Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...
Day Seventy-Two: The Wheel of Fortune (The Crusade, Episode Three)
I promised myself that I wouldn't do it. As soon as I reached the end of yesterday's episode, and the 'next' caption came up, I decided then and there that I wouldn't do it. But you know what? I just can't help myself. All together, now: “WHEEL of FOR-TUNE!”.
Ahem. Now that that's out of the way…
It's uncanny, you know. Back onto moving images for just a few minutes and again I'm instantly put in mind of The Adventures of Sir Lancelot - even without William Russell really appearing in the episode! I suppose it was inevitable, really, though. We've got castles and kings, and knights in shining armour. There's a princess and a ward… we're only a horse and a moat away from remaking that series.
The thing is… part of the reason that I like The Adventures of Sir Lancelot is because it's light-hearted and fun. It's unashamedly for children, and it's not trying to do anything other than entertain its young audience for a half an hour on a Sunday afternoon. There's very clear lines of good and evil, lovely shots of horses riding through the countryside and every episode sees William Russell given a sword fight. If you're really lucky, you might get two.
The Crusade on the other hand is much more measured than all that. This is a story as much about political intrigue as it is about the kind of knights fighting the Crusades that we were promised at the start of Episode One. When the TARDIS first arrived in the woodlands, the suggestion was that we were in for something of an action-packed story, but that's simply not come to pass.
There's plenty to like in the story, all the same - Joanna finding out that Vicki is really a girl is good fun, for instance, and I love all the stuff with Haroun ed-Din and Barbara. In just a few short scenes, we're given an entire backstory to the character that feels real and we sympathise. We know that his wife has been killed, and so when his daughter states that her mother is merely missing, Barbara's reaction says it all. Even if Babs does nearly tell the girl that her mum is really dead. Tactful!
I've mentioned in the past that the more relaxed pace of the classic series allowed for the kind of character development that just isn't always possible in a single 45-minute episode today, but these few brief scenes are an absolute masterclass in how to create characters that we care about, and are fully three-dimensional. It's a moving few moments, and perhaps one of the best characters that we've seen in the series, even if his role is a minor one.
The stand-out moment for me, though, has to be Richard and Joanna's fight. Bloody hell - it's some stunning performances from Julian Glover and Jean Marsh. You almost forget that you're watching an episode of Doctor Who, because all of a sudden, it's not about getting Barbara back, or fearing for Ian's safety. It's not about the Doctor an Vicki having a giggle over her clothes.
It's now about these two siblings, and King Richard's betrayal of his sister, who only a few scenes earlier confessed that she was his favourite. And as if these performances were't already some of the best that we've seen in the series, the whole sequence is framed by each of them getting the chance to be angry towards the Doctor. Frankly, I loved that bit, and it really helped to pick me up toward the end of the episode.
Tomorrow sees me return to the world of the missing episodes, and I'm taking a slightly different tact with it. The recon for Episode Two simply did nothing for me, and I spent a great deal of time thoroughly confused (For example - as far as I could tell in the cliffhanger, Barbara had her own hand over her mouth to keep her quiet. It wasn't until watching the recap today that I realised it was Haroun ed-Din's hand!).
For the next episode, I am going to give the narrated soundtracks another whirl, and see if that helps me enjoy the rest of the story. If nothing else, it will allow me to focus more on these standout performances on their own merit, without trying to process the tele snaps, too. I'll probably give them a look-over once I've finished with the soundtrack, but I'll play it by ear!
Next Episode: The Warlords
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