Doctor Who #65: The Knight of Jaffa

"It is a king's prerogative to make yesterday's deafness today's keen hearing."TECHNICAL SPECS: Part 2 of The Crusade, a story that has been entirely lost. For these reviews, I've looked at a reconstruction on You-Tube (part 1, part 2, part 3). First aired Apr.3 1965.

IN THIS ONE... Ian gets knighted and heads for Saladin's camp, but he misses Barbara by a hair - she's been abducted by El Akir. The Doctor and Vicki are confronted by the merchant they stole from. And King Richard decides to marry off his sister to end the war.

REVIEW: The Doctor is a wonderful wit in this episode. In the opening moments, he convinces King Richard that a prisoner exchange with Saladin would be humiliating for the Saracen leader, especially at 100 to 1. It's a fun moment in which the TARDIS crew shows its teamwork, and one that impresses the King by its sheer audacity. Even leads to Ian becoming the first TARDISeer to be knighted (but not the last). The Doctor also gets to fast-talk his way out of a confrontation with the merchant he stole from, and even gets the poor man paid for his trouble. Once again, Hartnell's flair for comedy comes in handy. Meanwhile, Vicki becomes Victor, a boy, but she may be found out by Joanna, the King's sister, played by the great Jean Marsh. At least, it would appear so from her questioning tone, but it's hard to say without the video. More than any missing episode to date, The Knight of Jaffa is hard to interpret from the pictures and sound. Is the relationship between Richard and Joanna a little bit incestuous? Or is it just the choice of picture over the sound? And what of that long, final pursuit scene? Just music and shots of Barbara and a potential assailant (the sets finally feel Middle Eastern though, with all those narrow streets). We've lost its meaning (good thing we have the script and the next episode).

Barbara, of course, gets a good chunk of story all to herself, but it's not the story I would have wished for her. Her dialog with Saladin in the previous episode was so good, I wish she'd gotten to stay in his court and played storyteller. Her ability to turn her sole skill of history into an advantage (she planned to tell all the stories from later world literature) is one of my favorite things about the character. Alas, she's to become the object of El Akir's lust - he wants to put her in his harem for revenge purposes! The threat of sexual violence often looms over Barbara, which is odd, I know. But also something of a cliché.

The historical characters continue to intrigue by their contrasts. Saladin remains cool, collected and compassionate, immediately worried about Barbara and trusting that she did not escape but was kidnapped. In the other camp, mercurial Richard decides to marry his sister off to Saphadin to stop the war, ready to leave her in a foreign country (what IS an English princess doing on the front?) so he can finally go home. And he doesn't ask her permission either. Even the way he dictates the letter, mouth full, gnawing on a bone, reveals a certain lack of manners, honor and appropriateness, and a callousness too.

REWATCHABILITY: High - It's all very clever and fun, even if it does lose something - especially in the final moments - because of the missing video.

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