The experiment was running smoothly until we reached The Crusade. Too smoothly, perhaps. So what the hell went wrong?
We had to watch this episode twice.
I’d love to tell you that Sue adored it so much that we simply had to wallow in its glorious splendour again, but the sad truth is we had to re-watch the episode for an array of complicated reasons that I shall attempt to bore you with now.
First of all, our mutual friend, Simon ‘Rula’ Harries, came to stay with us for the weekend, and very late on the Friday evening I temporarily took leave of my senses and suggested that he join us for the first episode of The Crusade. You know how it is, you’ve had a drink or three, and before you know it, you’re inviting friends to do alsorts of weird things with your wife.
It seemed like a good idea at the time, but as I slotted Lost in Time into the DVD player, Sue was already suffering from performance anxiety. I was uncomfortable too. It just didn’t feel right having Simon watch her like that. Sue felt especially self-conscious and uneasy in the presence of Simon’s encyclopedic knowledge of 1960s Doctor Who trivia, and I could tell that her heart wasn’t really in it.
The very next evening, John Williams joined us, and he took great pleasure from warning Sue that radicalised ming-mongs might be upset with her observations on the Zarbi, and how she should be very careful when opening doors to strangers for the rest of her life. I had to convince Sue that John was only – well, mostly – joking, but the upshot is that she retired to bed that evening without her daily Hartnell fix. I’m sure that I detected some regret as she left us to watch several hours of early 1980s continuity (it’s just the way we roll), but my offer of a David Whitaker novelisation was rejected out of hand.
The following day I felt too ill to watch an episode and Sue worked very late the day after that, so by the time Tuesday rolled around we hadn’t watched an episode of Doctor Who for THREE WHOLE DAYS.
This felt very odd indeed.
Sue: I haven’t got a clue what happened in the last one. Something about Richard the Lionheart and Barbara almost getting raped again, I think.
Me: Don’t look at me: if I don’t write it down within a few hours I can’t remember a damn thing. And it’s been several days since we last, you know, erm, since we, er -
Sue: Let’s just pretend that didn’t happen. We should watch it again. Alone.
And that’s exactly what we did, and after the surrealistic thrills of The Web Planet it was a blessed relief to find ourselves back on terra firma again.
Me: Real people. Real locations. Real dialogue. Bliss!
Sue: Ian looks completely knackered. He used to step out of the TARDIS brimming full of wonder and excitement, but now he looks resigned to getting beaten up within a few minutes of the first episode starting. Poor Ian.
She’s almost right. It’s Barbara’s turn to get assaulted this week, and she is carted off to a fate worse than death by some marauding Saracens. Par for the course for Barbara, really.
Sue: The direction here is excellent. Who is it?
Me: Douglas Camfield.
Sue: He’s definitely one to watch.
Once again, Doctor Who seems to be obsessed with haberdashery as the Doctor and Vicki steal (yes, steal!) some clothes. Sue wonders what it would be like if every story included a scene where the Doctor and his companions had to nick appropriate clothing before they could rejoin an adventure.
When Richard the Lionheart finally shows his face, Sue is drawn to Julian Glover’s screen presence.
Sue: He’s very good.
Me: Don’t you recognise him? It’s Julian Glover.
I have to remind myself that Sue isn’t the type of person who remembers the names of actors. Some of my friends can spot Tutte Lemkow at a thousand paces before reeling off his CV, but Sue has difficulties remembering who Adam Woodyatt is, even though he plays a character she’s been watching regularly for twenty five years. Julian Glover didn’t stand a chance. You’ll get used to this, eventually. I confidentially predict that she still won’t know who Julian is by the time we reach Paris in 1979.
Sue: What’s he been in again?
There isn’t a single, recognisable vehicle in which to seat Mr. Glover, so I reel off his supporting roles in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, For Your Eyes Only and The Empire Strikes Back.
Sue: And you wonder why I don’t know who he is!? He does have a lovely voice, though, even if he is playing a complete bastard.
When we reach Saladin’s court, Sue can’t even recognise Bernard Kay, an actor she was admiring only a few weeks ago. Which brings us nicely to a problem that will raise its head throughout this story.
Sue: You couldn’t get away with blacking-up like that today.
Me: No, not unless you’re David Walliams, you can’t.top
The Knight of Jaffa
This is Sue’s first full-length recon. The rest have been condensed edits but this is the real deal, with John Cura telesnaps and everything.
Once again, Sue doesn’t have a problem with the pace and flow of a recon at all. In fact, she actively embraces its limited charms.
Sue: Ian would do anything for Barbara. He’d happily fall on his sword for her if he had to. I couldn’t imagine them ever being apart.
When Ian is knighted, the Doctor suggests that one of these days he’ll be honoured in the same way.
Sue: Doesn’t the Doctor get knighted in a David Tennant episode?
Me: He does. It’s the one with Queen Victoria fighting werewolves in Scotland.
Sue: I don’t know whether I should be happy or sad for spotting that reference.
As the recon continues, Sue confesses that she hasn’t got a clue what’s going on.
Sue: I can’t really fault this – the acting, the script, the sets – it’s all very good but it’s also very complicated. I’m finding it hard to keep up, to be honest. I can’t imagine kids being enthralled by this in 1965. It’s a serious play for adults. I like it but there’s something missing.
I think part of the problem is that Sue spends much of the episode engaged in her favourite game of look-a-like-ies – the telesnaps feature long static shots of actor’s faces and she can’t help herself. So far we’ve seen Bruce Fortsyth, the opera singer from the Go Compare adverts and someone who looks like a maid from Upstairs, Downstairs.
Me: That is Jean Marsh.
Sue: What’s she been in again?
Me: Well, Upstairs, Downstairs, for a start. We’ll be seeing a lot more of her as the series goes on. Oh, and she eventually marries a future Doctor in real life. Any guesses?
Sue: I have no idea. Colin Baker?
At one point there is a still of Marsh and Glover in what can only be described as a romantic embrace, and I have to remind Sue that Joanna is Richard’s sister.
Sue: I don’t think I’ve ever seen incest portrayed in a children’s television show before. Not even in Grange Hill.top
The Wheel of Fortune
Once again, it’s Douglas Camfield’s direction and Julian Glover’s acting that attracts the most praise from Sue.
Sue: That’s the best scene in Doctor Who so far. It’s just three men shouting at each other in a room but the dialogue and direction took it to another level. The script really is amazing. I haven’t got a clue what’s going on but they make it sound brilliant. And is it just me or is Hartnell raising his game? He’s surrounded by fantastic actors giving it their all and I think it’s rubbing off on him. He’s never been better.
And then Jean Marsh enters the fray and Richard and Joanna have a blazing row that shocks Sue with its intensity.
Sue: Part of me wishes this didn’t have anything to do with Doctor Who. I always feel slightly disappointed when we cut away from these characters to William Hartnell. I’m much more interested in Richard’s predicament than the Doctor faffing about again. I mean, what is the Doctor doing anyway?
Barbara is having a torrid time, too. Things are so bad she even contemplates suicide at one point and when she is finally brought to El Akir there’s no doubting his intentions.
Sue: As far as I can tell, every story has a subplot where Barbara has to endure the threat of imminent rape and torture. It’s just not fair.top
Sue: I’m starting to change my mind about the recons.
Me: Already? But this is one of the better recons. We’ve even got the remastered audio -
Sue: It’s fine. I actually prefer the recons when it’s just people standing around talking, but when there’s an action scene I really want to see it. I’m also finding some of the dialogue difficult to understand when I can’t see their lips move.
Practically everything Tutte Lemkow says sails right over Sue’s head and once again she is confused by the ethnicity of the many and varied characters.
Sue: I keep forgetting where and when we are supposed to be. Some of the actors are putting on funny voices, others aren’t. Some actors are blacked up, others are from ethnic minorities playing entirely different ethic minorities. Some are playing it straight, others are going for caricature. I can’t keep up.
But the strangest thing about The Crusade is just how abruptly the main story simply runs out of steam and stops. The Doctor can’t have any significant impact on historical events – these strict rules were laid down during The Aztecs – and so a story that was about grand, political schemes is suddenly reduced to a convoluted race back the TARDIS. The change of gears is so pronounced, Sue is convinced she must have missed something important.
Sue: Is that really it? They’re just leaving? That’s vaguely disappointing.top
The Final Score
Sue: Well, that was very good. I found it difficult to keep up with the plot (which went nowhere) and I have an issue with the Doctor’s lack of impact on events (as usual) but it was very well made and it didn’t out stay its welcome. I’ll give it -
As an added bonus, Sue was very taken by the cliffhanger that leads into The Space Museum and she’s eager to crack on.
The experiment continues…top
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