Doctor Who #66: The Wheel of Fortune

"There's something new in you, yet something older than the sky itself."TECHNICAL SPECS: Part 3 of The Crusade. First aired Apr.10 1965.

IN THIS ONE... Barbara is hidden by a stranger, but found and brought to El Akir. Ian gets is a fight with a thief in the desert. And the Doctor and Vicki fall victim to courtly intrigue.

REVIEW: This is an episode about strong, defiant women. A major chunk of the action is given to Barbara, on the run from El Akir, taken in by a kind stranger who's out to destroy the emir for killing his wife and son and enslaving one of his daughters. Through this thread, we see how harsh a world this is, especially TO women, as Haroun implores Barbara to kill both his second daughter and herself rather than be captured by El Akir's men. The great thing is that Barbara actually contemplates the knife while waiting to be discovered. To save young Saliya's life, Barbara comes out of hiding and allows herself to be grabbed instead. And now she faces torture.

And then there's Joanna who finds out about her arranged marriage to Saphadin and rebels against her brother. Marsh and Glover are incredibly well-matched actors, warring with words with passion and Shakespearean verve. It's easily the best scene in the episode if not the serial (if not the SEASON). Riveting stuff. The younger women don't fare as well, though in a show of girl power, Vicki reverts to being a girl, one under Joanna's protection. She reveals some abandonment issues, but remains a good sidekick for the Doctor (they've been matched since she arrived). Saliya, on the other hand, is completely in the dark about the fates of her family members, and one wonders how the naive young girl will be able to deal with the loss of her father, if indeed he is lost when El Akir's soldiers fell him.

And then there are the men. The Doctor has his humorous bits, the Chamberlain his comic foil, but shows he's just as comfortable in drama, his verbal sparring with Leicester competing with Richard and Joanna's as the episode's best. Ian camps out in the desert on Barbara's trail, and gets into a bit of exciting action on film. (I do think Ian's been separated from the other characters for too long in the past couple serials.) As for the Saracen leaders, they mirror the English Royals, but their arguments are much more subdued. Is there paranoia and jealousy between them as Saphadin is set to marry into the English royal family? As usual, the performances here are as restrained and subtle as the English side's are loud and boisterous. Certainly, they will cover all their bases, open to peace, but preparing for war. What they don't know is that Joanna is ready to spark a Holy War over her brother's decision to leave her in infidel hands. Hard to believe the political stuff is what's most engaging, but there it is.

REWATCHABILITY: High - Another excellent episode. Moral ambiguity, threat of torture, love, war and politics... And they call this a children's series!


Tommy Krasker said...

There are two Classic Who episodes I feel like I could watch forever: one is the first part of "Snakedance," and the other is this third part of "The Crusade." You could put them on a loop, and I'd bliss out from here to eternity. Classic Who never heard better dialogue in its whole life: I only have to read the quote you placed above the picture, and I'm already transported...


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