The Crusade *****

Julian Glover guest-stars as Richard the Lionheart with Jean Marsh as Princess Joanna in a classy historical drama

Comments
Doctor Who story guide
Patrick Mulkern
Patrick Mulkern
The Crusade *****

Season 2 – Story 14

"Win the battle, lose the war. The greatest fear we have. We've come so close. I must see Jerusalem. I must!" - Richard the Lionheart

Storyline
Palestine, 1191: the Tardis lands in a wood outside Jaffa just as a band of Saracens launches an attack on Richard the Lionheart's hunting party. The Doctor, Ian and Vicki take refuge in the city and find favour with the king, but Barbara is taken to Sultan Saladin's encampment in Ramlah. Richard makes Ian a knight (Sir Ian of Jaffa) and despatches him to bargain for Barbara's release. She, however, has been abducted by the sadistic emir of Lydda - El Akir…

First transmissions
1. The Lion - Saturday 27 March 1965
2. The Knight of Jaffa - Saturday 3 April 1965
3. The Wheel of Fortune - Saturday 10 April 1965
4. The Warlords - Saturday 17 April 1965

Production
Filming: February 1965 at Ealing Studios
Studio recording: March 1965 at Riverside 1

Cast
Doctor Who - William Hartnell
Barbara Wright - Jacqueline Hill
Ian Chesterton - William Russell
Vicki - Maureen O'Brien
Richard the Lionheart - Julian Glover
Joanna - Jean Marsh
Saladin - Bernard Kay
Saphadin - Roger Avon
El Akir - Walter Randall
William des Preaux - John Flint
Reynier de Marun - David Anderson
William de Tornebu - Bruce Wightman
Ben Daheer - Reg Pritchard
Thatcher - Tony Caunter
Chamberlain - Robert Lankesheer
Sheyrah - Zohra Segal
Luigi Ferrigo - Gabor Baraker
Haroun - George Little
Safiya - Petra Markham
Earl of Leicester - John Bay
Maimuna - Sandra Hampton
Fatima - Viviane Sorrel
Hafsa - Diana McKenzie
Ibrahim - Tutte Lemkow

Crew
Writer - David Whitaker
Incidental music - Dudley Simpson
Story editor - Dennis Spooner
Designer - Barry Newbery
Producer - Verity Lambert
Director - Douglas Camfield

RT Review by Patrick Mulkern

To say that David Whitaker was one the finest writers of 1960s Doctor Who and that this was his most polished work gives a measure of The Crusade's quality. Douglas Camfield, who directed many classic adventures, said these were the best scripts he worked on. So it's a crying shame this four-part serial can now only be enjoyed in piecemeal fashion. Film recordings no longer exist for episodes two and four. But the huge gaps in the drama may at least be listened to, thanks to viewers who taped the BBC1 broadcasts in 1965*.

The Crusade is arguably the first story where every aspect of the production works to perfection. Elegant dialogue and engaging performances are well served by Camfield's assured, fluid direction. Barry Newbery surpasses himself with some outstanding sets - from the reasonably convincing woodland to the torch-lit, diaphanous draperies of the Saracen camp. The detailed Gothic chambers of King Richard's palace are subtly enhanced by an echo effect on the soundtrack.

Whitaker's plotting is also deft. The separation of the Tardis quartet, story after story, can be wearing, but here it immerses us in both sides of the Crusades. The Doctor, Ian and Vicki get embroiled in Plantagenet court intrigue, while Barbara goes from pillar to post in the Islamic enclaves. (It's a shame that as the history teacher she never gets to meet King Richard.)

Today, this period of history would be a hot potato for any dramatist, but in 1965 Whitaker handled his subject with admirable sensitivity. Richard and Saladin are portrayed even-handedly as complex leaders burdened by the power they wield. The racial and religious differences at the heart of their conflict are barely touched upon.

The Cross appears on soldiers' tunics, but Christ is never mentioned, and the Christian God and Allah are invoked only in passing. Princess Joanna shrieks about "heathen" and "infidel" after uncovering a plot to marry her to Saphadin; and in his final close-up the king clutches a crucifix and murmurs, "Help me, Holy Sepulchre. Help me."

Julian Glover leads a classy guest cast as the intense Lionheart. Jean Marsh is cool and striking as his sister Joanna, and Bernard Kay exudes charisma as Saladin. Strange to think just three months earlier Kay played scruff-bag Tyler in The Dalek Invasion of Earth. Stranger still to note how his "sultan make-up" is lightened between parts one and two! The "browning up" of Anglo-Saxon actors to play Middle Eastern characters would be unthinkable in modern drama but was commonplace in the 60s.

Of course, there has to be a villain and Walter Randall's El Akir is the most sinister character in the series to date. The magnificent end of episode three sees Barbara thrown at his feet. She looks up, fearful but defiant, at his scarred face. Flailing himself with a small crop, he sneers, "The only pleasure left for you is death. And death is very far away." We can only shudder at the kinky torments he has in mind.

The Crusade was one of the earliest serials deemed worthy of publishing in book form (in 1966) - and now, judging by the remnants of the TV production on DVD, it's easy to see this was an example of 1960s Doctor Who at its very best.

- - -

Radio Times archive material

Introductory feature

RT billings 
1. The Lion
2. The Knight of Jaffa
3. The Wheel of Fortune
4. The Warlords

- - -

[* Episodes 1 & 3 (plus the soundtracks to 2 & 4) are available on the BBC DVD boxed set, Doctor Who: Lost in Time. The complete soundtrack is available on BBC Audio CD.]

Add new comment

Ads by Google