Sunday, 31 May 2009

The Crusade - May 2009: Week 14


  1. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry.

    Okay. I am starting to appear as if I don't like the historicals. Which isn't true. I loved Aztecs and Marco Polo.

    My issue with stories like Crusade is that it feels so very predictable.
    It's watchable, to be sure, but beyond that it's like a ticking a list of things off that will probably happen in this kind of story.

    Tardis lands. Local argy-bargy. our heros get caught up in it. Some or one get kidnapped etc etc. Mistaken identities...

    It's just too familiar. And therefore, to me, not as interesting or absorbing.

    Obviously, we only have so much actual screen time to assess, given the deleted episodes. but what I have seen and whtIi listened to, were just another run-of-the-mill story.

    The narration idea of Ian as an older man lookign back didn't really happen for me. I think I'd prefer it done straight. It's all a little hammy and stagey.

    I see the next episode has the word "space" in it. So that heartens me, no end.


  2. After my struggles with The Web Planet I rather enjoyed this one. Not a classic for me, certainly, but a story with some tension and characters I could invest in.

    I do agree with the Lord Turners argument that The Crusade does perhaps feel like it falls back on formula at times and thus lacks the surprise and edge of seat what happens next quality of, for example, The Aztecs. But it's a well written and, on the whole, well acted story.

    Julian Glover is marvelous as Richard (as you would expect) and I enjoy his sparring with Joanna, also splendidly played by Jean Marsh. Bernard Kay follows his great performance in Dalek Invasion of Earth with another superb performance as Saladin, war-weary, desperate for peace but knowing the chances are slim so he must show caution. Roger Avon gives a nice performance as his brother Saohadin and does have the most surprising moment of the story. A man meets Barbara and doesn't lust after her on sight. Mr. Beckley, your thoughts please!

    The supporting cast are mostly adequate. Though Walter Randall as the villainous El Akir is the height of moustache twirling evil and grates with me. There are also a few minor characters that overplay a bit for my tastes.

    The Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Vicki now really know their roles and David Whitaker, previously script editor, shows that he does too. Ian the action hero, feisty Barbara, playful Vicki and of course The Doctor, smart, knowledgeable and full of compassion. His relationship with Vicki seems so genuine and since her arrival The Doctor appears much more compassionate to me.

    So without being a classic I enjoyed this. It has less weaknesses than Reign Of Terror, but like that story lacks the extra elusive element that makes it one to recommend to anyone.

    For me a good 7/10

  3. Like Dan, it seems I watched the VHS version of this, complete with new narration and framing from Ian Chesterton himself, telling us a story from his large manor house somewhere in the country... So it's nice to know he's doing all right for himself.

    Still, for these reviews we must concentrate on the stories themselves, not any extra material, so I must regrettably skip the question of canonicity and move straight to the substance of the episodes.

    On to the show: Barbara steps from the Ship and straight into bondage. Honestly, it's like they're making this just for me.

    The dialogue, once more, cracks along with a standout from Barbara as she comments on the terrible fate planned for her as "the punishment of a fool" - and everyone in the room knows that the fellow standing next to her who took her captive has been the idiot in that particular relationship.

    Vicki's relationship with the Doctor, bizarrely, seems more grand-daughterly than his relationship with Susan! They cuddle, re-assure each other, tease each other... And there's no screaming or appearances from Mrs Stabby. Well, yet, anyway.

    On to the supporting cast, and there's an interesting contrast between the leaders in this story. Saladin is calculating and cold, while Richard is passionate and emotional. Julian Glover, as has been mentioned, gives a fine performance as Richard, and the scene in episode 4 between him and Jean Marsh is wonderful to watch. It's great when you can let seasoned actors let rip.

    Unfortunately this, together with the focus on his relationship with Saladin, can often make the story feel like it's about the guest stars rather than the regulars. And for me that's a cardinal sin in storytelling.

    It's a bit disconcerting as a modern viewer to see so many blacked-up faces. But in the times these were made, it was an acceptable device, so it would be a bit harsh to project our modern mores back on the makers.

    As in The Aztecs I thought I detected a bit of iambic in the speech patterns of the locals. I'd dearly love to have a look at the scripts to check whether I'm right or not.

    Joanna trusts the Doctor for author convenience in episode three, rather than because she has any reason to. She has a nice line of dialogue to hang a lantern onto it, but still...

    And a marvellous ending, too, as Ian uses his smart thinking to get himself and the Doctor away, leaving the nearby knights to regret his terrible fate!

    On the whole I thought it was good, but I couldn't really recommend it to anyone who wasn't a Doctor Who fan. Which seems an odd thing to say really - but it doesn't feel like an adventure for the TARDIS crew to me. It feels like a story of Richard the Lionheart and Saladin.

    And that's why I can't give it a great deal of love.

  4. I enjoyed The Crusade, although it lacks the punch of The Aztecs or the fun of The Romans.

    What it does have is class. Buckets of class. This is best demonstrated by the blistering performances of Julian Glover, Jean Marsh and Bernard Kay. Marsh and Glover are particularly excellent in their confrontation scene regarding King Richard's proposed war-ending marriage.

    There are some good themes here, and a nice attempt to demonstrate the politics behind wars. You almost feel that if Richard and Saladin could sit down together over a beer they could sort all this out in a second they both want the war over and the death to stop, but it isn't that simple and I suppose war never is.

    The regulars all get to go on little adventures. Vicki and the Doctor are back to normal after their subdued relationship in The Web Planet. Ian gets a knighthood and Barbara gets to show off her secret "Man-nip" powers again.

    There's something unsatisfying about the story as a whole, and I can't quite seem to put my finger on what it is. Maybe it's just that those two episodes are missing. As good as the cd is, and as awesome as William Russell's linking scenes are on the old video, this story only really soars during the episodes you can actually watch.

    *Shakes fist* Barrowman!!!

    Better than - The Sensorites

    Not as Good as - The Reign of Terror