Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...
Day Seventy-One: The Knight of Jaffa (The Crusade, Episode Two)
When people talk about the early years of Doctor Who, the conversation usually turns to the fate of the missing episodes. The chunk of stories missing from the 1960s somewhat overshadows the era as a whole.
Indeed, in the past when I've thought of trying marathons, I've either opted to skip the 1960s altogether, and start from Spearhead From Space, safe in the knowledge that everything from there onwards exists, or I've opted to just skip the missing episodes and to think of the series as being just those stories which survive in full.
What you tend to miss when looking at the big picture in regards to the fate of 1960s Doctor Who is just how much of it does survive. Here I am, 71 days into my marathon, and this is only my tenth missing episode. If you consider the fact that I was able to watch the missing parts of The Reign of Terror in animated form, then you could consider this my eighth really 'missing' episode.
In total, there's only eleven missing episodes from the first two seasons of Doctor Who. That equates to somewhere around 13.5%. It's a shame that no companion of this era has their entire output surviving, but on the whole, that's not a bad track record!
Even more remarkable is the fact that all the 'missing' episodes do exist in the form of audio recordings. I think that sometimes within Who fandom, the staggering importance of this can be missed. If you take a lot of other popular series from the time - The Avengers, Adam Adamant Lives!, even a few episodes of Dad's Army - you'll find that even if they're not missing as many episodes, several of them aren't available in any format whatsoever.
The situation goes so far that there are a few episodes of The Avengers' early 'Keel and Steed' season where we don't have a soundtrack, there are no tele snaps or behind-the-scenes photos… in some cases, we don't even have a copy of a script for the episode! Basically, as Doctor Who fans, we're incredibly lucky that we can experience all of the missing bits of our show in so many different ways.
Unfortunately, none of this changes the fact that I've failed spectacularly to get into today's recon of The Knight of Jaffa. I don't even know what it is that's stopping me from connecting with it: I did wonder if it may be the result of being back onto a recon after so long away from them?
I think a part of it may be that this isn't an era of history that I'm readily familiar with. I know a little about Marco Polo and his travels, the Aztecs is an era that fascinates me, and I can just about remember the basic shape of the French Revolution from my schooldays. The Crusades, however, are just something that I know of in very basic terms, and as a result, I'm not completely sure what's going on in this story.
A fair amount of it can be picked up relatively easily - King Richard and Saladin are at war in the holy land. They don't really want to be at war, but it's the way things are. Saladin's brother has a bit of a thing for Richard's sister (and, it has to be said, Jean Marsh does look lovely in the tele snaps for this episode). Babs has been captured by the 'evil' side, and our heroes need to get her back before they can return to the TARDIS and head off to their next adventure.
The problem is that not knowing this era of history very well means that there's nothing much for me to hook onto. In The Romans, events are building up to the great fire. In The Reign of Terror, we're witnessing the final days of Robespierre. The Aztecs features a relatively generic period, but there we've got people being sacrificed and wearing elaborate hats to keep me interested.
It's not all bad, though. Julian Glover is on top form as ever. Much as I enjoyed The Web Planet on the whole, the performance being given here might as well come from a different programme to the Menoptera and the Zarbi. Then there's the sets, which look beautiful from what we can see here, and what was seen in the last episode.
I'm hoping that switching (briefly) back to a moving episode tomorrow will give me a chance to get back into the story, as it feels like one that deserves to be enjoyed more.
Next Episode: The Wheel of Fortune
I've set up a Facebook page for the 50 Year Diary. If you enjoy reading the blog, please do pop over an give it a like! I'm sure I'll be using it to ask questions etc in relation to the marathon!