So we have been out of touch for the past week and a half, and we are not apologizing what-so-ever. As the Twitter followers and Facebook friends of C. W. Buechler will be aware of Itty Bitty Writer has been in the process of hiring a new intern. This took place on August 4th as we welcomed Alice to team IBW, since then we have been hip deep in the onboarding process and making certain that she and the CFO are well taken care of. What does this all mean to you our loyal reader, absolutely nothing because we are back on schedule.
During our onboarding process we chose to take a look at the William Hartnell Reconstruction of The Crusade. This 1965 Story features the First Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Vicki as they visit 12th Century Palestine during the 3rd crusade. Written by David Whitaker and directed by Douglas Camfield this story runs 4 25 minute episodes and will set you back 100 minutes with credit sequences. Parts 2 & 4 are missing but have been dutifully reconstructed with an introduction by the eternal William Russell.
Team Hartnell find themselves in the middle of King Richard’s crusade to conquer the Holy Land. In true Fashion Barbara is taken captive by the Sacacens, Ian kicks ass, and the Doctor proves he is a daft hand at sword play as well. Vicki on the other hand proves that she is an utterly useless replacement for Susan as she fails to cry out “Oh Grandfather” or twist her ankle during any of the four parts of this story.
The Doctor, Ian and Vickie make their way to King Richard and quickly earn the confidence of the King who is super happy to get his belt back. Meanwhile Barbara is played off by a captured lord as Princess Joanna, but only in so long as it is discovered she bares absolutely no resemblance to the ever delectable Jean Marsh. (Best known as Sarah Kingdom, but also played a tiny part in Willow as Queen Bavmorda).
Crusade happens and through a little trickery and deceit they make their way back to the TARDIS and escape.
What to like
- If you’re a history buff and love to learn things about how 1960’s British culture viewed the crusades you are absolutely in luck.
- Ian is the man, badass to the core. The Fact that William Russell is still kicking and screaming and looking studly at 110 is a tribute to just how badass he is. Before there was Rory Williams there was Ian Chesterton. (OK so Russell is only 87, but he is a studly 87) We have it in our ultimate goal to count up this characters Kills and see where he lands, but he ruthlessly deals out death at virtually every turn of this story.
- The production quality is good, especially for the time it was made. This actually has a genuine look of 12th century Palestine. Then again modern day Palestine has the look of 12th century Palestine so there really isn’t a lot of problems recreating it.
- The Performances are all good. No one actually phones it in and even Hartnell seems to be on script for him. This doesn’t actually mean that there is a dearth of Billy Fluffs, but they are definitely less apparent then normal.
- Blood and gore and battle scenes galore. Its nice to start a story out with some distant fighting sequences so we can believe our heroes are capable of taking on the Saracen menace.
- William Russell was required to pre-film his sequences while on holiday instead of just writing him out like they did with William Hartnell, this further adds to the mystique of the character as Ian was too important to go on vacation while the Doctor could be easily dealt out for two episodes Keys of Marinus style.
What Not to like.
- If you’re a history buff and love actual history this tale will offend your senses at every plot contrivance. The Crusade is actually proof why the series should never have tried to portray itself as educational and just stuck to the fantastical tales of adventure. Those can happen within a historical context, but should not be passed off as actual History.
- My God this story is just boring, its like watching grass grow or paint dry. Medieval politics is only slightly less boring than watching local government on the access channels. What this story needed was less adherence to accepted Historical representation of the Crusades and more ass kicking by Ian Chesterton.
- With two episodes missing from this four part story you are tempted to want them back, but instead the pacing of the crusade and the overall subject matter makes you wish that the other half of the story went missing as well. We honestly want all of this story wiped from the annals of history like so much Marco Polo.
Before anyone gets on us for bashing the historicals we would like to point out that we flirted with a History degree for more than one semester. The problem is this story just really drags and fails to make history, even the revisionist version, remotely interesting. The only good thing about this story is the rather extensive inclusion of Jean Marsh and the ass kicking of Ian Chesterton (Man of Action), but even that couldn’t raise The Crusade above a solid 2 out of 5.