4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Another traditional Hartnell Historical,
This review is from: Doctor Who: The Crusade(Original Television Soundtrack) (Audio CD)
David Whitaker's "The Crusade" is unusually brief in these early days of Hartnell stories, preceded by lengthy historical tales such as "Marco Polo" and "The Reign of Terror". As such there is an immediate reduction in the opportunity for lengthy character-driven scenes, and more time ends up being spent on general escapade to move the plot along. And without the laid-back pace of its predecessors, The Crusade loses something: its educational value.
I never thought I'd be complaining about a Who story being less than educational, but half the charm of "Marco Polo", "The Reign of Terror" and "The Aztecs" (also a four parter, but with a much simpler plot) was the opportunity to wallow for a while in a particular period of history and learn about the characters, some of whom are real historical figures. In The Crusade, meanwhile, we learn that Richard the Lionheart is the King, and that he is at war with the Saracen leader Saladin, but we learn very little about his motivations or, indeed, the Crusade generally. Maybe the Crusades were too grim a topic, and the Who production shied away from it...
However, as a simple adventure, The Crusade is an enjoyable instalment of Who with good performances from its leads and notable guest stars Julian Glover as Richard the Lionheart and Jean Marsh his sister Joanna. There's a good evocation of the era and location with strong costume design on display in the two surviving episodes, well-dressed sets, and quirky or otherwise interesting supporting characters such as the family torn apart by the Emir El Akir's greed. Vicki is a companion with a lot more conviction than her predecessor, Susan, despite still falling into the "naive young girl" stereotype. Why there are quite so many white Muslims running around ancient Palestine is a puzzle, but at least they're reasonably well performed.
Not the most remarkable Who story ever created and certainly nowhere near the dizzying heights of Marco Polo. It has its problems - the Joanna story arc disappears almost completely in episode four, as does Richard the Lionheart himself; the Crusade arc is underdeveloped and there's no dramatic payoff in the form of a pitched battle or series of deaths - but The Crusade at least remains an enjoyable enough saga in which everybody has something to do.
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