Richard’s in something of a better temper at the start of this episode – in part due to the Doctor’s wily manoeuvrings. It’s interesting to note how the Doctor has easily lapsed into the speech patterns at Richard’s court, he’s started throwing “methinks” around quite casually!
RICHARD: There is a jest here, albeit a grim one with our friends dead. But Saladin must be just as much out of temper over this affair as we are.
DOCTOR: Your messenger might offer to exchange a hundred prisoners for the knight he holds.
RICHARD: We think we value Sir William highly. We do, but it would not be good to let Saladin know.
DOCTOR: He might think you undervalue his men. One hundred men to one of yours. Methinks a fair bargain, sire.
RICHARD: By my father’s name, you have wit, old man. Guard, call the Chamberlain. We recognise the service you have rendered us and will be pleased to see you in our court.
With the Doctor and his friends in Richard’s debt, this allows Ian (once he’s been knighted as Sir Ian, Knight of Jaffa) to begin his quest to find Barbara. This also handily removes William Russell from the main storyline (and he’s on holiday next week, so only appears briefly on film). When a story rich in plot-threads like The Crusade only lasts four episodes, it can be a problem finding things for everybody to do, so this simplifies matters – the Doctor and Vicki remain at court and Barbara finds herself in the clutches of El Akir.
As with first episode, David Whitaker’s dialogue (especially when spoken by actors as good as Julian Glover) is something to savour. Richard ponders the strange relationship he has with Saladin –
Saladin sends me presents of fruit and snow when I am sick, and now his brother decorates you with his jewels. Yet with our armies do we both lock in deadly combat, watering the land with a rain of blood, and the noise of thunder is drowned in the shouts of dying men.
The notion that Saladin’s brother, Saphadin, is captivated by Joanna (Jean Marsh), Richard’s sister, sets the King thinking. Could this be a way to bring the war to an end? He sets about drafting a proposal, although crucially he doesn’t think to speak to Joanna first.
And not only this kingdom, its towns and fortresses, shall be yours, but also the Frankish kingdom. Our sister, the Princess Joanna, whose beauty is already spoken of wherever men of judgement and discernment are, is a fit match for one who not only enjoys so grand. No, not grand, eminent. So eminent a brother as the Sultan Saladin but who also possesses an element of his own. Prince Saphadin, we beg you to prefer this match and thus make us your brother.
Richard is pleased with this and takes the Doctor and his friends into his confidence (which helps to bring them back into the main narrative). A story like this, focusing on the machinations of Kings, will inevitably tend to sideline the Doctor – although this isn’t something that David Whitaker necessarily had a problem with. He was of the opinion that when the Doctor travelled back in time he should be content to be merely an observer and not interfere.
Dennis Spooner (as can be seen in The Romans and The Time Meddler) had the opposite view, so this story (written by Whitaker, script-edited by Spooner) is something of an uneasy compromise between them.
But even if the Doctor is rather a passive figure at times, he does have some fun by bamboozling his adversaries. There’s another fine example in this episode, when we see the Doctor running rings around the unfortunate Chamberlain.
CHAMBERLAIN: This and this, stolen from me.
DAHEER: And stolen from me.
DOCTOR: Yes, now there really is a point there, isn’t there? If I stole from you, my lord Chamberlain, how could I steal from him?
DAHEER: You did. You did steal from me.
DOCTOR: Then how could I steal from him, eh, you blockhead?
CHAMBERLAIN: Please, please. Now, I had the clothes first.
DOCTOR: Oh, how nice for you.
DAHEER: And I had them second.
VICKI: Did you buy them?
VICKI: From us?
DOCTOR: Then whoever it was stole them from you must have sold them to you. Now, don’t you agree?
CHAMBERLAIN: Er, yes.
The episode ends with Barbara escaping from El Akir’s guards. She runs through the streets of Lydda, desperate for a hiding place. But will she find friend or foe?