Season 2, Story 6 (Overall Series Story #14) Previous - Next | Index
|The Doctor reassures Vicki in a rare moment of sweetness.|
This is an enjoyably Shakespeare-tinged historical adventure, with outstanding performances from Julian Glover as Richard and Jean Marsh as Joanna. I'd have watched it all the way through even if it hadn't been a Doctor Who story, which, if we're honest, it barely is. Well, at the time I would've done; not sure I'd have made the effort read the scripts and listen to the audio for the missing episodes if it weren't Doctor Who, but I'm glad I did, and largely on the strength of the guest cast, both Crusader and Saracen.
If we separate the layers and look at what our intrepid travelers are doing in this story, it largely boils down to by-the-numbers plot devices: Barbara gets kidnapped (is abucted from her abductors, escapes, is re-captured, escapes, is re-captured ... poor Barbara is really just for Ian to come rescue again), Ian is doggedly determined to rescue her, Vicki pretends to be Victor so they can send up the Shakespearean practice of men playing women (or so people can show how smart they are by pointing out they're doing a send up) and the Doctor putters around not really doing anything but stealing some clothes and getting involved in courtly intrigue just to have something to do. Although, in this story, it at least it's fun to watch him steal clothes and insert himself into Richard's planning, and he gets to deliver that "You stupid butcher!" line so at least we can praise him for being pacifist. The more interesting story here revolves around Richard's decision to marry his sister off to Saladin's brother to try to bring an end to their conflict.
The historicals nowadays are more about the Doctor Who universe invading our history, so Pompeii has lava monster aliens under Vesuvius, there are alien witches swirling around Shakespeare, an alien werewolf in Victorian-era Scotland, alien ghosts for Dickens to meet, alien wasp to menace Agatha Christie, etc. Sure there are exceptions, "Black Orchid" leaps to mind, but the "straight" historical (because they're not really "straight" even when there aren't aliens behind the whole thing) doesn't get much play after this story and I think that's because we mostly want to see Doctor Who doing history, not history doing Doctor Who. No matter how well the latter can work, it's more of a stretch for the series because in this sort of story the Doctor is constrained by historical events and can't change anything, he's just got to solve puzzles, as it were, to extricate himself and his companions from the mess he's gotten them into. Or, Ian does. Sir Ian, we should say, though he's too modest to want anyone talking about it.