Written by David Whitaker
Directed by Douglas Camfield
Barbara finds herself trapped in El Akir’s palace. Ian must escape the more-goofy-than-threatening Ibrahim, and The Doctor and Vicki are hunted by one of Leicester’s knights.
“Poor sir Ian, brave fellow, spirited away by fiends. What dreadful anguish and despair he must be suffering now.”
Barbara is able to escape El Akir’s guards and quickly hides in the one place a woman would go unnoticed by the men of the palace: El Akir’s harem. Given this was El Akir’s original intent for Barbara, this is rather convenient. However, his desires have moved from lust to sadistic torture, so this doesn’t quite work in Barbara’s favor either way. While in the harem, she finds Haroun’s eldest daughter.
Ian finds himself at the mercy of the eccentric Ibrahim. If there is a weakness to this story, it is Ibrahim, who is played as the stereotypical, two-faced, comic Arab thief. One minute he is stringing Ian out in the sun for ants to devour unless Ian gives him gold, the next he is helping Ian rescue Barbara from El Akir because El Akir is an evil man who took all the riches in the land so that there is no one left to rob. I can’t help but wonder who influenced this character more, David Whitaker or Dennis Spooner. Spooner, who is script editor at this time, enjoyed adding humor and this character seems to be the type he would put in one of his stories. Regardless, it advances the plot. Ian rescues Barbara. Haroun kills El Akir. Everyone is happy.
Well, everyone except The Doctor and Vicki. Joanna’s refusal to marry Saphadin has put King Richard in a hard spot. The King cannot stand against The Pope, so fighting is the only option left to resolve this conflict. The King admits to The Doctor that he knows it was Leicester who betrayed his confidence. Unfortunately, Leicester is needed for the battle. He is a good fighter. Despite preferring The Doctor to Leicester, King Richard needs the latter man more. Ah, politics. He urges The Doctor and Vicki to go to a place of safety until the fighting is over, whereupon he will call for them both once more.
Leicester has other plans. He sends a soldier to follow The Doctor. Capture is preferred but killing is acceptable. The final scene in this time period involves The Doctor and Vicki at the mercy of Leicester and his knights. The plan to carry out the execution themselves. Things look grim. Then a third party appears on the scene. Sir Ian of Jaffa, a man not known to Leicester, demands The Doctor be turned over to him. It seems The Doctor is working with Saladin and has killed some of Sir Ian’s companions. Recognizing the claim, Leicester turns The Doctor over to Ian. The all enter the TARDIS and vanish. Leicester swears his men to secrecy about what has happened here, and gives a touching eulogy for poor Sir Ian who was befouled of The Doctor’s black magic. Personally, I think this is a brilliant resolution.
What I find truly fascinating about the end of this story is that our characters just leave. Sure, all of their individual adventures have been resolved, but so much of the story focused on Saladin and King Richard. This story is not resolved. Indeed, Saladin doesn’t even appear in this final episode. Perhaps audiences in the 1960s were better versed in knowledge of The Crusades. Perhaps David Whitaker hoped interest in the battle would prompt viewers to do their own research into the period. Either way, the final shot that deals with The Crusade itself is King Richard clutching his crucifix, hoping he will win the battle and see Jerusalem. The Doctor tells Vicki, and by extension us, that The King will not, but this loses a bit of dramatic punch because we are told rather than shown. Granted, 1960s Doctor Who couldn’t show this. There wasn’t the budget or the facilities. Modern television probably would have. The writer in me wishes we had seen the failure to better feel the tragedy.
This was a great story. I wish more of it existed (two out of four episodes) because it is high drama and great art. Along with the Lucarotti historicals, The Crusade is a prime example of what Doctor Who is capable of when given access to good writers and good actors. Is it too much to ask that the new series try just one pure historical?