2.22 The Crusade Pt. 1 - The Lion Written by David Whitaker, Directed by Douglas Camfield
The travellers arrive and are immediately caught up in the Crusades.
Well, the first episode doesn't muck about - straight into the action! The Doctor even gets a bit of swordplay!
Richard the Lionheart is well-played, and Saladin gets a surprisingly even handed approach for the 60s. Both leaders are portrayed as men with layers. They aren't perfect, don't aim to be, and if something doesn't benefit them, or their war, it is irrelevant.
Hartnell seems to be enjoying himself in this episode, and Barbara also has some good moments.
"You must serve my purpose or you have no purpose. Grace my table tonight in more suitable clothes. If your tales beguile me, you shall stay and entertain." - Bernard Kay (Saladin)
2.23 The Crusade Pt. 2 - The Knight of Jaffa Written by David Whitaker, Directed by Douglas Camfield
Ian is sent to bargain with Saladin for the return of William des Preaux and Barbara.
Not too much to say, good performances, a bit of intrigue, the Doctor talks his way out of trouble, and a nice moment between Ian and King Richard.
"Saladin sends me presents of fruit and snow when I am sick and now his brother decorates you with his jewels. Yet with our armies do we both lock in deadly combat, watering the land with a rain of blood, and the noise of thunder is drowned in the shouts of dying men." - Julian Glover (Richard the Lionheart)
2.24 The Crusade Pt. 3 - The Wheel of Fortune Written by David Whitaker, Directed by Douglas Camfield
Bloody hell! What a fabulous episode! It builds and builds as it progresses. The Doctor getting caught up in royal politics, Saladin welcoming peace while preparing for war, Barbara wondering whether she can use the knife, Ian attacked, and the huge fight between King Richard and Joanna. I really wasn't expecting to be so blown away.
"His sincerity deserves our honest dealings. But caution... Yes, caution insists that my armies are ready." - Bernard Kay (Saladin)
2.25 The Crusade Pt. 4 - The Warlords Written by David Whitaker, Directed by Douglas Camfield
Barbara has been captured by El Akir. Meanwhile Ian has troubles of his own.
Though it feels a little rushed in some ways, a good final episode, thanks mainly to the last five minutes where things crack along enjoyably. Special mention must go to Tutte Lemkow, who has a huge amount of fun with the part of Ibrahim the thief.
"And I will sit in the shade of the trees and dream of all the treasures I will get when the ants discover you." - Tutte Lemkow (Ibrahim)
8.5/10 The Crusade
As you can tell by the score I've given it - Crusade rocks! Which is funny because if you'd asked me before I listened to it for an overall rating, I probably would have gone for seven out of ten. Eight just would have felt too high! As for eight and a half... But it earns this score well, due in no small part to fabulous writing by David whitaker.
Of particular note is the even-handed approach he took to the two warring leaders. A lesser writer would have been tempted to make Richard the Lionheart two dimensionally good, and Saladin just another bad guy. As it stands, Richard can be a bit of a prick, and must occasionally act unfairly in the name of court politics, while Saladin is shown to have just as many shades of grey as his English opposite number.
In fact most of the characters in the story are quite well written. Good or evil, they all get their moments. Ibrahim the thief is a particular delight. While not a subtle character, nor one lacking in the tropes of a stereotype, he's wonderfully written and enjoyably played.
The regulars all do a good job, and Whitaker makes sure that each of them gets their moment within the story. This is especially nice with Vicki, a character that was initially ignored by the show's writers, when we suddenly see how afriad she is of losing her new family. And it must be said that the moment when Ian is knighted is beautiful.
This is a great story, well written, well acted, and enjoyable. Even the weaker episodes have strong finishes. You may also notice that the two weaker episodes (in my opinion) are also the ones that only exist on audio - this is coincidence. Whereas episodes one and three start strong and build, episodes two and four are good, but each only really improves towards the end.
Even so, that's damning with faint praise. The overall quality is very good and every episode has a strong or enjoyable finish. It's stories like this that show the true strengths of the pure historical when well crafted.