Doctor Who #67: The Warlords

"I am cursed with the affliction of disbelief."TECHNICAL SPECS: Part 4 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.17 1965.

IN THIS ONE... Ian is put to the ant torture, later helps Barbara escape El Akir's hareem, before rejoining the Doctor and Vicki, expelled from Richard's camp.

REVIEW: Sadly, The Crusade has to end at only four episodes, and does so in a bit of a rush. That is to say that the adventure subplots are well attended to (Barbara and Ian's jeopardies), but the fascinating historico-political story is not. Gone is Joanna - Richard goes back on his decision off-screen - and gone are Saladin and Saphadin - we don't even see their reaction to the King reneging on the marriage contract. I think you'll agree these were some of the best characters in the serial, and their unceremonious disappearance is a grave disappointment. No closure on poor William de Preaux' situation either. It's probably not coincidental that the high poetry of the language seems to evaporate in this final episode. It's there, but it's not as good because it doesn't focus on language as much, and has fewer speakers of interest. Leicester, that smug bully, comes closest (after Richard), but as a last-minute antagonist, he's just not on the same level. Otherwise, we have creepy El Akir and mad Ibrahim who puts on a rather broad accent.

Unsatisfying, yes, but only compared to the rest of the serial, and perhaps in part because we've lost the video. It's otherwise a well-made, if unsurprising, adventure episode. Ian's predicament puts him at the mercy of man-devouring ants, and isn't that his phobia (if we read The Web Planet correctly)? Hard to say if he feels more terror because of the few snap shots that survived. Ibrahim the horse thief, who becomes Ian's brother after the "Knight of Jaffa" escapes his crazy trap, is a right nutter, and a bizarre addition to the cast this late in the game. You never quite get a handle on him, and perhaps that's the point. Meanwhile, Barbara manages to escape El Akir's clutches and hides in his hareem, where Haroun's lost daughter Maimouna of course hides her. That another concubine betrays her later comes as no surprise, nor is Maimouna's tearful reunion with her family (historically, I suppose she would have been dishonored and disowned). Of more interest is the small speaking part held by a black woman, quite rare for the first, oh, 20 years of the show!

Ultimately, The Warlords feels like a throwback to Season 1 historicals in which the whole object of the story is to get back to the TARDIS and get the hell out of there, closure be damned! At least the characters get to show bravery and cleverness, especially Ian who escapes a trap through trickery, boosts Barbara out of a hareem, and confounds Leicester by asking for the right to execute the Doctor as a spy himself.

VERSIONS: The novelization, Doctor Who and the Crusaders, has a few deviations from the televised story in addition to its title. El Akir manages to whip Barbara a few times before she's rescued, for example, and plays Martian chess with Vicki during the initial TARDIS scene. A conversation between the Doctor and Ian about the dangers of changing history, and a few references to past adventures (not all of them from the show) are also included.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - The video isn't the only thing that's lost. While it's a fairly good continuation of the serial, it never bounces back from losing Joanna, Sir William, Saladin and Saphadin.

STORY REWATCHABILITY: High - Despite the unsatisfying ending, this stands out as one of the best historical stories, literate and powerfully acted, with a good mix of adventure, drama and comedy. Too bad half of it is missing from the archives.

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