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A Day In The Crusades: Doctor Who Appreciation Society’s The Crusade Riverside Studios Event

I’d had to miss out on the last DWAS event at Riverside Studios which was about The Daleks’ Invasion of Earth. Luckily though, I was able to make their second event there which saw the surviving two episodes of The Crusades played on the big screen, in a similar way to the BFI events, plus a couple of guests to meet afterwards.

I live miles and miles away from London so making a trip there has to be worth it; the train tickets alone from where I live are pushing £50 and for any Doctor Who event in London, the train is the most expensive thing. So I decided to get the most out of my day and got there about 10am — the event started at 2pm and for some foolish reason, I walked from Waterloo station to Riverside Studios in Hammersmith!

Now, it wasn’t an entirely terrible idea: I’d never seen the Mall in real life before; or Buckingham Palace of which I got a few nice pictures of. I walked the entirety of Hyde Park and then Kensington Gardens — which offered a view of, I think, The Royal Albert Opera House and then I walked through Kensington, which wasn’t as posh as I thought it would have been and then into Hammersmith. When all was done, I had walked 7 miles! (It’s a good job I quite like rambling as a hobby…)

For anyone who lives near or in London, somewhere like Riverside Studios probably isn’t much of an attraction, but for someone like me, who lives in the back of beyond, it’s much more of a pilgrimage and so seeing the place they filmed a lot of 1960s Doctor Who was quite breath-taking. To think I was walking in the footsteps of William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton, as well as their companions and many other actors, was exhilarating. And Riverside seem to be proud of their connection to Doctor Who with three dedicated plaques outside. One lets you know that between 1954 and 1974, Doctor Who, Hancock’s Half-Hour, Blue Peter, and many other programmes were made there. Another one is about Verity Lambert, the first producer and creator of the show; it was also unveiled by The Doctor Who Appreciation Society. And a final one says that a number of iconic scenes from Who were filmed there including the first regeneration and the Daleks emerging from the Thames underneath Hammersmith Bridge.

And speaking of Hammersmith Bridge, that was my next port of call. I think I’ve found where the Dalek emerged from the Thames now, matching up the bridge supports to what we see behind the Dalek, but it has all changed since filming in the early 1960s! It was very exciting to see and I do sometimes wonder what people around me must be thinking, seeing someone taking pictures of really random areas, but maybe they would be as interested as me in knowing this was the spot that one of the most iconic shots from the entirety of Doctor Who was filmed…

Meeting up with my friend Maria from The Doctor Who Big Blue Box Podcast, we caught up quickly and then went into the event. For those who don’t know, Riverside is no longer a studio lot, but a cinema with the upper floors having been converted into flats. Taking our seats, we settled in to see what the afternoon had in store. One of the first things we saw going in was Julian Glover’s costume for Count Scarlioni in City of Death and then in the cinema room, the costume he wore for Richard the Lionheart in The Crusades which were amazing to see!

It began with an introduction and then the first episode entitled The Lion. I’ve seen people complaining about the quality of the footage we were seeing but it was explained at the beginning that this was the condition the episodes were found in when the original tapes were discovered. Obviously, this quality wouldn’t have been good on the DVD or Blu-ray releases; it’s a curio and only the two episodes, so the lines on the screen, the crinkles, and cracks added to the experience, as if this were a version of the story that we hadn’t seen before.

Another problem with The Crusades is that it’s pretty racist, with many white actors being in black-face or made to look like they’ve come from The Holy Land. And while this obviously isn’t acceptable and I’m sure that really, it wasn’t incredibly acceptable back in 1965 either, I was pleased that it didn’t distract people from viewing the story. We know better now but we have accept this was how television was made in the days of the likes of The Black and White Minstrel Show.

Once the first episode had finished, Robert Dick took to the stage to interview two of the surviving members of the cast, namely Maureen Lane, who played one of Lady Joanna’s Ladies in Waiting but more famously a batton twirler in The Macra Terror; and Cleo Sylveste who was one of El-Akir’s concubines. Sylveste has recently been interviewed by Doctor Who Magazine and was recently awarded an MBE.

It was an… interesting interview, with Robert having to drag the answers from the pair. In fact, one might be forgiven for thinking that they wanted to be anywhere other than at this event. It didn’t help that they both only appear in the two episodes of the story which are still missing but the chat did pick up towards the end, with Robert talking to Cleo about her rekindling her singing career. To give Robert credit, he did try to get things from them — he asked what it was like working on Doctor Who, if they ever met the main cast behind the scenes, what other things they had filmed at Riverside, how their careers started, and if they ever wanted to be anything else other than an actor. It wasn’t a long 45 minutes but I think, given how little they seemed to answer questions, any longer would have been too long.

Episode 3 of The CrusadesThe Wheel of Fortune — was up next and I’d forgotten just how dark this story was with much of the action seeing Barbara having to hide from El-Akir’s soldiers who are burning down houses trying to find her. She is hiding in the house of a man who hates Saladin and is only too happy for her to take shelter so long as she promises to kill his daughter should she fall into El-Akir’s clutches. People say this is a children’s show but this is certainly much darker than anything aimed at children.

If anything, Episode 3 made me really appreciate the strength of David Whitaker’s writing. This feels like an entire world, where the Doctor, Ian, Barbara, and Vicki are at the mercy of actions taking place around them. Jaqueline Hill doesn’t get too much to say or do here, despite being the main focus of the episode but the warm round of applause at the end of the episode, which ends on her terrified face, did nearly make me cry. I wonder if Hill, who sadly passed away many years ago, would be happy to know that something she made nearly 60 years ago is still enjoyed by people who are too young to have seen it originally and that that it can still earn a massive round of applause in a cinema?

If the chat with Maureen Lane and Cleo Sylveste had been a bit of a drag, then the chat with Julian Glover who played Richard the Lionheart in this story was the exact opposite. I have met Glover before; he was the guest at the BFI’s showing of City of Death, and he was just as animated here as he was then. Glover still has the power to command a room full of people. He spoke a little about City of Death, mainly how annoyed he was that everyone else got to go to Paris and all his scenes were filmed in Television Centre in London, and that the original actress to play the Countess was to be his future wife Isla Blair. But he was primarily there to speak about his work on The Crusades. He said that they never thought of the show as a children’s show — they treated it like a Shakespeare play. We know that Who was filmed as live, with no breaks in recording, he described how challenging it was making sure everyone was in the right places at the right time. And they had filmed it at Riverside Studios!

Glover also described working with the leading man, William Hartnell, which he said wasn’t a happy experience. Hartnell wasn’t too pleased with the casting of Glover or Jean Marsh who played Richard’s sister, Lady Joanna, thinking them far too posh because of their RADA background. It’s strange he would have this opinion of Jean Marsh who, in a few stories’ time, would become one of his companions, Sara Kingdom. Glover said that he and Marsh would normally spend a lot of time together, feeling like they couldn’t really talk to the main cast because of Hartnell’s behaviour. Ultimately, this helped though as it sold them as brother and sister.

Talk then turned to Glover’s work on his recently released book Cue to Cue which, with its plethora of pictures, he described as toilet book, and to his son Jamie Glover who is also an actor and who played William Russell in the 50th anniversary docudrama, An Adventure in Space and Time. I have to be honest, I hadn’t registered that he was Julian Glover’s son, but in this case, it’s apparent that acting runs in the family; Julian said he was pleased that his son had chosen this career despite explaining how difficult it can be.

It was during the filming of his second Doctor Who, City of Death, that Julian Glover received the call asking him to play the baddie in the James Bond movie, For Your Eyes Only, and he revealed how originally he was reluctant to take the part.

With the chats and the surviving episodes done and dusted, it was then time for a meet and greet at the end; everyone there was queuing to meet Julian Glover and while I was going to grab an autograph from him, I also grabbed one from Maureen Lane and Cleo Sylveste as I genuinely want to meet as many people from Doctor Who as I can possibly can. And while they were still quiet and didn’t really say much, they both seemed happy enough to sign a quick autograph for me.

The queue for Julian’s autograph was a long one, but it did eventually start moving and I brought a copy of his book which worked out cheaper than getting a signed photo. He seemed delighted to know my name, saying that you don’t meet many Jordans now. I said, actually I suppose you don’t; I’ve only ever known one other Jordan in my life! I’m looking forward to reading his book, having given it a quick flick through — it’s not an autobiography; instead, he looks back at periods of his career he feels most proud of and periods he doesn’t. It’s all mixed in time-wise but no doubt will make for a great read.

All in all, this was a wonderful way of spending a Sunday afternoon. I got to make the long, long, long pilgrimage to Riverside and watch Doctor Who on the big screen with other fans, and meet three people who made a big enough impression to be remembered for their contributions to a show now in its 60th year! The next event at Riverside is The Moonbase, on the 12th August. I believe there is also a chance to watch their first event, which was recorded, for The Daleks’ Invasion of Earth in July. If you’ve got a free Saturday and want to spend it with other Doctor Who fans, then Riverside is just the place.

And you can order Cue to Cue now!

Jordan Shortman

A Day In The Crusades: Doctor Who Appreciation Society’s The Crusade Riverside Studios Event

by Jordan Shortman time to read: 8 min
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