The Watcher Cat

The Watcher Cat

Saturday, July 1, 2017

"I'll Steal you, Joanna": The Lion/The Knight of Jaffa/The Wheel of Fortune/The Warlords [The Crusades]

That's William Russell, 35 years after leaving the show, returning as Ian Chesterton (or, as this story established, Sir Ian Chesterton, of Joffa). That's not in the version I watched; I watched the existing two episodes interspersed with two reconstructions. Again, I favor the tele snap over the animations, at least thus far, because the animation is too cartoony for my taste.

The central historical conflict of this story--the Third Crusade, and Richard I's proposal to end it by marrying his sister Joanna to Saladin's brother happened, although there is doubt as to how seriously Richard intended the proposal. David Whitaker's script takes it seriously, and thus gives us an unusually tight focus for the historical drama the TARDIS team fall into.

As Whitaker tells the story, Saphadin (Saladin's brother) was enamored by Joanna's beauty; when Richard and some of his knights were ambushed, William des Preaux, of his household surrendered as Richard, and later passed off Barbara Wright as Joanna--a scheme that fell apart when Saphadin, who had seen Joanna, met Barbara, and blew the whistle.

Barbara's captor El Akir is now furious at her for humiliating him before Saphadin and Saladin (she mocks him to their faces; Saladin joins in). He spends the rest of the story seeking revenge on Barbara. Of all the sexually-themed dangers Barbara has fallen into to date, El Akir is the nastiest, because he has no desire for her except to humiliate and hurt her. Most of the other moths drawn to the Coal Hill School flame genuinely are smitten with her; El Akir is a cruel thug. (One of the things about these first two season that I love is that Jacqueline Hill generally plays Barbara as mildly annoyed at being treated as an interstellar siren. She isn't surprised, she doesn't revel in it, she just tries to (mostly) deflect it.

Between Barbara's efforts to escape El Akir, and Ian's to recue her, we swing back to the royal drama (and the Doctor's and Vicki's) efforts to ingratiate themselves with both the King and Joanna, in order to mount a rescue for Barbara, and then, when Ian is sent to do just that, to stay alive and free until her return).

So the casting is critical to the success of these four episodes. Julian Glover is an excellent Richard, just a little petulant and spoiled, but fundamentally a good man, who has learned the darkness of war and is keenly aware of the need to get back to England. Jean Marsh is superb as Joanna. Her warmth and good humor toward Vicki and the Doctor, contrasted with her haughty body language to a merchant mere seconds later distills the character down to its essence: Joanna is every inch a queen (albeit widowed), and literally condescends to warmth. When she discovers that Richard has already offered her hand to Saphadin, she explodes with a wrath that equals--no, exceeds Richard's. Glover at first bellows at her, but then underplays when Marsh roars right back at him.

Yes, roars. They're both quite credible as children of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, but Marsh is if anything more so. But underlying the quarrel is Richard's yearning for peace after years of war, and Joanna's cultural suspicion and fear of the Other:
JOANNA: I would speak with my brother!
JOANNA: What's this I hear? I can't believe it's true. Marriage to that heathenish man, that infidel?
RICHARD: We will give you reasons for it.
JOANNA: This unconsulted partner has no wish to marry. I am no sack of flour to be given in exchange.
RICHARD: It is expedient, the decision has been made.
JOANNA: Not by me, and never would be.
RICHARD: Joanna, please consider. The war is full of weary, wounded men. This marriage wants a little thought by you, that's all, then you'll see the right of it.
JOANNA: And how would you have me go to Saphadin? Bathed in oriental perfume, I suppose? Suppliant, tender and affectionate? Soft-eyed and trembling, eager with a thousand words of compliment and love? [angry] Well, I like a different way to meet the man I am to wed!
RICHARD: Well, if it's a meeting you want.
JOANNA: [roaring] I do not want! I will not have it!
RICHARD: Joanna!

[Richard's palace - robing room]

RICHARD: Joanna! (to the Chamberlain) Get out. Get out! Joanna, I beg you to accept.
RICHARD: I entreat you, Joanna.
RICHARD: Very well. I am the King. We command you.
JOANNA: You cannot command this of me.
RICHARD: [softer] Cannot?
JOANNA: No. There is a higher authority than yours to which I answer.
RICHARD: I am the King. Where is there any man who has greater power over his subjects?
JOANNA: In Rome. His Holiness the Pope will not allow this marriage of mine to that infidel.
RICHARD: But, Joanna?

[Richard's throne room]

RICHARD: You defy me with the Pope!
JOANNA: No, you defy the world with your politics! The reason you and all your armies are here is the reason on my side. You are here to fight these dogs, defeat them. Marry me to them and you make a pact with the Devil. Force me to it and I'll turn the world we know into your enemy.
(Richard nearly hits her, and Joanna walks out with her head held high.)
Saladin and Saphadim are portrayed as honorable and moderate. So too is Barbara's ally Haroun, both loyal and compassionate. Other characters--Ian's friends Ibraham the thief are more negatively stereotyped, but the show seems at pains to depict the Islamic characters as a mix, just as the invading English are (and the crusaders' status as invaders is underscored several times).

It's interesting how secondary the Doctor is in this story. He heps save Richard in the very beginning, he backs him as he strives for peace, but ultimately, the story is moved forward by the royals, and by Barbara and the other enemies to El Akir she meets along the way. Ian has a rather funny bond with a thief who at first tries to torture him into revealing where Ian keeps his (nonexistent) treasure, but then allies with him, because Ian is willing to steal from El Akir too. By the end of the story they're positively chummy.

The Doctor has two great sequences, though, each yet another reminder of how good Hartnell was at comedy. Needing clothes to pass at court, the Doctor (his anachronistic outfit hidden beneath a voluminous cloak) enters a merchant's stall. He has Vicki hide, and while the merchant (named Daheer) is investigating a mess at one end (caused by the Doctor), he flings garments out of Daheer's field of vision to Vicki. It's all rather like smaller version of the brilliant sequence in The Three Musketeers (1973) where out heroes swipe a large dinner from a tavern by staging a mock brawl.

A later comic gem, Hartnell at his best, is when he is confronted by the King's Chamberlain for the theft of the clothes from the stall, but he defends both himself and Daheer, who bought them from the palace thief:
CHAMBERLAIN: I have been waiting to speak with you.
DOCTOR: Oh? Pray, what about?
DAHEER: Thief!
VICKI: I beg your pardon!
DOCTOR: What's this?
DAHEER: Visitor of sorrows, depriver of my children, robber of my goods.
DOCTOR: Who is this? Do you know?
VICKI: No. Oh, his face is a bit familiar.
CHAMBERLAIN: You stole some clothing.
DOCTOR: Really?
CHAMBERLAIN: You see this riding habit? It was taken from this very room. Now it is back here again.
DOCTOR: And a pretty poor garment, too.
CHAMBERLAIN: This and this, stolen from me.
DAHEER: And stolen from me.
DOCTOR: Yes, now there really is a point there, isn't there? If I stole from you, my lord Chamberlain, how could I steal from him?
DAHEER: You did. You did steal from me.
DOCTOR: Then how could I steal from him, eh, you blockhead?
CHAMBERLAIN: Please, please. Now, I had the clothes first.
DOCTOR: Oh, how nice for you.
DAHEER: And I had them second.
VICKI: Did you buy them?
VICKI: From us?
DOCTOR: Then whoever it was stole them from you must have sold them to you. Now, don't you agree?
THATCHER: My lord Chamberlain, a ship is in the harbour disgorging fruit from Acre.
DAHEER: That's the man. I bought them from him.
DOCTOR: He must have stolen them from you.
CHAMBERLAIN: Thatcher! You villain!
DOCTOR: Now, just a minute! Oh, my dear Chamberlain, so undignified. The merchant bought the clothes in good faith and paid for them in good money. Now please return his money.
CHAMBERLAIN: But I have to catch the thief.
DOCTOR: Now, now, now. You mustn't let an honest man suffer. Pay him!
CHAMBERLAIN: Doh! Thatcher! Thatcher!
DAHEER: Joy to you, my lord! Giver of life to my father, provider!
DOCTOR: Yes, off you go! Off you go! Well, we seem to have got out of that problem all right, hmm?
Later, there's another very sweet moment between the Doctor and Vicki when she thinks he plans to abandon her. The gentle warmth with which Hartnell reassures her is quite touching, and a far distance away from the cold suspicious Doctor we first met.

It's surprising that a story missing so much of its footage works so well--but The Crusade does; it's lighter than The Reign of Terror, but more real and interesting than The Romans.

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