Doctor Who – The Crusade. Part Four – The Warlords

If the previous three episodes of The Crusade tended to concentrate on the court intrigue at both Richard and Saladin’s camps, then The Warlords offers a sharp change of pace.

Saladin, Saphadin and Joanna are all absent and Richard himself only features in a single scene.  His brief appearance is partly to reassure the Doctor and Vicki that he knew they didn’t reveal his plan to Joanna (he was aware it was the Earl of Leicester, but confesses it was politically expedient not to confront him directly).

The scene also allows the Doctor to inform Vicki and the viewers at home that Richard would, ultimately, be unsuccessful in his aims.  He may only have a short amount of screen-time in The Warlords, but once again Julian Glover is unforgettable.

DOCTOR: There is something important, sire. If you are able to defeat Saladin in this battle, can you hold the city?
RICHARD: Win the battle, lose the war. The greatest fear we have. We’ve come so close. I must see Jerusalem. I must.
DOCTOR: You will, sire.
RICHARD: You think so?
DOCTOR: I am certain, sire. And when you look upon the city itself, you will be able to find the answer to the problem of this war. May we now take our leave, sire?
VICKI: Are we going back to the ship?
DOCTOR: As fast as our legs can carry us, my dear.
VICKI: Doctor, will he really see Jerusalem?
DOCTOR: Only from afar. He won’t be able to capture it. Even now his armies are marching on a campaign that he can never win.
VICKI: That’s terrible. Can’t we tell him?
DOCTOR: I’m afraid not, my dear. No, history must take its course.
(The Doctor and Vicki leave.)
RICHARD: Help me, Holy Sepulchre. Help me.

Ian (still on his mission to find Barbara) has unfortunately run into the villainous Ibrahim (Tutte Lemkow) who has devised a novel way to discover where Ian’s money is stashed.

A little pot of honey, made from pounded dates and very, very sweet. There, my lord, a little bit on your wrists and a little bit on your chest. Now, over there is a hungry home, full of ants that go wild for date honey. We must be generous to them. Lay a little trail across the sand, like this. And I will sit in the shade of the trees and dream of all the treasures I will get when the ants discover you. If you crane your neck around, my lord, you will soon see what you take to be a black line along the honey. Why, you will be able to see it getting closer and closer. My little ones! Such ecstasy!

Lemkow is good value, especially when Ian turns the tables on Ibrahim and forces the little thief to take him to El Akir’s palace.  From then on, Ibrahim becomes servile and keen to assist Ian (although there’s no doubt that he would be happy to change sides again at the first opportunity).

At the start of the episode Barbara is once more in El Akir’s clutches – although yet again she’s able to escape from him fairly easily.  This unfortunately doesn’t do the character of El Akir any favours – and his limited screen time during all four episodes does ultimately means that he’s not one of Doctor Who’s most tangible or memorable villains.

El Akir is more of a plot-device (initiating the story by attacking Richard and his friends, kidnapping Barbara to ensure that the Doctor can’t leave) than a fully-rounded character.

If you compare him to the likes of Tegana or Tlotoxl then he seems even more underwritten, although had this story been a six-parter there might have been more scope to develop him. As it is, he seems to be denied even a particlarly impressive death scene as the soundtrack suggests that Haroun quickly dispatches him quite abruptly. 

Since Haroun rescues both his elder daughter Maimuna and Barbara it unfortunately rather negates Ian’s mission (he turns up shortly afterwards).  It’s a little surprising that Ian doesn’t get the heroic fight with El Akir – particularly since William Russell was well able to handle a sword (he had previously starred in The Adventures of Sir Lancelot).

Ian and Barbara then head for the forest at exactly the same time as the Doctor and Vicki.  This is slightly sloppy plotting, as it would have been more logical for Ian and Barbara to return to Richard’s court (they had no way of knowing that the Doctor and Vicki had made an enemy of Leicester).

But clumsy though this moment is, it does give us a nice final scene as Ian is able to spirit the Doctor and Vicki away from under Leicester’s gaze.  Leicester watches in horror as the four time-travellers disappear in the TARDIS and resolves to “not speak of this. Let this story die here in this wood or we’ll be branded idiots, or liars. Poor Sir Ian, brave fellow. Spirited away by fiends. What dreadful anguish and despair he must be suffering now?”

If The Warlords doesn’t quite match the scale and sweep of the previous three episodes (and who are the titular Warlords anyway?) overall The Crusades is still a first class story which thanks to the cast and Douglas Camfield manages to transcend the limited budget and studio-space and produce something quite magical.

If the two missing episodes are never recovered, maybe one day animated versions can be produced – as it’s a story that certainly deserves to sit on the shelf alongside the rest of the second season.

Doctor Who – The Crusade. Part Three – The Wheel of Fortune

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For me, The Wheel of Fortune is the best episode of The Crusade. It has three moments of special interest – Haroun’s life story as told to Barbara, the clash between Leicester and the Doctor and the confrontation between Richard and Joanna.

Haroun (George Little) lives for one reason only – to kill El Akir. He tells Barbara the reason why.

HAROUN: Last year my house was a fine and happy place. A gentle wife, a son who honoured and obeyed me, and two daughters who adorned whatever place they visited. Then El Akir came to Lydda and imposed his will. He desired my eldest daughter Maimuna, but I refused him.
BARBARA: So he took her?
HAROUN: Yes. When Safiya and I were away, he came and burned my house. My wife and son were put to the sword.

It’s a perfectly pitched and dignified performance by George Little. Whilst the character invites our sympathy, Little never overplays – instead he allows the script to do the work.

Equally good is Petra Markham as Safiya. Her father has never explained what happened to the rest of their family, but she has faith that all will be well. “It is a strange mystery. They’ve gone away and we must simply wait for their return. It is the will of Allah”.

Jacqueline Hill is also excellent these scenes – for example, the way Barbara listens in horror to Haroun’s story and later when nearly revealing the truth to Safiya about her missing family. Another key moment is when Haroun leaves Safiya in Barbara’s care. He leaves his knife behind and insists that she use it to kill Safiya and then herself if they’re discovered by El Akir’s men. Barbara is appalled (“No. Life is better than this.”) but Haroun is insistent. Again, Hill plays the scene very well, her performance helping to reinforce how cruel El Akir must be.

The spat between the Doctor and the Earl of Leicester (John Bay) is a very interesting one. It’s another of Whitaker’s lovely Shakespearian pastiches that Hartnell and Bay both deliver with aplomb.

Although the Doctor usually takes the moral high ground, he doesn’t really have it here. His dismissal of Leicester as having no brain doesn’t seem at all fair. Leicester is a soldier, trained to fight, and it’s difficult to argue with his statement that “armies settle everything”.

LEICESTER: Sire, with all the strength at my command I urge you, sire, to abandon this pretence of peace.
DOCTOR: Pretence, sir? Here’s an opportunity to save the lives of many men and you do naught but turn it down without any kind of thought. What do you think you are doing?
LEICESTER: I speak as a soldier. Why are we here in this foreign land if not to fight? The Devil’s horde, Saracen and Turk, posses Jerusalem and we will not wrest it from them with honeyed words.
DOCTOR: With swords, I suppose?
LEICESTER: Aye, with swords and lances, or the axe.
DOCTOR: You stupid butcher! Can you think of nothing else but killing, hmm?
LEICESTER: You’re a man for talk, I can see that. You like a table and a ring of men. A parley here, arrangements there, but when you men of eloquence have stunned each other with your words, we, we the soldiers, have to face it out. On some half-started morning while you speakers lie abed, armies settle everything, giving sweat, sinewed bodies, aye, and life itself.
DOCTOR: I admire bravery and loyalty, sir. You have both of these. But, unfortunately you haven’t any brain at all. I hate fools.

Saladin and Saphadin discuss the marriage proposal. Saladin is extremely cautious.

Have England, France and all the rest come here to cheer a man and woman and a love match? No, this is a last appeal for peace from a weary man. So you write your letter and I’ll alert the armies. Then on either day, the day of blissful union or the day of awful battle, we will be prepared.

And sadly that’s the last we see of Saladin and Saphadin as they, along with Joanna, don’t feature in the final episode. This does give The Warlords something of an anti-climatic feel, but we’ll discuss that in more detail next time.

When Joanna learns that Richard plans to marry her off to Saphadin, it’s fair to say that she’s not best pleased. The scene is a thrilling moment, as both Julian Glover and Jean Marsh attack it at full-throttle. It’s hard to find many examples of Doctor Who scenes pitched at such a level – which makes this one all the more special.

JOANNA: What’s this I hear? I can’t believe it’s true. Marriage to that heathenish man, that infidel?
RICHARD: We will give you reasons for it.
JOANNA: This unconsulted partner has no wish to marry. I am no sack of flour to be given in exchange.
RICHARD: It is expedient, the decision has been made.
JOANNA: Not by me, and never would be.
RICHARD: Joanna, please consider. The war is full of weary, wounded men. This marriage wants a little thought by you, that’s all, then you’ll see the right of it.
JOANNA: And how would you have me go to Saphadin? Bathed in oriental perfume, I suppose? Suppliant, tender and affectionate? Soft-eyed and trembling, eager with a thousand words of compliment and love? Well, I like a different way to meet the man I am to wed!
RICHARD: Well, if it’s a meeting you want.
JOANNA: I do not want! I will not have it!
RICHARD: Joanna!

As this is the last surviving episode of the story, it’s worth taking a moment to praise Douglas Camfield’s direction. He always had an eye for unusual camera angles, plus he isn’t afraid to place the actors in unusual configurations. This helps to make the frame more interesting than just having them stand in a line (something many other directors would have been content to do).

Barbara is back in El Akir’s clutches at the end of the episode (the second that’s ended with Barbara in peril). El Akir’s final words here are truly chilling, thanks to Walter Randall’s matter-of-fact delivery. If El Akir had been an eye-rolling villain then it would have been easier to discount his threats. It’s his calmness that’s somewhat disquieting.

The only pleasure left for you is death. And death is very far away.

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Doctor Who – The Crusade. Part Two – The Knight of Jaffa

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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?
DAHEER: Yes.
VICKI: From us?
DAHEER: No.
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?

Doctor Who – The Crusade. Part One – The Lion


The Crusade brings the TARDIS to the Holy Land at the time of the Crusades.  Whilst the Doctor, Ian and Vicki eventually join the court of King Richard (Julian Glover), Barbara finds herself in the enemy camp, captured by the evil El Akir (Walter Randall) and brought face to face with Saladin (Bernard Kay).

Given that this story was made in 1965, it does have a rather surprising revisionist feel about it.  Since Richard the Lionheart had for so long been portrayed as one of England’s greatest heroes (the Robin Hood saga often hinges on the hope that one day Richard will return to right the wrongs of his brother) it’s a jolt to find him painted as a somewhat unheroic and uncertain character.

The episode opens with Richard and his friends relaxing in the forest.  Sir William des Preaux (John Flint) fears an attack – but Richard is arrogantly dismissive.  It quickly transpires that des Preaux was correct and shortly after many of Richard’s friends are slain.

Barbara and William des Preaux are captured by the Saracens, whilst the only other survivor (apart from Richard himself) is Sir William de Tornebu (Bruce Wightman).  de Tornebu owes his life to the intervention of the TARDIS crew – thanks mostly to Ian, although the Doctor plays his part (it’s always a treat to see William Hartnell in fighting mode!).

William des Preaux claims to be the King in order to draw attention away from Richard. At this point in the story the cramped nature of the studios is quite noticeable – as good a director as Douglas Camfield was, it’s impossible not to notice that Richard was lying very close to where des Preaux was captured.  It’s therefore difficult to believe that El Akir and the other Saracens couldn’t see him.

After the Doctor finds some suitable clothes for himself, Ian and Vicki (via the sort of comedy business moment that Hartnell always excelled at) there are two main scenes left in the episode – Barbara’s meeting with Saladin and the Doctor, Ian and Vicki’s first encounter with Richard.

Despite being caked in brown make-up, Bernard Kay is mesmerising as Saladin.  He has the power of life and death over Barbara – and many others as well – but he has no need to be demonstrative.  He remains thoughtful, restrained and articulate as he probes the reason for Barbara’s presence.

SALADIN: Please talk. It helps me to consider what I have to do with you.
BARBARA: Well, I could say that I’m from another world, a world ruled by insects. And before that we were in Rome at the time of Nero. Before that we were in England, far, far into the future.
SALADIN: Now I understand, you and your friends, you are players, entertainers.
SAPHADIN: With little value in an exchange of prisoners with the English King, brother. This is a trivial affair. I do not know why you waste your time.
SALADIN: I cannot dispense life and death lightly. If Sir William is to be returned, he must make good report of our mercy. Perhaps that is the factor in your favour.
BARBARA: I don’t believe you’re as calculating as that.
SALADIN: Then learn more of me. You must serve my purpose or you have no purpose. Grace my table tonight in more suitable clothes. If your tales beguile me, you shall stay and entertain.
BARBARA: Like Scheherazade.
SALADIN: Over whose head hung sentence of death.

By contrast, Julian Glover’s Richard is highly emotional (no doubt the difference between Saladin and Richard was an intentional touch from Whitaker).  Richard berates the loss of his friends, although it’s difficult not to concede that his own reckless actions were, in part, responsible for the calamity.

The Crusade is one of those stories where, as we’ll discuss later, the Doctor and his friends are largely superfluous. Julian Glover is so good (and he’s provided with some lovely Shakespearean-type speeches by David Whitaker) that it’s very easy to imagine this story as a straight play without the TARDIS crew being present.

Once again, I am in your debt. But I’d give this for de Marun and the others. My friends cut down about my ears or stolen. My armies roust about the streets and clutter up the streets of Jaffa with the garbage of their vices. And now I learn my brother John thirsts after power, drinking great draughts of it though it’s not his to take. He’s planning to usurp my crown, and trade with my enemy, Philip of France. Trade! A tragedy of fortunes and I am too much beset by them. A curse on this! A thousand curses!

Doctor Who – The Web Planet. Part Six – The Centre

Picking the silliest moment from The Centre is difficult, mainly because there’s so many to chose from.  But Hilio, Hrostar and Hylina screeching “Zaaarrrrbbiiiii” whilst flapping their arms about in an attempt to distract the Zarbi does take some beating.  It’s a little over three minutes into this episode if you want to check it out for yourself.

Whilst the Menoptera and Barbara are fooling about with the Zarbi, the Doctor and Vicki are taken to the Centre.  The Animus is revealed in all its glory – a mass of writhing tentacles.  There’s an uncharacteristic spot of overacting from Hartnell, when he delivers the line “this infernal light is too bright for my eyes”.

The Doctor then collapses, which leaves Vicki to resist the power of the Animus by herself.  The set is quite moodily lit, which helps to sell the illusion that the numerous rubber tentacles are actually part of a controlling intelligence (and not just being pulled off-camera by the crew!)

A major disappointment is that revelation the Animus’ ultimate aim concerns the invasion of Earth.  “What I take from you will enable me to reach beyond this galaxy, into the solar system, to pluck from Earth its myriad techniques and take from man his mastery of space.”

Since this has been such a strange, other-worldly adventure it’s incredibly jarring to find that the Animus seems to be fascinated with the totally unremarkable planet Earth.  Although if it believes the Doctor to be human that might explain its assumption that human beings have mastery over space.

The defeat of the Animus is a bit of a damp squib (Barbara waves the Isotope around for a few seconds).  After six episodes you’d have hoped for something more impressive than that.  But at least it allows Barbara to save the day.

And then it was over.  I’ve developed a little more appreciation for the story thanks to this rewatch, but it still proved to be something of a trial (especially over the last few episodes).

Doctor Who – The Web Planet. Part Five – Invasion

Whilst the ratings for The Web Planet were high, the Reaction Index went on a decreasing slide week after week.  Things started brightly enough, with a rating of 56% for episode one (an improvement over The Romans, although a few points lower than most of the Doctor’s space adventures to date) but by episode six the figure had tumbled to 42% (the lowest RI rating the series had received so far).

It’s not hard to understand why the general reaction was so unfavourable.  As I said earlier, had it been a four-parter they might have just got away with it, but by Invasion there’s a real sense of treading water.  Watching Hartnell turn a Zarbi into his compliant pet does have a certain comedy value, but these moments only stretch so far.  Vicki’s quite taken with the friendly Zarbi though, nicknaming him Zombo.

But although parts of the story are painful and/or dull, there are still some occasional lyrical moments of scripting which almost makes it all worthwhile. In this scene, Prapillus (Jolyon Booth) and Barbara enter the temple of light.

BARBARA: It’s beautiful, Prapillus. Oh, it’s absolutely beautiful!
PRAPILLUS: It must be a Temple of Light. The ancient song-spinners of our race sang of their beauty, but I thought they could never be found again.
BARBARA: There are others?
PRAPILLUS: So the legends say. Sewn into the craters and plateaus of Vortis, been slowly un-woven by the silence of time and their entrances long forgotten by our species. But our Gods have not forgotten us, Barbara. This was indeed deliverance.

Another positive part of the serial is that Barbara, thanks to her association with the Menoptera, is probably the most proactive of all the TARDIS crew.  Although visibly frightened by the events of episode one, she quickly recovers and teams up with her new friends in order to find a solution to beat the Zarbi and the Animus.  The downside is, of course, that she spends most of her time surrounded by the ridiculously overacting Menoptera, but then you can’t have everything.

Something that’s noticeable about Invasion is how little ambient noise there is.  A slight echo effect is given to the cave and tunnel sets, but that’s about all.  Combined with very minimal incidental music it does create a rather “dead” atmosphere.  One plus point is that there’s very little Zarbi chirping in this one – although when that’s removed they do seem even less convincing than before.

The Optera make another appearance.  Pity anybody who happens to be watching these scenes when a non-fan enters the room.  How would you be able to explain them?  Not easily, that’s for sure.  But even though they still look very silly, as with Prapillus there’s the odd inspirational moment of dialogue.  “A silent wall. We must make mouths in it with our weapons. Then it speak more light.”

Whilst Barbara’s raised several possibilities about how the Menoptera could fight the power of the Carsinome, it’s only when she’s reunited with the Doctor and Vicki that the planning can begin in earnest.  The Doctor takes instant control in a very characteristic way.  He and Vicki then elect to return to the Animus, which provides us with a very unsettling cliffhanger – the pair of them are frozen into solidity, surrounded by gently bobbing Zarbi.

Doctor Who – The Web Planet. Part Four – Crater of Needles

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Uh oh, it’s the Optera. Underground cousins of the Menoptera, they look and sound ridiculous. During this story they’re hardly alone in that, but it was their hopping movements which proved to be the final straw for me. This is a pity, as their dialogue has promise. Here, Hetra (Ian Thompson) outlines the Optera’s philosophy. “We know that from the roof comes hate! The liquid death! Creeping destroyer of we Optera. Yet you stand upright. We will consult the chasm of lights and if you come from above, you will die!”

Last episode was quite Menoptera light, but they’re back in force in this one. That means plenty of dialogue delivered in a sing-song manner and excessive hand movements. And as the majority of the episode is set on the planet’s surface, it’s back to the vaseline-smeared camera shots, which continue to be somewhat distracting. This is undoubtedly the point of the story where you know it’s going to be a long, hard slog to the finish line.

There are a few amusing moments though, such the continuing question as to why the Zarbi are frightened of a tiny (and very dead) spider. Barbara and the Menoptera’s attack on one of the venom guns is another notable incident – the high camera angle enables the actor under the costume to crawl away, which allows one of the Menoptera to pick up the empty shell and squish it against the wall, rather like one would deal with a bug.

You have to respect William Russell – an actor who never gave less than 100%. Even when surrounded by the Optera he ensures that Ian doesn’t for a moment give the audience the impression that this is all faintly ridiculous. It’s a difficult balancing act – with a less skilled actor, Ian would simply become po-faced and unbelievable – but Russell manages to ensure that Ian keeps his credibility at all times.

By far the most notable new arrival is that of Hilio (Martin Jarvis). Over the last fifty years or so he’s become one of Britain’s most distinctive actors, thanks to numerous film, stage, television and radio appearances. It’s hardly surprising that he’s not so recognisable here, but his familiar vocal tones are present and correct.

This wasn’t the easiest of episodes to navigate, but at least we’re four down with two to go.