Sunday, May 10, 2009
After a few weeks of wacky, zany, odd, and not too successful experiments with the formula of Doctor Who, comes a full on return to the serious, thoroughly well written, pure historical that was Doctor Who's bread and butter during the show's first season. It starts slightly unusually for a historical in that we not only find out what era the TARDIS has landed in before The Doctor and his friends discover the answer, but we meet some of the principle characters (indeed, the "celebrity historical figure" himself, King Richard I) before The Doctor even sets foot out of the TARDIS. In season one, the viewer (supposedly) would feel almost giddy at meeting an historical figure, usually through the excitement of Ian and Barbara. Now, the show is confident enough in trotting out such things in its opening minutes that it almost seems old hat. And it also allows the story to get started properly right off the bat.
And what a start! The TARDIS lands, we meet Richard I, there's a sword fight (including a rare action scene featuring William Hartnell), and Barbara is kidnapped, all within the first seven minutes of the episode. We also get to see Julian Glover's sterling performance as King Richard. Glover, who would make a name for himself later in his career, is still probably the best guest actor the show had seen to this point. Judging by the way the Shakespearean dialogue rolls of his tongue, you can instantly tell that Glover has spent more than a couple days performing Shakespeare in his life.
The dialogue in this story comes via story editor David Whitaker, and this is some his best work. Like The Aztecs (written by John Lucarotti) before it, this immediately feels like a long lost Shakespeare play. Except, unlike Shakespeare, I actually want to watch The Crusade...
It's also nice to see that there is no real "good guys" and "bad guys" in this episode - both the English and the Saracens are equally portrayed as noble and righteous. Only various individuals on each side let their lesser qualities show - the Saracen El Akir, and, surprisingly, King Richard himself for the English. It is Richard's reluctance to let Ian go to try and rescue Barbara that gives this story its initial thrust, which also indicates that this story is a throwback to the Season One historicals in that the main goal for the TARDIS crew is escape, and let whatever history is happening around them take its course.
Posted by Steven at 11:03 PM