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Plot

A Greek trader arrives in the village of the Jutes, with a large barrel of wine that Yorath wants to buy.  The trader demands to be paid in slaves: five Saxon women, whom Yorath and his people are to capture for him.

This upsets the Jute women who witness the bargain, and Rowena protests vehemently. But Yorath won’t listen, so Rowena goes to Arthur for help.

Though Arthur is reluctant to put his alliance with Yorath at risk, he takes Rowena’s point - that the trader will not stop at ‘a few Saxons’ - and he resolves to take action.

Back at Yorath’s village, we see five captured Saxon women, shackled to some posts. The Greek trader inspects them, and seals the bargain with Yorath.

Then Arthur, Kai and Llud arrive with Rowena. Arthur tells Yorath that Rowena is right - he shouldn't be encouraging the slave trade.

But Yorath objects to Arthur's challenge to his authority. He invokes their treaty, which says that the Celts and Jutes must respect each other’s laws. Arthur tells Kai to free the women, but Yorath threatens to dissolve their alliance, so Arthur and his party depart, leaving Yorath, triumphant, and Rowena, forlorn.

The next morning finds everyone in Yorath’s village asleep, after a night of drunken debauchery. In the foreground, empty shackles swing from a post. The Greek trader awakes, sees that the Saxon women have been freed, and scrambles to alert Yorath to their escape.

Yorath rides into Arthur’s village, and accuses him of liberating the women. Llud suggests that Rowena freed them, but Yorath insists she wouldn’t have dared to act alone. Though Arthur denies any involvement, Yorath still holds him responsible, and says that if Arthur enters Jute territory, he will be treated as an enemy.

Arthur is vexed that Yorath has called him a liar, and that the Celts' alliance with the Jutes seems to be over. Kai suggests they find the Saxon women and return them to Yorath.  Arthur devises a plan to use the Jute laws to make Yorath do the right thing.

With Llud’s expert help, Arthur and Kai track the Saxon women to a wooded hillside. Arthur tries to persuade them to return to Yorath with him, promising that they will be freed. But the women, led by Rowena, refuse.  They defend themselves by bombarding Arthur’s party with rocks.

Llud buys a net from the Greek trader, and Arthur and Kai use it to trap the women as they walk across an open field.

Arthur, Kai, and Llud ride into Yorath’s village, with the women, tied together by their necks, and Rowena walking beside them. The villagers line the route. Yorath and the Greek trader exchange satisfied glances.

Arthur then tells Yorath that he can’t give the women to the Greek trader; he must kill them. Kai reminds Yorath that according to the law of the Jutes, all captives must die at once by the sword.

Yorath thinks Arthur is joking, but Arthur hands him a sword, and, after a bit of soul-searching, Yorath slashes wildly at the women, who scream, and run. Yorath chases them, but when he finally has them at his mercy, he can’t bring himself to kill them. Instead, he knocks the plug out of the barrel of wine, which starts spilling out.

Mayhem ensues; despite the Greek trader's efforts to stop them, everyone rushes to get some of the wine. Even Llud, Kai and Arthur collect a share of the bounty.

The Saxon women – still tied together – start sneaking away, and some of Yorath’s men grab the Greek trader, and carry him, protesting, out of the village. The wine continues to flow.

As Arthur’s group rides out of Yorath’s village, Arthur sees Rowena standing beside the track, dismounts, and comes over to her, looking pleased with himself. The two of them are reconciled.


Timeline

Patrick Dromgoole1 confirmed that “Gila [von Weitershausen] was only available for a limited time”, so filming of all the episodes featuring Rowena and Yorath would probably have been “bunched.” “Some Saxons Women” appears immediately after “Rowena” in both the “Konig Arthur” book, and the German DVDs. Seasonal cues, such as the condition of trees and other vegetation, suggests that this order corresponds with the order in which they were filmed.

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
Go Warily
The Prisoner
The Duel
Rowena
Some Saxon Women


Locations

The village at Woollard remained divided up using bits of screening and palisade; once again, the long, north-east facing side of the longhouse served as the Jutes’ village, mainly decorated with horses’ hides and skulls. The long, south-west facing side of the longhouse, and the area in front of it, served as Arthur’s village.

The countryside around Woollard probably supplied the locations for the scenes on the wooded slope, and in the fields.

Inside Information

According to Oliver Tobias, Gila was very nervous when she first joined the cast on set, and not a very confident rider, and they delighted in playing jokes on her, including making her horse bolt! “Some Saxon Women” gave Michael Gothard the chance to do just that!



Patrick Dromgoole recalls, “At the risk of sounding cruel, one of my happiest memories is of a particularly pompous German actor, who was taking part (mainly because of the co-production arrangements) who usually spent an incredibly long time in make up. On one occasion, after keeping us waiting a long while, he arrived looking quite splendid, and fell flat on his face in the mud. We lost even more time as a result while his costume, make up and persona were repaired, but it was worth it.”



The actor referred to was presumably either Ferdy Mayne, (the Greek trader), or Georg Marischka, (Yorath). Given that Marischka was a relative newcomer, whereas Mayne had been acting for many years, it seems more likely that Mayne was the one who caused the crew so much amusement.



Gerry Cullen2, who appeared as an extra in the second season, (shown above, second from the right), says, “In ‘Some Saxon Women’ I am in quite a few shots but more interestingly there are good shots of the young woman that Michael Gothard was seeing. She is most easily seen in the scene starting at 7:00 where the two men look over the Saxon women who are chained up. In the shot where the two men stop and shake hands “to make the deal” was Michael’s girlfriend; she was German, and had a young child.




Writer note

This was the first of three scripts credited to David Osborn; it had an overtly political message, perhaps unsurprising given that he was blacklisted during the McCarthy witch hunts.


Cast notes


Ferdy Mayne was born Ferdinand Philip Mayer-Horckel in Germany. He had a long career, including appearances on both British and German TV and film.


Re-working the legend

Arthur doesn’t exactly set a shining example of chivalrous behaviour; nevertheless, he applies himself - albeit in a grudging and unceremonious manner - to the problem of the Saxon damsels in distress, and secures their release.


Dark Age Men and a Dark Age Feminist

“Some Saxon Women” expands on an issue given a passing mention in “Rowena”, when Kai jokingly suggested that - along with his lovebirds - he should have bought a woman.

When Yorath hears that the Greek trader wants five Saxon women, he is under no illusions about what their fate will be: “Herded down onto your boat … sent across the sea … to be sold as concubines on the slave blocks of Athens, eh? You bastard!” His conscience pricks him just enough to make the venture seem titillating; he wants his wine, and is prepared to do what it takes to get it.

Rowena protests, “I too am a woman”, but her opposition only makes Yorath more determined to go through with this dirty deal: “Then you will know your place. You will know that a woman is born to be the property of a man.”

When Rowena goes to Arthur for help, Kai’s reaction is to compare women to “A dozen haunches of good meat”. When he hears that it is five young Saxon women the trader wants, he suddenly seems to find it less funny.

Arthur is extremely reluctant to be drawn into a dispute with Yorath, saying he won’t risk the alliance for “a few Saxons”, of whatever sex. But when Rowena points out that “it won’t stop with Saxons! Next, he will ask … Saxons for Celtic women, and other traders will follow”, Arthur finds her argument sufficiently troubling that he tells Kai to send her away immediately!  Much to his annoyance, he realises that he must take action.

But when Arthur challenges Yorath, the wily Jute invokes the ‘Bros before Hos’ clause in their treaty: “To our alliance and friendship … Arthur – and may no woman ever come between us!”  He dehumanises the “Saxon sows”, and he isn’t much more respectful towards his own daughter: “buzzing nonsense again. Honey one moment – viper’s venom, the next.”

Arthur takes up Rowena’s argument: “Sell your Saxon women to this Greek thief, and he’ll be back next year. But up the coast, to some Saxon chief, and the price will be Celtic women, or Jute women. No wine is worth the human life.” Perhaps in an effort to get through to Yorath, he says they are, “daughters and sisters to their fathers and brothers”.  Their worth is judged by their value to other men!  Yorath sticks to his belief that, “women are property”, and, “worth not less than two pigs, and the hides of ten deer.”

It’s only at the end of the episode, when Yorath tries to justify killing the women - “Once on the Greek boat, and away from the shores, they’ll be as good as dead” - that he begins to look ashamed, and breaks his agreement with the trader.


"I’m a man of my word"

Arthur is furious that Yorath won’t take his word that he had no hand in freeing the women, and Kai rubs it in: “Arthur’s word is suspect. So a hard-fought-for treaty disappears on the wind.”

And later, when Arthur tells Rowena, “return to life, and freedom. I give you my promise”, Rowena, too, has the temerity to doubt him: “Your promises mean nothing.”

This is the sin for which, in the end, he demands - and gets - an abject apology.


A Fine Romance

Rowena goes to Arthur for help, so she must have some expectation that he will take action, either because he is a fair-minded man who does the right thing, or simply for her sake.

But if Arthur has romantic feelings for Rowena, he does a very good job of hiding them. She comes to him with perfectly rational arguments in her favour, yet his response, addressed not to her, but to Kai, is “get her out of here … She goes, now!”

When she rides back into the village, he seems impressed that she is “not easily dissuaded”, yet he still has little to say to her directly, apart from “Hold your tongue!” He seems to hate the fact that she is right, just as she was about Hecla.

Later, he even tells Yorath, “I will not see blood shed in my camp … for the ravings of your maniac daughter.” This seems very unfair, especially as he has already taken the arguments of that particular ‘maniac’ on board!

Considering his attitude, Rowena can hardly be blamed for her scepticism when Arthur promises to free the women. Yet at the end of the episode, he behaves as if he had every right to expect her implicit trust, and wants her to grovel: “Are you going to say it? … That you’re a fool. A shrew, with a viper’s tongue. That you were wrong. Wrongfully wrong.” Even more astonishing, Rowena, albeit reluctantly, complies: “I was wrong. I was a fool. I beg your forgiveness.”

Only then do we see any sign of affection from Arthur; he takes her by the shoulders and pulls her into a hug. It seems he can only cope with a relationship in which he has complete control!


Great moments

Each time Yorath has to correct the Greek trader’s pronunciation of his name.

The trader’s fastidious affectations: wiping the rim of Yorath’s mug before drinking from it; having the seat Yorath provides covered with his own animal hide, and flapping at something in the air that offends his delicate sensibilities.

Arthur’s determined, “We shall see” at the end of the scene at the forge.

Kai, covering Arthur’s retreat, as they leave Yorath’s village.

Arthur, Kai and Llud huddling behind a tree, as the women throw rocks at them, and Kai jokingly saying, “No one of them is my sister.”


The level-headed side-kick

Once again, it is Arthur, not Kai, who seems impetuous, demanding - in full view of Yorath - that Kai untie the women. Kai doesn’t comply, and both he and Llud advise Arthur not to endanger the alliance, for which “Blood flowed … friends died.” Even when Arthur points out that “the blood that flows in the veins of those women is the same as yours”, Kai isn’t persuaded to release them.


Quote/unquote

Arthur: No wine is worth the human life.

Arthur: I will not see blood shed in my camp.

Arthur: You must believe what you believe.


That is bloody dangerous!”

There are no actual fights in this episode, but a lot of weapons are brandished!

When the women run through the village, apparently tied together by the neck, they are actually just holding the rope with their hands.




“Night-night, Kiddies!”

While we don’t see much actual violence, the storyline - about women being taken captive by lecherous old men, to be sold into the sex trade - is pretty grim as far as teatime viewing in the 1970s goes, and no punches are pulled.

Rowena bluntly accuses Yorath and the trader of having got together, “To drink, and to rape defenceless women … Before they are sold, pound for pound, like cattle.” The women stand shackled to some posts, while the Greek trader examines them, feeling their arms, and looking at their teeth in a wholly dehumanising manner.

In response to Arthur’s protest, that the women may be Saxons, but they are also “daughters and sisters to their fathers and brothers”, Yorath’s brutal response - that the women, “have fathers and brothers no longer” - is chilling.


Dressed to kill?

Rowena asks for help (13)

At the start of the episode, Llud once again ends up stripped to the waist; he wears one of his plainer tunics for the rest of the time.

Costume (5) Blue shirt, white tunic

Arthur wears the blue woolly tunic with the embroidered cuffs, sometimes with the addition of a white tunic or coat, previously seen in “In Common Cause.”

you eat like a Celt (8)

Kai is wearing the same white shirt he wore in “People of the Plough”, so when they visit Yorath to try to free the women, both are - perhaps symbolically - dressed in white. Oddly enough, for the only scene set indoors, Kai dons the big cloak with the fur trim.



The Greek trader and his men are distinguished by their lack of breeches or trousers of any kind; clearly they make no compromises for British weather! Unusually, some of Arthur's men indulge in cross-gartered breeches.

Costume (1) Costume (6)

Rowena wears a green dress at the start of the episode – probably the one she was wearing for her aborted marriage to Hecla – but breeches and a blue shirt, possibly one previously worn by both Arthur and Kai, for riding.

Star


“A man on a horse is worth ten on foot”

 

When Rowena’s horse, Blackstar – which she previously rode in “Rowena” – first arrives in Arthur’s village, Llud says, “See the markings on the horse? Jute.” But Blackstar’s only markings are three small white socks, a small star, and a very faint snip, none of which would have been obvious to Llud at that distance, and none of which are especially unique.

Perhaps Rowena was meant to have been riding “Frost”, the new, and very distinctive, silver dapple bay that Kai is seen riding when Arthur, Kai and Llud pay their first visit to Yorath’s village.  As this horse isn't seen again, it may have been a bit of a handful!



For the other scenes in this episode, Kai rides Blackstar. Throughout the episode, Arthur rides Bernie, and Llud, his usual mount, Curly.

Yorath rides into Arthur’s camp on Moonlight; his men are riding Blondie, Pinkie and Outlander; the Jutes’ horses are the same ones seen being ridden by Celts in previous episodes.



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


"Extra! Extra!

The same blond extra who appeared in two places at once in “Rowena” is even more visible in this episode.

Arthur arrives (23) Arthur arrives (57)

She appears both as a Jute, to the left of Rowena, and as one of the Saxon captives.

A Bargain (34) Arthur confronts Yorath (33)

It seems a shame that neither the women playing the Saxon captives, nor the Greek trader’s three sidekicks, get a credit.




Honourable mention

This goes to Rowena, for her persistence, and for putting up with Arthur’s pomposity.


What’s going on here?

Even before Arthur hears what Rowena has to say, he looks slightly irritated to see her, and Kai immediately suggests that the trader wants a ‘dozen haunches of good meat’, which he then equates with women. It almost seems as if Arthur and Kai had already heard about Yorath’s bargain, and were expecting Rowena to show up.

Why is Yorath so convinced that Rowena would not have dared to free the Saxon women on her own? Is it just because he has a low opinion of women in general, and his daughter in particular? The audience is left to guess whether anyone else assisted her. Arthur denies his own involvement, but Kai or Llud might still have lent a hand, possibly with his tacit approval!

And when Yorath’s party arrives, Arthur has clearly been expecting him, because some of his men are lying in wait, ready to appear on his signal, and surround Yorath’s party. Were Arthur’s look-outs very vigilant? Or did he know that the women had been freed, and that Yorath’s suspicions would fall upon him?

Despite the fact that the Greek trader seems perfectly capable of speaking English, Llud’s negotiations with him over the price of a net are conducted in sign language. Perhaps the sound recording crew had packed up for the day!

Arthur’s tactic of using Jute law to free the women is extremely risky, not least because the law is so ambiguous. “A woman is born, to belong to a man. To be used, bought or sold, and do with as he wishes” and “Prisoners are to be killed.” It doesn’t unequivocally state which takes precedence, if the prisoners happen to be women. Yorath could quite easily have said that it was up to the Jutes to interpret their own laws, and that Arthur should mind his own business!

Yet Yorath lets Arthur railroad him, and pleads, “We are friends. Allies together”, even though he has already told Arthur their alliance is over.

Then, when Yorath attacks, and the women run for their lives, instead of helping Yorath catch them, the brave Jute warriors all scramble to get out of their way!  Some of them even fall over in their haste. What are they afraid of?

One of the main problems with this episode is one of tone. The story deals with serious matters: slavery, legalised rape, the position and rights - if any - of women, and how one proceeds when one’s allies are behaving unethically. Yet it includes many moments which are comedic, some of them bordering on farcical; this makes an uncomfortable mix.

Yorath captured the five women, and murdered their families, but he is depicted as a bit of a fool, who has just been led astray by the promise of wine. The Greek trader, a lecherous and unprincipled entrepreneur, also comes across as a buffoon, scrambling about the village, more concerned about the loss of his hat than his state of undress, and utterly incapable of pronouncing Yorath’s name correctly. 



After their ordeal, the Saxon women - afraid to return to the village where a deal was struck before their eyes to sell them as slaves - arm themselves with staves, and rain down rocks on the men who have come to recapture them: the actions of truly desperate women. But the scene is played for laughs, with Arthur, Kai and Llud hiding behind tree trunks, more amused by their own predicament than sympathetic to the fugitives.  The scene where the women are caught in a net, and lie on the ground in a squealing heap, seems disrespectful of their plight.

The dissonance becomes more disturbing when Yorath runs after them, slashing with the sword. The women, who - logically - must have been terrified, run screaming through the village, in a scene which could have come from a ‘Carry On’ film or a Benny Hill sketch.  Perhaps the comic elements were thought necessary to lighten up the story enough to make it suitable for teatime viewing.

In order to have a “happy ending” to the episode, we are asked to believe that Yorath just needed the right guidance; that he has a heart after all. He can’t bring himself to kill the women in cold blood, with his own hand, so he brings his sword down on the plug on the wine barrel, letting everyone have a share in his ill-gotten gains.

This is painted as more impressive, and more generous than it is, so that Arthur can keep his alliance with him and still sleep at night. It neatly avoids answering the question of what Arthur would have done, if Yorath had decided to ignore his arguments and hand the women over to the Greek trader, or to accept Arthur’s ‘logic’ and kill them himself.

At the end, some of the Saxon women can be seen lying asleep on the ground near Rowena, as if they, too, have enjoyed Yorath’s alcoholic bounty. But one wonders what kind of a life they can look forward to, with no obvious means of supporting themselves, their village ransacked, and their families dead.


Music

Some of the music tracks used in this episode were:

Track 22, Revelry: the Greek trader arrives.
Track 24, Carousal: Yorath greets the Greek trader.
Track 26, Evil Stirs: Yorath makes a deal.
Track 15, At Dead of Night: Rowena ask Arthur for help; the women are assessed.
Track 24: Carousal: Yorath greets Arthur.
Track 16, Danger Mounts: Yorath calls Arthur’s bluff.
Track 13, In All Weathers: Yorath challenges Arthur.
Track 26, Evil Stirs: fishing for Saxon women.
Track 29, Pastoral Episode: the Saxon women are brought back.
Track 6, Infiltration and Treachery: Yorath considers his position.
Track 22, Revelry: wine for all.
Track 17, Pensive Moment: Rowena’s apology.

The whole suite of music, beautifully written and orchestrated for the series by Paul Lewis, is now available on CD.


Cast

Arthur ……………..... Oliver Tobias
Kai ……………….…. Michael Gothard
Llud ……………….... Jack Watson
Yorath ………............ Georg Marischka
Rowena ……….....…. Gila von Weitershausen
The Greek Captain .… Ferdy Mayne

Crew

Director ………….…... Patrick Dromgoole
Story ……………….... David Osborn
Executive Producer ..… Patrick Dromgoole
Producer …………….. Peter Miller
Associate Producer ….. John Peverall
Production Manager … Keith Evans
Post-production ……... Barry Peters
Fight Arranger ………. Peter Brayham
Cameraman …………. Bob Edwards
Camera Operator …… Brian Morgan
Editor ……………….. Alex Kirby
Sound recordist ……... Mike Davey
Dubbing mixer ……… John Cross
Art Director …………. Doug James
Assistant Director …… Keith Knott
Production Assistant … Ann Rees
Costume Design .…….. Audrey MacLeod
Make-up ……………... Christine Penwarden
Incidental music ……... Paul Lewis
Theme music ……….... Elmer Bernstein

1 More of Patrick Dromgoole’s memories can be found here.
2 More of Gerry Cullen’s memories can be found here.
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Arthur of the Britons

August 2015

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