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The Scripts: The Crusade

By David Whitaker

Book review by Jon Preddle

I can clearly recall buying David Whitaker's Target novelisation of this Season Two historical back in 1979, and struggling through it. The subject matter just didn't interest me. However, knowing now that this story is well and truly 'lost' - there is only one episode in the BBC archive, there is no audio recording believed to exist *, and aware that the novel deviates somewhat from the TV version, I have often wondered what it was all about. Thanks to Titan Books we can now find out!

The Crusade, as the title suggests, is about the TARDIS crew's involvement during the late twelfth century Holy Wars in which the English king, Richard the First, fought the Saracens who had invaded the city of Jerusalem. Of all the Doctor Who historicals this would be about the only one that is based solidly on historic fact, but with a dash of dramatic licence thrown in for good measure.

The historical stories have generally proved unpopular with fans, myself included, however having read this book I would dearly love to see this story in full. The script demonstrates that The Crusade was a superbly written teleplay. The remaining episode, as well as the few BBC photos that exist, only hint at the high production values that, for the BBC at the time, was above their usual standard. Okay, so the story is a little slow in places, with very little action, and lots of long speeches, but when put into perspective with the way television was made back in the sixties, this is perhaps forgivable.

As a factophile I would immediately elect to have a complete set of Doctor Who stories in script form than in novel form given the choice - it would make writing about the series so much easier! And unlike the novels the script books provide a much more accurate record of the televised story (although it should be pointed out that The Crusade script book is based on the original written scripts, and as such may differ in places from the televised version; but we will probably never know for sure by how much).

I recommend this book, not only as a better representation of the story than the Target novelisation, but also as an excellent example of how well Doctor Who could be written.

* This review was written a number of years before the missing first episode was recovered (in January 1999), and before BBC Audio released a soundtrack of all four episodes!

This item appeared in TSV 43 (March 1995).

Index nodes: The Crusade