Hitting The Target – Doctor Who and the Crusaders by David Whitaker

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As with The Daleks, David Whitaker’s second Doctor Who novelisation opens with a non-televised section.  It’s a truly fascinating prologue which sees Whitaker articulating his philosophy about the series in general as well as explaining why the Doctor never interferes in Earth’s history.

The latter argument is a rum old one. When Barbara asks what would have happened had Adolf Hitler been assassinated in 1930, the Doctor blithely replies that it’s a moot point since Hitler wasn’t assassinated back then! The Whitaker Doctor is content to only observe Earth’s history and – rather than not wishing to change it – seems to believe that the laws of time strictly forbid his interference. But this doesn’t answer the puzzle about why he’s perfectly happy to meddle on Skaro, Marinus, the Sense-Sphere, etc, etc.

This was quite a stifling premise, so it wasn’t surprising that Dennis Spooner held a different view – his scripts (The RomansThe Time Meddler) seemed to take great delight in breaking Whitaker’s rules ….

Whitaker’s Doctor Who philosophy is set out in the opening paragraph of the book.

As swiftly and as silently as a shadow, Doctor Who’s Space and Time ship, Tardis, appeared on a succession of planets each as different as the pebbles on a beach, stayed awhile and then vanished, as mysteriously as it had come. And whatever alien world it was that received him and his fellow travellers, and however well or badly they were treated, the Doctor always set things to rights, put down injustice, encouraged dignity, fair treatment and respect.

It’s a lovely bit of writing, although it has to be said that it doesn’t really reflect many of the Doctor’s televised adventures up to this point.  They mainly consisted of the Doctor desperately attempting to return to Tardis (which was usually, for one reason or another, inaccessible) with the result that any assistance he dished out to the locals tended to be an afterthought.

Whitaker’s shaky memory is no doubt the reason why we’re told that Susan married David Cameron (poor girl) as well as the assertion that the Dalek invasion of Earth took place in the twenty first century. Today, all these facts are just a click away, but that wasn’t the case in 1966 – which explains this garbled slice of history.

Whitaker took a little time to reflect upon the changes undergone by Ian and Barbara during their time with the Doctor. “Ian was now a deeply tanned bronze, his body trained to the last minute, no single trace remaining of the ordinary Londoner he had once been”.

As for Barbara, there’s a faint whiff of Mills and Boon about this following section of purple prose. “Where her face and form had conjured up beauty in the eye of any beholder, now beauty radiated from within and trebled her physical attractions, making her the admiration and desire of all who met her”.

That Ian and Barbara are a couple is also made abundantly clear. Oh, and we’ve not seen the last Mills and Boonish touch. More on that later.

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When the four time-travellers reach the forest glade and tangle with a group of unruly Saracens, it’s amusing to see how proactive the Doctor is. Given a handy stone by Vicki, he orders Ian to hold down a struggling soldier before knocking him out with said stone. He’s a dirty wee fighter.

Given how good the dialogue in Whitaker’s original scripts was, it’s understandable that he chose to retain most of it for the novelisation. For example, Richard’s early petulant outburst is reproduced virtually intact.

Friends cut down about my ears, or stolen! My armies roust about and clutter up the streets of Jaffa with the garbage of their vices. And an hour ago I learn that John, my brother, finds a thirst for power in England; drinking great draughts of it, although it is not his to take. He’s planning to usurp my throne, and so trades with my enemy, Philip of France! A tragedy of fortunes and I’m too much beset by them. A curse on this day! A thousand curses!

The one major change he makes is to re-order the action somewhat. Unlike the television version, which alternated between various locations, the book is content to be more static (for example, Chapter Four – The Wheel of Fortune – concerns itself with Saladin whilst Chapter Five – The Doctor In Disgrace – relocates back to Richard).

Joanna makes an instant impression on Ian. “Ian could scarcely take his eyes off such a vision of perfection, who earned for herself no more than a few lines in the history books he had read. Her finely sculptured face, with its high cheek-bones and wide generous mouth, the delicate ivory of her skin, just faintly tinged with colour at the cheeks, the classically simple gown that emphasized the perfect proportions of her figure, all made an impact on him he knew he would never forget”.

Steady on man, what about Barbara?!

If Richard and Saladin are presented on the page in a similar fashion to their television counterparts, then El Akir is the one character who really benefits from the printed word. Not that any attempt is made to humanise him (far from it). Whitaker takes every opportunity to paint him as a totally merciless individual without a single redeeming feature. For instance, we discover how he received his disfiguring scar – after murdering his brother (in order to gain possession of his brother’s wife) his sister-in-law was able to gain a modicum of satisfaction by striking him with a heavy ornament. Although this satisfaction was short-lived as she was then murdered by El Akir’s men.

Although it’s long been rumoured that Whitaker’s draft scripts implied that the relationship between Richard and Joanna had an incestuous tinge (which was removed, so they say, on the request of William Hartnell) he chose not to introduce this theme into the novelisation. But what he did do was slightly ramp up the sexual nature of Barbara’s predicament.

It’s slightly eye-opening to be told that back in the 1960’s she was often to be found in a bikini, sunning herself on some beach. But this is then compounded by the brief costume she’s forced to wear in Saladin’s court. It’s easy to imagine some of the other companions in this garb, but not our Barbara ….

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This slightly squiffy picture of Barbara-as-sex-object is reinforced whenever she falls into El Akir’s clutches. It’s spelled out several times exactly what lays in store for her, although the torments won’t only be inflicted on her body. “El Akir is one whose pleasures are inhuman. He will not spare his victims any humiliation his agile brain can well devise. He is a past master in the arts of torture, not simply of the flesh, but of the mind and soul as well. He does not kill lightly, because he prefers to prolong suffering, pain and mental anguish. Search into the darkest corners of your imagination, invent the worst misdeeds you can, and still El Akir will surpass them by a hundred-fold”.

Although the Doctor and Vicki hardly appeared in the fourth television episode (until the final scene) for this book Whitaker made the decision to remove their other episode four scene.  This means that the Doctor and Richard part on the unhappiest of terms, with Richard believing that the Doctor has betrayed his trust. In book form, the Doctor and Vicki leave the action at the end of chapter five and don’t reappear until the end of the story (in chapter eight).

A slight shame that we’re denied the reconciliation scene between the Doctor and Richard, although it does help to reinforce the notion that the Doctor is just an observer of events rather than an active participant.  The downside is that Richard joins Joanna and Saladin in simply disappearing from the story.

On television, Saladin exits after he receives Richard’s offer of Joanna’s hand in marriage to Saphadin.  In the novelisation he’s given an additional scene – an intriguing meeting with Ian,  which sees the schoolmaster articulating the Doctor’s concept of religious tolerance.

I have a friend, a very wise, well-travelled man who spoke to me on the subject of religions once. In the West, three main streams dominate: Mohammedanism, Judaism and Christianity. In the East, the Hindu, the Buddhist and the Moslem rival Janism, Sikhism, Parsee and Shinto. But what is the sum total? That all people, everywhere, believe there is something mightier than themselves. Only the name changes. The little Negro child will say his prayers and imagine his God to be in his colour. The French child hopes his prayers will be answered – in French. We are all children in this matter still, and will always be – until colours, languages, custom, rule and fashion find a meeting ground.

If El Akir is despatched with indecent haste on television, then his print death is much longer and much more satisfying. First he goes several rounds with Ian, who proves himself very handy with a sword, before Haroun steps up to choke the life out of him.  It’s a nasty way to go, but then he had been viciously whipping Barbara just before Ian burst in to confront him (another of those sadistic scenes which would never have been permittable on television) so I think he deserved everything that he got.

One last burst of Ian and Barbara in a Mills and Boon world? Go on then.

Barbara looked across at Ian, stretched out a hand and held his. A dozen unsaid words hung between them in the understanding of that moment. Modern people though they were, they had stepped into a world of chivalry and barbarism and Ian had not failed her. She had needed him and he had come for her. She knew, whatever the age, whatever the place, whatever the circumstances, he would measure up to her every expectation.

She leant across from her horse, put her arm around his neck and kissed him softly on the lips. She sat back again, her heart beating a little faster, a slight tinge of pink at her cheeks, holding his eyes with hers.

Althouh largely faithful to the original source material, there’s more than enough additions – a spot of sadism, some good character development, an epic sweep to proceedings which simply wasn’t possible in the cramped studio – to ensure that Doctor Who and the Crusaders stands up as a decent read in its own right. It’s a great shame that David Whitaker wasn’t asked by Target in the mid seventies to adapt any more of his stories. He was approached later on and had begun to rough out plans to novelise The Enemy of the World, but his untimely death in 1980 meant that these plans went no further.

Whitaker’s importance in the development of television Who is clear enough, but he can also lay claim to be the founding father of written Who.  Apart from his two novelisations, there’s also his work on the annuals, various sundry publications such as Invasion from Space, as well as the scripts for the Dalek TV21 comic strip.

Doctor Who and the Crusaders, like Doctor Who and the Daleks, is an essential Doctor Who novelisation.

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