What I Learned From Doctor Who: “The Crusade” (One, 1965)

Doctor: One (William Hartnell)

Companions: Ian Chesterton (William Russell), Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill), and Vicki (Maureen O’Brien)

Time: The reign of King Richard II of England.

Place: Earth, the “Holy Land”

Episodes: 

1. “The Lion” (Season Two, Episode Twenty-Two)
2. “The Knight of Jaffa” (S2, E23)
3. “The Wheel of Fortune” (S2, E24)
4. “The Warlords” (S2, E25)

Today’s Lessons

1. If these episodes are supposed to evoke the Crusades, championed by King Richard the Lionheart, the Middle East in this serial looks awfully woodsy and England-like…also, the opposing forces look like far Eastern, maybe Mongolian.  I’m instantly confused…

2. The Doctor engages in both fisticuffs and swordplay in this serial!  Pretty spry for an old guy.

3. The Doctor is not above pinching some cloaks from a materials and soft goods merchant to fashion a disguise for himself.  In this serial, Barbara is taken captive by Sarasins, who also believe they have captured King Richard.  In reality, they’ve kidnapped a guardsman posing as the King, who convinces Barbara to pose as his sister the princess.  In the meantime, the Doctor and Vicki search for the real King but stop in a city to procure some disguises.

4.The language in this serial is high-falutin’ and nearly Shakesperean in timber, which makes less sense, given that King Richard was King at least four hundred years before Shakespeare.

5. The second episode, “The Knight of Jaffa,” and the fourth episode, “The Warlords,” are lost episodes, with only audio and still frames from the original film surviving.

6. “The Knight of Jaffa” refers to Ian, who is knighted by King Richard when made an emissary to fetch Barbara and Richard’s man from the Sultan.  Ian is hesitant to kneel before the King, but the Doctor eagerly encourages this ceremony.  In addition, when Ian proves enthusiastic to start his journey to the Sultan, King Richard implies that Ian’s enthusiasm might be motivated by love for Barbara (or for peace).  Without the footage, I don’t know if he meant romantic love or, you know, love for one’s fellow man (or woman).

7. The Doctor later, wistfully, laments, “I almost wish I’d been knighted too.”  Vicki responds with a laugh, “That’ll be the day.”

8. The town chamberlain later finds the Doctor and accuses him (rightly) of stealing clothes from the chamberlain, but the merchant who was trying to sell the clothes accused the chamberlain of stealing the clothes from him, or viceversa.  In order to weasel out of this predicament, the Doctor reasons with both men: how could he have stolen the clothes if they had already been stolen from someone else?  In the end, he convinces the chamberlain to pay the merchant for the missing clothes, which pleases the merchant and befuddles the chamberlain.  The Doctor laughs at his own ingenuity in “getting out of that one,” and Vicki joins in.  She is hereby the companion that enables him the most (so far).

9. What’s more, in the next episode, the merchant brings the Doctor a finer cloak for free and offers to dress “the boy,” i.e. Vicki, who is pretending to be a page.  “Who’s your friend?” Vicki quips to the Doctor’s giggles.  They are a pair!

10. The King’s sister, Princess Joanna, overhears Vicki asking the Doctor why she can’t be a girl again.  In exchange for her confidence, Joanna appeals to the Doctor for help. When the Doctor asks why, of all people, she’s come to him for help, she responds, “Because there’s something new in you, yet something older than the sky itself.  I think I can trust you.”  The Doctor graciously agrees to help.  Interesting!

11. Vicki begins to have a veritable panic attack when the Doctor suggests that she will be better off in Joanna’s protection.  Vicki cries that the TARDIS is her only home now, and that she fears the Doctor will abandon her, especially when Ian and Barbara have gone in the manner they have.  The Doctor assures her that he will do no such thing, suggesting only that he might be caught up in court intrigue, which could be very dangerous.  He then embraces Vicki quite affectionately.  It’s official: Vicki is the Doctor’s surrogate granddaughter.  And One is not as grumpy as he pretends to be.

12. There is an explosive scene in the third episode, in which Princess Joanna is clued into her brother, the King’s, plan to marry her to the Sultan, which causes her to rail against him and threaten to entreaty the Pope over his head.  The King then accuses the Doctor of betraying his confidence, even though the Doctor expressly denied giving Joanna any clue as to the King’s plan.  This is after the Doctor and a Lord General in the King’s Army, the Lord of Leicester, had a similarly explosive debate in which the Doctor accused the Lord of having no brain and only the stuff of violence when the King wanted peace.  The acting is quite good all around in these scenes.

13. The King later admits that he knows the Doctor did not betray his plans, and that it was the Earl of Leicester who gave away the secret, but the King does not want to confront the Earl on the grounds of needing his fighting prowess against the Sultan’s forces.  The King indicates that he wishes more than anything to look upon Jerusalem; the Doctor assures him it will be so, though he later tells Vicki that “history must take its course,” as Richard is about to embark upon a battle he cannot win.  The Doctor encourages his and Vicki’s return to the ship (Vicki now dressed like a noblewoman of the time), but she whines that she does not want to go.  The King informs them that they have his favor.  The King also speaks with the formal “we” and “us” in reference to himself.

14. At the end of the serial, after Ian has escaped being tortured by ants in the desert, and Barbara has successfully averted an Arab warlord and the Sultan, the Doctor and Vicki are confronted by the Earl of Leicester, who threatens to execute the Doctor as a traitor to King Richard.  Suddenly, Ian appears and makes claim as the Knight of Jaffa to possess the right to execute the Doctor after his “friends” were set upon in the wood, implying that the Doctor was responsible for this ambush. The Doctor asks for a last request: to look upon Jaffa once more.  This request is granted by the Earl, so the Doctor spirits away to the TARDIS, followed in close pursuit by Vicki, Barbara, and Ian. When the TARDIS disappears before the Earl, he laments poor Ian, reasoning that the noble knight was captured by the brigand Doctor.  When Ian is aboard the TARDIS, he laughs that he might have gone through with the execution under the right circumstances.  When Barbara protests the joke, the Doctor, as amused as Ian is, spouts, “Oh, why don’t you just go have a cup of tea or something?”

“The Crusade” was even less revealing to the overall mythology and less interesting than the last serial and was slower moving, particularly given the missing episodes. Aside from the glimpse into the Doctor and Vicki’s special bond, there was nothing much going on in terms of a plot, even given the historical perspective of the story.  All in all, it might be the weakest serial I’ve seen to date.  It didn’t even include too many amusing Doctor-related behaviors.  On to the next one, I suppose.

Next serial: “The Space Museum” (Season 2, Episodes 26-29).

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What I Learned From Doctor Who: “The Web Planet” (One, 1965)

Doctor: One (William Hartnell)

Companions: Ian Chesterton (William Russell), Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill), and Vicki (Maureen O’Brien)

Time: Unclear, though the implication is present day.

Place: The planet Vortis, many light years from Earth.

Episodes: 

1. “The Web Planet” (Season Two, Episode Sixteen)
2. “The Zarbi” (S2, E17)
3. “Escape to Danger” (S2, E18)
4. “Crater of Needles” (S2, E19)
5. “Invasion” (S2, E20)
6. “The Centre” (S2, E21)

Today’s Lessons

1. When history does not afford one the luxury of good special effects, one can only create costumed bug-like aliens from obvious plastic shells and vinyl suits.  After all, CGI wasn’t a thing in 1965.

2. Have I ever mentioned One’s preferred choice of fashion?  He generally wore a black suit, in the style of the nineteenth century, with a knee-length jacket, striped trousers, and a cravat tied into a bow at the neck.  Occasionally, he wore hats and/or spectacles, and of course had shoulder-length gray hair.  I believe Hartnell was the oldest actor to portray the Doctor, but I would have to double check those facts.

3. It seems that even when the TARDIS is out of power enough to open the doors, its passengers, if trapped inside, are not out of luck as long as the Doctor is around.  The Doctor wears a ring that, if waved in front of the proper apparatus, remotely opens the TARDIS doors from the inside.  It’s such a great secret, it befuddles and surprises Ian at its very revelation, though I couldn’t blame him for it, particularly as the Doctor giggles while leaving the TARDIS to explore the planet on which they are stuck.

4. Vicki’s time period, the future, is so advanced that the notion of aspirin is positively “medieval” to her.  She reveals that she has taken advanced courses in school, including medicine, physics, and chemistry at the age of ten, and when Barbara explains that she teaches the basics, the “3 R’s,” reading, writing, and “‘rithmetic,” Vicki guesses, “Oh, it was a nursery school!”  When Barbara becomes outraged and asks how much time Vicki spent in the classroom, a notion that further confuses her, Vicki replies that she had to study for “a whole hour each week” by using machines.  Barbara encourages Vicki to take the aspirin to spare Barbara from having to dress and put on make up and start dancing to ward evil spirits away.  Funny.

5. Barbara reveals that she is still wearing the gold bracelet she was given in ancient Rome, at which point, Vicki is surprised to learn from Barbara that she and Ian also went to Rome.  Vicki refuses to believe Barbara, though, and resolves to ask Ian.

6. As the Doctor and Ian explore the planet’s surface, Ian agrees to lend the Doctor his pen, which immediately disappears from his hand.  The Doctor giggles, praising Ian for never performing such a “conjuring trick” before, which is strange, considering that he hasn’t traditionally given Ian credit for much up until this point.

7. The Doctor and Ian also call out, leading to a cacophony of echoes that aren’t usual echoes in large, hollow spaces.  The Doctor is gleeful at this discovery.  When Ian voices his suspicions that he feels they are being watched, the Doctor disagrees, though logically pointing out that calling out on a strange planet might incite someone to come have a look.  “And take my pen?” Ian asks petulantly.  The Doctor laughs at the notion that any alien life form is attempting to lure them away from the TARDIS in order to steal a pen.

8. This planet is characterized, according to the Doctor, by echoes, interference, gold, and water that looks like acid, which Ian almost washes his face in, until the Doctor uses Ian’s school tie to test it, revealing its acidic nature.  The fact of gold becomes important when Barbara is hypnotically enticed out of the TARDIS by the bracelet she is wearing.  In fact, aliens on this planet use gold to exert control on other races.

9. The Doctor, while tracking the whereabouts of the TARDIS with Ian after Ian is caught in a fast appearing and disappearing weed that blisters his face and after their “respiratory compensator” jackets lose effectiveness after an hour’s use, comments that the planet they’re on is so “strange and unusual” that it is unlike anything he has ever seen before.  That alone is quite the claim!  Of course, One is very young.

10. The Doctor and Ian are set upon by the bug-like creatures and captured.  The Doctor had previously theorized that this was the planet Vortis, though he did not recall the planet having moons, when this planet had several to see in the sky.  Ian asks the Doctor when captured what he knows of Vortis’ history.  The Doctor retorts, “What does history matter when you travel through space and time?!”  Famous last words, Doctor…

11. Apparently, when the bug-like creatures, presumably the Zarbi, snagged the TARDIS, causing Vicki to panic from the inside, she performed a “miracle” by pressing random buttons and allowing something to happen to cause the power to the TARDIS to return.

12. I think Doctor Who must have been recorded live back in the day.  Let’s just say that one of the Zarbi things apparently collided with the camera for no apparent reason, and it wasn’t edited out.

13. When Ian asks why the “insects,” as the Doctor brilliantly calls them, are so large, the Doctor suggests that “size is relative,” and that evolution on the planet must have allowed this type of life to sustain.

14. The Doctor tasks Ian with searching for Barbara, who is still being held by another race of insects (they look like a cross between butterflies and bumblebees and talk with very specific British accents; update: they are the “Menoptra,” a race attempting to reclaim their planet from the Zarbi).  The Doctor gives Ian pills that produce the same respiratory compensation as their previous jackets…which begs the question, why the jackets to begin with?  He also starts to move a machine from the corner.  When Ian goes to unplug it, the Doctor cries, “No no no, don’t do that! You must never unplug the relative time and space dimensional link.”  Er…

15. When the Doctor tricks the Ant Queen, or whatever she is, into lowering the interference that disrupts the TARDIS equipment and function, he encourages Ian to go searching for Barbara.  When Vicki mistrusts this plan, the Doctor tells her not to worry, opining that Ian will come back with Barbara because he’s “very good at this sort of thing.”  I guess the Doctor has finally warmed up to Ian.

16. Ian and his Menoptra friend encounter another insect life, which seems to be a devolved version of the Menoptra living deep within the Crater of Needles.  For some reason, this new race speaks with a Spanish accent.

17. The Animus, or leading “dark force” of the Zarbi, is also called, by one of the Menoptra, “the Intelligence.”  Is this the Intelligence of Who legend?  Did it start as some sort of Queen Bug?  Notably, this force has not spoken to anyone directly but the Doctor and, then, only through a webbed cylinder that lowers from the ceiling of the Zarbi base.

18. The Doctor, while in the capture of the Zarbi with Vicki, uses his little machine to reverse the effects of gold, by which the Zarbi are able to control other beings (such as Barbara with her gold bracelet, or Ian with his gold pen).  In so doing, they trick the Zarbi guards and are able to control one Zarbi guard by putting a gold collar around his neck, which would normally have controlled the Doctor and Vicki.  They use this guard to locate the Spearhead, where the Menoptra forces are meant to land to infiltrate the Animus.  Vicki names this dulcet Zarbi “Zombo” and asks the Doctor if he doesn’t think he’s cute in this hypnotic state.  The Doctor answers, “Well, I haven’t noticed before now, but now you mention it, no, no he isn’t.”  Vicki reminds the Doctor not to judge by appearances.

19. The sight of the Animus causes the Doctor to collapse and Vicki to quail and blanch. The implication is that the Animus is some sort of giant spider, but really, the Animus looks like a great anemone with a sort of mushroom shape and hundreds of tendrils, like the misshapen heart of a circulatory system (or the brain, where the nervous system sprouts from all sides of it).  I am still waiting for confirmation as to whether this Animus is the “Intelligence.”  The Animus is certainly attracted to the Doctor’s Intelligence.  Update: I’ve decided that the Animus is not the Great Intelligence, as Barbara, with Ian’s help after he entered the scene from the underground crater of needles, was able to disintegrate it with some “isotope” or something from the Doctor’s “astro map.”  Also, the Animus apparently turned the water on Vortis into acid and, once dead, the balance of life was restored to Vortis, such that the water and soil returned to normal.

20. Ian is still lamenting his tie from Coal Hills School after the Doctor suggests that they all survived the battle between the Zarbi, Menoptra, and the Animus unscathed. Forget the tie, Ian!

“The Web Planet” offered no real propulsion forward in the overall mythology of the show but was a standard, episodic depiction of a visit to some extraterrestrial locale. The Doctor played ultimate hero, while his companions provided contributions where appropriate.  In truth, this serial does not stand the test of time well, since all of the alien insects look laughably fake and choreographed, and the overall pace of the story was on the slow side, even for Classic Who.  This six episode arc was not my favorite of the early seasons.

Next serial: “The Crusade” (Season 2, Episodes 22-25).

What I Learned From Doctor Who: “The Romans” (One, 1965)

Doctor: One (William Hartnell)

Companions: Ian Chesterton (William Russell), Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill), and Vicki (Maureen O’Brien)

Time: July in the year 64 AD.

Place: The vicinity of and the city of Rome, Italy, Earth

Episodes: 

1. “The Slave Traders” (Season Two, Episode Twelve)
2. “All Roads Lead to Rome” (S2, E13)
3. “Conspiracy” (S2, E14)
4. “Inferno” (S2, E15)

Today’s Lessons

1. The TARDIS lands awkwardly and falls off a cliff, rendering our adventurers seemingly stuck in the mud and, therefore, living in ancient Roman times for a month before our story really gets under way.  During that time, Barbara becomes a gourmet chef, preparing a meal of delicacies, including breast of peacock in orange and juniper sauce and ants’ eggs in hibiscus honey.  The Doctor finds this all simply smashing. One really loves eating.

2. When Barbara and Ian start grousing about checking on the TARDIS, the Doctor grumbles that the TARDIS can take off from any angle.  Then why are they staying so long in Rome?!

3. The Doctor called Ian “Chesterfield” again.  It seems he’s lapsing.  Also, he indicates that he is going to Rome, and that his invitation was somehow declined by Ian and Barbara to go, but he agrees to take Vicki, who laments that lounging around in a villa and eating food is “boring.”  He’s become rather grumpy with both Ian and Barbara, who suggest it might be “safer” for all four to go to Rome, which results in the Doctor sputtering about how he can take care of himself.  They’re all acting peculiar here, but I think Ian and Barbara are simply worried about the Doctor and how sad he’d been after Susan’s departure.

4. Ian is a ham.  First, I think Ian and Barbara are flirting a bit, when she suggests that he makes a fine looking Roman.  Then, as she combs his hair into a Caesar style, he bellows, “Friends, Romans, Countrymen…”  To which she quips, “Well, that was a mistake.”  The humor of the show is really starting to find its stride by this serial.  They also fight at the end of the serial, nagging at each other over who cleans up, and Ian finding out that Barbara initially cracked a vase over his head, making him vulnerable for capture.

5. In the second episode, the Doctor staves off the plebe who murdered the musician with whom the Doctor is mistaken, which allows him to end up at the court of the Emperor.  Vicki remarks that she didn’t know fighting was one of his talents, to which the Doctor replies, “My dear, I am the best!” before discussing how he tamed the Mountain Mauler of something or some sort.

6. Vicki worries that the Centurion, who the Doctor worked out had hired the plebe to kill the musician with whom he is mistaken, will try to kill him again.  The Doctor opines, “Who am I to worry about a little thing like that?”

7. Even though Rome seems some distance from the landing place of the TARDIS, the Romans still maintain a consistent English accent, even though Barbara is identified as “Britannic.”  There is also a shocking lack of Latin…

8. When One finally meets the Emperor, Caesar Nero, he talks out of turn.  The Emperor commands the Doctor, as the musician Maximus Botalion (his assumed name, which the Doctor can never remember), to play his instrument, the lyre.  The Doctor deflects the request, since he can’t really play the lyre, by flattering the Emperor’s music skills and asking to learn from his example. Nero snaps his finger for a stool, which he clearly intends for himself, but the Doctor makes the mistake of going to sit on it first. Nero calls it the “Imperial footstool.” Hilarious. Further, when the Doctor comments on his narrow escape and how well he got out of having to play the lyre, Vicki asks, “But what happens when he asks you to play next time?” The Doctor croaks, “hmm?!” utterly surprised by the possibility of a “next time.”  It’s funny how One veers from a doddering old man one minute to a petulant man-child the next.  One is very young, though, you know.

9. The Doctor later grouses about his decision to come to Nero’s palace at all, when Vicki precociously replies, “Because you’re as curious as I am.”  One harrumphs.  “Me? Curious?  Ha.”  Vicki suggests that they may as well look around, “or would you rather we forgot?” The Doctor nonchalantly replies, “Oh no, we may as well look around as you say.”  It seems Vicki has figured out quickly how to manipulate the Doctor a bit. How funny.

10. When history does not afford one the luxury of good special effects, one is bound to see a boom mic creep into the picture, say within the first five minutes of the “Conspiracy” episode.

11. One reminds Vicki that, as she goes exploring, she must not interfere with the progress of history at any point…I don’t know.  Seems fishy at all levels, since the Doctor is not exactly an innocent when it comes to interfering with the progress of history…

12. More comedic gold: The Doctor takes a Roman bath with Nero.  Also, they exhibit some very similar personality traits…hmm…

13. Nero informs the Doctor that a banquet is being held, at which the Doctor, as Maximus, will have to play his lyre “like he has never played before.”  The Doctor laughs: “Too true!  Too true!”  See?  Funny.

14. When the Doctor reunites with Vicki, and she asks if he did what he meant to, the Doctor answers that he “raised the question” with Nero but sees that doing so was “rather a mistake.”  “That’s rare for you, isn’t it?” Vicki purrs demurely.  I rather think Vicki is the cat, and the Doctor is the mouse.  Who is this Vicki person?

15. Vicki then says: “Guess what?”  “I haven’t any idea,” the Doctor retorts.  “There’s going to be a feast tonight!” Vicki announces.  “Oh, so I heard, so I heard, my dear” and then laughs about the fact that he is the most unusual entertainer.  There really is a whole other tone to season two, isn’t there?

16. Foreshadowing rearing its ugly head alert: Vicki announces that she poisoned Nero.  You see, Nero’s wife, jealous of Nero’s obvious crush on Barbara, who was bought at auction to be a slave in the palace, decides to poison Barbara via drink. Vicki overhears this plan, though not knowing that the slave in question is really Barbara, and swaps the goblets, which she sheepishly admits to the Doctor, who cries, “I told you not to interfere with history!”

17. In order to get out of playing the concert at the feast, the Doctor convinces Nero that only the most musically gifted would be able to hear the “so soft and so delicate” tones of his new composition.  He then proceeds to not actually pluck the lyre, resulting in no music whatsoever.  While the other feast attendees begin a barrage of whispered protests, Nero quips to his wife, “He’s alright, but he’s not that good.”  One indicates that he got the idea from the “Emperor’s New Clothes.”  This, unfortunately, leaves Nero feeling humiliated and causes him to run off with Barbara in tow, while Ian is ordered to fight his friend, the slave who helped him to escape, to the death.

18. When the Emperor’s aide Tavius communicates Barbara’s warning to the Doctor that he, as Maximus, will be sent to play in the arena and the lions released in return for humiliating the Emperor, the Doctor comments, “Oh, won’t that be charming?”

19. The Doctor learns that Maximus originally plotted to kill Nero, which is why the Centurion originally set to and killed the original Maximus.  The Doctors finds this funny. “So, I’m a would-be murderer, am I?”  He continues this line of jest when Nero asks him to guess what he’ll be doing in the future.  The Doctor correctly guesses that he will be playing in the arena.  “I’ll ensure it will be a roaring success!” he quips before saying he’ll give the people something they can “really sink their teeth into.”  (Get it?)

20. Foreshadowing rearing its ugly head alert, the second: While the Doctor is waxing eloquently about the marvelous show he’ll put on, in what could be his “farewell performance,” the Doctor is holding his spectacles behind his back.  Unfortunately, it catches the sun’s rays and sets Nero’s plans and maps, which the Doctor had been examining, on fire.  This results in giving Nero the idea to burn the city to the ground (which really happened in 64 AD).  After the Doctor convinces the guards to let he and Vicki go after Nero’s effusion about the Doctor’s “brilliant” plan, Vicki comments, “I didn’t think that was going to work.”  The Doctor retorts, “Never going to work?  What next? My dear, I never had any doubt in my mind…”  Um…random luck seems to follow the Doctor throughout all his incarnations, eh?

21. Excellent direction award and historical allusion alert: Tavius helps Barbara to escape with Ian after Nero’s forces begin lighting the fires that burn the city.  He earlier said he had his own reasons for helping Barbara.  As Ian and Barbara flee and Tavius watches, he says, “Good luck, my child.  Good luck,” as the camera zooms in on a cross that he is clutching in his hands.  Aw, he is a secret Christian, during the times in which Christians were persecuted by the (pagan) Roman heads of state.  Nice touch.

22. While Vicki is appreciating the fact that she is watching the Great Fire of Rome, which people will read about in history books for thousands of years, she notes that there is no mention of the Doctor in any of those books.  When the Doctor questions what she is talking about, she (appropriately) scolds him for giving Nero the idea to burn the city in the first place and for meddling in history after all his admonition to her.  The Doctor attempts to deny his role in the inspiration, blaming the burning of Nero’s drawings on the circumstances of an accident, but Vicki ends the argument by saying, “Alright, you’ll have it your way, and I’ll have it mine.” Ooh…she’s spunky.  One then realizes that it may be his fault after all and starts laughing uproariously.  The visit to Rome ends on Nero playing the lyre in the middle of the burning city.

23. When the Doctor and Vicki return to the villa on the outskirts of Rome, Ian and Barbara have passed out, having escaped the burning city.  In all the time while they were in Rome, Ian and Barbara and, separately, the Doctor and Vicki never encountered each other.  The Doctor accuses the other pair of having a long holiday and of idling away their days.  He asks Vicki not to look at their idea of “youthful exuberance.”  When Barbara and Ian begin to protest, Ian suggesting that the Doctor won’t let them get a word in edgewise, the Doctor stuffs a grape into his mouth.

While this serial did not add much in the way of overall story arc to the long-running series, it did establish and plant the early seeds of the humor that has followed the program throughout its lifetime and provided quite a bit of characterization for the four main characters, the Doctor included.  All in all, the story was not so interesting, but the interactions between the characters were, on the whole, quite funny.  I can see an obsession being born in this early episodes, had I been alive and in England at the time…

Next serial: “The Web Planet” (Season 2, Episodes 16-21).