The episode opens with the Doctor, Vicki and Ian persuading King Richard to help them rescue Barbara – in blank verse too, which does means the Doctor says oddly out of character things like, ‘Methinks a fair bargain, sire’. His manipulative flattery, which was so amusing when deployed against Nero, here comes across as glib sycophancy because the tone of the story is so much more serious even if the Doctor seems determined to treat it all as a big joke.
More interesting is the arrival of Princess Joanna, played by Jean Marsh. Even the telesnaps suggest that she and Julian Glover are really milking the incestuous subtext – all sighing longing and lingering looks. Nevertheless, Richard is perfectly willing to trade her like a prize cow in his games with Saladin. He’s also willing to knight Ian.
It’s nice to see William Russell getting something different to do, after weeks stuck in fairly unrewarding B-plot purgatory. Perhaps that’s why Ian seems to have inherited the Doctor’s constant undercurrent of exasperation, while the Doctor is all light-hearted giggling as he mucks about with Vicki and humiliates last week’s thieving haberdasher.
Elsewhere, El Akir is plotting revenge for Barbara’s humiliation of him – with a moustachioed merchant called Luigi looking like he’s taken a week off from Super Mario. Barbara manages to escape into the back streets of Lydda, but is quickly captured again.
After the set up in the first episode, this does feel like it’s going nowhere very quickly. The perils of Barbara are somewhat diverting, and there’s another clever counterpoint where Saladin and the Doctor ensnaring a greedy merchant in a web of their own lies, but overall the story seems to be plodding along at the kind of pace more familiar from the early part of the first season.
The Knight of Jaffa no longer exists. Not in any of its regenerations. This review is courtesy of the excellent Loose Cannon reconstruction
Next episode: The Wheel of Fortune