incident, demands that it be burned. Frightened, Vicki reluctantly leaves the TARDIS and tries to explain to King Priam that she’s from “the future,” but the Trojans are unable to grasp the concept. Priam, finding her name “outlandish”, rechristens her Cressida. Cassandra sputters about Vicki being a threat, but Priam dismisses her with “She’s all doom and gloom” and begins treating “Cressida” like she was his daughter. Stuck against the wall, the Doctor confesses that he’s not Zeus, although the Greek leaders are convinced that the Doctor and Steven have supernatural knowledge. Menelaus agrees to have them freed, if they can devise a way to conquer Troy; otherwise, they die. Steven thinks “inventing” the Trojan Horse is their best bet, but the Doctor doesn’t believe that it ever actually existed or that it would work, assuming that it was just a dramatic device imagined by Homer. Steven volunteers to pretend to be a Greek soldier to let himself be captured by Paris, so that he can find Vicki and the TARDIS. Left behind, the Doctor pitches a flying machine to Odysseus, but backs off when he learns that he’ll be the one to test fly it.
However, Steven’s plan backfires by getting Vicki in trouble when Cassandra notices that she recognizes Steven. Cassandra accuses her of being a spy and a sorceress and tries to have her killed; Priam defuses the situation by asking Vicki to prove herself by providing information that will help them win the war and keeps her and Stephen in a cell. Even behind bars, Vicki befriends Priam’s son Troilus and becomes close to him. Back with the Greeks, Odysseus threatens the Doctor, who finally offers up the idea of the Trojan Horse, which excites Odysseus. Odysseus and the Doctor prepare to carry through with building and leaving behind the Trojan Horse while the Greek army pretends to leave. Priam believes Vicki has been a good luck charm and frees her. When they see the Trojan Horse, the Trojans, who worship horses, think it’s another sign and decide to bring it into the city, despite Cassandra’s protests. Vicki considers warning them, but is afraid to change history. She helps set Steven free, but is soon saddled with Cressida’s handmaiden, Katarina, who is asked to spy on her. Still, Vicki finds a pretext to get Troilus out of the city to save him from what’s to come, which brings Troilus right into a fight with Achilles, a struggle he decisively wins.
In the midst of the carnage, Vicki is reunited with the Doctor. Vicki sends Katarina to bring Steven, who has been wounded in a fight with a Trojan soldier, to the Doctor while she searches for Troilus. When Katarina returns, Menelaus and Odysseus demand to claim Katarina as “spoils”, but the Doctor refuses, gets Steven and Katarina inside the TARDIS, and pilots the TARDIS away, leaving the two men to wonder if he was really Zeus all along. Back at Troy or what’s left of it, Vicki finds Troilus and convinces him that she didn’t betray him and his family, saying she’ll “explain someday.” They find Troilus’ cousin, Aeneas, and Vicki suggests that they leave the ruins of Troy with him and help him found “another Troy.” Back on the TARDIS, the Doctor assures a delirious Steven that he knew all along that Vicki wanted to stay with Troilus. A confused Katarina thinks she’s in the afterlife and that the Doctor is a god while an exhausted and anxious Doctor worries for Vicki’s future.
Vicki leaves, appropriately enough, for more or less the same reason as Susan. Incidentally, a spin-off audio play, “Frostfire”, serves as a sequel of sorts to this story, revealing that Vicki came to regret her decision to stay behind. It’s also the first appearance of new companion Katarina, but…well, we’ll see.
They must have made the writers put more effort into the historicals than into the more sci-fi oriented episodes. The plots are usually more complex and the dialogue is so much crisper. This rule holds true for “The Myth Makers”, which isn’t one of my favorite historicals but it’s still an episode I’d recommend. In the plus column, it really does feel like a multifaceted story, combining the Shakespearean gravitas of “The Crusaders” with a more nuanced attempt at the humorous tone of “The Romans.” Also it takes the core dilemma from “The Aztecs” and revisits it from a slightly different angle – what if onedoes have it in their power to drastically change history, and doing so would save the lives of many good people, a few of whom have been kind to you personally, but the possible consequences are too much to risk? Not enough mileage is quite gotten out of Vicki’s problem, at least when compared to how central Barbara’s struggle was in “The Aztecs”, but it still works well.
Of course, the acting does get hammy in parts; Frances White as Cassandra is defiantly (and, really, deliciously) guilty, as is Ivor Slator as Odysseus. Hammy acting in “Doctor Who”, though, isn’t something to really complain about; instead I just want to focus on Vicki’s sudden departure. It doesn’t quite get as strong a set-up as Susan’s while leaving about the same qualms; just as it was odd that the Doctor would leave his granddaughter on a post-apocalyptic Earth, so one has to question his judgment when he thinks a child of the 25th century would ever really be happy living in the Bronze Age, devoted Trojan stud or no. Speaking of which, can you begin to imagine how awkward Vicki’s eventual conversation with Troilus about what she knew all along would be? “Well, yes, conceivably I had information that would have saved your family from being enslaved and slaughtered and your society from being destroyed, but…well, I hope you can understand why I didn’t tell your dad anything.” Maybe that’s exactly why in “Frostfire” Vicki is living in Carthage instead of in Italy with the rest of the “New Trojans.”
That aside, even though it sticks mainly to the old show’s formula, it’s a promising start to the new production regime. It will be interesting to see where we go from here (especially since, like Cassandra, I do know at least a little about what’s around the corner).