Friday, April 2, 2010

"The Lion"

Hello everyone, the Historian here, along with Ketina, Ronelyn, Schmallturm, Spoo and MiniSpoo. Today we journey back to the late 12th century, to join the Lionheart! So, without further ado, let’s get to the summary!

Episode summary: First aired 27 March 1965. Two knights move through a forest, just outside the city of Jaffa. Lying in wait are a group of Saracens, led by a man named El Akir. He cautions his men to watch and wait.

Elsewhere in the forest, Richard I of England and a few of his knights are relaxing after a hunting expedition. One of them, William de Tornebu, is working on repairing Richard’s belt as one of the knights we saw earlier, William des Preaux, approaches. He is wary of the forest, fearing Saracen ambush, and tries to convince Richard to return to Jaffa, but the king brushes off his fears. All the while, El Akir watches from the bushes...

The TARDIS has landed in a forest clearing, not far from the king’s camp. The crew begin exploring, Ian and Barbara moving off into the trees...where they are confronted
by a scimitar wielding Saracen! The sounds of a fight begin in the distance as Barbara backs slowly away, while the Doctor manages to distract the menacing soldier and Ian and the Doctor knock him unconscious. While Ian and the Doctor are distracted, Barbara is grabbed from behind taken away, a hand placed over her mouth to cover any scream. The other three (Vicki having been attracted by the sound of the fight) try to figure out who this man is and why he attacked them. Hearing sounds elsewhere in the forest, Ian observes that he must have some friends, and then realizes Barbara is missing! As the Doctor says, “Out of one trouble, into another...”

Barbara, bound and gagged, is carried through the forest...

Richard and his men fall back to the clearing, as the TARDIS crew hide. The Saracens clearly have the upper hand. The king has been wounded and his friends try to get him away. De Tornebu falls, struck by an arrow, and des Preaux makes a desperate decision to save the king’s life. He leaps onto a rock and calls to the Saracens that he is Malik Ric! El Akir is delighted and takes the “king” prisoner, leading him away. Just then, the real Richard regains consciousness and groans, attracting the attention of a Saracen left behind. Seeing no other option, Ian jumps out of hiding and grabs up a sword to defend the wounded man. The Doctor, meanwhile, is menaced by another Saracen. He is about to be defeated when a wounded de Tornebu throws his sword, catching the enemy in the chest and killing him. Ian also dispatches his foe and the Doctor realizes where and when they are. Saracens! Malik Ric! It is the time of the Third Crusade and Malik Ric is Richard the Lionheart! De Tournebu tells them that the man taken was not Richard. He shows the Doctor the king’s belt, which he still clutches in his hand and then falls unconscious. The Doctor realizes this is a stroke of luck; Richard will be thrilled at the return of his belt (as well as de Tornebu) and might help them find Barbara! Ian decides to look for her now, but promises not to go too far.

Later, the Doctor and Vicki are tending to de Tournebu as Ian returns, having found no sign of Barbara. The Doctor, giving Vicki a cloak to disguise her appearance (and wearing his own cloak over his clothes), proposes to go into the city and acquire clothing so that they might blend in. Ian remains behind, building a stretcher for de Torunebu.

Barbara awakens in a tent in Saladin’s headquarters at Ramlah. William des Preaux is also in the tent, and he has procured a cloak for Barbara to cover her odd clothes, which people have begun to talk about. He tells her where they are and claims to be King Richard. Barbara immediately sees through the ruse as she knows Richard has red hair and des Preaux’ is dark. He confesses, revealing the reason for his imposture and she agrees to help him. He tells her that she should act the part of Joanna, the king’s sister. El Akir enters, announcing that Salah ed-Din (Saladin) has demanded prisoners be treated well. Des Preaux demands better treatment for his “sister,” Joanna, which surprises el Akir. He realizes that having Richard prisoner will sit well with his master Saladin, and having Joanna will please the sultan’s brother Saphadin, who has long been interested in her.

In the city of Jaffa, a clothes vendor calls out about his wares, getting no takers until the Doctor approaches. He presents himself (without actually coming out and saying so) as some kind of nobility and the merchant is delighted to bring the stranger inside. The Doctor keeps up some small talk, admiring the wares as a scruffy looking man carrying a bundle enters. The merchant hustles the new arrival into another corner of the shop and begins to deal with him. It turns out that the man is a thief, bringing goods stolen from the castle to sell. The Doctor, overhearing this, muses that clothes that were stolen once can always be stolen again...Outside, Vicki, hidden in her cloak, sits in front of the stall and waits. As the merchant pays the thief, the Doctor takes some clothing and hides under a table. The thief leaves and the merchant is surprised not to see the Doctor, who has tied a rope around another table. The Doctor pulls the rope and the table collapses! In the confusion, he manages to toss the bundle of clothes out to Vicki and then, reappearing to commiserate with the merchant at the ruining of his stock. The Doctor then beats a hasty retreat!

Back in Ramlah, el Akir enters Saladin’s reception chamber, finding Saphadin sitting in the sultan’s chair. Behind some draperies, Saladin watches and listens as el Akir announces the capture of Malik Ric! Saphadin is amazed and el Akir orders des Preaux brought in. El Akir says there is more and tells Saphadin that the Princess Joanna has also been taken. Barbara is brought in, but Saphadin knows immediately that she is an imposter. He accuses el Akir of trying to fool him, but el Akir is about to turn on Barbara...when Saladin emerges from behind the throne and declares that “Malik Ric” is also an imposter! “A blacker head of red gold hair I never saw,” says the sultan, though he also is appreciative of Barbara’s beauty, whoever she may be. Des Preaux admits his imposture, identifies himself, but insists that Barbara is an innocent. Although el Akir offers to make Barbara “entertain” the sultan, he is not interested in el Akir’s barbarism. Barbara actually manages to get in Saladin’s good graces while also insulting el Akir. Saladin dismisses his henchman, telling him to treat des Preaux like a brother, giving him everything except his liberty. After they have left, Saladin interrogates Barbara, who essentially tries to tell him everything, alluding to Vortis, Rome, etc. Saladin decides she must have been one of a group of travelling players. Saphadin is disgusted, deeming her of little value. But Saladin remains intrigued, offering her a place at his table where she can entertain him with stories. Like Scheherazade, Barbara replies, and the sultan reminds her that Scheherazade was under a sentence of death...

In his castle in Jaffa, Richard is raging. His friends have been killed, wounded or taken and he is furious. De Tornebu continues presenting the Doctor, Ian and Vicki to the king, telling him of their kindness, for which Richard thanks them. The Doctor gives the king back his belt and receives more thanks, but Richard is still fuming at his defeat. To make matters worse, discipline is down among his men and his brother John, back in England, is scheming with Philip of France to usurp Richard’s throne! Ian tells the Doctor that they must ask for the king’s help, but the Doctor tries to dissuade his friend, telling him to wait until Richard has calmed down. Ian, however, feels they cannot wait and approaches the king offering to go to Saladin as an emissary to arrange for the release of both Barbara and des Preaux. But Richard angrily declares that he will not treat with Saladin, the man responsible for the death of his friends! As far as he is concerned, Barbara can rot in one of the sultan’s prisons until the end of time before Richard will trade with him...!


And here's a rough transcript of our post-episode conversation, again transcribed by Ketina. (The Historian has tried to do a little bit of editing where Ketina fell behind a bit in her typing and may have missed some nuances.)


K: So, beards.

H: Something to note about the video quality, the BBC pretty much found the episode and immediately released it on video without cleaning it up. Looks like they didn't do any cleaning for the DVD release and it shows. [some discussion about the video quality ensued]

S: Whoever was in charge of sound mixing for this one had a thing for BIRDS.


S: Whoever was doing sound mixing needed to go back and do it again, because it was bad.

R: It seemed like the foley artist was just told “we need this sound, go.” [Discussion of constantly chirping birds and sword clangs]

S: The dialog was really good, not over the top or too theatrical.

H: Well, this script saw the return of David Whitaker, the show's first story editor.

S: It flowed well. Good acting without over the top ACTING.

Sc: It was good. Pleasant surprise.

S: Had they established that Ian and the Doctor could fight?

H: Yes, in the Romans when the Doctor took out the assassin.

R: But how did the Doctor knock the guy unconscious with a slap?

S: Ian had a knock down drag out with the Saracen, which was acceptable. But the Doctor’s fight… well, I guess I can roll with it.

H: I was impressed by the forest in the studio. If I hadn’t known it was the studio I would have thought it was shot on location.

S: The one saving grace of seeing the intro thing [the introduction by Julian Glover on Loose Cannon's reconstruction tape] was learning about the filming. Tree Fu!

H: Boing!

S: Is there no concept of first contact?

H: No.

S: Barbara got lucky that she was mistaken as a travelling minstrel. “Oh yeah, we’re from space. We arrived here in a box.” “You’re undead?” “No...” That was just dumb. Not character dumb but writer dumb.

H: It feels like they’ve done that in the past. Either Barbara or Susan, I can’t remember.

S: It seems really odd for the writers to put in this big scene to get clothes to blend in, then two scenes later we have a character saying “we’re from space.”

H: I get the feeling that Barbara didn’t know what else to say, that silence wasn’t an option. I loved the line about Scheherazade, and pointing out that she was also under threat of sentence of death.

R: (as Saladin) “I would like to point out that while you are attractive, and you are creative, you are also dumb.”

S: That was also the scene with the horse noises timed to entrances, like in Young Frankenstein. It was distracting.

H: The central plot is based on historical event. David Whitaker played fast and loose with history, as Joanna was never in the holy land, but there was an ambush outside Jaffa, William des Preaux did shout “I am the king” and he was captured and Richard got away.

R: And Saladin did say “ah yes, very clever. Quite good!”

K: Beards.

H: Yeah, I know you found the beards amusing. One in particular.

K: Giggle worthy

H: That was de Tornebu, with the big mustache.

R: Apparently was so big that it attracted arrows.

S: Actors sprouted arrows correctly. Well done. Very smoothly. No artificial “message for you sir” sort of thing.

Sc: I liked that they had a good representation of Richard's temper. The Angevins were famous for there really bad tempers. Like biting people and rolling on the floor.

S: So that was real and not scenery chewing?

Sc: It was authentic.

S: Glad they didn’t actually let him destroy the props with his temper tantrum.

Sc: They’re probably going to need them for later scenes.

H: The acting was very good. They introduced the seed of Saladin’s brother liking Joanna.

Sc: But it was Saladin who knew what Richard looked like.

Sc: I’m waiting for bikini slave Barbara.

S: And I’m waiting for slave Vicki. Why can’t we have both.

H: I think Vicki was supposed to be disguised as a boy.

K: I agree, I think so.

S: I thought it was just a period costume. Felt hat, cloak, done. The whole scene in the shop was genuinely funny.

H: It shows you the Doctor is really clever.

R: And a lying sack!

H: When he comes up to unscrupulous guy he’s good at out smarting them. And we don’t feel bad about it because the guy was taking stolen goods anyway.

S: You’d think that the Doctor has a fabulous closet in the TARDIS.

H: Not yet, I guess. They still have to steal them. They’ve been finding or stealing clothes in the Historicals so far. MiniSpoo, did you like the episode?

MS: Yeah.

H: Was there anything you liked specifically?

MS: No.

H: Was there anything you didn’t like?

MS: No.

S: And thus the 6 year old experience.

H: He came over to watch the fighting bits.

S: It went by really quick. And off we go! I do wonder how much of the “it went by quick” because they didn’t have to setup any cultural context. Didn’t have to explain ants or bees or aliens or anything.

H: This shows that British children would know about Richard the Lionheart.

S: And American children would know about ants and bees.

H: I thought that Bernard Kay’s makeup worked in black and white, but did not work in the color photographs. [Again, seen in the introduction on the LC recon tape]

Sc: It’s the romantic conception of Saladin.

H: And there was a live falcon!

S: Indoors.

H: You notice that the falcon keeper leaves with the bird and never leaves again.

R: I still link it was a short guy in a falcon costume.

S: It was a perspective trick. Tell me Doctor Who wouldn’t try that if they ran short.

H: They wouldn’t try it, they’d just rewrite the script.

S: Your trained pigeon is marvelous. Coo coo.

H: It gave us the feeling of not being in the studio.

[Things kind of dissolved into silliness and ended about here]


Ketina here,
- I was a bit surprised by the lack of screams when Barbara was captured. The hand over her mouth certainly helped. The big hair continues its job as a secondary character, although styled a bit different after her capture.
- I know I mentioned the beards above (twice even) but it’s still worth pointing out the entire ridiculousness of the fake beards, and some of the makeup in general. Period costumes, sure fine. Convincing makeup, not so much.

- I was also not impressed by the fight choreography this week. There’s a shot of Ian punching a Saracen, and I could at least tell that his fist was a good foot from the guys head as he fell down.

I think everything else has been said. So see you next week!



One final note: as has been alluded to above, next week we'll be watching a reconstruction of the next episode. Alas, it remains missing from the BBC archive. And, as I mentioned in another post, I will attempt to write up a wrapup post for our previous story in the next few days. Until then, I remain



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