February 2: "The Knight of Jaffa" / "The Wheel of Fortune"

(The Crusade episodes 2 & 3)

"The Knight of Jaffa" is the first of two missing episodes from season 2 (and we'll reach the other one tomorrow), so once again I'm peering at telesnaps while listening to the soundtrack.

What I found interesting about this episode is how much less Shakespearean it felt compared to "The Lion".  But to be fair, this feels like Whitaker moving his pieces into place so that they can properly unleashed.  And although things seem less grand, there is still some definite entertainment to be had.  Basically every scene with Richard the Lionheart is a marvel of language and charm, even when it's simply Richard musing aloud about how to deal with Saladin -- but the moment when he knights Ian and makes him Knight of Jaffa is also quite wonderful.  But once Ian becomes an emissary of King Richard's and travels to Saladin's camp to arrange for the release of Barbara and Sir William des Preaux, the story has to contrive to remove Barbara from the scene before Ian arrives.  This means that there's some subterfuge involving Barbara's kidnap, and this is the main thrust of "The Knight of Jaffa": arranging for Barbara to be elsewhere.  The business with the merchant Luigi Ferrigo is thus less satisfying than it would otherwise be, since it's not feeding into the main drama concerning Richard and Saladin, but rather contriving to keep Barbara separated from the main group and thus continue the story.  Although it does mean that, once he realizes she's gone, Ian has to decide to rescue Barbara (and the telesnap of him deciding this looks rather uncannily like my father...). 

But the other thing worth noting about this episode (and the series in general as of late) is how much more mischievous the Doctor has become: pulling the wool over everyone's eyes while in Roman times, and now successfully manipulating both the king's chamberlain and the hapless merchant Ben Daheer, whom he stole his clothes from last episode, into believing that the thief was in fact someone else.  It's another lovely little showcase for William Hartnell and a subtle manipulation of the Doctor's character (and it's probably not a coincidence that this is happening now that Dennis Spooner has taken over from David Whitaker as story editor on Doctor Who).

Richard I commands his sister to marry Saphadin. ("The
Wheel of Fortune") ©BBC
Back on video for "The Wheel of Fortune", which resumes the heights set in "The Lion".  (Hmm...maybe I would have enjoyed "The Knight of Jaffa" more if I could have actually seen it...)  Whitaker, having set things up in the previous episode, can now set them loose.  This leads to some glorious scenes, particularly near the end, when Joanna learns of her brother's plan to marry her to Saladin's brother and thus end the bloodshed between the Europeans and the Saracens.  Jean Marsh lets loose with righteous fury, matched by Julian Glover's impotent frustration when he sees his plan for peace undone.  There's also a lot of great lines in this episode: "There's something new in you, yet something older than the sky itself," Joanna says of the Doctor, while later the Earl of Leicester voices his irritations to his king:
You're a man for talk, I can see that.  You like a table and a ring of men.  A parley here, arrangements there, but when you men of eloquence have stunned each other with your words, we, we the soldiers, have to face it out.  On some half-started morning while you speakers lie abed, armies settle everything, giving sweat, sinewed bodies, aye, and life itself.
The only part of the episode that disappoints is Barbara's plight.  There are some admittedly good scenes here, especially when Haroun ed-Diin, who has previously saved Barbara from El Akir's men, instructs her to kill his daughter should El Akir's men arrive and try to take them away.  But because Barbara's so disconnected from the main storyline, it's a little less involving -- even if El Akir does make for a menacing villain.  Still, it's a great cliffhanger: "The only pleasure left for you is death," El Akir informs Barbara, having recaptured her.  "And death is very far away."