Title: Doctor Who and the Crusaders
Televised as: The Crusade (video release title)
Written by: David Whitaker
Teleplay by: David Whitaker
Published in: 1966
Chapters: Prologue, One and Two
“The next time we visit Earth, I hope we encounter a situation where two men are opposed to each other, each for the best reasons. That is the only way to understand the folly, the stupidity and the horror of war. When both sides, in their own way, are totally right.” — the First Doctor
This is one of those books which challenged me at age 12. I know that The Crusade was supposed to be something special. But the book is full of lots of faded historical allusions (no 12-year-old kid on Long Island is going to know who Clive of India was), flowery language, and an utter lack of the sort of sci-fi hijinks that drew me into Doctor Who in the first place.
Not only that, Doctor Who and the Crusaders was long and dense. It’s a massive book, especially compared to the later standard Target output, and it’s adapting a mere four-part story — the other two Frederick Muller novelizations had to fit their page counts to seven- and six-part serials, whereas The Crusade was a languid four-parter. I tried to read one episode a night back then (having to guess where the cliffhangers would have been), and that was a challenging pace in this instance. One night, I didn’t have time to read what I had allocated as the Episode Two material (Chapters Three and Four), so just skipped whatever I didn’t finish and moved on ahead to read Episode Three (Chapters Five and Six) the next day.
Yeah, I was a strange kid. What of it? (Also, you’re saying, what does he mean “was”?)
As an adult, I can appreciate fully just how special Doctor Who and the Crusaders is. This is the last of the Muller adaptations; it came out in 1966, at the tail end of the Hartnell years, as the show’s status as a pop culture phenomenon was decidedly on the decline. There wouldn’t be another new novel for eight more years, until Target took over the reigns. And the story being adapted, unlike The Daleks or The Web Planet, was not a showy effects piece, abrim with memorable monsters or strange alien worlds. It was only a historical, the very genre of which was on the brink of obsolescence under the incoming Innes Lloyd/Gerry Davis production team.
But David Whitaker looks at all that context, says “Ha!”, and proceeds to write his own very bold mission statement of what Doctor Who should be.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that he’s adapting his own scripts from The Crusade, and gets to quote lovely dialogue such as “A king at liberty may give commands. A captured one obeys them.” When adapting Terry Nation’s scripts from The Daleks, Whitaker went rogue and superimposed his own dialogue on Nation’s own. For The Crusade, Whitaker freely quotes himself, and doesn’t have to alter very much.
The book opens with a remarkable prologue, with the TARDIS crew in flight, discussing why they haven’t been able to interfere with Earth’s history. They sort out the historical injustices of great men who die young, while decrying the “discoverers of murder weapons [who] die in old age as millionaires”. Whitaker gives a strong character brief for each crewmember (except Vicki). We learn that “the Doctor always set things to rights, put down injustice, encouraged dignity, fair treatment and respect”. Ian is a bronzed, chiseled, action hero with razor-sharp intellect. Barbara was “the admiration and desire of all who met her” (which is a polite way of describing all the unwanted male attention she got during her two years on the show, not to mention in this serial alone). She and Ian are now officially a couple, by the way — something the TV series strongly implied, but never actually said outright.
Susan, we’re told, by the way, left the TARDIS crew and was married off to a 21st-century freedom fighter named David Cameron. OK, Whitaker got all those facts wrong from The Dalek Invasion of Earth (specifically, the departure scene which he had written himself). But it’s something else that history has given the name David Cameron of the 21st Century a dreadful appendix. So that’s fun to read in retrospect. Sort of.
A missing adventure: Whitaker decides that this story is set after “the adventure of the talking stones of the tiny planet of Tyron, in the seventeenth galaxy”. Yes. That would have been much preferable to what happened on Vortis in the previous book.. And the “pale gold of the interior lighting of the Tardis shone down on the travellers like warm afternoon sunshine”. With writing like that, Whitaker can talk about talking stones as much as he likes.
This whole prologue is lyrical and philosophical. It was the first prologue in a novelization; there would be many more, but few this fascinating. Whitaker has upgraded the First Doctor from sinister anti-hero to elder statesman, even as the TV producers at the exact same time were trying to turn Hartnell invisible, or, even worse, into Frederick Jaeger.
Moving on to the story proper, Whitaker preserves much of his own dialogue and plot, but restructures the action considerably. All of the Barbara-in-Saladin’s-Court scenes from Episode One are moved to the Episode Two portion of the book (roughly Chapters Three and Four), making the first two chapters firmly Ian’s and the Doctor’s show. Whitaker continues his mission statements, with these amazing descriptions of the TARDIS:
It was one of the features of the Doctor’s ship that it always assessed the place it landed in in one millionth of a second before it materialized, and was thus able to avoid appearing in busy streets or under water, or any of the hundred and one hazards which might endanger the safety of the ship and its occupants. Had its safety device been of much wider sort, of course, it is more than likely it would have detected the presence of he coming struggle in the little forest outside Jaffa. But, of course, if this sensitivity had been so fine there would be no chronicles about Doctor Who.
or of the Doctor:
It was the Doctor’s very personal and peculiar strain of individuality that made him capable of bridging all the different places he visited, accepting them on their own terms. He would land abruptly in a new world as a stranger and yet, all at once, become a part of that world; reaching out with curiosity and friendly interest to such a great degree that people assumed him to be no more than an ordinary visitor from across a range of mountains, or from over a small sea.
So this is Whitaker falling in love with his own story, and giving us a new mission statement, on the eve of the Hartnell era, of just who the Doctor is. No longer is the Doctor the anti-hero of the early days of Season One, or the madly giggling, often-sidelined afterthought of the John Wiles era. This is Whitaker telling us what he thinks Doctor Who is really about, and what kind of character the Doctor must be. From here, it’s easy to see why Whitaker was the man chosen to write the first story of the new Doctor, just a few months after this novelization came out.
Next Time: Whitaker immerses us in the Holy Land of 1191: King Richard the Lionheart, Saladin, merchants and warlords, sorcerers and bandits. This is one war you won’t be in such a hurry to escape from.