Saturday, 26 August 1972

Plot

Kai is out riding when he comes upon an isolated homestead, beside a partly-ploughed field. He approaches, tethers his horse, and bursts into the main hut. A hooded figure comes up behind him, and taps him on the shoulder with an axe.

Kai lowers his own weapon, turns, and punches the hooded figure. They fight; Kai knocks his opponent unconscious, and turns them over, to find that he has been fighting a beautiful blonde woman.

Next, we see the woman, Freya, angrily sweeping the floor and kicking rubbish out of the hut, while Kai stands outside, apologising for his treatment of her. He asks if there is anything he can do to make amends; she gives him an assessing look.

As his penance, Freya puts Kai to work as her ‘ox’, pulling a plough, while she pushes it from the back. Kai learns that Freya and her husband, Rulf were cast out of their village, because Rulf refused to fight. Rulf went on a hunting trip some time ago, and failed to return.

Later, at dinner, when Freya sees Kai spear a chunk of meat from the stew-pot with his knife, and eat off the blade, she says that he eats like a Celt. Kai makes a pass at her, but she rejects him; she is worried about Rulf, and thinks the Celts have killed him.

Softening towards Kai, she goes outside, collects a bucket of water from the river, and loosens and arranges her hair, while checking her reflection. But when she goes back inside, she finds Kai asleep, with his head on the table.

Next morning, Freya wakes Kai with some breakfast, and tells him that today they must do the harrowing. Kai flops back on the bed with a groan.

As Freya contemplatively sorts seed corn outside, Kai comes out of the hut, and tells her he must move on. He says he’d like to stay and protect her, but that he is Arthur’s lieutenant, and he must complete his mission first. Freya calls him a traitor for buying arms to kill Saxons, and slaps his face. He turns slowly away, and leaves.

Kai arrives at the settlement of Mordant the Armourer, where he discusses his requirements with Mordant and his second-in-command, Kyn. They pass a big cage, hanging over a fire, in which Mordant says he plans to roast a Saxon prisoner.

At dinner, in Mordant’s longhouse, Kai realises that the Saxon in question is Freya’s husband, Rulf. He tells Mordant to confine him with the prisoner, so he can find out what he knows about nearby Saxon encampments.

Mordant agrees. Once inside the prison hut, Kai tries to rouse Rulf to fight for his life. Rulf explains that the reason he now refuses to fight it that he killed his own brother in a blind rage. But he agrees to help Kai to escape, if he can.

Kai tricks the guards, and overpowers them, then he and Rulf slip out, and try to sneak through the village. But they are spotted, and both are captured.

The next day, Kai and Rulf, armed with swords and shields, stand in a makeshift gladiatorial ring that Mordant’s people have made. Mordant orders Kai and Rulf to fight, for the entertainment of his people.

When Rulf refuses, Mordant threatens to roast him in the cage – a fate he actually has in store for Kai as well – but Kai deliberately provokes Rulf, threatening to tell Mordant how to find Freya, and implying that he has already had his way with her himself.

This sends Rulf into a rage. They fight, and Kai knocks Rulf over, breaks out, and escapes on horseback. Rulf rides after him, but Mordant’s horses scatter, so the rest of the pursuing villagers fall behind. When Rulf catches Kai, he attacks him again, and this time it is Kai who will not fight. Kai persuades Rulf that Freya’s honour is intact, and they return to Rulf’s homestead together.

Later, the three of them discusses Rulf’s pacifist philosophy, and Rulf offers to help Kai in time of need. Kai immediately takes advantage of the offer, and gets Rulf to help him rob Mordant’s village. They get away with a magnificent haul of weapons, and Kai leaves Mordant bound and gagged, in his own cage.

When Kai returns home with the swords, Arthur is well-pleased. Kai says they were a gift from Mordant, but when Arthur suggests that he might go to thank him personally, Kai advises against it.


Timeline

“People of the Plough” comes after “The Slaves” and “In Common Cause” in both the German book and the German DVDs, entitled “Konig Arthur”, so it seems likely this was the next in the filming sequence.

Suggested shooting order so far

Arthur is Dead
Daughter of the King
The Challenge
The Gift of Life
Enemies and Lovers
In Common Cause
The Penitent Invader
The Slaves
People of the Plough


Locations

Freya’s homestead was built in a field along the same stretch of the River Chew as the village at Woollard, but just a bit further south. This is what the field looked like then, and in 2014:

I saw your plough (7) plough field

Mordant’s village is the same one at Woollard that was previously used for Ulrich, Cerdig, Rolf, and Col, but with many additions to make it look like a working armoury.

The Armourer Armourer 2

There is also a large cage hanging over a fire, providing further distraction from the longhouse itself. The area to the south west side of the longhouse, in which much of the action takes place, is almost unrecognisable compared with the same during "Enemies and Lovers" (left).

Arrival at Athel's (24) Armourer 4

The palisade to the north side of the village seems to have incorporated one of the two small huts near the northeast corner of the village, and it is near that small hut - but on the other side of the palisade - that Kai brings Arthur the swords.

Failed escape (7) New toys (64)


Cast notes

This is the second episode in which Jack Watson does not appear at all – the first being “The Gift of Life.” He may have been working on another project, or perhaps filming had already begun on the next episode, “Go Warily.”

Valerie Ost, (Valerie Van Ost) who plays Freya, appeared in a number of “Carry On” films: “Carry On Cabby”, “Carry On Doctor”, “Carry On Again Doctor” and “Carry On Don't Lose Your Head.”

Valerie Ost

Mike Pratt, who played Morcant, was better known as Jeff Randall from “Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased)” – a series in which Michael Gothard had appeared in 1970 as a heavy, Perrin, in “When the Spirit Moves You.”

WTSMY (139)


Author note

Bob Baker, who co-wrote this episode with Dave Martin, described HTV West at that time as like being in a family.

“During productions we often went for supper at Floyds. Dave and I were extras in most of the things we did so we knew everyone in the production, which was great. Patrick Dromgoole was the kind of the guy who liked to have the writing team - "With the unit" so that as writers we felt valued with everybody else."


A woman alone

It can’t have been easy for Freya, when she and Rulf were kicked out of their village because Rulf refused to fight; being left to fend for herself must be even harder. Any time she hears someone approach her homestead, she has to be ready to hide, or fight to defend herself, and she clearly doesn’t share Rulf’s pacifist views.

For his part, if Kai had known the homestead was occupied by a woman alone, he would not have been so unchivalrous as to attack, and he apologises profusely.

But he is only human, and after being used to plough the field, and even called “ox”, he can perhaps hardly be blamed for trying his luck. When Freya rejects his first advance, he doesn’t push it.

Freya says that she is afraid that the Celts have killed Rulf. He has been missing for “a season”, but this may be the first time she has admitted to herself that he is not coming back. That admission may be what prompts her to loosen her hair, and go back to Kai, perhaps having decided that it is time she found herself a new man to help and protect her.

By next morning, she has her sights firmly set on Kai, but when she finds out he is on a mission from Arthur – the enemy – she is not afraid to slap his face and call him a traitor.


He ain’t heavy …

Rulf admits that he killed his brother because a blind rage overcame him. Later, he reacts with a similar blind rage when Kai hints that he knows Rulf’s wife better than he has a right to. It makes one wonder whether it was jealousy over Freya that made Rulf attack and kill his brother.


"By the Gods!"

There are more references to God in “People of the Plough” than in any other episode, including “Rolf the Preacher”, an episode which is mainly concerned with Rolf’s attempts to convert people to Christianity!

Kai, who has previously shown no religious inclination, is heard to exclaim: “God’s teeth!” and “God’s breath!” and later swears, “God defend me, I didn’t touch her.”

The sadistic armourer, Mordant, also enlists God to his side, piously promising: “Before God I’ll roast you alive!” and, when enraged, exclaiming, “God’s blood!”

And Rulf, who later says he “would want to be a man who … never again … took away a life given by God”, tells Kai, “Before God, no man touches my wife”, and “As God is my witness, you shall die.”

But it seems to be the trauma of having killed his own brother that is behind Rulf’s professed pacifism, rather than the desire to follow a particular religious code.


Author note

Bob Baker and Dave Martin, who wrote just this one episode, were both relatively inexperienced script-writers at the time, and they seem to be trying a bit too hard to make their writing sound as if it fits the period. As well as constantly making the characters swear by god, or call him to witness, they also have Rulf use “’twixt” and “’tis” in the same sentence, as if he had just stepped out of a Shakespeare play. They went on to become a celebrated writing partnership, creating - among other things - the robot dog on Doctor Who: K-9.


The best laid plans …

It’s not very clear what Arthur had told Kai to do about payment for the weapons he was supposed to procure from Mordant. Kai tells Mordant, “Arthur is forging an army, but not for gold”, but Arthur can’t really have expected Mordant to give him arms for free. He probably hoped that Kai would be able to use some combination of threats and cajolery to secure a good deal, and Kai tries it at first, suggesting that Arthur could simply take over Mordant’s operation. But despite what Arthur says – “I asked you to strike a good bargain, but I never dreamed …” – the way Kai goes about his mission can’t have come as a complete surprise! After all, if Arthur really expected the arms to be got by negotiation and payment, shouldn’t he have gone himself?


The hot-headed side-kick

Kai is on his own for most of the episode. He never loses sight of his mission, but he completes a couple of projects of his own along the way. Arthur would probably have disapproved of Kai rescuing a Saxon from the people with whom he was supposed to be negotiating.

If Kai had really wanted to return to Freya, after taking Arthur his arms, it would have been in his interest to leave Rulf in Mordant’s hands. But his conscience demands that he rescue Rulf, and give up any pastoral fantasies. As Rulf says, “There are people of war, and people of the plough”, and in his heart, Kai knows where he belongs.


Celts and Saxons

Kai felt compelled to investigate the little Saxon settlement in an area he must have considered Celt territory. But as a result, he gets to see the human face of his enemy, up close, and this time, it is someone who poses no obvious threat to the Celts.

Once again, Kai feels conflicted: “I’m no farmer, but – I’d like to stay”, and when Freya, finding out who Kai is, calls him a traitor, it clearly hurts, more that the slap she gives him.

The Celts of Mordant’s village seem quite savage. Mordant himself plans to roast a Saxon in a big metal cage. For all that Kai is of “Celt persuasion”, this must make him feel threatened in Mordant’s camp, even before he sets about rescuing Rulf.


"A man on a horse is worth ten on foot"

Kai is once again on Pythagoras in this episode. Merlin is among Mordant’s fugitive horses, along with a new black or dark brown horse, with a star.

I saw your plough (5) Escape (3)

Rulf appears to be riding Jim.

Escape (8)

See this post for further details of the horses of "Arthur of the Britons."


“That is bloody dangerous!”

Though there are a great many swords in this episode – presumably the same ones seen in the weapons hut in “The Slaves” – most of the fights are fairly small and scrappy. However, we do see a rare use of a stuntman in this shot when Rulf throws Kai over his shoulder by the neck. They took a few extra shots while the camera was raised, though clearly not because of the danger of the fight.

Civilised men (76) Civilised men (77)

Civilised men (79) Civilised men (98)


What have the Romans ever done for us?”

Mordant seems to like to think of himself as a Roman: “You will fight. Let no man here say we are not civilised. You are gladiators, and will provide our sport.”


Great moments

Freya using Kai to plough her field, and calling him “ox.”

Kai’s restrained reaction when Freya calls him a traitor, and slaps him.

New toys (14) New toys (37)

The look on Arthur’s face as he examines his new swords.

New toys (40) New toys (55)

Arthur's suggestion that he should visit Mordant, and Kai's reaction.


Quote/unquote

Kai: Arthur is forging an army, but not for gold.

Rulf: There are people of war, and people of the plough.


Dressed to kill?

Kai has a new studded tunic, but spends some of the time wearing just his shirt ...

Escape (30) The Ox (18)

... and then (once again) stripped to the waist, while Freya, despite it being the middle of summer, wears a nice warm coat.

The Ox (36) The Ox (11)

Freya also has two different dresses, worn over some loose trousers.

Interlude (3) Interlude (23)

At the end of the episode, Arthur is in his woolly blue shirt.


On the table

Kai and Freya’s meal seems to be some kind of stew. Later, she is seen making loaves.

you eat like a Celt (3) Interlude (22)

Mordant’s hospitality seems somewhat lacking.

Saxon blood, Celt persuasion (26)


Honourable mention

Pythagoras looks particularly fine in this episode!

I saw your plough (14)


What’s going on here?

Why does Kai just burst into the house? It seems a bit rash – he didn’t know how many Saxons were in there!

Where is Freya’s actual ox? Did she have to kill and eat it, because Rulf has been away for so long? One might also ask why Kai doesn’t use his horse to plough the field, but probably battle horses weren’t to be used for such mundane tasks.

Freya's hands do not look as if they have done much manual labour!

The Ox (45)

Freya says that Kai eats like a Celt – apparently referring to the fact that he ate off his knife, out of the pot. It’s not clear what she means by: “you drink like a Saxon.”

Freya says Rulf has been gone for a season – but it seems unlikely, given Mordant’s bloodthirsty nature, that he would have held him prisoner for so long. Was he waiting for a special occasion to roast him?

Though the palisade seems to have grown since it was seen in “The Pentient Invader”, it still doesn't go all the way round the village, so would not have been much of a defence.

vlcsnap-2014-12-29-18h33m59s29 Civilised men (115)

Rulf is a Saxon – yet he goes on hunting trips, and can ride a horse, even leaping onto it from behind.

Why is Kai playing with his unsheathed sword while talking to Freya and Rulf?

Rulf returns (34) Rulf returns (31)


Music

Some of the 34 tracks of incidental music, beautifully written and orchestrated for the series by Paul Lewis, used in this episode, were:

7. Hesitation and Achievement: Kai arrives at Freya’s homestead.
30. Night Scene: Kai sees a grave.
31. Lyrical Romance: Freya talks about Rulf.
18. Celtic Girl: Kai tries his luck with Freya.
20. The Fair Rowena: Freya considers her appearance, and brings breakfast.
18. Celtic Girl: Freya sorts seedcorn.
16. Danger Mounts: Rulf explains about killing his brother.
12. Duel: Kai and Rulf try to escape.
16. Danger Mounts: Mordant tells Kai and Rulf they must fight.
12. Duel: Kai and Rulf fight.
20. The Fair Rowena: Rulf and Freya talk with Kai.
16. Danger Mounts: Kai and Rulf steal from Mordant.
33. Springtime: Kai leaves Mordant in his cage.

The whole suite of music is available on CD.


Cast

Arthur …………….... Oliver Tobias
Kai ……………….… Michael Gothard
Rulf ……………….... Mark Edwards
Freya ……………..… Valerie Ost
Mordant ………….… Mike Pratt
Kyn ……………….…Geoffrey Russell

Crew

Director ………….…. Sidney Hayers
Story ………………... Bob Baker and Dave Martin
Executive Producer …. Patrick Dromgoole
Producer …………….. Peter Miller
Associate Producer …. John Peverall
Production Manager … Keith Evans
Post-production ……... Barry Peters
Fight Arranger ………. Peter Brayham
Cameraman ……….… Graham Edgar
Camera Operator ….… Roger Pearce
Editor ………………... Don Llewellyn
Sound recordist ……... Barry White
Dubbing mixer ……… John Cross
Art Director …………. Doug James
Assistant Director …… Mike Roberts
Production Assistant … Maggie Hayes
Costume Design ..…… Audrey MacLeod
Make-up …………..… Christine Penwarden
Incidental music …….. Paul Lewis
Theme music ………... Elmer Bernstein

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Arthur of the Britons

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