Doctor Who episode 67: The Warlords (17/4/1965)
Barbara runs away from El Akir, making him even crosser and causing him to hiss even more menacingly. But for another week running, she’s assisted by friendly locals who hate him for his cruelty. Ian encounters a less friendly local who plans to feed him to the ants, and Leicester quizzes Vicki, much to the Doctor’s annoyance.
This episode is a lot of slowly deflating balloons. King Richard admits he wasn’t actually furious with the Doctor – he knew it was Leicester who betrayed his plans to Joanna. The king lets the Doctor and Vicki leave in peace – and they walk out of history and we hear no more of the battle of wills between Richard and Joanna. ‘History must take its course,’ declares the Doctor – and that’s that.
Then Ian concludes his ordeal with a straightforward wrestling match with Ibrahim. Having been knighted in the service of Richard the Lionheart he’s done nothing but trick a greedy bandit, and then later Leicester (who’s pursued the Doctor to finish him off). Possibly there’s a message here that brains are mightier than brawn, and quick wits are better than a swift blade. But if so it’s a bit garbled given that’s exactly what dispatches El Akir.
Overall, the episode feels like a cursory wrapping up of a story that never really developed into anything interesting. Barbara gets captured and escapes from El Akir three times. Ian gets knighted and spends almost all the rest of the story locked up or tied up. The Doctor and Vicki faff about with Ben Daheer and the Chamberlain, get a couple of meaty scenes with Richard and Joanna, and then go back to the TARDIS. El Akir seethes menacingly but impotently. Princess Joanna, Saladin and Saphadin don’t even appear in the final episode.
Having been slightly over-awed by the beautifully-written novelisation, I’m actually quite disappointed with the episodes. Apart from The Aztecs, which has a kind of moral heft to it, the historicals in general have been pretty inconsequential: Dennis Spooner makes up for that with lots of comic business. Whitaker does this as a Shakespeare tribute act. But in the end it’s just another historical that’s full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
The Warlords no longer exists. Not in any of its regenerations. This review is courtesy of the excellent Loose Cannon reconstruction
Next episode: The Space Museum