Sunday, 9 September 2012

Story 14 - The Crusade

In which the TARDIS materialises in a forest in Palestine, during the Third Crusade (c.1191). King Richard - the Lionheart - is hunting  nearby. His group is ambushed by Saracen warriors under the command of the Emir El Akir. The Doctor and Ian come to their aid. In the confusion, Barbara is abducted. The travellers will need the King's help in order to save her. The Doctor steals some clothes from a merchant in the town of Jaffa, where Richard is based. Vicki will have to pretend to be a boy - Victor. The King is grateful that the strangers have brought his wounded friend Sir William de Tornebu back safely from the forest - but he will not do any deals with his enemy Saladin to help them get Barbara back. El Akir thinks he has captured the King and his sister, Joanna, and is furious to learn that he has been made a fool of. Sir William des Preaux had pretended to be Richard as a diversion in the ambush, and has claimed Barbara to be his sister. Saladin and his brother Saphadin recognise the ruse immediately.

Barbara is abducted by El Akir and taken to the town of Lydda in his territory, but escapes. She is  sheltered by a merchant named Haroun ed-Din, who hates the Emir after he murdered his wife and son, and kidnapped his daughter, Maimuna.
The Doctor and de Tornebu succeed in changing the King's mind about dealing with Saladin. Ian is knighted - Sir Ian of Jaffa - and despatched to Saladin's camp to negotiate the release of Sir William des Preaux and Barbara. Learning of her abduction, Ian is allowed to travel on to Lydda to fetch Barbara back. He has an encounter with bandits but manages to escape.

Back in Jaffa, Joanna learns from the Earl of Leicester that her brother plans to marry her off to Saphadin, in order to bring the war to an end. She is furious, and the Doctor gets caught up in the arguments - making an enemy of the Earl. Barbara has been recaptured, but is rescued from the Emir's harem by Ian and Haroun, who also manages to free his daughter. He kills El Akir. The Doctor and Vicki are advised by Richard to leave the city. The Earl and his men follow them and plan to execute them in the forest. Ian arrives with Barbara just in time. He claims the right to kill them - but bundles everyone into the TARDIS instead.

This four part adventure was written by David Whitaker, and was broadcast between 27th March and 17th April, 1965. Unfortunately episodes 2 and 4 are lost, though we do have the off-air soundtracks to enjoy.
The Crusade is without doubt one of the strongest of the historical stories. It has an ideal running length, wonderful dialogue, powerful performances, and beautiful sets (Barry Newbery) and costumes (Daphne Dare). The director is Douglas Camfield - his first full story for the programme.
Some of the language is positively Shakespearian, particularly in the court scenes. Indeed, the Bard is quoted on a couple of occasions by Ian: "What judgement shall I fear, doing no wrong" - from The Merchant of Venice - and "A most poor man made tame to fortune's blows" from King Lear.
The villain of the piece is El Akir (a fictional character). The historical Saladin is handled very sympathetically - a man just as tired of war as Richard, who can see no way out of their current impasse.

Of the guest cast, special mention must be made of Julian Glover (Richard), Jean Marsh (Joanna) and Bernard Kay (Saladin). The latter is unfortunately "blacked-up" for the role.
William Hartnell, spending much of the story at the royal court, quickly sees the acting quality around him and really raises his performance. He does have a humorous scene with the rather camp cloth merchant Ben Daheer, when he has to steal some suitable costumes.
By separating them off, Ian and Barbara get a lot to do - Ian being captured by bandits in the desert and getting staked out for ants to devour, before escaping and leading a rescue attempt in El Akir's palace. Barbara is once again the object of a villain's sexual attentions - Walter Randall's sadistic Emir. At one point she is faced with the decision of killing Haroun's other daughter, Safiya, rather than allow her to be captured and face sexual slavery in the harem.
Earlier, facing possible death herself, she takes a leaf out of Scheherazade's book by telling tales to stay alive.
Episode endings for this story are:

  1. The Lion - King Richard claims that Barbara will be an old woman before he does a deal with Saladin.
  2. The Knight of Jaffa - Hiding from El Akir's men in a darkened, narrow street, someone clamps a hand over Barbara's mouth.
  3. The Wheel of Fortune - Recaptured by El Akir, Barbara is threatened by the tyrant.
  4. The Warlords - The TARDIS is plunged into darkness save for the glow from the console. The travellers are frozen where they stand.

Overall, an excellent adventure in all aspects of storytelling, performance and design. One of the most literate Doctor Who stories. A strong blend of historical and fictional drama, with some very adult themes.
Things you might like to know about this story:

  • William Russell only appears in a brief pre-filmed insert in episode 3, as he was on his hols that week.
  • Julian Glover is married to the actress Isla Blair. She will appear in a Doctor Who story which revolved around King Richard's brother (King John) - The King's Demons.
  • Talking of spouses, Jean Marsh had been married to one Jon Pertwee.
  • At one point, Vicki asks the Doctor if Richard will ever see Jerusalem. The King did see it - but only from afar - before turning for home. (It would take a while, as he was captured in Germany and held for ransom). Of all the English monarchs, he spent the least amount of time in Britain. He spoke mostly French and preferred to live in Aquitaine.  He isn't even buried in England - he is interred alongside his father (Henry II) at the abbey of Fontevraud in Anjou.

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