Friday, 13 September 2013
Friday 13 September 1963
This week a new trainee knight at the palace is causing headaches for tutor Sir Geoffrey. He's Queen Berengaria's cousin Miguel, over from France and rubbing everyone up the wrong way thanks to his "hot Navarrish blood". The dialogue refers to him as gauche, hot-headed youngster, which makes the casting of the distinctly middle-aged looking Maurice Kaufman seem a bit strange. Part of the reason Miguel's making a nuisance of himself may be frustration at the fact that nobody seems sure how to pronounce his name, Mig-ell, Mig-well and (most popular) the say-what-you-see Mig-u-el being used interchangeably throughout: several actors try all three, presumably in the hope they'll get it right eventually.
Country bumpkin Miguel, who's never been to a city before, sneaks out of the palace every night against orders to see the bright lights of London (though they probably weren't all that bright in 1194). His favourite haunt's a dockside alehouse (the Sailor and Anchor, which is a pretty uninspired name really), where he's fallen for the charms of serving wench Martha (Lisa Daniely), as well as the wiles of a group of crooked gamblers led by Demere (Sean Lynch), a disgruntled former knight.
Miguel owes Demere a lot of money, and ends up being blackmailed into a dastardly plot to steal the crown jewels. As luck would have it, he's on duty guarding the jewels the next day: Sir Geoffrey shows him what he's guarding, while Richard makes him feel awful by telling him how much confidence he has in him.
When the appointed hour arrives , Miguel lets the thieves into the castle and even helps them knock out the proto-Beefeater guards. The villains make off with the jewels, and it's fair to say that Richard's not too happy the next morning, determining to turn the country upside down to find the jewels: though he absolves Miguel of all blame.
Geoffrey volunteers to go undercover in the less salubrious parts of London to find out information about the jewels' whereabouts from the city's lowlifes, but Richard insists he's too well known in London (in certain parts I'm sure he is), and gives Miguel the task. Incidentally, Sir Geoffrey now seems to have got very friendly with a certain Sir Frederick. Have he and Sir Gilbert had a row?
Miguel warns his dodgy chums that retribution from the king isn't far off, and they hatch a plan to escape to the continent, with Miguel giving false information that they're heading up north. It's only his love for Martha that makes him acquiesce, but once he's gone she seems to be absolutely delighted at the notion that the gang won't need him much longer.
Lisa Daniely's Martha seems to be the real power behind the gang of thieves, and in truth seems to having nothing but contempt for Miguel, though the episode's brief running time means her character doesn't develop as much more than a vague impression. The best moment of the episode comes when Miguel, as the thieves head out of the country, tells them he intends to take the jewels back to the king, by force if necessary: a big close-up of Martha, softly commanding "Kill him".
Things look bleak for Miguel as Demere's men advance: cue Richard and his knights, swooping in and dispatching the baddies (the king seems to take especial delight in offing Demere).
It turns out one of Demere's men was a spy for Richard, who kept him abreast of everything that was going on. Far more incredible than this plot twist is that said spy is played by Oliver MacGreevy, an actor well known for parts as silent bald heavies - here, he's hairy, verbose, and very camp (note strangely longing glance in Demere's direction here).
Despite his part in stealing the jewels, Miguel gets away with just being sent back to France for a couple of years. Although he doesn't quite fit the part as written, Maurice Kaufman's a charismatic actor, and he helps to make The Crown Jewels an especially rollicking episode.
Next tonight, another voyage to the heart of matrimony.
The slight boredom that's set in with recent episodes of Marriage Lines is alleviated this week as the show expands the characters of Kate and George Starling's neighbours. Peter and Norah. Married for three years, they position themselves as mentors to the newlywed Kate and George, though - this being a sitcom - they're obviously both just as clueless when it comes to the rules for keeping their relationship together. Ronald Hines and Christine Finn make at least as good a comedy couple as Richard Briers and Prunella Scales.
Peter and Norah have had a huge row, and Peter asks George to accompany him to an antique shop to find something decent to apologise to his wife with. His sage advice to his less experienced friend: "Don't forget, when you're out of favour, browse through the seven and sixpenny tray. It's better than flowers, it's a permanent reminder of your fine and generous nature."
Norah, meanwhile, has also decided to make amends: her way of doing so is to bake a soufflé (she is a housewife from 1963, after all). After she and Kate have congratulated themselves on the fantastic choice of husband they each made, Kate decides George deserves to be treated to a soufflé too: she might even get a bottle of wine (to modern sensibilities it's unfathomable that a bottle of wine should have been the extravagance it was in the 60s: Norah has to dig into her summer hat fund to be able to get one). George and Peter, meanwhile, have decided to go for a quick one before heading back to whatever rubbish their wives decide to set before them (fish fingers, most likely). I should point out here that for me the most remarkable thing about this episode is the sausages on sticks available on the bar at the pub Peter and George frequent. If I found a pub that provided those you'd never get me out of it.
Peter gives George a talk on appreciating his missus: "She's still the same princess you married, even if she does put curlers in her hair when she takes her crown off." He stresses the importance of consideration for one's other half, and George insists they head back to the jeweller's, where he spends the vast sum of £9 on a gift for his wife.
George failing to have arrived home, Kate has a go at serving up some soufflé for herself. It's not been a resounding success.
Although they each put a brave face on it at first, Kate and Norah eventually admit that neither of their husbands have returned, and that both of their soufflés failed. "I had to throw mine away," Kate sighs. "Oh, I kept mine," scowls Norah, "I want him to see it. I want him to see what he did to it."
Fickle sitcom wives that they are, the pair now both decide they can't stand men. Norah lets Kate in to a little theory she has: "My dear, the greatest love affair of all is two men on their way to a football match. Their minds are in tune, their hearts are as one, and when somebody scores a goal they turn round and hug each other."
Both men return home drunk,and both head back to the pub with their tail between their legs shortly after. Peter decides it might be worth trying a spot of infidelity and earmarks a beautiful blonde (Jacqueline Jones), but before he gets far Norah turns up to drag him home. The young lady's attempt to move on to George ends with him being summoned home by phone but her getting to keep the gift for Kate he inadvertently left behind.
Four Part Harmony's an improvement on recent episodes, though the women are still frustratingly pathetic (yes, I know my constant gripes about how badly women are represented on TV in 1963 are singularly pointless), and Peter and Norah are increasingly looking like a far more interesting couple than the one the show's focused on.