Written by David Whitaker
Note: This review is based on the AudioGo release Doctor Who and the Crusaders as read by William Russell.
From the Box: Back on Earth again, the TARDIS lands Doctor Who and his friends into the midst of the harsh, cruel world of the twelfth-century Crusades. Soon the adventurers are embroiled in the conflict between Richard the Lionheart and the Sultan Saladin, ruler of the warlike Saracens.
Opening Line: “As swiftly and as silently as a shadow, Doctor Who’s Space and Time ship, Tardis, appeared on a succession of planets each as different as the pebbles on a beach, stayed awhile and then vanished, as mysteriously as it had come.”
Admittedly, I skipped ahead a bit. I have had a lot to read lately and wasn’t able to sit down with the Target version of The Crusaders. I did, however, have plenty of time for an audiobook while working some late hours of work or cleaning at home. I was a bit apprehensive about launching into another First Doctor story, especially one that was a novelization rather than original, but now that I’m well in to the Troughton Era and watching Matt Smith again on the laptop, I figured a revisit of Hartnell could be managed, even if it is Wiliam Hartnell as written by David Whitaker and performed by William Russell.
The Crusaders follows the beats of the televised stories pretty well, but what I love about this version is that we get into the heads of the secondary characters more. Saladin is fleshed out more as are El Akir and Haroun. El Akir, in particular, is a nasty piece of work in this version of the story. He is evidence that Doctor Who doesn’t always need aliens to be monsters because humans can suffice. Additional character changes involve Ian and Barbara, who are undeniably in love, an element that is at odds with the televised version Doctor Who, but follows on from Whitaker’s adaptation of The Daleks. Romance between the teachers may have been forbidden by the BBC when filming, but with no such restriction here, Whitaker seems to take delight in fleshing out Ian and Barbara’s predicament at being in exiles in time and space, and explores the natural attraction that two people might have in this situation.
While the story is well-written, engaging, and an exciting historical adventure, perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this novelization is the prologue in which David Whitaker almost explicitly lays out his view of time travel and, by implication, how Doctor Who should work. In the prologue, Ian and The Doctor engage in a philosophical discussion on the nature of time travel and the impact the adventurers have on the various worlds they visit. Ian basically points out a major hole in the premise of the show. “Why is it that when we land on earth, with all the pre-knowledge of history at our disposal, we can’t right one single wrong, make good the bad or change one tiny evil? Why are we able to do these things on other planets and not on Earth?” In response, The Doctor espouses a view that Time moves regardless of what the adventurers do. He likens Earth history to a landslide and once the TARDIS lands, the adventurers are a part of the landslide, “roped completely to Time and must be led by it.” Time would seem, in Whitaker’s view, to be a controlling force. I’m not entirely sure this answers Ian’s question as to why Time invalidates their actions on Earth but not other planets, but it is an attempt. It would seem, according to The Doctor, that the best thing to do is learn from history, to use pre-knowledge of events as a way to study the period and motivations of the players in history. Only with this knowledge can the adventurers understand themselves and their place in humanity, only then can they learn to find an antidote to greed, selfish ambition, and war.
Final verdict: This is an excellent novelization of an excellent story. Highly recommended.
Impeccable Logic (from Ibrahim, a thief who has subdued Ian): “You arrive beside the water pool, and I can see you are a rich Lord, so I am tempted to knock you out and search your clothes. The temptation was your fault, for you are obviously rich and I am obviously poor. So I search through your clothes and I find nothing. Again, My Lord, am I at fault? I must earn my living and Allah has decided that my profession is to be a thief. I can tell you I was very frustrated, My Lord, very frustrated indeed.”