“I don’t come from fucking Ealing, I’m from fucking Gallifrey!” the Doctor shouts at one memorable moment in this boxset. As the Time Lord himself might say, we’ll explain later.
This Myths And Legends boxset collects three stories inspired by mythological goings on: The Time Monster is a Jon Pertwee six-parter featuring the destruction of Atlantis and a Minotaur; while two four-part Tom Baker adventures – Underworld and The Horns Of Nimon – are a sci-fi mish-mash of Jason and the Argonauts, Orpheus in the Underworld, Theseus and that Minotaur (again). Fair enough, you might think, but this boxset’s dirty little secret is that these three stories are considered by even the most hardened Whovians to be A Bit Rubbish (a recent poll in the official Doctor Who Magazine voted them 187th, 197th and 189th out of the 200 stories in the show’s long history). Doctor Who: Scraping The Bottom Of The Barrel wasn’t going to work as a title, so hats off to whichever marketing person came up with Myths And Legends.
The Time Monster has its moments (it’s always nice to see Roger Delgado’s original Master in action), but Underworld and Horns Of Nimon suffer from cheap production values, dull run-around plots and pantomime performances. Nimon is actually a bit of a camp classic, featuring a winsome pre-Blue Peter Janet Ellis as a human sacrifice, and a turn from Graham Crowden as the baddie that’s not so much ‘over the top’ as ‘in geostationary orbit several miles above the top’.
Tom Baker’s at the height of his powers in both stories, but, as the extras reveal, he was beginning to get rather self-indulgent on set during filming: the Ealing outburst didn’t make it into a final episode of course (though it does feature in the fascinating in-studio raw footage from Underworld), but the unfortunate moment where Tom thought it would be a good idea if the Doctor gives a malfunctioning K9 mouth-to-mouth resuscitation remains...
Stories like these need all the help they can get, and luckily the extensive extras make this set a worthwhile purchase. The documentaries and commentaries are models of their type, and bring the making of these tales to life. Martin Wiggins, Jim Smith and Niall Boyce deserve a special nod for their onscreen text production notes, which provide a hugely entertaining stream of trivia and things to watch out for, including the bit at the end of Nimon’s second episode where an over-enthusiastic actor splits his trousers!
The stories are mythically bad, but the extras that back them up are out of this world.