on 27 April 2006
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.
on 19 February 2013
'The Crusade' was broadcast in episode format throughout March of 1965 and features many famous faces in early roles such as Julian Glover and Jean Marsh. Unfortunately, following the BBC's purging of their recorded media, two episodes out of four remain missing, leaving only half of this historical serial in tact. Luckily, some fans of this revolutionary series decided to record the audio soundtracks of their favourite show, which has led to the rediscovery of those episodes that remain lost. Regarding 'The Crusade', I believe that it has held up pretty well in audio format, even though there are some purely visual scenes that really are meant to be seen primarily on the small screen.
The story surrounds the Tardis crew: The First Doctor, Ian Chesterson, Barbara Wright and Vicki, becoming embroiled in the events of the Third Crusade, in the middle of a holy war between the Christians and Muslims and their respective leaders, fighting for their claim on Jerusalem. The Doctor, Ian and Vicki find themselves in the company of King Richard the Lionheart and his sister Joanna, amongst their royal palace in Jaffa. Meanwhile, Barbara spends most of the serial in the captivity of the Saracens and Ian, newly Knighted Sir Ian of Jaffa - peace emissary for King Richard, quests to find and return her from the hands of the Saracen warlord El Akir.
The blend of action and humour isn't so prevalent as in earlier historical installments such as 'The Romans', but there is a definite air of jocular banter, especially during the scenes where Vicki pretends to be a young boy in order to ensure her safety in this foreign environment. I find that, at first, 'The Crusade' can be quite difficult to follow if you are not familiar with the story's preface, and it is probably best to view the two remaining episodes that have been found before listening to this television soundtrack. Following this, it is much easier to visualise the narrated action that is provided so wonderfully by William Russel who plays Ian in this story.
The two out of four episodes have been previously released on VHS, alongside the following serial, 'The Space Museum'. This VHS release also included the audio soundtrack to episodes two and four on an additional compact disc if the viewer wished to fully grasp events in between episodes one and three. Also, William Russell provided an excellent in-character narrative as Ian Chesterson, relating the story of his adventure in the Holy Land in order to link the script of the missing episodes to the ones that were visually shown. Subsequently, this was all included (along with the linking audio soundtrack) within the 2004 DVD Release of 'Lost in Time: Collection of Rare Episodes - The William Hartnell Years' (also released as a box-set alongside missing episodes of the Patrick Troughton era).
'The Crusade' is an early historical serial within the Doctor Who mythos, providing an educational voice which is at the very heart of the show's premise. This television soundtrack is a worthy addition to the collection of lost serials that may never be complete and is a great accompaniment to the VHS edition of the story that was later converted onto DVD. The two bounce off each other very nicely and this release provides a subtly different way of experiencing a lost classic.
*N.B. This soundtrack is also available, remastered, within the 'Lost TV Episodes Collection' box-set (Volume 1), alongside other such serials with missing episodes.