Cross dressing, harems and marriages of political convenience. The Crusade has it all. Add to the mix kidnapping, royal knighthoods, shoplifting, the impersonation of a King, and torture by ants, and you have Doctor Who’s creative take on the Third Crusade.
One of the original objectives of Doctor Who was to produce educational family entertainment. Accordingly, it was the BBC’s intention to instruct the United Kingdom’s children in events of historical significance. The role of the Doctor and his companions was not to alter history but rather to be witnesses to extraordinary events. Save for their arrival in the Ship, the Tardis Crew was not immersed in science fiction adventures.
The first three years of Who is resplendent with stories of historical intrigue. From the much lamented lost classic of Marco Polo, through to the final historical adventure, the Second Doctor’s The Highlanders, these stories tread a delicate line between historical accuracy, liberal reinterpretations, and farce. A more than rudimentary knowledge of history is presumed of the viewer, undoubtedly as a consequence of the greater importance of history in the 1960’s school curriculum. It is perhaps for this reason that 21st century viewers to Classic Doctor Who may feel somewhat confused when confronted with stories embracing Caesar Nero, Richard the Lionheart, or Robespierre.
It is with bewilderment, therefore, that the viewer is likely to confront The Crusades. Whilst an ordinary viewer may be mildly aware of the Christian Crusades, knowledge of individual campaigns and participants is exceedingly unlikely. Who was Saladin? What year was this set in? Where was Jaffa? Why were they fighting? These “Who, What, Where and Why” questions would undoubtedly grace the watchers’ minds. Sadly, this Doctor Who story does nothing to answer those queries.
To assist in your comprehension of The Crusade’s events, a potted summary of the historical background is thus. The Crusade referred to in the story’s title is actually the Third Crusade, a campaign of Western European Christianity to regain the Holy City of Jerusalem from Muslim control. Ordered by Pope Gregory VIII, the Third Crusade spanned the years 1189 to 1192 and was led by three leaders, King Philip II of France, Emperor Frederick Barbarossa of Germany, and most importantly for the purposes of Doctor Who, the English King, Richard I. Known as Richard the Lionheart for his battlefield prowess, and Melek-Ric by the Muslim Saracens, Richard lived in England for only 6 months of his 10 year reign. The French speaking king spoke no English and based himself in the French Duchy of Aquitaine.
Salah al-Din Yusuf was a Muslim leader known by the name of Saladin. Famous for uniting the Muslim world, Saladin was responsible for capturing Jerusalem, the Christian’s Holy City, for the Muslims in 1187. Between 1191 and 1192 Richard won victories at Cyprus, Acre and against Saladin at Arsuf. It was during the winter of 1191 and 1192 that the Crusaders were in Jaffa, the location of this serial, resting up prior to an intended march on Jerusalem. Jaffa was known as Joppa in Biblical days and is located on the Mediterranean Sea, just south of Tel Aviv in Israel. It is known for its New Testament association with St. Peter and the Old Testament stories of Jonah and Solomon. Jaffa is said to have been conquered at least 22 times and was officially merged with Tel Aviv in 1950. Jaffa Hill is 40 metres high and provides an excellent view of the coastline. It is for this reason that Jaffa has been of such strategic importance. As the crow flies, Jaffa is approximately 53 kilometres from Jerusalem.
A cursory knowledge of history provides the viewer with enough information to broadly contextualize the serial. Understanding the whole of the story, however, is made extraordinarily difficult by the absence of episodes two and four of this four part serial. Episodes one and three are included in triple DVD set Lost in Time. A sweet addition to the DVD’s special features is an introduction by William Russell, as the character Ian. Episodes two and four are provided in audio format only, although fan made reconstructions can be found on YouTube. For the purposes of this review I watched the Loose Cannon reconstructions which are linked below.
Loose Cannon, The Crusade, Episode 2 Part 1
Loose Cannon, The Crusade, Episode 2 Part 2
Loose Cannon, The Crusade, Episode 4 Part 1
Loose Cannon, The Crusade, Episode 4 Part 2
In respect of the developing characters of the Tardis Crew, The Crusade sees the strengthening of Vicki and the Doctor’s bond. As was the case in The Romans, Vicki is paired with The Doctor throughout the course of the story. Being conspicuously dressed upon their arrival, the Doctor and Vicki visit a market. Inside a merchant’s cloth shop the Doctor witnesses a deal between the merchant and a thief for the purchase of stolen clothing. By distracting the merchant, the Doctor subsequently steals the clothes without compunction. Being stolen once they can be stolen again, the Doctor concludes as he justifies a crime which he them proceeds to downgrade to mere borrowing. This is hardly a good example for young viewers!
Given the nature of the stolen clothing, Vicki is dressed as a boy and passed off to the household of King Richard as a youth whose voice has not yet cracked. She is dressed not unlike a Peter Pan character. This charade continues until episode three, during which the King’s sister, Joanna, overhears the Doctor and Vicki’s conversation. Despite this fraud the Doctor and Vicki remain within the household. The sudden change of Vicki’s sex brings forth a humorous interlude between Joanna and Chamberlain. Joanna orders a confused Chamberlain to have the servants go to the market to buy fine cloth to dress Vicki. He doesn’t understand why dresses, silks and satins would be required for a boy and thought it was some form of joke. After Vicki states that it’s perfectly simple, she’s a girl, Chamberlain exclaims “A girl? Dressed as a boy? Is nothing understandable these days?”. I can only imagine that Chamberlain would find the 21st century very difficult to comprehend.
Soon after the Doctor leaves Vicki in the care of Joanna. A tender moment between the Doctor and his young companion is seen as Vicki becomes fearful that the Doctor won’t return. “You wouldn’t go off and leave me, would you? I mean, your ship’s the only home I’ve got now and I couldn’t bear it”. Vicki’s fears are placated by the Doctor who assures her that the separation will only be temporary.
Akin to The Romans again, Barbara and Ian are separated and it’s Ian’s task to rescue her. Barbara is kidnapped and escapes several times, and Ian at one time is tortured by a trail of ants whilst tied down to the sand. A clever tactical ploy enables Ian’s escape. Ian’s resourcefulness saves Barbara from a murderer’s hands in the harem and also the Doctor’s execution at the serial’s end. He also displays exceptional fighting skills for a secondary school science teacher. Ian is knighted by Richard the Lionheart as Sir Ian of Jaffa and it is this honour to which an elderly Ian refers in the special features of the DVD. Short as they are, these introductions are a delight to behold and can be accessed below. The first clip is Ian’s introduction to The Crusade serial generally. The second clip is a potted summary of the events in the lost episode two. The third clip summarizes the plot of missing episode four.
William Russell, The Crusade, Introduction.
William Russell, The Crusade, plot summary of Episode 2
William Russell, The Crusade, plot summary of Episode 4
The serial ends with the crew laughing at Sir Ian’s expense before they are all inexplicably frozen solid. The viewer must wait until the next story, The Space Museum, to see the reason for this extraordinary situation. From 12th Century Israel to the far future in Xeros, the time travellers’ journey continues.
©Vivien Fleming, 2013.