AUDIO DRAMA
Doctor Who
The Crusade

Starring: William Hartnell
BBC Audio
RRP: 13.99
ISBN 0 563 52322 0
Available 02 May 2005


The TARDIS materialises in the middle of the holy war between Richard the Lionheart and the Saracen leader, Saladin, in 12th-century Palestine. As the Doctor, Vicki, Ian and Barbara explore their surroundings, they are suddenly caught up in a Saracen ambush and Barbara is kidnapped...

It's debatable whether or not you really need to add this double CD to your collection of Who adventures. Though the second and fourth episodes do not exist in the BBC's film and videotape archives, they have already been released - twice - as audio-only tracks as part of the Lost in Time DVD collection and, before that, on a CD supplied with the Crusade/Space Museum VHS box set. The existing first and third episodes have of course previously been issued on both VHS and DVD. Indeed, this is the fourth outing for episode three, The Wheel of Fortune, which was released first of all on the Doctor Who: The Hartnell Years tape.

The main reason for buying this CD is the new material provided by William Russell, alias Ian Chesterton. His narration, which was absent from the aforementioned audio-only tracks, explains what is going on in terms of action during the dialogue-free bits (though to be frank I had worked most of it out already with the help of the telesnaps on the BBC's website). The actor also reminisces about the making of the serial in a 20-minute interview at the end of the second disc.

Despite my reservations about the necessity of this release, there's no doubt whatsoever about the quality of the story itself. Guest stars Julian Glover in the role of King Richard and Jean Marsh as his sister Joanna provide some truly intense scenes, while Walter Randall is hissingly evil as the villain El Akir. Large chunks of writer David Whitaker's dialogue possess a lyrical Shakespearean quality, especially in the case of the Earl of Leicester's (John Bay) "we the soldiers" speech.

The first and fourth episodes are at a bit of a disadvantage in the audio medium, since several sections of the woodland scenes are relatively devoid of dialogue. Ironically, however, Russell's description of the fight in episode one actually makes it seem more bloody and brutal than it is on television.

The story comes undone somewhat during the final episode, in which the characters' disparate and desperate situations seem to be resolved rather quickly. It's as if someone suddenly broke the news to Whitaker that he was supposed to be writing a four-part serial rather than a six-part one. In particular, the robber Ibrahim (Tutte Lemkow) changes his allegiance with staggering rapidity.

That aside, if you haven't already purchased this classic tale in one form or another, then I whole(lion)heartedly recommend this CD. If you do already own it on VHS or DVD, well, then it's up to you.

Richard McGinlay

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