The TARDIS arrives in 12th Century Palestine where a Holy War is in progress between the forces of Richard the Lionheart and the Saracen leader Saladin. Barbara is abducted in a Saracen ambush and the Doctor, Ian and Vicki make their way to King Richard’s palace in the city of Jaffa.
The Crusade might have finally made me understand why so many rave about the Hartnell era “pure” historicals and follows up favourably on the other historical in Season 2, The Romans. Whilst that was almost a light-hearted romp based around Rome burning down, this brings our TARDIS team to a war zone and treats it with a surprising sensitivity and respect for the time it was made. I watched the two existing episodes and listened to the two lost ones with linking narration by William Russell and thoroughly enjoyed this story.
This might be one of the best stories Whitaker ever contributed to the programme. The story is one where our protagonists do not really have too much impact on the events of the story and is almost more in line with the show’s original educational remit. It’s also fairly even-handed, showing that there is good and evil on both sides of the Crusades. This story features a lot of dialogue which in other hands might have made the story feel slow and uninteresting, but Whitaker stylises it like mock-Shakespeare and there’s not a word wasted. At times it’s difficult to keep up with what’s being said and I had to pause and go back a few times because I genuinely didn’t want to miss anything. That’s not to say that there aren’t moments of action in this story too, and the direction of Douglas Camfield really allows this to shine. I’ve been vocal in my admiration of Camfield’s direction in other reviews for later Doctors and this is no exception. This story starts off with a Saracen ambush which results in one Crusader being shot through the heart with an arrow and a Saracen being run through with a sword, followed by one of the most dynamic and interesting sword fights between Ian and a Saracen soldier, with use of handheld cameras and overhead shots that make other Who directors both before and after this story look laughable. Camfield also has a knack for making the budget look like its going further, especially in the opening scene with the bird of prey, and this is aided by background noises in the cities, especially in the marketplace which feels like it is a part of a bustling city rather than a set. There is a skill to making these places feel real, and putting in this attention to detail certainly helps the story feel fully immersive for its audience.
Hold one hand out in friendship and keep the other on your sword.Saladin
The guest cast are particularly strong here. We’ve got great performances from the leaders of the two sides, with both receiving quite sympathetic treatment. We have Richard, played by Julian Glover, and Saladin, played by Bernard Hill, who are both depicted as wanting peace in the Holy Land. Glover’s Richard is portrayed as a childish and occasionally bad-tempered King, held in fear of losing the support of his soldiers led by the Earl of Leicester and also afraid of his sister, Joanna, who he treats like a political device rather than a human, planning to marry her off to Saphadin to ensure peace in the Holy Land. It’s hard not to feel sympathetic towards Richard when the Doctor quietly tells Vicki that his plans will not work, and in fact the last we see of Richard the Lionheart is him praying like a child, praying hopelessly for the success of his plan. Saladin, whilst enjoying less screen time, is also similarly depicted as much more three dimensional, seeking peace but wary of Richard’s plans and the implications for his people. We also have Jean Marsh, who is equally superb, especially in that scene where she confronts her brother about his plans to marry her off, which are really well performed and show a quick transition from her being a demure princess to a feisty being, willing to do whatever it takes not to follow her brother’s decisions. Walter Randall is also good as the villainous El Akir, who captures Barbara multiple times during this story, a hideous character who takes against her due to being misled as to her being Princess Joanna as part of a ruse to ensure their safety whilst captured by the Saracens. The scene where Barbara is trying to hide from his forces at the end of Part 2 and the beginning of Part 3 is possibly one of the tensest moments of this era, even if only through William Russell’s narration and the recap at the beginning of the surviving Part 3. Additionally, the character of Haroun and the story of what El Akir has done to his family is enough to garner sympathy for a character who is actually not in the story very much, and makes you want El Akir to get what’s coming to him.
Well, my dear, in one way I don’t think things have turned out too badly after all, hmm?
How do you mean, in one way?
You will be much safer under Joanna’s wing.
I’ll still see you, won’t I?
Of course, my child.
I mean, Barbara’s gone off, and then Ian.
You wouldn’t go off and leave me, would you?
What a question.
I mean, your ship’s the only home I’ve got now and I couldn’t bear it if…
Ah, now, now, now. What is all this, eh, hmm?
Well, when you said a good thing in one way I thought, well, I thought you meant that I was some sort of problem or something.
Ah, surely you know me better than that, child? No, my reservation was that I might get entangled in court intrigue and that’s going to be very, very dangerous. Very dangerous indeed.The First Doctor and Vicki
The main cast are all on good form here. William Hartnell keeps getting better and better, and his relationship with Maureen O’Brien’s Vicki just continues to surprise and please me. This is definitely the way that the Doctor and Susan relationship should have hit, but for some reason, it never really occurred to me. Of course, it could be argued that Vicki is just a surrogate Susan, but I think that the alien orphan does distinguish her from the Doctor’s granddaughter. O’Brien really impressed me with the way she handled her insecurities about being left behind by the Doctor, as she would have nothing, and this is one of the best moments of the episode. Hartnell commands the scene where he argues with the Earl of Leicester about Richard’s plan and you cannot take your eyes off him as he advocates for peace and the King. Barbara and Ian spend most of this story apart from the Doctor and Vicki, with Ian off on an errand for the King to Saladin’s court and then attacked by bandits and left to be eaten by ants, and Barbara spends most of the time kidnapped or released from imprisonment. Whilst we’re coming to the end of their time as companions, both Russell and Hill put in sterling performances here and their characters are allowed to show moments of resourcefulness and cunning to escape their captors. I really like this TARDIS team, and I’m a bit afraid of what comes after The Chase.
Verdict: The Crusade may not just be my favourite historical but my favourite William Hartnell story so far. Everything works well here, from the script to the direction and the acting. 10/10
Cast: William Hartnell (The Doctor), William Russell (Ian Chesterton), Jacqueline Hill (Barbara Wright), Maureen O’Brien (Vicki), Julian Glover (Richard the Lionheart), Bernard Kay (Saladin), Roger Avon (Saphadin), Walter Randall (El Akir), John Flint (William des Preaux), Bruce Wightman (William de Tornebu), Reg Pritchard (Ben Daheer), Tony Caunter (Thatcher), David Anderson (Reynier de Marun), Derek Ware (Saracen Warrior), Valentino Musetti (Saracen Warrior), Chris Konyils (Saracen Warrior), Raymond Novak (Saracen Warrior), Jean Marsh (Joanna), Robert Lankesheer (Chamberlain), Zohra Sehgal (Sheyrah), Gabor Baraker (Luigi Ferrigo), George Little (Haroun), John Bay (Earl of Leicester), Petra Markham (Safiya), David Brewster (Turkish bandit), Anthony Colby (Saracen warrior), Sandra Hampton (Maimuna), Vivianne Sorrél (Fatima), Diane Mckenzie (Hafsa), Tutte Lemkow (Ibrahim) & Billy Cornelius (Man-At-Arms).
Writer: David Whitaker
Director: Douglas Camfield
Parts: 4 (The Lion, The Knight of Jaffa, The Wheel of Fortune & The Warlords)
Behind the Scenes
- The working title for this serial was The Saracens Hordes, whilst the working titles for Parts 2,3 and 4 were Damsel in Distress, Changing Fortunes and The Knight of Jaffa respectively.
- Only the first and third episodes exist as telerecordings in the BBC Archives, but complete audio recordings of all four episodes exist. Episode 2 breaks a 44-episode streak of moving episodes going back to The Sea of Death.
- It is the last story to be written by David Whitaker for William Hartnell and the first to be entirely directed by Douglas Camfield.
- William Hartnell insisted on the removal of dialogue implying an incestuous relationship between Richard and Joanna, feeling that it was inappropriate for a family series.
- Verity Lambert made the decision to leave the show during production of this serial.
- David Whitaker held this up as his finest technical achievement and director Douglas Camfield claimed that he did not have to change a single line of the script.
- Julian Glover did not enjoy the experience of working with William Hartnell, stating that he was quite cold towards him (possibly due to insecurity), in contrast to William Russell and Jacqueline Hill who went out of their way to make guest actors welcome.
- The last time that director Douglas Camfield and composer Dudley Simpson worked together before they fell out.
- Julian Glover would go onto play Scaroth in City of Death. Nicholas Courtney was at one time considered to be a potential replacement for Glover.
- Jean Marsh would go on to play Sara Kingdom in The Daleks’ Master Plan and Morgaine in Battlefield.
- Bernard Kay had previously appeared in The Dalek Invasion of Earth and would appear in The Faceless Ones opposite Patrick Troughton and Colony in Space opposite Jon Pertwee.
- Roger Avon would go on to play Daxtar in The Daleks’ Master Plan.
- Walter Randall appeared in The Aztecs and would go on to appear in The Daleks’ Master Plan, The Invasion, Inferno and Planet of the Spiders. He also ran a restaurant with Jon Pertwee for five years in the 1970s.
- John Flint would return to Doctor Who opposite Peter Davison in Time-Flight.
- Bruce Wightman would go on to appear in The Daleks’ Master Plan and Terror of the Zygons.
- Reg Pritchard would also appear in The Daleks’ Master Plan.
- Tony Caunter would appear as Morgan in Colony in Space and Jackson in Enlightenment.
- David Anderson appeared in a number of Doctor Who stories, starting with Marco Polo, although he was only credited for his roles in The Aztecs, this story, The Time Meddler and The Daleks’ Master Plan.
- Derek Ware appeared in a number of stories as an actor and set up HAVOC, the stunt group who worked on a number of Doctor Who stories.
- Valentino Musetti appeared in Marco Polo, The Daleks’ Master Plan, The Smugglers, The Mind of Evil, Colony in Space and The Time Monster, however, The Crusade was his only credited role.
- Chris Konyils also had uncredited roles in The Tenth Planet and The Wheel in Space.
- Zohra Sehgal had an uncredited role in Marco Polo. She was also the second person associated with Doctor Who to reach the age of 100.
- Gabor Baraker had previously appeared in Marco Polo.
- The Crusade was the only credited role for David Brewster, who appeared in Marco Polo, The Romans, Galaxy 4 and The Daleks’ Master Plan.
- Tutte Lemkow previously appeared in Marco Polo and The Myth Makers.
- Billy Cornelius appeared in An Unearthly Child and The Aztecs in uncredited roles.
The only pleasure left for you is death. And death is very far away.El Akir
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