The Crusaders
Target novelisation
Doctor Who and the Crusaders

Author David Whitaker Cover image
Published 1966
ISBN 0 426 10671 7
First Edition Target Cover Chris Achilleos

Back cover blurb: Back on Earth again, Tardis lands DOCTOR WHO and his friends into the midst of the harsh, cruel world of the twelth-century Crusades. Soon the adventurers are embroiled in the conflict between Richard the Lionheart and the Sultan Saladin, ruler of the warlike Saracens...


Forerunner of the New Adventures by Tim Roll-Pickering 16/11/03

Imagine a Doctor Who book in which another culture potrayed sympathetically. A conflict in which neither side is shown as being "right". Philosophical discussions about the nature of time travel and history. Hints of sexual relations that were considered a taboo. One of the Doctor's companions dressed in an extremely kinky outift. Sadistic scenes of torture. Love sprucing for companions of the Doctor.

You're probably all thinking that I've picked up the wrong book and am in fact reviewing one of the Virgin New Adventures. But Doctor Who and the Crusaders has all of the above and more.

This novelisation was written over thirty-five years ago and whilst it may occasionally show its age (the terms "Negro" and "Negress" are used several times, something that it's hard to imagine even the 1970s Target novelisations doing) it nevertheless remains a highly readable book to this day. Unlike Doctor Who in an Exciting Adventure with the Daleks and Doctor Who and the Zarbi there was no obvious reason in 1966 for this novelisation to be written and yet that enhances the book since it feels as though it was written with loving care and attention. David Whitaker had a strong vision of how he saw the series and this manifests itself throughout the book. Each character is lovingly crafted and really comes to life with backstories often expounded upon as we learn more about how the Lord Chamberlain keeps the court running or how Haroun ed Diin and his family came to grief at the hands of El Akir. There is also further development of the potential romance between Ian and Barbara, making the story of Ian's quest to find Barbara into an epic romance.

The story follows broadly the same course as the televised version but the order of the scenes has been rearranged considerably, so there are now much longer sections with first the Doctor and Vicki then Barbara and then Ian. Although this means that there are times when characters are absent for long periods, never once does this become noticeable as the narrative speeds along towards the climax. There are many subtle enhancements to scenes that allow for material that could not be shown on television, whether more grandiose sets than could be achieved on the series' budget or the suggestion of incest between Richard and Joanna that was removed from the television show.

As noted above, there is much in this book that would not normally be expected from a standard television novelisation and in many ways it can be seen as the forerunner of many trends in the New Adventures. Indeed it makes the reader sad that David Whitaker did not live long enough to produce an original Doctor Who novel as both his novelisations suggest that he would have produced one of the most thought provoking and mature novels. I especially like the prologue (although continuity pedants will pick up on the statements that Susan has been left in the twenty-first century to marry David Cameron) in which Ian asks the Doctor just why they are able to influence events on alien worlds but not on Earth. Whilst the Doctor's explanation that Time is like fate and impossible to alter may not answer all the questions it raises, it is astonishing to find such a willingness to address head on an issue traditionally overlooked on television or simply brushed aside as "You can't rewrite history! Not one line!"

As the only historical novelisation for many years and rereleased in the 1970s alongside the Dalek and Zarbi novelisations, Doctor Who and the Crusaders has often been overlooked and dismissed by those more interested in the science-fiction side of the series. But it is one of the strongest novelisations of all, showing a highly imaginative development of the television story and deserves far more attention than it has received. 10/10