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Historical adventure The Myth Makers was sadly destroyed in the archive purges of the 1960s and 70s. Still intact, however, are the intriguing notes left behind by the story’s writer, Donald Cotton...
The Doctor (William Hartnell) with Odysseus (Ivor Salter) and Agamemnon (Francis De Wolff) in Temple of Secrets, the first episode of The Myth Makers (1965). De Wolff had worn the same costume when he played Agrippa in the previous year’s Carry On Cleo.

Doctor Who has often been involved in comic situations before, but this is the first time he has really been interpreted as “High Comedy”,’ claimed BBC Enterprises when drumming up overseas sales for 16mm film recordings of The Myth Makers. ‘Certainly these are the most sophisticated scripts so far used in the series.’

Commissioned as The Mythmakers by story editor Donald Tosh on 13 May 1965, this wasn’t a conventional Doctor Who tale – nor was it the work of a conventional television writer. Two test scripts were tentatively requested from Essex-based revue star and lyricist Donald Cotton. “It was deliberate comedy and I encouraged it,” recalled producer John Wiles in the fanzine TARDIS. “I had a slight suspicion that the programme was taking itself a little too seriously and I felt we could afford to explore other ways of looking at a story.”

Donald Cotton pictured in the early 1980s.

Considering that the serial was a black comedy portraying events that probably never occurred, Cotton went to great lengths to make sure that his story was at least couched in historical accuracy. Appended to the four-page document ‘DOCTOR WHO – Synopsis of four episodes set in Ancient Greece provisionally entitled: “THE MYTHEMAKERS”’, Cotton appended two further pages under the heading: ‘HISTORICAL FACTS SURROUNDING THE TROJAN WAR’. And, while he’d never finished his studies at Nottingham University, Cotton cited his sources and arguments in a way that would have made his tutors proud.

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About Doctor Who Magazine

“History sometimes gives us a terrible shock, and that is because we don’t quite fully understand... We’re all too small to realise its final pattern.” Doctor Who’s first journey in 1963 took viewers back to the Stone Age. Since then the TARDIS has visited many other landmarks in a unique chronicle of the Doctor’s favourite planet. Purely historical stories were once a mainstay of the series, but for more than 50 years significant periods in Earth’s past have provided evocative settings for more fantastical adventures. This unprecedented guide takes a trip back in time with the people, places and classic episodes that are essential parts of Doctor Who history.