Kai rides into the village, and reveals that Rowena is to marry Mark of Cornwall. Arthur tries to pretend he doesn’t care, but Kai and Llud don’t believe him.

Arthur goes on the rampage, inspecting the warning system, the store of kindling wood, the thatch on a hut, and the state of awareness of a sentry, and finding them all wanting. This amuses Llud and Kai.

A Messenger then brings the news that Garet and Gawain, are feuding again, and that some Saxons have slipped in from the coast, through Yorath’s territory.

Arthur sets off at top speed to visit Rowena’s father, supposedly to discuss the gap in his defences. Yorath is annoyed about the betrothal. He wants to stop Mark from getting hold of some land he gave to Rowena, so he obligingly begs Arthur to stop the wedding, in exchange for which he will shore up his defences.

Llud tries in vain to get Arthur to admit his true motivation. Arthur is confident that he can change Rowena’s mind, simply by getting Mark to reveal his oafish side.

When Arthur and Llud arrive at Mark’s village, they are greeted warmly by Mark and Rowena, who are both pretending to be in love.

Arthur gets Rowena alone, and tries to persuade her of the folly of marrying Mark, but without making any counter-offer. Mark lurks outside the longhouse, listening to their conversation. Rowena believes she can change Mark, by showing him affection. She fails in her attempt to get Arthur to admit he is jealous. Arthur tells her that Mark is only after her land, and explains the deal he made with her father; she angrily throws him out.

Arthur then goes nose to nose with Mark, who vows to remain sweet and civilised until he has married Rowena.

The wedding celebrations start, with a tug-of-war, in which Mark of Cornwall pulls three of his villagers over. Arthur then challenges Mark to a contest. They pull against each other, and when Mark seems to be winning easily, Arthur, without warning, lets go of the rope, and Mark topples backwards into the river.

Mark is hauled out, marches up to Arthur, soaking wet and ferocious, then suddenly smiles, and pretends that he enjoyed the joke.

That evening, they meet again at the wedding feast. Mark and Rowena are sitting together at the head of the table, making overt displays of affection. Mark invites Arthur to sit next to Rowena, but he refuses, and Llud sits there instead.

Rowena discusses further changes she can make to Mark’s appearance, and Mark strives to hide his irritation. Arthur then makes insinuations designed to ruin Rowena’s reputation. Though this makes Mark furious, it fails to dent his resolve to marry her.

Later that evening, Arthur and Llud have a heart-to-heart. Llud thinks Arthur should tell Rowena he loves her, but Arthur doesn’t want to get married under pressure; he is determined to continue with his plan to pick a fight with Mark.

Next morning, Mark appears resplendent for the wedding; he and Rowena stand looking at their two thrones, set in an artificial grove, surrounded with flowers. Mark then jauntily approaches Arthur and Llud, to gloat about his success. As he starts to walk away, Arthur deliberately trips him, and boots his behind, so that Mark lands with his face in some mud.

His wedding finery ruined, Mark gets to his feet, and he and Arthur draw their swords, and fight. When Arthur seems to be losing, Llud starts to draw his sword, then notices that Rowena is watching the fight with great anxiety, and realises what Arthur is doing.

Mark drives Arthur to his knees, and raises his sword to finish him off, but Rowena leaps between them, slides her arm around Arthur’s shoulders, and the two of them smile at each other. Mark sends them both on their way, then takes out his frustrations on his villagers in his usual fashion.

As Arthur escorts Rowena back to Yorath’s, Llud goes home, where he and Kai share a laugh at Arthur’s expense.


"The Marriage Feast" is one of the few episodes to refer to specific events that occurred in other episodes - episodes which must therefore have preceded it. Arthur mentions the time - during “Rowena” - when Rowena saved his life, after they were attacked by Saxons, and Mark responds, “We could have done with her at Modred’s field, eh, Llud?” - a reference to “The Duel”. In another reference to that episode, Mark calls Llud the “only man ever to defeat Mark of Cornwall in single combat”.

As Arthur and Rowena appear to have certain expectations of each other in “The Marriage Feast”, it makes sense for it to come after their conciliatory hug in “Some Saxon Women.” Filming is thought to have taken place between “Some Saxon Women” and “Rolf the Preacher”, in early to mid-October. Seasonal cues support this: the trees and vegetation are still quite green, and Rowena wears a coronet of fruiting Old Man’s Beard (Clematis) in her hair. There are also some autumn leaves (Field Maple just on the turn) in the coronet.

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.”

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
Some Saxon Women
The Marriage Feast


For the opening scene - as in “Some Saxon Women” - the area to the south west of the longhouse serves as Arthur’s village, with the warnings system on the rise to the west of it.

Intro (52) On a tear (11)

Arthur’s meeting with Yorath is filmed inside one of the huts.

Skilful filming and set-dressing allows the northeast side - where Yorath's village was set last week, in "Some Saxon Women" - to be used for Mark of Cornwall’s people. Mark and Rowena come out of the north east door of the longhouse to greet their guests.

A changed man (2)

In “Some Saxon Women”, you can even see the beginnings of the circular shelter that - this week - became Mark and Rowena’s marriage bower.

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Inside Information

The daughter of one of Michael's friends recalls: “Near the beginning of ‘The Marriage Feast’, Michael is sitting with Jack Watson and teasing Arthur. He says ‘Ooooooo!’ That was Michael … He would use ‘Ooooooo’ if he was teasing …”

The rest of the memories she has shared can be found here.

Cast Notes

The biggest claim to fame for Martin Read, who played the cheeky messenger, appears to be a few appearances as DC Jimmy Thorpe, in “The Sweeney”.

On a tear (75) Martyn Read  'The Sweeney' (1975) 1.3

The Great Pretenders

This episode is all about pretence. Arthur pretends he doesn’t care that Rowena and Mark are to be wed, then goes on a hilarious rampage, which makes it clear to everyone, with the possible exception of Arthur himself, that he is upset. At Yorath’s, he pretends to know nothing about the wedding, then pretends he doesn’t want to interfere.

Llud calls Arthur on his deception of both others and himself: “You two-faced fox. You don’t give a rotten apple about the gap. You just want to stop the marriage. And you want to make it look like you’re doing it as a favour to someone else.”

When he visits Rowena, Arthur pretends that he isn’t jealous, and that his main concern is her welfare: “The man’s a pig … He’ll use you as a skivvy, Woman … I just don’t like to see you making a fool of yourself.”

Rowena is also pretending; she doesn’t really want to marry Mark, as can be seen from a look she gives Arthur; it seems to say, “see what you’ve driven me to?”

A changed man (9) A changed man (10)

At times, she even appears to be conniving with Arthur, to give Mark an excuse to erupt, and herself, an excuse to back out of the wedding. The way she keeps calling Mark back for trivial reasons when they are outside the longhouse is clearly designed to annoy, as is her behaviour at the feast, when making suggestions about how Mark should change his appearance.

After the feast, it is clear that Arthur has completely forgotten about his stated reason for attending the wedding; Llud reminds him that his failure will mean that “Yorath will refuse to close the gap”, and Arthur replies, “The what?” He then brazenly reasserts his determination to have it closed!

But when Llud says, “Now you love the girl. Go and tell her so”, Arthur at least has the grace not to deny it, though he refuses to go and admit it to her, on the grounds that, “She’d expect me to marry her, then.”

Of course, the biggest and most magnificent pretence of all is Mark of Cornwall’s transformation – inspired by his desire for land and power - from his usual blustering, arse-kicking self, to a polite and genteel bridegroom, with “so many arrangements”!

A Fine Romance

“Why should I do anything about it? Nothing to do with me … If she can’t see what a pig the man is ... It’s their choice. If she wants to ruin her life, that’s her funeral.” Words to melt any young girl’s heart! It is truly pitiful that Rowena has to throw herself at Mark of Cornwall, just to get Arthur’s attention.

But if she wants romance, she isn’t going to get it from Arthur. One might think, from his attitude - “What sort of a game is this you’re playing?” – that she were already betrothed to him!

Rowena is desperately hoping that Arthur will become the man she wants him to be. When Arthur says that Mark of Cornwall “can no more change than a wild bear”, and Rowena replies, “Love can do strange things, even to wild bears”, it is Arthur - whose name means “The Bear” - and not Mark, that she is referring to.2

But Arthur remains incurably insensitive: “Love? He’s after your land, Woman.” Rowena is understandably upset that Arthur seems unable to imagine Mark wanting her for any other reason.

Sure that Arthur has feelings for her, she begs him, “Tell me. Tell me the truth.” His bloodless response - “I made a deal with your father” - is enough to make anyone want to slap him!

His behaviour at the feast is even worse. In modern terms, he becomes a classic slut-shaming jerk, who can’t stand to see his ex-girlfriend with another man. “To the time you ripped off your dress to bind my wounds”; “Do you remember when I had to tie you to your horse, chase you into the woods for half a mile, and how you thanked me, afterwards?”; “You’re a lucky man, Mark! Believe me. I know. To the long days, and the long, long nights we had together!”

Llud thoroughly disapproves of Arthur’s games, telling him, “I’ve always had the idea that if people loved each other, they did get married.” But Arthur won’t give an inch: “I’m not so sure I want to get married. Anyway when I do, it won’t be under pressure.”

The matter is only resolved when Arthur lets Mark get within a whisker of killing him. When Rowena leaps between them, Arthur is happy - verging on smug - that he has forced Rowena reveal her true feelings first; Rowena, by now, is just relieved that she has got out of marrying Mark, and that Arthur hasn’t been killed.

She even seems fairly sanguine about the fact that her reputation is in tatters: “I suppose you know, you have ruined my life. What now?”

Arthur’s promise to “discuss it on the way” still leaves her hanging.

“It is I! Mark of Cornwall!”

Arthur implies that Mark only wins a tug of war against three villagers because they are all scared of him, but Mark shows remarkable restraint in this episode, resisting the urge to do violence even after Arthur deliberately dumps him in the stream.

Later, at the marriage feast, his invitation to Arthur - to sit next to Rowena at the head of the table - looks like a genuine attempt to make friends: “Ahh, come now. We’ve had our differences, but on my wedding-eve I want all to be friendship.”

The fact that Mark’s interest in Rowena has nothing to do with romance must have made Arthur’s insults to Mark’s betrothed easier to bear. But it is a bit of a surprise that he doesn’t try to kill them both, when Rowena saves Arthur’s life, making it obvious that she has just been using Mark to further her own agenda.

Somehow, Arthur and Rowena get away with making a fool of Mark of Cornwall, in front of his whole village. They were lucky this was a teatime show!

Dark Age Men

Rowena is little more than a pawn in a game played by the men. Even Llud, who seems to be the only one with any interest in her welfare, implies that while she “could never stomach” a man like Mark, a more important factor would be her father’s disapproval. Arthur speaks of Yorath delivering his daughter into Mark’s hands, as if she were a package.

Yorath assumes that his daughter is only marrying Mark to annoy him: “She knows I can’t stand the fellow”, and Arthur dryly agrees that it’s very irritating, for him!

The only reason that Mark is interested in Rowena is her land, which Yorath only gave her because she had made an unusual (for her) womanly effort: “For once she had cooked a half-decent meal”!

Yorath then gets on his high horse because Rowena’s land - which he still regards as his - will go to Mark, making him more powerful than Yorath.

Arthur promises to show Rowena “what a swaggering hulk” Mark is, but his own behaviour towards his host is extremely oafish, while Mark manages to contain the worst of his customary bullishness. In a wonderful play on words, he tells Arthur: “Until she gets the bridle on, I’m going to be as sweet as hazelnuts”.

At the marriage feast, when Arthur refuses Mark’s offer to sit beside Rowena, his real motive in sitting at the opposite end of the table is to set himself up against Mark, and get Mark’s men to laugh at him. This way he also gets to see Mark’s reaction to his slights on Rowena’s honour.

In the end, Arthur cleverly subverts the macho contest he engineered; by losing a fight, he makes Rowena choose him, over Mark.

Celts and Saxons

The Messenger seems remarkably sanguine about Saxon incursion: “Oh, nothing. Five or six of them”, and Kai laughs at Arthur’s concern about a few Saxons. While Llud mentions the “scores who come in from the east”, he doesn’t seem too troubled about them, either.

Though Arthur still seems concerned about the fifty or sixty Saxons a longboat could hold, he is more worried about Rowena’s impending marriage; the Saxons are actually doing him a favour, by giving him an excuse to interfere with it!

So what has changed since “the battle that decides” in “The Duel” – at which no more than thirty Saxons showed up?

It is Kai’s attitude that has changed most dramatically of all. In “The Gift of Life”, he wanted nothing to do with the two Saxon orphans, and at Ulrich’s camp, he accused their people: “You despoil our forests. You cut down our trees. You drive out the wild boar which is the food of life to us … You raid our villages.”

Clearly his experiences since he faced the Saxon’s council – the fact that they let him live, and the children helped him escape, his rustic interlude with Freya, the help Thuna gave the Celts at the slave camp, his brief reunion with his childhood friend Roland, and the rescue of the Saxon women from Yorath - have all influenced his attitude. Now he calls them, “harmless cattle traders.”

At the end of the episode, Arthur has all but forgotten about his precious gap, and Llud and Kai are able to joke at Arthur’s expense, about the threat of “Saxon cattle herders, pouring in … Three or four at a time … Running amok in our meadows … Terrifying the buttercups.”

The best laid plans …

Rowena’s plan to make Arthur jealous works magnificently, but she still fails to extract a marriage proposal from him.

Arthur’s plan to stop the wedding succeeds, in the end, though Mark isn’t as dumb as Arthur takes him for.

Mark is the only one facing complete failure.

"By the Gods!"

Yorath refers to Rowena as being “hell-bent” on marrying Mark. He also mentions that she used the services of some monks to have his gift of land to her documented, “with their pens and parchments, getting everything down in writing.”

But on the day of the wedding, there is no sign of a priest waiting to perform the ceremony for Mark and Rowena.

At the end, Kai drily thanks heaven for Arthur’s wisdom, in taking care of the gap.

Great moments

Arthur’s rampage.

Arthur, pretending he doesn’t care about Rowena’s impending marriage, while Kai and Llud don’t even try to contain their amusement.

On a tear (80) At Yorath's (25)

Yorath calling Mark a “filthy barbarian”, then snorting, and flicking the resulting snot onto the floor, with his fingers.

Mark, speaking and behaving as a gentle, polite, parody of his usual self.

A changed man (17) Men can change (23)

Rowena playing the psychologist, and blaming Marks’ temper on the fact that he’s “never had any affection in his life” - and his amusement at the very idea.

Arthur and Mark facing up to each other.

Men can change (77)

Mark, turning on a sixpence, from jovial to raging mad and back again.

Arthur and Rowena’s smiles, when Rowena has saved Arthur’s life.

The final deadpan exchange between Kai and Llud, where - once again - they make fun of their glorious leader.


Kai: The whole balance of what?

Mark: A bridegroom has so many arrangements.

Mark: Where would we all be, if we can’t laugh now and again?

Mark: Nobody must leave the table while they can still stand straight!

Llud: You love the girl. Go and tell her so.

Llud: I’ve always had the idea that if people loved each other, they did get married.

Llud: It’s very hard to pick a quarrel with a man who’s determined to avoid a fight at all costs.

Arthur’s wisdom …

… seems to have taken a holiday.

Extra! Extra!

Gerry Cullen recalls: “I was involved in inside banquet scenes in two different shows. One was “The Marriage Feast”; I am sitting next to Brian Blessed, on his right. You can only see me in a quick wide shot at 14:45, and some back and forth over the shoulder shots in that scene, one is at 16:15.”

The Feast (18)

“That is bloody dangerous!”

Plenty of extras must have got a few extra pounds in their pockets as a result of being thrown around by Mark of Cornwall.

Gerry Cullen recalls: “Extras would get an additional £2 per day if they were involved in any stunts, or got pummelled. They probably don’t allow that today – too many lawyers – but it was fun then. In one episode, “The Marriage Feast”, a scene called for Mark of Cornwall to storm off, mad because Arthur had just embarrassed him.

It must have been my turn that day, as the director picked me to be thrown over Brian Blessed’s shoulder as he rampaged through the village, knocking people out of his way. We did at least 5 takes where Blessed literally threw me over his shoulder and into the air; he was a strong guy. Lucky for me, I studied jiu-jitsu in high school, so I knew how to land in hard falls, but it was still somewhat rough. I was disappointed when I watched the DVD; the take they used was the only one where he did not do that; instead, they used the one take where he just throws me down.”

The Fight (143) The Fight (145)

More of Gerry’s memories can be found here.

“Night-night, Kiddies!”

Arthur’s comments about Rowena would probably not feature on children’s TV these days: “Here’s to the Queen of the South. And the times we had together … To the time you ripped off your dress to bind my wounds.” “Do you remember when I had to tie you to your horse, chase you into the woods for half a mile, and how you thanked me, afterwards?” “You’re a lucky man, Mark! Believe me. I know.” “To the long days, and the long, long nights we had together!”

Dressed to kill?

Arthur spends the whole episode wearing a brown suede lace-up shirt. He also has a white cloak with a hood.

Men can change (63)

Kai rides in wearing his “Last Valley” tunic, and the big shaggy white coat. In the scene at the end, the tunic he is wearing is very similar to the one he wore in “Rowena”: perhaps it is the same one, with the addition of some leather trim.

vlcsnap-2016-02-28-08h40m49s057 LLud arrives home (37)

At the start of the episode, Llud is wearing his usual old white shirt, but he puts on a decent tunic to go visiting.

Rowena must have bought a trousseau; she is seen in three different dresses, a blue V-necked dress, a more formal-looking blue dress, and yet another wedding gown in which she doesn’t get married.

Men can change (36) The Feast (59)

The Fight (87)

Mark of Cornwall is more lavishly attired than usual, though his cloak has been used before, by the Celt Watchman in “The Prisoner.”

A changed man (17) vlcsnap-2016-02-28-08h41m48s775

His wedding finery looks lovely until Arthur gets started; no wonder he was upset about the mess!

The Fight (14) The Fight (39)

In Arthur and Rowena’s last scene, the colours of their outfits are nicely inverted.

Riding Home (18)

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

Kai rides into the village, on Moonlight. The Messenger arrives on Flame. On the way to see Yorath, and from Mark of Cornwall’s village, Arthur rides Bernie, and Llud rides Curly. Rowena is on her usual mount, Blackstar.

On the table

As so often, Arthur shows his lack of respect – this time, for Yorath - by eating an apple while discussing matters of importance. Mark’s feast may be the most lavish seen yet.

The Feast (8) The Feast (41)

Mark drinks from a ludicrously huge goblet, “a man-size cup”, and insists Llud do the same!

The Feast (84)

Honourable mention

For the “Celt Warrior” - who, for the benefit of the audience, gives a homespun running commentary on Arthur’s fight with Mark: “What’s the matter with Arthur? He’s got Mark so mad he doesn’t know what he’s doing. Arthur could have killed him three times b’now … If he’s not careful, he’s gonna lose.”

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He is credited as David Hyde, but the information on IMDB is clearly incorrect, as this particular David Hyde would have been 2 years old at the time of filming.

What’s going on here?

Soon after “Enemies and Lovers”, when King Athel’s tribe learned the secret of Arthur’s famed warnings system, Arthur’s people moved to the – albeit rather patchily - palisaded village. Since then, we haven't seen the system, in which balls in a basket are supposed to make a rumbling noise, “loud enough to warn of danger … But soft enough for the sound not to carry … through the natural rustlings of the forest.” Arthur is angry about the slackness of the ropes holding the basket, but the system won’t be of much use on an open hillside, in full view of any approaching enemies!

vlcsnap-2016-02-23-19h45m57s736 On a tear (7)

When Arthur storms past, Kai is doing some maintenance on his axe; but what is Llud playing at? Hasn’t he got any work to do?

On a tear (47)

The Messenger brings two bits of news, but Arthur only seems interested in the Saxons slipping through Yorath’s territory. He doesn’t trouble himself one jot about Garet and Gawain’s feuding, even though, in “The Challenge”, he paid them a special visit, to sort them out!

Kai doesn’t seem to have been invited to Mark and Rowena’s wedding. Perhaps Mark is still angry with him, for trying to save Roland from him, in "The Prisoner."

Arthur expresses surprise and annoyance at Yorath, for delivering his daughter into the hands of a man like Mark. He has conveniently forgotten that, not long ago, at her father’s behest, and in the face of strong protests from Rowena, he himself delivered her to the abhorrent Hecla to be wed.

In the scene at Yorath’s, Arthur appears to be shamelessly manipulating his host - but is it the other way round? Perhaps Yorath deliberately left a gap in his defences, to use as leverage to persuade Arthur to stop the wedding.

Yorath says he gave Rowena some land because “she had cooked a half-decent meal”. As King of the Jutes, one might think he’d have servants to cook for him.

Llud is unexpectedly mean, to suggest that Yorath could take his gift of land back from Rowena! And Arthur is quite arrogant in the way he speaks to Yorath, in his own kingdom.

Everyone laughs when Arthur suggests that Mark should have “Little curls … Coming down over his forehead”, but that’s what Mark already has! Mark also appears to have big white wings – perhaps this was what inspired his casting as Prince Vultan in “Flash Gordon”!

The Feast (101) Prince Vultan

While needling Mark, Arthur asks Rowena, “Do you remember the time you saved my life?” Arthur didn’t see it that way at the time - in fact, he accused her of nearly getting him killed.

Another thing he seems to have forgotten is his usual - inconvenient - insistence that his word must be unquestionable. His second toast strongly implies that Rowena once ripped off her dress to bind his wounds: something we never see this in the series. Neither did we hear Rowena thank him for tying her to her horse – she objected quite strongly at the time!

The fact that Rowena doesn’t call him a liar to his face seems to show that she is prepared to sacrifice her reputation, if only it will convince Mark not to marry her. Or perhaps those scenes ended up on the cutting room floor!

Mark’s sword can’t be very sharp, if he can hold it by the blade.

The Feast (105)

Arthur has a puzzling piece of dialogue just before his fight with Mark. “You know what they call a man that marries for land, don’t you?” Mark replies by shouting, “Rat!” but this seems to be an insult, rather than a reply. So what word did the writers have in mind, that would so enrage Mark, just by implication? “Fortune-hunter”? “Gold-digger”? Neither seems terribly cutting.

Perhaps Mark was annoyed by the suggestion that he was playing a feminine role, in social ladder climbing, and marrying for what he can get out of it. Even then, Arthur’s taunt doesn’t make much sense in the historical context, where most rulers' marriages were contracted for strategic or political reasons.

What happened to Rowena’s attendants? When she left Mark's village unwed, she seems to have left them behind.

Of course, the burning question of the episode is, why does Arthur treat Rowena so dishonestly? Is he afraid to admit to love, after seeing how badly Kai’s affairs of the heart have gone? He doesn’t seem to have had many of his own. Perhaps he thinks it’s too soon to commit himself to one woman. Or is he just too busy for love?

And is anyone else as worried as I am, to see Kai, drinking alone, in the middle of the day?

LLud arrives home (5)


Some of the music tracks used in this episode were:

Track 6, Infiltration and Treachery: Arthur gets bad news.
Track 14, Chase! Arthur and Llud set off to see Yorath.
Track 17, Pensive Moment: Llud questions Arthur’s motives.
Track 20, The Fair Rowena: Rowena tries to get through to Arthur.
Track 4, Sentinels: Mark refuses to lose his temper.
Track 15, At Dead of Night: Arthur insults Rowena.
Track 24, Carousal: Mark and Rowena survey their thrones.
Track 15, At Dead of Night: Arthur trips Mark in his wedding finery.
Track 26, Evil Stirs: Arthur seems to be losing the fight.
Track 29, Pastoral Episode: Arthur decides to escort Rowena home.

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


Arthur …………….... Oliver Tobias
Kai ……………….… Michael Gothard
Llud ………………... Jack Watson
Yorath …………….... Georg Marischka
Rowena …………..… Gila von Weitershausen
Mark ……………….. Brian Blessed
Messenger …………. Martin Read
Celt Warrior ……...... David Hyde


Director ………….…. Sidney Hayers
Writer ………………. Terence Feely
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 Operators ..… Brian Morgan, Mike Haftie
Editor ……………….. Terry Maisey
Sound recordist ……... Mike Davey
Set Dresser ………….. Ken Bridgeman
Art Director ………… Doug James
Assistant Director …... Keith Knott
Production Assistant ... Maggie Hayes
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 In “The Penitent Invader”, another episode written by Terence Feely, Rolf refers to Arthur as “The Bear.”

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.


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
Some Saxon Women


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.


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.


“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.


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.


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


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.

Arthur, Kai, and two other Celts are riding through open country, their horses laden with goods obtained on a trading expedition. Kai looks disconsolately at two lovebirds in a cage hanging from his saddle. The trader he bought them from said they were songbirds, but they won’t utter a peep.

Hearing a call for help, the Celts immediately gallop along a woodland path, towards the source of the cry. But it is a trap – a rope, pulled tight across the path, trips their horses, and the riders fall, and are knocked unconscious. Someone steals the cage with the lovebirds.

Back at the longhouse, Llud tends a wound on Kai’s arm, while he and Arthur bemoan the loss of a whole season’s trading; perhaps a bigger worry is the theft of the four battle-horses they were riding. Llud suggests a visit to Yorath the Jute, to get some more.

In Yorath’s village, his daughter Rowena is berating him for sending her to marry another chieftain, Hecla. Though Yorath protests, “but you agreed”, Rowena refuses to go.

Arthur arrives, and tells Yorath he needs horses, for the defence of both the Celts and the Jutes, from the Saxons. At first, Yorath refuses, then he makes a deal: some horses, in exchange for Arthur’s services in escorting Rowena to Hecla’s encampment.

Rowena and Arthur set out, along with Arthur’s new horses. Rowena tells Arthur that she only agreed to the marriage to secure her father’s treaty; she thought the arrangement would be forgotten.

She wants to “take to the hills”, but Arthur refuses to turn a blind eye. She tries to bribe him with her jewellery, but to no avail. Then, while Arthur is distracted, she jumps on her horse, and gallops off. But Arthur soon catches her, and they continue on their way, with Rowena’s hands bound behind her back.

They stop for a meal, but Arthur won’t even untie her so she can feed herself. He tries to feed her some meat on a knife, and when she bites his hand instead, he goes off to eat alone.

Rowena manages to pull a knife from inside her boot, and cut her bonds. Then she frees some of Arthur’s horses, stows the knife in her boot, sits back down, and calls to “warn” Arthur that the horses are loose. While Arthur re-captures them, Rowena runs off again.

Arthur goes to look for her, and is hit on the head by one of three Saxons who have taken Rowena captive. When he comes to, Rowena covertly shows Arthur the knife in her boot, and he positions himself so he can get at it.

In exchange for her life, Rowena offers to show their captors where some monastery silver is buried, if they will ride there with her. As soon as she gets onto a horse, she rides at one of the Saxons and kills him. Arthur deals with the other two.

Rowena thinks that because she saved Arthur’s life, he should let her go, but he blames her for their capture, ties her hands once more, and puts her on her horse.

At Hecla’s village, Hecla presents Rowena to his people for inspection, leads her to the head of the table, pulls her onto his lap, pets her, and assures her that she will soon be a subservient wife.

While Hecla and Arthur talk politics, Rowena slips away.

Later, Rowena begs Arthur to help her escape, but he reluctantly refuses. Rowena accuses him of only caring about getting Hecla to join forces with him. Arthur tells her to stick to her agreement.

When Arthur sets out for home, he passes a hut with the cage containing the two stolen lovebirds, hanging outside. Arthur has his excuse to help Rowena.

Two days later, Rowena – under Hecla’s supervision – is getting ready to be wed, when they hear hoof-beats. They go outside to find Arthur, Kai, Llud, and more of Arthur's men, holding a group of Hecla’s villagers at spear-point, along with the goods they stole in the ambush. Arthur tells Hecla he still has need of a priest.


Botanist Lynn Davy comments that the fruiting Clematis (Old Man's Beard) seen behind Rowena in the scene below definitely puts the filming in September.

Bargaining (42)

“Rowena” appears immediately after “Go Warily” in both the “Konig Arthur” book, and the German DVDs, but “The Prisoner” and “The Duel” are thought to have been filmed first, followed by the short break which Executive Producer Patrick Dromgoole recalls as having occurred halfway through the filming.

Gerry Cullen, one of the extras, remembers, “When I came in, I was told they were making some changes … and the series was half done.” “Rowena” was the first episode in which Gerry appeared, so it was probably the 13th to be filmed.

The main change seems to be the introduction of new recurring characters, Yorath – the leader of a tribe we haven’t met before, the Jutes – and his daughter, Rowena. Brian Blessed as Mark of Cornwall, who has not been seen since the first episode, would also appear more often in the later episodes, though not in this one.

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


For “Rowena”, the village at Woollard was cunningly divided up using bits of screening and palisade, so that the long, north-east facing side of the longhouse could serve as the Jutes’ village, mainly decorated with horses’ hides and skulls, while Hecla’s village was situated on the shorter, south-east facing end, and featured antlers as a motif.

Arthur arrives (6) Wedding day (17)

Patrick Dromgoole confirmed, “certainly the long house that we built and used was adapted for a number of different episodes”, and in later episodes, “the village was the same, but in deference to their architectural taste we shot it from two different points of view in long shot according to whether it was Jute, Saxon etc. or Brit.”

Arthur’s journey with Rowena mostly takes place on the River Chew, near Woollard. The place where Rowena refuses to cross the river looks like the same place where Arthur and Kai have their muddy brawl in "The Challenge."

Travelling (43) Travelling (50)

River brawl (28) River brawl (112)

Cast notes

At the meeting with fans in 2010, Oliver Tobias recalled that “Arthur of the Britons” was a co-production,1 on which they had to have a quota of German actors, and that because the producers felt that Arthur needed to loosen up bit, they brought in Rowena for him, ‘in a Platonic way.’

Born as one of six siblings into a noble Prussian family, Gila von Weitershausen had been acting professionally since the age of 14, and was credited simply as “Gila.”

In contrast, the acting career of writer and director Georg Marischka only began in 1971, when he was in his late forties; Yorath the Jute was one of his earliest roles in front of the camera.

Peter Bowles has a long and distinguished career in comedy and drama on film, TV and on the stage; rarely has he played such an unappealing character as Hecla.

Inside Information

Patrick Dromgoole recalls: "One particularly touching scene I remember was where Gila von Weitershausen was emphasising her maidenhood in a love scene, when we had to stop shooting because her baby started squalling in the background.”2

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!

Re-working the legends

When they hear a cry for help, Arthur and Kai immediately rush to the rescue, in a very chivalrous fashion. But when it comes to Rowena, Arthur is more concerned with keeping his word than with rescuing a damsel in distress. It’s only when he returns to retrieve his stolen property that he saves Rowena from her lecherous husband-to-be.

The real Rowena

The original Rowena was daughter of Hengist, who – with his brother, Horsa – led the Angle, Saxon, Frisian, and Jutish armies to Britain in the 5th century. Initially, the group came to serve one of the leaders of the Britons, Vortigern, as mercenaries. Rowena was then married to Vortigern, gaining political advantage for her father.

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

The importance of horses to the Celts is central to this episode. Having lost four battle-horses in the ambush, Arthur regrets not having had time to breed their horses, “As the Romans did.” Kai suggests crossing the sea to Gaul, to get more. Instead, Arthur pays a visit to “a man to the north who breeds strong horses”, Yorath the Jute.3

When Arthur arrives at Yorath’s village, he is, for the first time, seen riding a horse that isn’t white. This is presumably to emphasise the point that his horse was stolen. The horse he is riding is dark brown, with a small star.

His dismount at Yorath’s village is even more unconventional than usual. As a rule, a rider will dismount on the horse’s left, or near side, because – most people being right handed – the sword is usually worn on the left. However, Arthur has a spear in his right hand, which would be more difficult to manage if he were to try to dismount on the left side, so he swings his left leg over the horse’s neck, and dismounts on the horse’s right, or off side.

Arthur arrives (13) Arthur arrives (29)

After refusing to give Arthur any horses at all, Yorath ends up giving him seven, which shows how keen he is for someone else to solve the problem of getting Rowena safely to Hecla, with the minimum of fuss!

When they leave Yorath’s village, Rowena is riding Blackstar, and Arthur is back on a white horse, Bernie. He is leading two other white horses: Pinkie, and one we haven’t seen before, also with a pink mark on the muzzle, and a very long forelock, Binky. He is also leading Blondie, Merlin, Flame, and another bay horse with a star, either James or Charlie. By the time they reach the river crossing, Arthur is riding Skyline, and leading Bernie and Pinkie.

He rides Bernie when he has to catch Rowena’s horse.

Rowena uses Arthur’s horses as a distraction, and her own as a weapon.

When Arthur is leaving Hecla’s village, he is, for the first time, riding Binky.

Help me escape (34)

In the final scene, Arthur is still on Binky, Llud is on Curly, and Kai is on Moonlight – one of the horses which was supposedly stolen. Flame and Blondie are also with the Celts.

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

Dark Age Men and a Dark Age Feminist

The story looks at the – sometimes unhappy – lot of women in Arthur’s world. In the opening scene, Kai even jokes that he should have bought a woman from a Greek trader, so that his lovebirds would sing.

The Jutish princess, Rowena, finds herself in an unenviable position. Two years ago, probably under pressure from her father to do her duty for her people, she agreed to marry Hecla when she came of age, as part of a treaty between Hecla’s people and her own. Now the time has come, she refuses to go, and calls her father, “Peddler of flesh!”

To be fair, Yorath does seem somewhat regretful about having to send his daughter away, and he is understandably frustrated that she has changed her mind. But his comparison of her to a half-tamed horse: “Daughters are not brought to heel so easily!” is not very flattering!

Arthur tries to persuade her that the marriage will have some benefits: “You’ll have a much easier life. You’ll be taken care of”, but proto-feminist Rowena asserts that she doesn’t need a man to look after her.

When they arrive at Hecla’s encampment, it is easy to see why Rowena hoped that her betrothal to Hecla would be forgotten. He carries and parades her around for inspection by his villagers as if she were a piece of meat, even asking, “How would you like a slice of that, eh?” He mocks her when she is upset, foists his attention on her, and assures her that he will soon have his “mountain butterfly” under his thumb.

A fine romance

While Kai has had flings with Eithna (“Daughter of the King”), Goda (“Enemies and Lovers”), and Freya (“People of the Plough”), and received favourable attention and help from Hildred (“The Gift of Life”) and Thuna (“The Slaves”), Arthur seems very much a novice where women are concerned, with little more than an unfulfilled promise from Eithna to his credit.

If Arthur is attracted to Rowena, he doesn’t seem to know what to do about it. As they set out, his first conversational gambit is the unfailingly annoying, “Your face’ll set forever in that scowl”, which gets him a well-earned grimace from Rowena. But at least – unlike with Eitha – he has the sense not to criticise her for riding a horse, or for wearing breeches, and by the time she says, “I need no man to take care of me!” he is clearly falling a little bit in love with her.

Travelling (19) Travelling (20)

Later, when he suggests that the cowardice of which she accuses Hecla was because he was “made timid by [her] presence”, perhaps it is Arthur himself who is feeling that way. But he is hamstrung by his promise to deliver her to Hecla; she bites his hand, and tells him she wishes they were both dead.

His bitterness at having to leave her with her execrable husband-to-be spills over into his sarcastic reply when Hecla thanks him for bringing Rowena: “It was a pleasure to accompany such a sweet-tempered lady.”

Help me escape (3) Help me escape (12)

When Rowena begs him to take her away, he is clearly conflicted, and implies that he might have considered it if she had been nicer to him, but that he is not going to “make an enemy of Hecla for a spitting cat.”

Rowena accuses him of having no care for her happiness. His reply: “Believe me … I wish you well” – is hardly the kind of declaration to melt anyone’s heart, but eventually he finds a way to square it with his conscience, and rescue her.

"I’m a man of my word"

Having established to his own satisfaction that Rowena consented – however reluctantly – to marry Hecla, Arthur shows his inflexible side. He is determined to deliver her safely, come hell or high water. “I gave my word to your father that I would take you to Hecla … And I’m a man of my word!”

One might have thought that, having discharged his duty to Yorath by escorting Rowena to her destination, Arthur could then have helped her escape, without having technically broken his agreement; he does split hairs like this in other episodes. But he seems driven, not only to keep his own word, but to make sure that others do the same. “I fulfilled my obligation to your father. Now you must keep your promise to Hecla.”

Arthur’s wisdom

Arthur makes no decisions hastily, but usually – as in this episode – he finds a way to do the right thing in the end. His restrained behaviour when Rowena bites his hand is commendable.

Celts and Saxons

Kai says that if their horses have been stolen by Saxons, they will have been eaten, and when three Saxons catch Arthur and Rowena, Arthur says, “It isn’t like them to keep their axes clean, with Celtic blood about. Or Jutish blood.”

But Rulf was both a Saxon, and a competent rider; Kai has already been treated with justice by Ulrich’s people, and when Cerdig’s slavers kidnapped the men of Col’s village, they even left the women and children alive, and free.

It is hard to avoid the conclusion that some of what Arthur and the other Celts say about the Saxons is based on prejudice, rather than evidence.

In “Rowena”, Arthur tries to use the Saxon threat to get the horses he wants from Yorath, but the wily old leader claims that “When the Saxons come, they find more trouble than they need.” Though Arthur is probably right when he says that Yorath is being protected by Celt lines of defence, Yorath is more concerned with his domestic problems!

The hot-headed side-kick

Kai has undergone something of a transformation since “Arthur is Dead.” Based on the earlier episodes, one might have expected that after the ambush, he would be the one who was raging mad, and out for revenge. But his reaction is quite phlegmatic: “We’re lucky we have our lives.” He leaves the fuming to Arthur and Llud.

Grumpy Old Men

The loss of their goods and horses has put Llud in a very bad mood; it sounds as though he feels Arthur and Kai are to blame!

Yorath is also in a bit of a snit, having had pots thrown at him by Rowena; the way he greets Arthur – “Whaddayou want?” – is not going to win any prizes for diplomacy!

“That is bloody dangerous!”

The start of the episode is quite fraught with peril, though possibly not as bad as it looks. Horses are supposedly tripped, but only one horse is actually seen falling, or rolling, and the same fall is shown twice. Neither the horse nor the rider who fall are the ones seen galloping along the track; the rider who initiates the fall looks like stuntman Terry Yorke, who played one of Mark of Cornwall's men, Mahon in "The Duel", and the bay horse in the stunt has lot more white on its face than those seen earlier.

Love Birds (22) Love Birds (36)

Love Birds (37) Love Birds (38)

Oliver Tobias manages to avoid another head injury, and - despite her lack of confidence, and of protective head-gear - Gila von Weitershausen also survives a few canters, and being dragged from her horse, apparently unscathed.

“Night-night, Kiddies!”

Hecla’s threat to turn Rowena into a submissive wife may be the most chilling moment in the episode. Arthur’s “You still have need of a priest” comes a close second.

Dressed to kill?

Possibly as part of the “changes” Gerry Cullen mentioned, there are quite a few new costumes in this episode. Arthur has two new tunics, one mustard-coloured, and one, a white knitted affair, as well as a white lace-up shirt, and a purple cloak.

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Kai has a new brown and turquoise tunic. Yet somehow, both Llud and Kai again manage to end up stripped to the waist ...

Love Birds (5) We should have bred (13)

Arthur goes back to his ring armour for his return to Hecla’s village, while Llud makes himself decent in his studded tunic.

"By the Gods!"

Addressing Arthur, and possibly Kai as well, Llud once again highlights the fact that he has different beliefs: “thank your god they were more interested in what you carried, than your lives”.

Rowena fools the Saxons into untying her, by pretending she knows where some monastery silver was buried in an earth barrow, to hide it from the Saxons.

Hecla intends to marry Rowena in a ceremony officiated by a priest. When Arthur arrives to reclaim his goods, he tells Hecla he still needs a priest – presumably to shrive his soul before Arthur has him killed.

Great moments

Domestic scenes in the longhouse are always a pleasure to watch, and Arthur’s chat with Yorath is amusing.


Rowena: Just because you sired me, I will not be treated like one of your dumb mares!
Yorath: Daughters are not brought to heel so easily,
Rowena: I need no man to take care of me.
Arthur: I’m a man of my word.
Arthur: It was a pleasure to accompany such a sweet-tempered lady.
Arthur: You still have need of a priest.

On the table

It’s nice to see that Arthur is capable of doing his own cooking; he even goes to his pack to get some salt or seasoning for the meat he is cooking for himself and Rowena. Beside him, on the platter, is a piece of meat which looks as though he bought it from a supermarket!

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At the feast at Hecla’s village, we see the usual selection of bread, meat and apples, and there are some dead rabbits hanging up, as well as that stag from Rolf’s village! The bits of food the villagers are cooking in their spits look rather over-done.

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Extra! Extra!

When Arthur arrives at Yorath's village, a bashful-looking blond girl runs inside. The same blond girl is then seen standing behind Arthur, to his left.

Arthur arrives (6) Arthur arrives (23)

She then appears at the door again, with Rowena.

Arthur arrives (57)

“Rowena” was the first episode in which Gerry Cullen4 appeared as an extra. He remembers playing one of Hecla’s villagers at the feast, and says “at 19:48 I am sitting down in front of the table, and throw wine at a villager, who falls down.”

Look at her (14) Look at her (15)

By the end of the episode, he has joined Arthur’s side instead! Here, he is standing in the middle, next to Arthur.

Gerry centre

Honourable mention …

… has to go to the lovebirds, who give Rowena back her wings.

Love Birds (18)

What’s going on here?

When Kai is seen on the ground after the ambush, he has a head wound. By the time he gets home, his injury seems to have migrated to his left arm.

Love Birds (42) We should have bred (25)

When Kai says of their lost horses, “In Saxon hands they’ll be eaten by now”, Arthur’s response, “How d’you know he was a Saxon?” sounds rather paranoid. Surely he doesn’t suspect Kai of being in on the ambush? Perhaps after the incident with Roland, he hasn’t yet learned to trust him again.

Why does Arthur go to visit Yorath on his own? And why does he set his spear in the ground point up? The usual way to signal peaceful intentions is to drive the point into the ground, blunting it.

Arthur arrives (21)

The mare which Yorath claims in “only half-tame” was actually being encouraged to buck by a flipper attached to her hind leg.

See that mare (2)

When Arthur tells Yorath he has “no experience to judge” how daughters behave, and Yorath replies, “You will have”, Arthur looks quite alarmed. Does he really consider it completely out of the question that he should ever reproduce?

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He seems very relieved when Yorath – apparently in agreement that he is unlikely to produce female offspring – clarifies, “Not as a father! As an escort.”

Perhaps Arthur’s earlier expression of regret at not having had time to breed, referred to more than just the horses!

If Hecla rules a small kingdom to the south of Arthur, and Yorath’s territory is to the north, how is it that Arthur, who lives closer to Hecla, has never met the fellow, and yet Yorath has gone so far as to make a treaty with him?

While Arthur and Rowena travel on their way, you can see two memeber of the crew in shot. One runs across the path behind the horses, and one is walking in front of them. Presumably, the one in front of novice rider Rowena is leading her horse.

Travelling (3) Travelling (7)

When Rowena puts her jewellery away, there is one brooch that she slips into her boot, instead of putting it back in her bag. But by the time they make their next stop, the brooch has magically turned into a dagger! Or perhaps there is a simpler explanation: she wanted to keep the brooch to use for barter, and the knife was there all along.

Bargaining (14) The Horses (12)

When she has cut her bonds, she slips the knife back into its hiding place, and by the time they are captured by the Saxons, it has very conveniently moved round to the outside of her magic boot!

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When they stop for a break, Arthur walks behind all his horses in a way that is not recommended.

Bite (2)

But these horses are so placid, that even Arthur, with all his flapping and chasing, can’t persuade them to run away with any enthusiasm!

The Horses (42) The Horses (41)

The Horses (43b) The Horses (45)

When they continue on their way, following Rowena's first escape attempt, Rowena seems to have her hands free, but moments later, we see her hands bound behind her back, and Arthur, leading her horse. But why didn’t he tie her up straight after she tried to escape? And in the shot where he is leading Rowena's horse, what has happened to the other horses he got from Yorath?

Bargaining (40) Bargaining (41)

Not that Hecla is any kind of catch, but his compliments to Rowena – “Isn’t that a fine woman, eh?” “There now, look at that! How would you like a slice of that, eh?” seem a little odd considering her tomboyish appearance. Hecla’s first wife must have been quite malnourished if Rowena really has “more meat” on her!

Rowena was quite persistent in her attempts to escape from Arthur, so why doesn’t she try to escape from Hecla’s village on her own?

How did the villager who was caught in possession of the stolen lovebirds know that they were supposed to sing? Kai couldn’t have told him – he was unconscious when they were stolen from him! And even if the villager recognised them as songbirds, why is he so annoyed? It’s not as if they cost him any money!

When Arthur says, “You still have need of a priest”, we are left to wonder whether Hecla is really to be executed, leaving his rabble leaderless. Like the line in “Enemies and Lovers” – "she got what she deserved" – the implication is that the punishment is death, and according to the blood price logic of the times, Hecla would have had to "pay" for his deeds, be it in money or blood. But execution seems a bit drastic in this case. After all, Geraint was killed in the fall; Hecla didn’t deliberately murder him, otherwise they would have killed Arthur, Kai and the other “red-shirt” as well. It seems more likely that Arthur would have settled for the release of Rowena from her promise, the return of his property, compensation for the relatives of the dead man, and a treaty.

Luckily for Arthur, he would have got his own horses back, in addition to the ones Yorath gave him!


Some of the music tracks used in this episode were:

Track 23, Arrival of Arthur: Arthur and Kai arrive on the scene.
Track 21, Celtic Bard: Kai’s lovebirds won’t sing.
Track 10, Battle on Horseback: the Celts answer a cry for help.
Track 23, Arrival of Arthur: Arthur arrives at Yorath’s village.
Track 33, Springtime: Arthur and Rowena set out along the river bank.
Track 23, Arrival of Arthur: Arthur goes back to fetch Rowena.
Track 30, Night Scene: Arthur makes Rowena cross the river.
Track 8, Kai the Saxon/Skirmish and Rout: Rowena tries to escape on her horse.
Track 34, Title Theme (bridge): Arthur and Rowena continue on their way.
Track 21, Celtic Bard: Arthur cooks a meal.
Track 20, The Fair Rowena: Arthur brings Rowena some food.
Track 5, To Battle! – Rowena gets her knife and frees the horses.
Track 10, Battle on Horseback/Bitter Victory: Arthur chases and catches the horses.
Track 6, Infiltration and Treachery: Rowena and Arthur defeat their Saxon captors.
Track 3, Celtic horns/The Longships: Arthur and his men arrive to confront Hecla.

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


Arthur …………….... Oliver Tobias
Kai ……………….… Michael Gothard
Llud ………………... Jack Watson
Yorath ………............ Georg Marischka
Rowena ………......… Gila von Weitershausen
Hecla ……….............. Peter Bowles
Erig …………….…... Kenneth Colley
Villager .….…............ Hal Galili


Director ………….…. Patrick Dromgoole
Story ………………... Robert Banks Stewart
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 With German public-service television broadcaster, Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen, usually shortened to ZDF.

2 There is no scene in any of the episodes where Gila mentions her maidenhood, so perhaps there was not enough time to re-shoot those particular lines.

3 “Moving forward, to the time of the Romans, in Great Britain, it seems the Roman cavalry horses, may have bred with the native horses, which produced a new breed, consisting probably of strains from every area from which Roman horses were taken. The effects of this cross breeding are not fully understood. Also, we do not know the extent to which the Jutes and Saxons may have introduced new breeds into England … We know, from an early high court official, that a law was passed prohibiting export of English horses, except as gifts, this suggests that the English horse was superior to many overseas breeds.”
Ray Cunningham, in “History of Horses from Ancient Times.”

4 Gerry Cullen offered these insights into the filming of the series.

Arthur, Kai, Llud and two other Celts ride into view. Llud’s left shoulder seems to be troubling him. When Kai discreetly draws Arthur’s attention to this, Arthur suggests that Llud go back and take command of their village, but Llud insists on staying with them, to go into battle.

They meet up with Mark of Cornwall, and four of his men. Arthur manages to persuade Mark to join forces with them to stop the Saxon advance at Modred’s Field,1 but not before Llud has annoyed Mark, by questioning his loyalty and courage.

They camp for the night, and most of the men pass the time by gambling. Mark’s man, Luke, tries to get Llud to join in, but Llud, still in pain, refuses, and goes to sleep clutching his sword.

Next morning, when the others are saddling up, Llud is still asleep. Mark signals to Luke that he should wake him, which he does, by rubbing Llud’s elbow with the tip of his sword.

Startled awake, Llud promptly kills Luke – an instinctive reaction he immediately regrets. Though he apologises, and offers to make amends to Luke’s family, Arthur and Kai still have to restrain Mark from killing Llud on the spot.

As Llud is washing the blood from his hand, Mark tries to engage him in combat, but Llud persuades him to wait until after they have faced the Saxons. Mark swears that, after the battle, he will kill Llud with his bare hands.

The next day as they are travelling on, Arthur and Kai have a bet on what kind of tree they will see, when they go through a gap in the hedge.

Meanwhile, Mark occupies himself by sniping at Llud. Then a rabbit scares Mark’s horse; Mark is unseated, and dragged some distance, until Llud stops the horse’s headlong dash. Badly shaken, Mark still insists that he is going to kill Llud later, and even carries on persecuting Llud during the evening meal. Llud is annoyed, and understandably worried.

The next day, the group draws lots for who will go into a stand of trees, and find a boar to kill. Llud and Mark draw the short straws, but as they look for their quarry, a Saxon appears from behind a tree, and aims a spear at Llud. Mark warns Llud in time, and kills the Saxon, but claims he only did it so he can kill Llud himself.

That night, Arthur and Kai lay bets on which ant will reach a piece of meat first, but a frog eats Kai’s ant. Kai threatens to stomp on Arthur’s ant, and they wrestle, until Llud complains about their horseplay.

The next day, they arrive at the battlefield to find it already strewn with Celtic dead. The Saxon forces line up in a defensive formation, but Arthur’s cavalry easily defeats them.

After the fight, Kai goes to check on Llud. Mark approaches, and tells Llud he’s decided to spare his life, but Llud insists that Mark keep to his word, and fight him, bare-handed. Kai then gallops off, and tricks Arthur into betting that Mark will win the fight.

Llud wins, and he and Mark shake hands, and make friends.

On the way home, Arthur wins his last bet against Kai, by beating him in a race to a shepherd’s hut.


“The Duel” was shown sixth in the series, but the presence of stubble fields indicates that it was filmed in early autumn. Other seasonal cues are also consistent with this episode having been filmed after “The Prisoner”, so Kai’s worry about meeting Mark of Cornwall makes a lot of sense, coming so soon after he lied to Mark, and fought him, in an effort to deprive him of his revenge on Roland.

Perhaps this episode was shown earlier in the sequence in order to spread Brian Blessed’s appearances as Mark of Cornwall throughout the series, rather than have them concentrated towards the middle, when he was available for filming.

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


All the scenes in this episode take place in open country; we do not see the village at Woollard at all. Presumably, this was being prepared for use as the home of both Hecla’s and Rowena’s people, in “Rowena”, which is thought to be the next episode.

Filming away from the village evidently posed problems, and the camera crew found it impossible to avoid the occasional glimpse of houses that definitely do not fit in with the period. Of course, before the advent of VCRs or DVDs, each episode would have only been seen when it was broadcast, so no one would have spotted these anachronistic dwellings, unless they had very sharp eyes!

House, top left:

Meeting with Mark (20)

Houses, upper right:

The Battle (45) Kai wins a bet (39)

Cast notes

In a long career, Max Faulkner, who played Luke in this episode, secured numerous credits, as an actor, stuntman, and stunt arranger. He appeared in an episode of the 1970s post-apocalyptic BBC TV series 'Survivors', and in Dr Who.

Eddie Eddon, “Saxon Warrior”, later appeared as an extra in Star Wars: A New Hope.

The Battle (35) Eddie 2

His character was given the name, Pello Scrambas, and a back-story in the Star Wars Expanded Universe.

Inside Information

The daughter of one of Michael's friends recalls: “In ‘The Duel’, just after the ant race, they are about to fight, and Michael sort of grins, half sticks his tongue out. That was not acting. If he was messing about, winding Alf [pet dachshund] up, or making a grab for me, he would have that playful, wicked expression on his face ... The more I see of ‘Arthur of the Britons’, the more I see that there is SO much of Michael in Kai.”

The rest of the memories she has shared can be found here.

Re-working the legend

Though the Modred/Mordred of Arthurian legend does not appear in the series, the “battle that decides” is fought on a field named after him.

Don’t call me old!

At the start of this episode, Llud seems to be feeling his age, rubbing his left shoulder. Arthur offers Llud a dignified way out of what might be an arduous journey, suggesting that one of them – naming no names – go back and – “take command of the camp.” Llud says he “was making long, hard rides” before Kai was born, which is precisely Kai’s concern. But Llud blames the weather for his discomfort, and refuses to go back, saying, “My place is at the battle – not at the hearth with the women and children.”

When they camp for the night, Luke laughs at Llud for being so keen to get his night’s sleep, saying, “Sleep is for the old.” Luke will never have experience old age; next morning, he ends up dead as a consequence of waking “a seasoned fighter”, with his sword.

On the third night, Llud takes issue with Arthur and Kai for having a little fun, asking, “What are you? Men or boys?” and telling them “You’ll get all the sport you need before you’re much older.”

But despite his grim warnings, Llud actually seems to enjoy a good fight. When they reach Modred’s Field, he rides into battle with a grin on his face, at the prospect of spilling Saxon blood, and in the end, he even seems to enjoy the fight with Mark.

The Battle (21) Mark spares Llud (85)

Incidentally, in the version of this story in the “annual” style book of the series, it is Llud’s right arm – the one with the missing hand – which is giving him trouble, but here it is his left. Presumably, it was too difficult to film Llud rubbing his right shoulder with a hand that was supposed to be prosthetic.

Family ties

Throughout the episode, Kai keeps an eye on his adopted father, noticing the problem with his shoulder early on, and trying to persuade him to return home.

He puts the blame on Luke for waking Llud with a sword, and he and Arthur stop Mark from taking immediate vengeance.

When Mark is niggling at Llud, Kai mocks Mark for falling off his horse, and after the battle, Kai immediately goes to check that Llud is alright.

On the other hand, when the fight between Llud and Mark finally begins, both Llud's adopted sons seem remarkably sanguine about it.

It is I! Mark of Cornwall!

As an ally, Mark of Cornwall remains reluctant, untrustworthy and volatile, and Llud’s implication that he lacks loyalty doesn’t help the situation. But having demanded that Arthur keep Llud out of his way during the journey, Mark at first has to leave it to his man, Luke, to do the dirty work of needling Llud, and then – next morning – waking the sleeping warrior, and getting killed for his pains.

Luke’s death gives Mark an excuse to spend the rest of the journey to Modred’s Field making Llud’s life miserable. It takes Mark’s special kind of bloody-minded pig-headedness to persist in doing so after Llud has saved his life – “Lost your appetite? I’d keep my strength up if I were you. You’re gonna need it” – and even more of the same to save Llud’s life, just so he can kill him later, because “No Saxon is going to cheat me of my revenge.”

It’s hard to tell whether Mark’s offer to ‘spare’ Llud, after he has spent three days harassing him, comes from arrogance, or cowardice; as it turns out, any doubts he might have had about his ability to beat Llud in a fist-fight were well founded.

Even after Llud has beaten him, fair and square, he still manages to get in one last dig, by referring to the fact that he was “beaten by a warrior with an iron fist.” But finally, he shakes Llud’s hand in friendship; perhaps Mark’s rehabilitation has truly begun.

A wager’s a wager

The episode title, “The Duel”, serves to describe both Mark and Llud’s struggle for supremacy, and Arthur and Kai’s much less serious competition, in which Arthur is usually the winner.

Kai has been losing for weeks, but he knows that his luck is bound to change – at least, that’s the theory! But in any case, their wagers seem largely theoretical; we never see them exchanging any coins.

They dice, they bet on the first tree they will see through a gap in the hedge, and when Kai wants to bet on the relative speed of two ants, Arthur wonders whether there is anything Kai won’t bet on. But he’s quite happy to join in the foolishness, and to manipulate the rules to his advantage, insisting that the frog Kai is worried about should be allowed on the course: “He’s part of the race. It’s the same for both of them” – even though it’s obvious that Kai’s will be the ant that gets eaten!

Next, we discover that there’s really nothing either of them won’t bet on – even the result of a fight – which was supposed to be to the death – between their father and Mark of Cornwall! When Arthur sees that they are fighting without weapons, rather than being delighted that there is less chance Llud will be killed, he complains that Kai “knew the circumstances of the fight”, and he didn’t. Kai says, “That’s what gambling’s all about. Knowing something the other man doesn’t.”

So, of course, Arthur – who doesn’t like to lose – has to have a final win, betting he will win a race to a shepherd’s hut, when he is the only one who knows the best route. He then smugly repeats Kai’s words to him – much as Llud repeated Mark’s!

Dark Age Men

Llud and Mark spend the episode measuring up against each other, but end up drawing the shortest straws.

Boar hunt (15)

The burden and loneliness of command

Though stopping a Saxon advance is a serious business, Arthur’s burden seems, if anything, to weigh a bit less heavily upon him during most of this “road trip” episode. Away from the responsibilities of the village, he finds time to relax, and have some fun.

Celts and Saxons

Arthur anticipates that the coming fight will be “the battle that decides”, because “Unless the Saxons are stopped at Modred’s Field, they’ll overrun us.”

Perhaps when, in “The Prisoner”, Kai claimed that Roland belonged to “one of Cerdig’s advance armies”, and that the Saxons were planning a big offensive, he was telling the truth.

Mark of Cornwall is finally prodded and persuaded to fight them, by appeals to his “loyalty to the blood.”

The Saxons are described as outnumbering the Celts, six to one, but lacking experience, especially against cavalry. In the end, the Saxons Arthur's men face only outnumber them by three or four to one, but some had presumably been killed in the battle that left Modred’s Field strewn with Celtic dead.

Arthur is quite right when he says, “That’s as far west as you’re going, My Friends.”

“That is bloody dangerous!”

BB stunt (7) Scene 3 (11)

The ever-reliable Merlin is called upon for the stunt where Mark is thrown from his horse, and dragged along the ground, his right foot supposedly caught in his stirrup. It's hard to tell whether it is actually Brian Blessed, or a stunt double, who is being dragged behind Merlin in the long shots, but whoever it is, you can see both of his feet are free; he is being pulled along by some kind of harness mechanism.

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It’s clear that for at least some of the shots, Brian Blessed is actually being dragged along the ground at a fair speed, and that his legs are strapped together.  He may have been being dragged behind a vehicle, rather than a horse.

BB stunt (2) BB stunt (3)

The main battle scene included lots of individual battles; the Saxons are, fortunately, very careful with their spears, and manage not to injure any of the horses ...

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The Battle (88b) (2) The Battle (88b) (4)

There are a few occasions during Llud’s fight with Mark where Jack Watson is replaced by a stuntman. Still, Jack does pretty well considering he was 57 at the time of filming!

Mark spares Llud (87) Wig (4)

Wig Wig (6)

There were quite a few stuntmen among the cast of this episode. Max Faulkner (Luke) was later involved in staging key horseback stunts in an episode of “Survivors”, so it seems possible he was also involved in horseback stunts in “The Duel.” Terry Yorke, credited as “Mahon” (one of Mark of Cornwall’s men) once doubled for Robert Taylor in jousting scenes in “Knights of the Round Table” (1953). Eddie Eddon, (“Saxon Warrior”) was a stuntman as well as an actor, and Peter Diamond, (“Saxon leader”) was a stunt arranger, performer, and sword-master

Dressed to kill?

Arthur wears his ring armour over the blue woolly shirt with the patterned cuffs, and the blue cloak he wore in “Enemies and Lovers.”

Kai is wearing the big shaggy white fur jacket first seen in “The Prisoner”, and the older of his studded tunics. Llud is clad in his studded tunic, and old white shirt.

Mark of Cornwall is wearing the tunic with the fewest studs. Clearly the one with studs all over would have been extremely uncomfortable to wear while being dragged along the ground!

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

Horses plays a big part in this episode. Arthur has heard that the enemy are inexperienced, “And they’ve never met cavalry” – his main reason for asking Mark of Cornwall for help.

Kai once again rides Moonlight, Llud, his usual mount, Curly, and Mark of Cornwall is on Merlin. The other Celts are riding Pinkie, Blondie, Pythagoras, Outlander, and Flame. Another dark bay horse – Luke’s mount – is seen too briefly to be identified.

Arthur rides Bernie for most of the episode, but for some reason, during his race with Kai at the end, he arrives on the other side of the stream riding Pinkie.

Great moments

The atmospheric opening sequence.

Mark of Cornwall, using his peculiar, scarily-polite voice to say, “I’m gonna come for you … and I’m gonna kill you … with my bare hands” – and Llud’s mimicry of him later in the episode.

The ant race. Kai’s sorrow at the loss of his “wild horse” is palpable. He is unquestionably a sentimental drunk!

Llud’s refusal to accept Mark’s offer to “spare” him.

Every scene where Arthur and Kai bicker over a bet.


Llud: He’s a Celt. And like us he cannot always have what pleases him.

Llud: Night’s for sleeping, not gambling.

Mark: When someone slays one of mine, I slay his killer.

Mark: This is not a song sung by minstrels.

Llud: Here comes trouble.

Kai: That’s what gambling’s all about. Knowing something the other man doesn’t.

“This is not a song sung by minstrels” neatly encapsulates the idea behind the whole series.

“Here comes trouble!” does a similar job for Mark of Cornwall, and possibly Brian Blessed too!

Honourable mention ...

… for the black rabbit who startles Mark’s horse, Cedric and Theodore the invisible ants, and the "frog" who makes a meal out of Cedric.

Scene 3 (7) Ant Race (45)

What’s going on here?

On meeting Arthur, Mark says, “You asked for men, I gave you men.” He must have had a change of heart since “Arthur is Dead”, because on that occasion, when Arthur made the request, the only answer Mark gave him was a look of disgust. So when Mark asks, “Why should it be I must get you out of trouble once again?” it might be pertinent to ask, “What do you mean, ‘again’?”

Mark’s imprecation to Arthur – “Keep him [Llud] out of my way” – seems a little extreme. Is it Llud’s slight on Mark’s loyalty that annoys him so much, or the doubt Llud casts on his appetite for the fight? It’s as if there is some past disagreement festering in the background, rather than just a reaction to this exchange. Perhaps Mark just got out on the wrong side of his bed this morning.

Llud often lets us know how much he loves his sleep, but it seems a bit odd that Arthur and Kai left him wrapped in his bedroll, when they were already saddling their horses.

Mark’s reaction when Llud kills Luke – “You murdering Celt!” – is also rather strange. Apparently, Mark has forgotten that he is a Celt, too!

Mark claims Luke was his “best man.” He can’t have held that position for long, because only last week, in “The Prisoner”, Mark was getting aerated because Roland had killed his “best battle leader”, Agdor. It’s almost as if Mark welcomes any excuse to take umbrage … Anyway, if Luke was such a military asset, surely he should have known better than to suddenly wake a man who goes to sleep hugging his sword.

Presumably they buried Luke before they set out – but what happened to his horse? It would have made sense to take it with them, in case one of theirs suffered injury, but there is no sign of the spare horse for the rest of the episode.

A recent archaeological dig has shown that rabbits were introduced to England by the Romans, but it seems unlikely that they were black ones.

Why did the lone Saxon in the woods where Llud and Mark were hunting boar, take the risk of attacking them? The Saxon is outnumbered, two to one, and has only a single spear. At best, he might have killed one of them, and would probably then have been killed by the survivor. It would have been more sensible for him just to sneak off quietly, and hope not to be noticed!

Arthur and Kai give their ants highly improbable names. Cursory research shows that the name ‘Cedric’ was made up by Sir Walter Scott for a character in his 1819 novel, “Ivanhoe”, and was based it on the name ‘Cerdic’! So Kai has, by an oblique route, named his ant after their Saxon enemy.

Theodore is a Greek name meaning "gift of god”; the name was uncommon in Britain before the 19th century, but perhaps Arthur learned it from the Romans ...

Arthur and Kai seem quite good at identifying trees – they know a lime from a sycamore – but they are not so good on amphibians. The creature that eats Kai’s ant is not a frog, but a toad.

When the battle is about to begin, the leading Saxon gives the command, “Slope arms”, with the result that the Saxons position their spears pointing forwards, and angled upwards. The command usually refers to a rifle, and ends with the rifle pointing over the left shoulder.

The use of cavalry was expected to give the Celts the advantage, but this particular battle was extremely one-sided. All of the Saxons are killed, without the loss of a single Celt, man or horse.

For Arthur and Kai’s last bet, how is it that Arthur knows the route to the Shepherd’s hut and Kai doesn’t? And why does Arthur finish the race on a different horse? Perhaps Pinkie was the one who knew the way!


Some of the music tracks used in this episode were:

Track 9, Muttering and Plotting: Arthur and his men meet up with Mark of Cornwall’s.
Track 13, In All Weathers: Mark attacks Llud.
Track 11, Desolation and Despair: Mark and Llud talk by the stream.
Track 10, Battle on Horseback/Bitter Victory: Mark is dragged behind his horse.
Track 6, Infiltration and Treachery: Llud and Mark go boar-hunting.
Track 33, Springtime: the Ant Race.
Track 5, To Battle! – the Celts and Saxons fight.
Track 6, Infiltration and Treachery: Mark approaches Llud after the battle.
Track 8, Kai the Saxon/Skirmish and Rout: Arthur and Kai race.
Track 32, Children’s Games: Arthur rides off, the winner.

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


Arthur …………….... Oliver Tobias
Kai ……………….… Michael Gothard
Llud ………………... Jack Watson
Mark of Cornwall ...... Brian Blessed
Luke ……………….. Max Faulkner
Mahon …………....... Terry Yorke
Saxon Leader …......... Peter Diamond
Saxon Warrior …........ Eddie Eddon


Director ………….…. Pat Jackson
Writer ……………….. Terence Feely
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 …… Brian Morgan
Editor ……………….. David Williams
Sound recordist ……... Gordon Kethro
Dubbing mixer ……… John Cross
Art Director …………. Doug James
Assistant Director …… Mike Roberts
Production Assistant … Patti Belcher
Costume Design .……. Audrey MacLeod
Make-up …………….. Christine Penwarden
Incidental music …….. Paul Lewis
Theme music ………... Elmer Bernstein

1 The names “Modred” and “Mordred” are synonymous. In the hardback version of this story, the battle area is given as “Mordred’s Field.”

A Celt watchman sees an injured Saxon stagger from hiding, and run across an open space, back to cover. The watchman blows a horn to summon help.

The Saxon, Roland, leans against a fallen tree, gets his breath back, looks at his injured hand, then laboriously moves on.

Kai arrives; the watchman points him in the direction the Saxon took. While Roland struggles on, Kai dismounts at the edge of the wood, and follows him; finding Roland’s blood on the fallen tree, he continues his pursuit.

Roland comes out into the open, with Kai not far behind. He throws his axe at Kai, and misses. Kai chases him, brings him down, and is about to despatch him when he stops, and examines a medallion Roland wears around his neck.

Mark of Cornwall and three of his men gallop past the watchman, and into Arthur’s village. Mark tells Arthur and Llud they are in pursuit of a Saxon: the last survivor of a group that attacked them. This particular Saxon killed Mark’s best battle leader, and Mark wants revenge.

Meanwhile, by the river, Kai tends Roland’s injuries. Roland was a childhood friend of Kai’s, whom he recognised by the medallion, which he gave him. He asks Roland what he remembers about the past they shared.

Back in the longhouse, Arthur and Llud entertain Mark and his men, one of whom, Pethik, accidentally let Roland escape after he had been taken prisoner.

While Kai takes Roland to a hiding place nearby, the Celt watchman goes to look for Kai. Kai and Roland hide in the bushes until he has gone past.

Mark elaborates on his plan for Roland: execution by stoning.

Kai and Roland reach the hiding place. Kai leaves him there, then encounters the watchman, and tells him that the Saxon is dead.

Mark of Cornwall, furious that Kai has cheated him of his prey, wants the Saxon’s head on a spear. Kai tells him he can’t have it, because he threw the body in the estuary. Then Kai gets up and leaves.

While Arthur tries to pacify Mark, Llud follows Kai, and interrogates him in more detail about the Saxon. When Kai can’t answer all his questions, Llud asks him what’s wrong, but Kai walks away.

That night, while Mark and his men feast with Arthur’s people in the longhouse, Kai sneaks Roland back into the village. Pethik and the Celt watchman tumble out of the longhouse and see them, but Kai and Roland manage to fool them into thinking that they are just two drunks, staggering home. Kai takes Roland to Lenni the healer’s hut. Lenni starts taking a look at Roland’s injuries.

The next morning, Pethik spots Roland’s medallion lying in the grass outside Lenni’s hut. He shows it to Mark, Arthur and Llud, then throws Lenni to the ground at their feet, telling them he found her tending the Saxon’s wound.

They approach Lenni’s hut. Kai comes out and refuses to surrender Roland, whom he claims as his prisoner. Mark demands the Arthur does something about it, and threatens to spread the word around Arthur’s allies that Arthur harbours Saxons.

Kai says he didn’t kill the Saxon because he thought they could get valuable information out of him when he was fit to talk. But when he sees he is putting Arthur in an impossible position, he backs down.

Mark’s men bring Roland out, with his hands bound, and put him on a horse. Then, while Mark is making snide comments, Kai takes a running jump onto the horse, behind Roland, and the two of them escape.

Mark and his three men give chase. Arthur and Llud make straight for Kai’s hiding place by the river, but Mark, who hid nearby to see where they would go, follows them.

Kai tells Arthur and Llud that he’s going to return the Saxon to his people; he explains that Roland was like a brother to him, when he was a child. Arthur and Llud leave.

Then Mark arrives. He and Kai fight. Kai seems to be getting the worst of it. Roland emerges from the hiding place. Kai swings his axe, misses Mark and embeds his blade in a tree trunk. Mark continues his attack. Roland hobbles towards Kai’s axe, frees it, and comes to assist him; Mark runs Roland through, and Roland falls, dead.

Kai has built a funeral pyre for Roland. As he watches it burn, we see Kai’s memory of his childhood: young Kai and Roland, play-fighting with axes, on a wooden bridge. One of the railings breaks, and young Kai falls into the water; he obviously can’t swim. Young Roland jumps in, and helps young Kai to the bank, and out of the water. Young Kai puts the medallion around young Roland’s neck, and they shake hands.


Seasonal cues – thistles, willowherb and grasses all seeding, and ivy in bud – put the episode in early September, probably just after “Go Warily.”

Lenni’s appearance – her second, and last in the series – also makes it seem likely that the two episodes were filmed one after the other. It would probably have looked odd to show them one after the other, because the plots of both episodes involved a medallion!

As this is the first time we have seen Mark of Cornwall since “Arthur is Dead”, so Llud announces him on his arrival in the village, as if to remind the audience of who he is.

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


At the beginning of the episode, the distant views of the village at Woollard are from the north-west. Mark and his men approach along the track from the south west, and Arthur comes out to greet them through the door at the south east end of the longhouse.

vlcsnap-2015-04-04-19h11m57s4 He's my prisoner (29)

A sturdy bridge has been built over the ditch that runs along the south west side of the longhouse. Lenni’s hut is across the bridge. A palisade has been erected, starting at the corner of the longhouse (behind Lenni, in blue), which splits the north east part of the village from the south west. This is probably to allow the village to be adapted for use by two groups of people at once, in future episodes.

Roland’s funeral pyre is on the hillside to the south of the village.

Cast notes

Roland is played by one of the finest actors of his generation, Michael Gambon, in a very bad wig.

Catching Roland (12) Interrogating Kai (13)

Brian Blessed returns to the series, as Mark of Cornwall.

Inside Information

Brian Blessed said that since filming this episode, he has joked with Michael Gambon that if he’d known how famous he was going to be, he would have run him through for real! More of Brian’s memories can be found here.

It is I, Mark of Cornwall!

Mark blusters back into the series, and into Arthur’s village, demanding food and fresh horses to chase a fleeing Saxon, determined to catch him, then kill someone who is essentially a prisoner of war, by public stoning, or at least have his head on a spear.

No one likes a gloater, and Mark is definitely one of those, telling his men to make Roland “comfortable” on the horse, to ensure that he survives to die a horrifying death.

Then he twists the knife – and tries to drive a wedge between Kai and Arthur – by suggesting that Kai could have slain the Saxon, "as a loyal gesture” for Arthur’s benefit. This seems all the more brutal, knowing – as the viewer does, but Mark does not – that Roland is not just any Saxon, but a childhood friend of Kai’s.

Brian Blessed’s subtle performance makes Mark a bit more than just a bully. He sees the funny side when Arthur catches him out, and he does eventually show some empathy. When Roland sacrifices his life for Kai, Mark looks perplexed, and perhaps a bit ashamed: but it is too little, too late.

The fight (89) The fight (112)

Dark Age Men

When Mark arrives at Arthur’s village, he indulges in the usual posturing: “While you sit and laze, like old men, I fight”, with the usual wry response from Arthur: “And get the worst of it, by the looks of you.”

Llud isn’t above baiting Mark: “Four mounted men couldn’t catch one lone Saxon on foot”, and Arthur also piles on the ridicule: “The Saxon escaped … After you’d taken him prisoner?”

All this puts a lot of pressure on Mark’s underling, Pethik, who Mark says “has a dent in that thick skull” as punishment for letting the Saxon go. So perhaps it’s no wonder Pethik treats Lenni in such an unchivalrous manner, throwing her to the ground when he finds her tending the man whose escape got him into trouble with his leader.

When Kai stands up to Mark, the inevitable result is more bluster, with Mark demanding to know, “What’s happened to the mighty Arthur? Isn’t he leader here any more?”

Arthur’s wisdom

Arthur “handles” Mark of Cornwall remarkably well: defusing the situation when Mark is cheated of his prey, by getting Kai to describe the Saxon’s death, and backing Kai up as much as he can: “Kai did right. How could he have known how much this particular Saxon meant to you? How could he?”

By concealing a prisoner, both from Mark and from Arthur himself, Kai puts Arthur in an unenviable position, and despite this, Arthur refuses to let Mark push him into acting hastily, but waits until Kai provides an – albeit spurious – explanation for his behaviour.

Even when Mark threatens him, for the second time, with the loss of all his treaties with Mark’s kinsmen, he waits, giving Kai the chance to voluntarily surrender Roland. Much as he can’t afford to put his alliances at risk, neither does he want to lose his lieutenant, who also happens to be his friend and brother.

Family Ties

Even when Kai rides off with Roland, there is no question in either Arthur or Llud’s mind, where their loyalties lie. Llud says they should follow, because “if Mark catches them, he’ll kill Kai”, and Arthur is in complete agreement.

One of the most poignant exchanges occurs outside the hiding place, when Llud says, “We thought we’d lost you”, and Arthur replies, “Perhaps we have.”

This is Arthur’s nightmare made flesh, harking back to his anxious words to Kai – “Don’t get too involved with your Saxon brothers” – before sending him to Ulrich’s camp with Krist and Elka in “The Gift of Life.”

And when Kai explains, “We were small boys together, in the Saxon village that was once my home. He was not just a friend. He was as a brother to me”, neither Arthur nor Llud try to dissuade him from his course of action. They both realise that such loyalties cannot be questioned, so they leave him, to do what they know he must. But if Arthur’s jealous reaction to Goda in “Enemies and Lovers” is anything to go by, Kai’s description of Roland - “as a brother to me” - probably hurt Arthur a great deal.

The hot-headed side-kick – a man divided

Roland immediately recognises Kai: “Saxon who kills Saxons. You’re Kai, who rides with Arthur.” But Kai doesn’t kill him because around Roland's neck, he sees a medallion which he recognises. He remembers giving the medallion to Roland, though we don’t yet find out why, and learns from Roland that his name – before Llud took him in – was Brett.

What with the trauma of losing his parents, and having to adapt to life as a Celt, it’s not surprising he doesn’t remember much. But when Roland reminds him that they lived on the coast, where a river flowed into the sea, near some cliffs, Kai’s memory starts to return: “We had a little boat on that river. And there was a rope to swing across.”

Roland tells him that their parents ended up in different villages, though it isn’t clear whether this was before or after Kai was found abandoned, by Llud.

When Kai stands up to Mark, his position is a little better than Arthur’s, in that he knows why he is putting Arthur’s alliances at risk. In the end, he pretends to back down, and has to watch his friend being manhandled onto a horse, ready to be taken for execution. But he can’t allow that to happen, so he helps Roland escape.

Arthur and Llud catch up with him, but seem to accept Kai's rather tenuous argument: “Your reputation as a leader is no longer at stake. The treaties are safe. We’re not in Arthur’s village, so Arthur is no longer responsible.”

What Arthur can’t understand is why Kai can apparently “no longer kill one of his Saxon friends.” He is just being sarcastic; he doesn't know that Roland is, in fact, one of Kai’s friends, but Kai – clearly very upset by the trouble he has caused Arthur, but resolved to protect Roland – is forced to tell him. For some reason, he doesn’t mention the very important fact, only revealed in the flashback to his youth at the end of the episode – that Roland saved his life.

Celts and Saxons

Like Rulf in “People of the Plough”, Roland is a Saxon who can ride a horse.

Yet again, we see that the Celts aren’t the only ones with a grievance; Roland's mother and father were killed during an attack by the Celts. So we can’t blame him for being surprised that a Celt healer will be willing to take care of a Saxon’s wounds. Obviously Kai’s reputation for killing Saxons is much more widely known than his popularity with the ladies!

But Arthur can’t afford for his allies to be told that he “harbours Saxons, and tends their wounds as he would his own kind.” Even Kai’s ingenious excuse for keeping Roland alive – “He belongs to one of Cerdig’s advance armies … When he’s fit enough to talk, we can learn much” – cuts no ice with Mark of Cornwall.

“That is bloody dangerous!”

Kai takes a magnificent flying leap onto the back of Roland’s horse.

Kai and Roland flee (27) Kai and Roland flee (30)

Kai and Roland flee (33) Kai and Roland flee (35)

He also has a fierce fight with Mark of Cornwall.

“Night-night, Kiddies!”

Mark’s suggestion that Roland be stoned is quite horrific.

Dressed to kill?

Kai wears a big, ragged, white fur jacket, the newer of his studded tunics, and the blue lace-up shirt that Arthur was wearing in “In Common Cause.” At the end of the episode, he has swapped his usual boots for a pair of loafers.

Catching Roland (18) Shoes

Arthur wears a new big grey fur cloak, and a new woolly blue shirt, with stud decorations up the arms.

Llud wears a jerkin with studs around the edge, which he appears to have stolen from Morcant, from “Enemies and Lovers.”

Mark arrives (16) Arrival at Athel's (39)

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

When Kai answers the Celt watchman’s call, he is riding Moonlight.

Mark of Cornwall arrives in Arthur’s village riding Pinkie. A nice touch is the “wound” Pinkie sports on his shoulder. Mark’s men are mounted on Blondie, Pythagoras and Outlander.

Mark arrives (17)

To be taken back to Mark’s camp, Roland is loaded onto Blondie, who also puts up with Kai leaping onto him from behind, and carries both of them out of the village.

Mark pursues on Pinkie. The rest of his men follow on Outlander, Pythagoras and Flame.

Llud rides his usual mount, Curly, and Arthur rides Bernie.

When Mark arrives at Kai’s hideout, he is riding Jim. He does the unconventional forward-facing dismount favoured by Arthur, and – presumably because he rides in from the left, he does it on the horse’s right side. As a result, although he is right handed, he has to keep his sword on his right side, which makes it quite awkward to draw.

The fight (6) The fight (11)

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

The best laid plans …

Hiding Roland in Arthur’s village is not one of Kai’s best moves.

Mark, on the other hand, shows considerable cunning by lying in wait, and letting Arthur and Llud lead him to Kai’s hideout.

Great moments

Mark, angrily demanding “Whose idea was it to pause in the hunt?” and Arthur’s deadpan reply, “Yours”. This is a rare moment of humour in an episode which, after a bit of a slow start, is full of tension and drama.

The exchange in the longhouse, when Kai has to lie to protect Roland, and Llud’s painful interrogation of Kai.

He's my prisoner (38) Mark demands (84)

Kai, defying Mark: “You’ll have to kill me first.” followed by his sudden change of tack: “Of course, if Mark feels so strongly, he must have the prisoner.”

The look of affront Arthur turns on Mark when he makes a demand.

Kai’s leap onto the back of Roland’s horse.

The sad exchange between Kai, Arthur and Llud outside the hiding place, and Mark’s dramatic arrival.

The subtle reactions of Kai and Mark when Roland falls, dead.

Kai’s dignified farewell to Roland as the pyre, burns.

Young Kai putting the medallion around young Roland’s neck.


Arthur: A life for a life is usually enough.

Mark: Blood protects blood. A Celtic name does not make him a Celt.

Arthur: Nobody demands, from Arthur.

On the table

As usual, everyone is talking while eating apples, and bits of meat!

Extra! Extra!

Stuntman, Terry Yorke puts in an appearance as one of Mark’s men, holding Blondie’s head while Kai jumps on.

Kai and Roland flee (33)

Honourable mention

Roy Herrick gives a convincing performance as Pethik, Mark’s downtrodden underling, desperate to improve his standing. Roy was only 52 when he died, in 1988.

Mark and Pethik (14) To Lenni's hut (18)

He's my prisoner (24) He's my prisoner (18)

Who died, and made you Sherlock Holmes?

The sceptical reactions when Kai says he killed the Saxon seem very odd. After all, it’s not as if he hasn’t killed Saxons before! He’s well known for doing so. Yet Arthur asks, “Where did you fight?” and Mark demands to know where, and why, Kai disposed of the body.

Then Llud goes at it like a dog with a bone: “The estuary’s a long way from the forest. The sentry could have helped you dig a grave.” Kai’s logical answer: “And leave his post?” doesn’t give him any respite from interrogation. Llud wants to know the exact place he dumped the body, and when Kai tells him, “At the deepest point opposite the flat rock”, Llud casts doubt in Kai’s ability to “hurl a weighted body so far”, and suggests that he waded in. Kai jumps on this solution, “Yes … I waded in”, but even this isn’t good enough for sharp-eyed Llud, who observes, “Your boots are bone dry”, and thinks Kai’s axe is too clean.

Kai could have said, “I took my boots off” and “unlike Arthur, I always clean my weapon after a fight”! But by this point, fed up with having to defend himself, and he just gives up.

And next morning, in the harsh light of day, Pethik – who saw two blond fellows staggering about a Celt village last night, but couldn’t work out why that bothered him – also has the eyes of a hawk, spotting Roland’s medallion lying on the ground from some distance away, and telling Mark “This belongs to the Saxon that we’re looking for … When we had him captive, I saw this round his neck.”

Then Mark of Cornwall stakes out Arthur's village, and tails Llud and Arthur to Kai’s hide-out.

All of which makes one wonder when this became a detective series!

What’s going on here?

When Kai and Roland first confront each other, Roland throws his axe at Kai. Why on earth would you risk losing your only weapon – unless it was a spear – by throwing it?

Mark arrives with bloody wounds on his arm, just like the ones he sustained in “Arthur is Dead”! Is this his only vulnerable spot? Or did the make-up department want to draw attention to Brian Blessed’s extremely muscular arms?

Mark arrives (22) Fighting Cerdig (25)

Llud mocks Mark of Cornwall: “Four mounted men couldn’t catch one lone Saxon on foot.” But why is Llud so determined to wind Mark up?

Mark claims that his “best battle leader, Agdor” was killed by Roland. He can’t have been a very impressive battle leader, if Roland managed to kill him.

That's King Athel sitting in the chair with the grey fur hanging over the back. He's chosen an inconvenient time to pay Arthur a visit!

King Athel

When Pethik and the Celt Watchman see two blond men staggering home, they must be very drunk, not to realise something is amiss. Even if the hair doesn't puzzle them, where do they think have the two have been drinking? Is there a pub at the other end of the village?

Why didn’t Kai stop Pethik dragging Lenni out of her hut? He was standing in the doorway, after all.

Kai’s excuse for hiding Roland – the information they will get from him – implies the use of threats or torture. Would Arthur really stoop to such methods?

Kai’s assertion - “Your reputation as a leader is no longer at stake. The treaties are safe. We’re not in Arthur’s village, so Arthur is no longer responsible” - seems a bit of a stretch.

When Kai fights Mark, his axe is often turned the wrong way.

The fight (18) The fight (19)

He appears to be trying not to injure Mark ...

The fight (25) The fight (23)

On the other hand, this tree has taken a bit of punishment from Kai’s axe!

The fight (60) The fight (59)

Mark seems to have stopped in the middle of the fight, to change his tunic.

The fight (110) The fight (89)

A particular annoyance in this episode is the piece of hair or grass that was moving about in the lens for much of the episode. Apologies to those who hadn’t noticed it before …


Some of the music tracks used in this episode were:

Track 16, Danger Mounts: Kai tracks Roland through the woods.
Track 26, Evil Stirs: Mark of Cornwall wants revenge.
Track 3, Celtic Horns/The Longships: Kai remembers Roland’s medallion.
Track 20, The Fair Rowena: Kai remembers their shared past.
Track 16, Danger Mounts: the Celt watchman looks for Kai.
Track 19, Celtic Dance: the Celts feast.
Track 18, Celtic Girl: Lenni cares for Roland.
Track 14, Chase! – Kai and Roland escape.
Track 7, Hesitation and Achievement: Mark lies in wait.
Track 5, To Battle! – Kai and Mark fight.
Track 20, The Fair Rowena: Kai lights the funeral pyre and remembers Roland.

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


Arthur …………….... Oliver Tobias
Kai ……………….… Michael Gothard
Llud ………………... Jack Watson
Mark of Cornwall ...... Brian Blessed
Roland ………….….. Michael Gambon
Taber …………….…. Paul Greenhalgh
Pethik ………….….... Roy Herrick
Lenni ……………….. Sally James
Young Kai .................. Timothy Peverall


Director ………….…. Pat Jackson
Writer …………......... Robert Banks-Stewart
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 …… Brian Morgan
Editor ……………….. David Samuel-Camps
Sound recordist …….. Gordon Kethro
Dubbing mixer ……... John Cross
Art Director ………… Doug James
Assistant Director …... Mike Roberts
Production Assistant ... Ann Rees
Costume Design .……. Audrey MacLeod
Make-up …………….. Christine Penwarden
Incidental music …….. Paul Lewis
Theme music ………... Elmer Bernstein

We hear ominous music. Llud is chased down a hill by a huge masked warrior, carrying a spear, and gets trapped against a tree. The warrior, Brosk, throws his spear, missing Llud by inches. Llud stumbles down a bank into a river, and falls to his hands and knees. Brosk closes in.

In the grip of a nightmare, Llud cries out, waking Arthur, who rushes over and tries to calm him, and eventually resorts to throwing a bucket of water over him. Llud wakes, relieved.

Arthur goes out to fill the bucket from the trough, and calls Lenni, the village healer.

Back in the Longhouse, Llud refuses to discuss his dream. Arthur thinks he’s unwell, and insists that Llud allow Lenni to take care of him.

Llud is concerned to hear that Brandreth is leading an armed contingent their way; he says Brandreth’s tribe are treacherous. But Kai checks out Brandreth’s party, and soon joins them around their campfire. Brandreth wants to meet Arthur, and swear a pact of allegiance.

Back in the Longhouse, while Lenni sits sewing near the door, Llud lies in bed, experiencing his nightmare vision again.

One of Brandreth’s men secretly tells Brandreth’s twin brother, Gavron, about the planned meeting. Gavron means to ambush his twin en route. Brosk, the warrior from Llud’s vision – one of Gavron’s men – wheels a large hand-cart into position.

Outside the Longhouse, Llud looks at his hands in a worried manner.

On Gavron’s signal, Brosk upends the hand-cart, blocking the path of Brandreth and his party. Gavron’s men attack, and take Brandreth prisoner. Gavron prepares to take his place at the meeting with Arthur.

When Llud realises that the rendezvous between Arthur and Brandreth will be at the place he dreamed about, he wants to attend, but Arthur tells him to stay behind, in command of the camp.

As Llud lies on his bed, staring fearfully at the visions in his head, we see a large pendant hanging from a thong around his neck. Lenni wakes Llud, and presents him with a sleeping potion. Llud tells her to send Arthur to him, and puts the sleeping powder into a drink he has poured for Arthur.

The next morning, while Arthur lies in a drug-induced sleep, Llud tells Kai that Arthur agreed to let him take his place at the meeting. Kai knows Llud is lying, but sets out with him anyway. When they arrive at the meeting place, Gavron takes them prisoner, and ties them up. Kai berates Llud for not speaking of his premonition.

Arthur wakes, and realises what has happened. He asks the Minstrel how long ago Kai and Llud left, then sticks his head in the water trough.

Gavron reminds Kai and Llud that, four years ago, Arthur killed his father in battle. He has Llud taken out and staked to the ground, where Brosk thrusts Llud’s good hand into a fire, to force Llud send Arthur a message. Llud eventually agrees to do it. He pretends to try to write, but says his hand is too badly hurt. He suggests that Gavron write the message for him, and send his pendant in lieu of a signature.

Arthur receives the letter, and agrees to attend.

Still tied to a pole, Kai asks his guard for a drink. When the man returns, Kai trips him, breaks his neck, and uses his sword to free himself. But when he makes a run for it, he encounters more of Gavron’s men, and has to surrender.

Arthur approaches the meeting place, and falls into the same pit-trap as Kai and Llud. Gavron’s men surround him, but Arthur’s superior force surrounds and captures them in turn. Arthur then makes Gavron lure the rest of his men out, and Arthur’s men overpower them.

Arthur reveals that he knew something was wrong because the message claimed that Llud could not write because of his injured hand, whereas Llud never learned to write at all. Gavron is taken away at spear-point.

When Brosk breaks away from his Celt captors, Llud chases after him, and they begin to re-enact his nightmare, but this time, Brosk throws a spear into the river bank; Llud manages to pull it out, and kill Brosk with it.

Back in the longhouse, Kai lies in bed, apparently in the grip of a nightmare. Arthur and Llud wake him, and Kai tells them about his horrible dream, where he is carried off by a giant, which turns out to be a woman, whose captivity he has no desire to escape! Kai and Arthur both start laughing, and Llud throws a bucket of water over them both.

Author note

The script for “Go Warily” seems to have been the only work by Jonathen Crown that saw the light of day.


“Go Warily” appears after “People of the Plough” in both the “Konig Arthur” book, and the German DVDs, so that order seem likely to be correct. The grass looks quite dry, as would be expected in late summer, and thistles are flowering near Gavron’s encampment.

vlcsnap-2015-01-27-01h25m36s110 Gavron defeated (3)

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


We don’t see much of Arthur’s village in this episode: just a small area to the south of the longhouse, where Arthur goes to speak to the Minstrel, and another, further to the south west, where Kai and Llud have words near a small hut. The rest of the village was probably being adapted to accommodate both Yorath the Jute’s people, and Hecla’s, in the next episode: “Rowena.”

According to Executive Producer Patrick Dromgoole, Brandreth/Gavron’s camp was in the Blackdown Hills.

Inside information

The daughter of one of Michael's friends recalls: "At the end of 'Go Warily', when Arthur and Kai are winding Llud up, you see Kai laughing at the trick he has played; that was exactly the way he was if he was laughing so hard he couldn't stop.

The more I see of ‘Arthur of the Britons’, the more I see that there is SO much of Michael in Kai."

The rest of the memories she has shared can be found here.

Cast notes

Sally James who plays the mute healer, Lenni, is perhaps better remembered as a presenter of shows such as Pop Quest and the anarchic Tiswas. She now owns and runs a business that supplies school uniforms.

Having recently played Col, the blacksmith in “The Slaves”, Dave Prowse, better known as Darth Vader, plays the huge masked warrior, Brosk. Presumably, the mask was to hide the actor’s identity.

Arthur starts work (10) Dream (5)

Jeremy Taylor, who played the Minstrel, is a folk singer and comedian.

Arthur wakes (11) Jeremy Taylor

The unmistakeable Tom Baker, best known as the fourth Doctor in “Doctor Who”, plays the twins, Brandreth and Gavron.

"By the Gods!"

The only religious references in the episode are when Llud invites Gavron to “Burn in hell” and when Kai, fooling around at the end, cries out “In the name of the gods, no! No!”

Dark Age Men

Most of the problems our heroes encounter in this episode could have been avoided, if Llud hadn’t insisted on keeping his worries to himself. Instead of telling Arthur and Kai about his horrible dream, he just apologises for making a fuss, and warns Arthur not to intrude. And when Arthur refuses to include him in the planned trip to visit Brandreth, he makes sure that it is Arthur who takes a sleeping draft intended for him, because real men don’t need rest or medication!

Kai takes Llud’s insistence on assessing Brandreth for himself as a slight: “Are you not prepared to accept my word?” – and is quite annoyed when they are captured. Llud explains: “I brought you both up never to show any fear. Would you have had me admit to it?”

At the end, Llud feels honour-bound to personally dispatch the man who has haunted his dreams.

The best laid plans …

Gavron’s plan to take revenge upon Arthur might actually have worked if Llud hadn’t drugged him. Instead, Llud tricks Gavron into giving himself away, allowing Arthur to take counter-measures.

Family Ties

Gavron’s determination to kill Arthur is because of a battle, fought, four years before, in which Arthur killed the father of Brandreth and Gavron. Gavron, the Evil Twin, says his brother is weak for wanting to make peace with Arthur.

Celts and Saxons

Explaining Brandreth’s desire to make peace, Kai says: “He also has the Saxon wolves snapping at his heels. He would move his people to greater safety and join his army to ours.” Brandreth believes that revenge is simply impractical; he tells Gavron, “We Celts are fighting the Saxon now. Old hatreds, Brother, lie behind us.”

Don’t call me old!

Llud gets angry when Arthur suggests that he is ill or over-tired: “Llud is not old yet. Nor feeble … I need no nursemaid!”

This seems to be the first episode in which Llud is credited with more than usual foresight – later referred to in terms of his “nose twitching.” But it seems the future is not set in stone, providing one takes precautions.

“That is bloody dangerous!”

There is a minor skirmish when Gavron’s men ambush Brandreth’s, in which Brandreth is dragged from his horse.

Kai and Llud, and Arthur all have to fall into a pit trap.

Trapped (27) Arthur turns the tables (37)

Brosk is hit with a spear and drowned. The person who actually goes under is a stand-in; witness the disappearance of Brosk’s beard!

Dream laid (30) Dream laid (49)

“Night-night, Kiddies!”

Llud’s torture, and Kai breaking a man’s neck between his thighs, might be considered a bit much for today’s teatime audience!

Torture (3) Kai escapes (22)

Dressed to kill?

Arthur wears his woolly blue shirt with the embroidered cuffs for most of the episode. When he goes to meet Gavron, he wears his ring armour over it. In the final scene he once again wears the pale blue lace-up shirt he wore in “In Common Cause”: the same one Kai wears in the first scene of “Daughter of the King.”

For his meeting with Brandreth and discussion with Arthur and Llud, Kai wears the new studded tunic first seen in “People of the Plough.” When he sets out to meet Brandreth for the second time, he is wearing the brown suede shirt he wore in “The Challenge.” In the final scene, Kai wears the white shirt he wore in “People of the Plough.”

Llud wears the same old white shirt for most of the episode, as well as the significant pendant. When he goes to meet Brandreth, he wears what looks like the same jacket he wore in “The Challenge”, but with a brown shirt under it. Gavron deprives him of both of these, leaving him in just his white shirt again while he is being tortured.

Brosk’s mask is the same one used by King Athel in “Enemies and Lovers”, but with some extra bits of metal, leather and fur stuck on.

Aftermath (21) Dream laid (30)

Out of Brandreth and Gavron, the evil twin – as one might expect – seems to be the snappier dresser.

Ambush (32) Ambush (31)

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

Kai rides Moonlight. Llud, as usual, rides Curly, and Arthur rides Skyline. Brandreth and Gavron both ride Pythagoras. Other horses involved in the scenes where Brandreth and subsequently Gavron are ambushed are Blondie, Merlin, Flame, Pinkie, and Jim. Also in the melee are the dark brown horse with the star, first seen in “People of the Plough”, and a new horse, with a wide blaze, Outlander.


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

On the table

Brandreth has some bread in a bowl at his camp. Arthur has a bowl of what looks like pears on his table in the longhouse.


Arthur: They say you should never disturb another man’s dreams.
Llud: Or intrude on them afterwards.

Llud: Bed’s no place for any warriors.

Arthur: The way Llud feels today, he’d suspect his own shadow.

Llud: He’s mine! I have a dream to put to rest!

Great moments

The scene where Lenni, as part of her duties, wakes Llud up to give him a sleeping draft. Typical nurse!

Every scene where Gavron looks gleefully into camera.

Kai breaking the guard’s neck with his thighs, and the furtive look he gives afterwards.

Llud soaking Kai and Arthur at the end.

What’s going on here?

Arthur’s method of waking Llud – shouting at and shaking him – doesn’t seem very likely to calm him down!

He then gets water for Llud – who he thinks might be sick – from the horse trough, and later sticks his own head in it. Health and Safety?

Why is Lenni, the village healer, mute? Were they being inclusive, or just saving money by giving actress, Sally James, a non-speaking role?

In these scene where Brandreth is ambushed by Gavron’s men, he is pulled from Pythagoras’ back. Gavron then arrives – also riding Pythagoras. Has the horse, too, got an evil twin?

Brandreth on Pythagoras Ambush (26)

Given Llud’s forebodings, it seems odd that he and Kai still manage to fall into a trap, even though Gavron’s suggestion, “Leave your horses to water, and approach”, could hardly have sounded more suspicious.

If Brandreth’s people are from East Anglia – “the eastern marshlands” – why were they fighting over hunting grounds in Sarum (Salisbury), more than 100 miles from their home?

When we first see Kai tied to the post, he is still wearing his shirt; a few minutes later, still tied to the post, he is somehow – once again – stripped to the waist. One of Gavron’s men must have untied him, removed his shirt, and tied him up again. But why?

Gavron's demands (25) Writing (18)

There are some interesting paintings on one of the hangings in Gavron’s tent.

Kai escapes (20)

Very few people in those times could read or write; why would Gavron assume that Llud was one of them?

Why does Llud insist on describing his pendant as a “brooch”? Is it because he’s a man, and he’s not supposed to know about jewellery? And if Arthur knows it so well, why is this the first time we’ve seen it? Even assuming Arthur recognised it, how would it serve as a sign of Llud’s agreement with the contents of a letter? Wouldn’t it occur to Arthur that Gavron might have taken it without Llud’s permission?

Gavron’s man, Kellas, evidently considers himself a medical man. When Arthur asks if Llud is badly hurt, he diagnoses “a sprain”!

When Arthur has been captured, his men ride to the rescue on some of the same horses that previously belonged to Brandreth or Gavron.

If Gavron was really so intent on revenge, he would have killed Arthur while he was in the pit, regardless of the fact the Arthur’s men had arrived. Evidently he was not prepared to risk his life.

When Llud is chasing Brosk at the end, it seems a bit foolish to throw his sword at him. And why is Llud seen running down this hill, when he’s already run off in the opposite direction?

Dream laid (34) Dream laid (24)

In his dream about being chased by Brosk, Llud is shirtless, but when he re-enacts the dream in real life, he is wearing the white shirt.


As the Minstrel, Jeremy Taylor sings:

Where the grass lies low, and the wind sweeps wide.
Where the black dove flies, by the green lakeside.
There I must go ... must stand … must stare.
For ’twas there on the lake, that I lost me a bride
If the stones could walk, and the mountains move.
If the trees could talk …

Unlike most of the songs that have featured in the show so far, Jeremy Taylor’s doesn’t seem relevant to the story.

Some of the music tracks used in this episode were:

Track 12, Duel: used whenever Llud is experiencing the nightmare vision.
Track 19, Celtic Dance: Arthur fetches water and speak to Lenni.
Track 5, To Battle! – Brosk prepares to ambush Brandreth.
Track 6, Infiltration and Treachery: Llud drugs Arthur’s drink, and departs with Kai.
Track 16, Danger Mounts: Gavron threatens Llud and has him tortured.
Track 11, Desolation and Despair: Llud is forced to try to write a message.
Track 26, Evil Stirs: Kai kills his guard; Arthur is trapped,
Track 23, Arrival of Arthur: Arthur’s men come to the rescue.

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


Arthur …………….... Oliver Tobias
Kai ……………….… Michael Gothard
Llud ………………... Jack Watson
Brandreth/Gavron …. Tom Baker
Kellas ……………… Colin Rix
Cador …………......... Alfred Maron
Brosk …………......... Dave Prowse
Lenni …………......... Sally James
Minstrel ……………. Jeremy Taylor
Guard …………......... Michael Ely


Director ………….…. Sidney Hayers
Story ………………... Jonathen Crown
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 ……………….. Barry Peters
Sound recordist ……... Barrie 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

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.


“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


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.


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)


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.


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


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

Arthur is riding through open country, while Kai follows on foot, leading his lame horse. Arthur knows a blacksmith in a nearby village, who should be able to help, but when they get there, the place seems deserted.

Leaving their horses, Kai and Arthur cautiously approach, split up, and run to scout out different areas. Just as Arthur finds what he identifies as a Saxon shield lying on the ground, an arrow hits Kai in the leg.

Having suffered no great harm, he manages to pull it out, and together they investigate the hut from which the arrow came. They find the archer: a young boy, Frith, whom Arthur knows as Col the Blacksmith’s son.

Frith shot at Kai because he recognised him as a Saxon, but Arthur assures him that Kai is a friend. Col’s wife, Mair, comes out of hiding, and explains that the Saxons raided the village three days ago, and took the men away. She despairs of getting them back, but Arthur is certain that Llud will be able to track them.

Next, Kai and Arthur are seen on the trail, with Llud in the lead. They track the missing men to a quarry, where they are working as slaves, under the supervision of a Saxon foreman, and some guards.

Discipline is harsh. When Col, evidently exhausted, stops to rest, the foreman, Rodolf, gives him a blow with his whip.

Kai wants to go back for reinforcements, to effect a rescue, but Arthur says they are too far into Saxon territory to bring a large force in, and that they already have an army here – the slaves.

So Kai leads Arthur and Llud, roped together, up to Rodolf, and berates him for letting these two Celt slaves escape, and for not getting the work done more quickly.

Rodolf resents having his authority usurped, but seems to accept Kai’s story, that he is a new supervisor, sent by Cerdig. Arthur is taken up the ledge, and shackled at the rock face, not far from Col. The Saxon guard hands Arthur a sledge-hammer. Arthur gives Col a reassuring nod.

Heardred the builder shows Kai the armoury, then lunch is served, both to the Celt slaves, and – by Heardred’s daughter, Thuna – to Heardred, Rodolf, and Kai.

It is clear that both Heardred and Thuna think Rodolf treats the slaves too harshly; Thuna rejects an advance from Rodolf, and goes to sit near Kai.

While a guard watches the slaves from a little way off, Arthur tells Col to spread the word that an escape is being planned.

Once back on the ledge, Col, on the point of collapse, leans against the rock face. Rodolf comes over and delivers another blow with the whip, and Col falls to the ground.

Rodolf prepares to hit him again, but Arthur steps forward and tells Rodolf to leave him.

As Arthur turns back to the cliff face, Rodolf draws back his arm to strike Arthur with the bullwhip, but Arthur, anticipating reprisals for his insubordination, hits Rodolf in the stomach with the handle of his sledgehammer.

Rodolf drops to his knees. Another Saxon pins Arthur against the cliff face with his axe. Rodolf draws a knife, gets up, and comes towards Arthur.

Kai arrives in time to put himself between them. Rodolf want to kill Arthur but Kai says that Cerdig wouldn’t approve of killing a valuable worker. Arthur will be flogged instead, and Kai insists that he be the one to mete out punishment.

Thuna, Heardred, and all the slaves and their guards, watch as Arthur is tied, spread-eagled, to a large rock. While pretending to check that the ropes are secured, Kai has a private word with Arthur. Then he comes down from the platform surrounding the rock, and begins his grim task.

When the flogging is over, the Saxons take Arthur by the arms and drag him away, followed by Heardred and Rodolf. Heardred insists Arthur be put on a bale of hay.

The watching crowd disperses, leaving Kai, standing alone, contemplating the blood on his hand from the whip. Then he realises that Thuna is watching him.

Kai and Llud go to the armoury and set to work concealing weapons inside bales of hay. Kai agonises over what he’s done, but Llud tells him that he had no choice.

That evening, at dinner, Rodolf tells Thuna the slaves will work harder tomorrow, having seen Arthur flogged today. When Rodolf has gone, Thuna berates her father for the cruelty involved in this project.

To the surprise of Llud and the other slaves, gathered around Arthur, Thuna brings a bowl of salve to spread on Arthur’s back. Kai comes to see how Arthur is faring, and is disconcerted to see Thuna there. She says she won’t betray him.

The next day, while work continues, Llud, who is working near the huts, hears a new Supervisor, Ensel, telling Heardred that he has been sent by Cerdig, and that Kai must be an imposter. Thinking quickly, Thuna calls Llud over, and tells him to inform Rodolf.

While Thuna distracts Ensel, Llud hurries off, and tells Kai that they must stage their rebellion right away. Kai orders the Celts to bring fresh hay for their beds, and they start carrying bales, containing hidden weapons, towards the sleeping area.

Ensel goes to find out why Rodolf hasn’t reported to him yet.

Meanwhile, Rodolf comes to see what Kai is doing. Kai tells him the Celts needed fresh bedding if they weren’t to get sick, delaying the work, but Rodolf kicks at the bales, and finds a hidden sword.

High up on the cliff face, Ensel sees what’s happening, and calls out a warning. Arthur throws his sledge-hammer, knocking Ensel off the cliff.

The Celts and Saxons start fighting. During the battle, Kai makes sure he comes face to face with Rodolf, relieves him of his axe, and eventually strangles him with his own whip. The Celts have won.

Arthur, Llud and Kai mount their horses and set off, but Thuna appears, and Kai comes back to bid her farewell. Thuna looks sad as he rides away.

The former slaves walk home to their village, pondering their traumatic experience at the quarry. When they arrive home, Arthur, Kai and Llud ride in, followed by the men they have freed. A happy crowd runs out to greet them.


“The Slaves” comes before “In Common Cause” in the German book and DVDs, entitled “Konig Arthur”, but the settlement at Woollard appears somewhat more substantial and complete in “The Slaves.” Also, botanist Lynn Davy believes the condition of various flowering plants in the two episodes indicates “The Slaves” was filmed after “In Common Cause.” There is one scene near the end of the episode that was filmed much later in the year, when the trees had already lost their leaves.

Going home (13) Going Home 19b

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


Col the Blacksmith’s village is once again the one at Woollard; this time, it has mostly been filmed from the southwest side, and from a distance. The fact that the cast spent so little time there would have given the set dressers the chance to make alterations to it, so that Mordant's armoury could be set there, on the northeast side, the following week.

The impressive cliff face where most of the action takes place is Black Rock Quarry, in Cheddar. This is about 16 miles from Woollard, so you probably wouldn’t have to ride all day and all night to get from one to the other. Further details about the location can be found here.

Cast notes

Col the Blacksmith is played by David Prowse, who was later to appear in “Star Wars” as Darth Vader.

Col’s son Frith – credited as “Dominique Fleming” – is played by one of Patrick Dromgoole’s sons, Dominic, who is now Artistic Director of the Globe Theatre, London. His brother, Sean, who played "Krist" in "The Gift of Life", recalled that Dominic didn’t like the fact that at the end of the episode, he had to be lifted – almost thrown – high in the air by Dave Prowse.

They took the men Dominic

Deborah Watling, who played Thuna, had previously appeared as Victoria Waterfield, Companion to Patrick Troughton’s Doctor, in 40 episodes of Dr Who.

Deboarh Watling300 high Now or never (18)300 high

Ensel was played by stuntman, Jack (“Jackie”) Cooper. He later did stunt work in the film “Going Undercover”, in which Michael Gothard appeared as Strett.

Adrian Cairns, who played Heardred the builder, would later appear in "The Prize" as the Armourer, Ruan.

The best laid plans …

When they find out where the Celt villagers have been taken, Arthur argues that they are too far into Saxon territory to march an army in, and that they have one here already.

Though this works out in the end, it was a bit of a gamble, and they clearly didn’t think things through very well before going in. For a start, Kai should have taken a Saxon, name, but he continues to use his own.

It is pure luck that the building site includes a hut full of weapons for the slaves to use to free themselves – though one might argue that the quarrying tools could also have been used for the purpose.

When Arthur, failing to control his temper, hits Rodolf, he is fortunate that Kai is nearby; Rodolf was ready to kill him on the spot. As it is, he puts Kai in an unenviable position.

And without Thuna’s quick-thinking and complicity, their planned rebellion would have been discovered before it could be put into action.

Celts and Saxons

Mair is keen to stress that the men of her village didn’t give up the fight without killing some of the Saxons.

Arthur states that Saxons don’t usually take prisoners, and when they find out that the men are being used as slaves, Kai worries that the Celts will be made to work until they die. Though Cerdig doesn't appear in this episode, his use of slaves to do his work, and his foreman's treatment of them, casts this usually rather avuncular Saxon leader in a more sinister light, and he evidently has no intention of halting his advance into Celt territory.

The hut full of new weapons that Heardred shows Kai is for a bigger and better Saxon supply base, which will presumably be used to power more extensive incursions into the Celts’ lands, so there is more hanging in the balance than the fate of these particular slaves.

As well as the beatings, the Celt slaves suffer constant abuse from Rodolf, who calls them ‘lazy Celtic dog’, and ‘Celtic pigs’; Kai has to do the same in order to fit in, and it clearly sits ill with him – though not as ill as “restoring Saxon honour” by punishing Arthur.

While Heardred thinks Rodolf goes too far in the way he drives the Celts, he is unwilling to condemn it outright, and tries to justify his involvement: “All across this land, men die in battle, on both sides.” But Thuna can knows that this is different, and does all she can to help the Celts.

At the end, Kai and Thuna bid each other farewell by saying, “Goodbye, Saxon”: perhaps acknowledging that they are both equally disloyal to their own kind.

You’ve got a friend

Arthur is quite mean, making Kai walk all the way when his horse is lame – but having to flog his best friend hurts Kai a lot more.

The hot-headed side-kick

Kai keeps his cool remarkably under the circumstances, though Thuna sees through his act. It is Arthur who has trouble keeping his temper.

Don’t call me old!

Arthur claims that “Llud can follow a trail that’s three months old.” Whether or not he can actually perform such miracles, he does manage to track the slaves to the quarry.

Llud is not so old as to be unaware of Thuna’s charms, visibly holding his stomach in when she calls him over to speak to him! And he gives a good account of himself in the battle.

Dark Age Men

As well as being unpleasantly sadistic, Rodolf is also a bit of a lecher, grabbing the unwilling Thuna round the waist and leering at her, when she accidentally walks into him while serving food.

‘That is bloody dangerous!’

Peter Brayham, who arranged the fights and action, had plenty to do in this episode, with lots of stunts, a new and dangerous environment, and different weaponry deployed.

To start with, Frith uses the only bow and arrow to feature in the series. According to Wikipedia, the first use of a longbow in the British Isles was in AD 633, so – as a relatively new weapon – perhaps that is why we don’t see more of them in the series.

Rodolf uses both a bullwhip and a flogger to punish the slaves, and the Saxons have brought quite a large store of weapons, including axes, swords and spears.

The quarry looks quite hazardous, with the slaves getting dangerously close to some nasty drops, and shoving big rocks off ledges to smash on the ground.

Ensel arrives (7)

Also, the rock on which Arthur is flogged is actually quite steep; the ropes would have been needed to stop him sliding off.

Black Rock 19 Nov 2011 (19)

Stuntman Jack Cooper takes a spectacular fall when Arthur’s sledgehammer hits him. If you look carefully at the fourth picture, you can just make out his sword tumbling through the air!

The fight (2) The fight (6)

The fight (7) The fight (9)

The fight (11) The fight (12)

Great moments

The moment Rodolf sticks the stock of his bullwhip up under Arthur’s chin.

The scene at the rock face where Kai stops Rodolf killing Arthur.

Kai’s exchange with Arthur before the flogging.

The moment Kai sees Thuna tending Arthur.

Heardred’s look of utter confusion when Thuna says she told him she was suspicious of Kai all along.

Kai, strangling Rodolf with his own whip.


Kai: How do you flay a man publicly, and soften the whip?

Thuna: … You’re building your fortress, Father, with human bones.

Dressed to kill?

At the start of the episode, Arthur is wearing his tan tunic, and Kai, the brown suede lace-up shirt and big cloak.

They must have changed their clothes when they went home to collect Llud, because for the rest of the episode, Kai wears his studded tunic with the big fur sash, while Arthur wears his ring armour, and Llud, his studded tunic, until they arrive outside the slave camp. Here, so as to look less like warriors, Arthur and Llud discard their protective clothing, wearing just their undershirts when Kai brings them in as captives.

After that, Arthur and Llud spend most of the episode stripped to the waist, like the rest of the slaves.

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

Arthur is once again riding Skyline, and Llud is on Curly as usual. Kai’s horse, who is lame at the start of the episode, is Pythagoras. Despite there being no blacksmith at Col’s village, he rides the same horse for a day and a night, to get to the quarry! Presumably, when they went back to fetch Llud, their own blacksmith was able to deal with Pythagoras' problem.

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

On the table

The Celts are being fed some kind of unappetising porridge that looks like wet cotton wool. Perhaps the Saxons have put Milo Minderbinder1 in charge of food supplies.

Slave lunch (8) Lunch (23)

Meanwhile, Heardred, Rodolf and Kai sit at Heardred’s dinner table, with more nutritious looking platters of bread and meat, and the usual enormous bunch of grapes.

Extra! Extra!

There are a lot of students – in an impressive array of different coloured leggings – working at the quarry. Even though they were only acting the part of slaves, they look as if they actually had to work quite hard, and could do with a few good meals!

Honourable mention

For the un-credited star of the show: Black Rock Quarry itself – still a very impressive location.

Black Rock 19 Nov 2011 (18)

Secondly, for this extra, for whom things got a bit too real!

“Night night, Kiddies!”

Yet another very serious and angst-ridden episode, considering this was nominally a children’s TV show: slaves under the command of a sadistic foreman, and one of our heroes having to give the other – who is also his best friend – twenty lashes. Kai, strangling Rodolf, is the icing on the cake.

What’s going on here?

Arthur calls out Col’s name, when still quite a distance from the village; surely it would have been more normal to go up to the village, and ask whether he was at home!

There are sounds of thunder at the start of the episode, but no thunder clouds in the sky, from which not a drop of water falls. More ‘pathetic fallacy thunder’ rolls, as Arthur is about to be flogged.

Arthur finds a shield lying on the ground, and says, “Saxons”, as if it were of obvious Saxon design; but it doesn’t look much different to the one he used when fighting Mark of Cornwall in “Arthur is Dead.”

Deserted village (44) Arthur vs Mark (51)

Given that “Kai, the Saxon who rides with Arthur” is well-known among the Saxons – enough so, that one of their minstrels sings of him, and Cerdig knows all about him – it seems incredible that the Saxons at the quarry don't immediately recognise him. Thuna seems to be the only one who sees what’s going on; it makes one wonder whether she were already a secret admirer of Kai's!

As a builder, Heardred hasn’t got much work done, though he seems very pleased with his plumb-line, telling Kai, “Yes, the Romans used this principle”!

Headred explains (6)

He tells Ensel “You don’t seem to understand the problems that I have building here. Why, only a few days ago none of this rock was ready.” It has to be said that none of it looks especially “ready” now. It’s just lying about in big untidy piles.


In this scene, you can see what looks suspiciously like a hole for dynamite.

As Arthur starts work, we see the rock on which he will be flogged, being made ready. Later, it has a platform around two sides. It’s almost as if they knew at once that he was going to cause trouble ...

Arthur starts work The flogging (37)

But he is flogged lying on his front. So when they pick him up to drag him away afterwards, why is he lying on his back?

The aftermath

And how does Kai manage to get blood on his axe halfway through the fight, without it ever having touched Rodolf?

The Fight (66) The Fight (92)

The fight scene ends very abruptly; one minute it is in full swing, and the next, our heroes are mounting up to ride away. The scene that immediately follows the fight – with the possible exception of the close-up of Thuna – was filmed much later.

Perhaps what with filming at the rather dangerous quarry location, on different levels, with lots of extras, and stunts, the crew simply ran out of time, and had to move on to the next episode. The unusual montage of the men walking home, contemplating their time in captivity, inter-cut with shots of the deserted quarry, with the shouts of the slaves and their captors as a soundtrack, might also have been put together later, to make up for a missing transition scene.

Going home (27) Going home (26)


Some of the music tracks used in this episode were:

Track 7, Hesitation and Achievement: the young archer is found.
Track 6, Infiltration and Treachery: they see the quarry for the first time, and Kai takes charge.
Track 10, Desolation and Despair: the midday meal.
Track 26, Evil Stirs: the slaves go back to work.
Track 30, Night Scene: Arthur’s dragged away after being flogged.
Track 13, In All Weathers: Thuna brings salve, and the slaves return to work next morning.
Track 26, Evil Stirs: Ensel arrives; it's now or never.
Track 12, Duel: The Celts fight for their freedom.
Track 17, Pensive Moment: "Goodbye, Saxon."
Track 29, Pastoral Episode: the former slaves arrive back at their village.

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


Arthur …………….... Oliver Tobias
Kai ……………….… Michael Gothard
Llud ………………... Jack Watson
Rodolf ………........... Anthony Bailey
Heardred ………..….. Adrian Cairns
Col ….…………....… Dave Prowse
Thuna …………….… Deborah Watling
Frith …………….….. Dominique Fleming
Mair ………………... Karin MacCarthy
Ensel ……………….. Jackie Cooper


Director ………….…. Pat Jackson
Story ………………... Robert Banks Stewart
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 ……………….. Dave Samuel-Camps
Sound recordist ……... Mike Davey
Dubbing mixer ……… John Cross
Art Director …………. Doug James
Assistant Director …… Keith Knott
Production Assistant … Patti Belcher
Costume Design .……. Audrey MacLeod
Make-up …………….. Christine Penwarden
Incidental music …….. Paul Lewis
Theme music ………... Elmer Bernstein

1 Milo Minderbinder was a corrupt mess officer in Joseph Heller’s “Catch 22”, who sold off US Army Air Corps food supplies for a profit, and tried to persuade the men to eat cotton, which he had bought on the cheap, and was unable to offload.

The episode opens with Arthur and Llud fighting a losing battle against some painted warriors, the Picts. Arthur takes a knife in the back, and Llud only just catches him before he falls. Fortunately, Herward shows up with reinforcements, and saves the day.

But the Picts are taking a heavy toll. Arthur’s longhouse is full of wounded men, receiving treatment. Arthur lies prone, and Llud, while giving a pessimistic view of their chances of defeating the Picts, heats a flat piece of stone in the fire, then cauterises his wound.

In return for saving his life, Herward demands that Arthur deals with Rolf the Penitent, one of the chiefs, who has been raiding Herward, and his other Celtic neighbours. Arthur sends Llud to persuade Rolf to cease his activities.

On Llud’s arrival, Rolf immediately dashes out of his longhouse, admits all his transgressions, and begs Llud to kill him. When Llud doesn’t do this, Rolf invites him to dinner.

During the feast, Rolf sings a short devotional song. He wants to sing more, but Llud takes him aside, and warns him that he must mend his ways; Arthur’s patience is wearing thin. But the only thing that scares Rolf is himself. He wants to reform, but is too easily tempted by opportunities to plunder.

The next morning, they visit the man to whom Rolf turns for spiritual guidance and punishment: the frail old Abbot Morpeth. Llud asks to take over the Abbot’s role, and the Abbot readily agrees. Llud then goes to see Rolf’s blacksmith.

That evening, Llud tells Rolf that if – at any time tomorrow – he feels tempted to sin, he must admit it. The blacksmith arrives, and gives Llud an item he requested – a jacket with studs on the inside – for Rolf to wear as punishment for his past offences.

The next day, while Llud and Rolf are riding through the countryside together, they pass a jeweller working out in the open, a young woman relaxing by the riverbank, and two fine horses with their owners; on each occasion, Rolf admits to being tempted, and Llud hits him, which, as Rolf is still wearing the studded jacket, is very painful.

When they stop for a rest, though Rolf complains about his lot, he seems to accept that he is a sinner, and deserves all he gets. But when Llud wakes up after a doze, Rolf has gone. Llud finds the young woman in distress; the horses gone – their owners dead or unconscious – and the jeweller being bandaged by his wife, having been attacked and robbed.

Llud has Rolf flogged in front of his whole village.

Back in Arthur’s longhouse, Arthur is berating Kai for rashly attacking the Picts, in defiance of his order to stick to defensive tactics.

Rolf’s punishment continues; at the night’s feast, Llud won’t let Rolf eat anything except dry bread. Rolf protests; Llud faces him down, but next morning, Llud learns that, during the night, Rolf has raided one of Herward’s food trains.

Meanwhile, Arthur and Kai are still arguing over tactics; but their conflict gives Arthur an idea. While Rolf is preparing to walk over hot coals – his latest punishment – Arthur sends a messenger to Llud, that he must come at once, to guard some helpless people, loaded with treasure, who are passing nearby. Llud explains his mission to Rolf, and then departs.

As soon as Rolf has done his penance, he rallies his village to attack the travellers Llud has supposedly gone to protect. But instead of finding easy pickings, he is set upon by the Picts. Arthur’s cavalry ride in, and the Picts, caught between Rolf’s men and Arthur’s, are defeated, though Rolf’s village takes heavy losses.

Rolf finally gets some insight into how his victims must have felt.

Finally we see Arthur, Kai and Llud back in the safety of their own longhouse, having a quiet drink, and discussing Rolf.


“The Penitent Invader” is the only episode for which definite filming dates are known, and this is thanks to one of the extras, Barbara Hatherall, who preserved two of the call sheets.

Some of the scenes which take place at Rolf’s settlement, including the banquet, and the scenes in Rolf’s bedroom, were filmed on 9 August 1972. The call sheet, and further analysis can be found here.

The fight scenes involving Celts and Picts, and the scene where the abbot goes about the battlefield, blessing the dead, were filmed the following day. This call sheet, and further analysis can be found here.

Once again, in this episode, Oliver Tobias has very little screen-time, and for most of it, he is depicted as injured; it was only three or four weeks since he suffered an actual spear injury on set.

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 village built at Woollard - earlier inhabited by Ulrich’s people, and then by King Athel’s, and then Cerdig's - to become the home of Rolf's people.

Arrival at Athel's (24) Penitent Invader

The hut next to the Longhouse has been turned into a forge, and there is a newly-constructed palisade.

vlcsnap-2014-09-16-23h14m52s224 Hammer of the Picts (52)

The palisade was only built on one side of the village, so it would not have formed a very effective defence, but it did allow the settlement to look completely different when filmed from different angles, so that various groups of people could be shown living there, without it being obvious that it was all the same place.

As in "In Common Cause", scenes set in Arthur's village feature interiors only, so these were probably filmed at Woollard, as well.

Inside Information

Barbara Hatherall, who lived in Woollard, had a shop that sold odds and ends in her front room, where the cast and crew would come in to buy treats. Patrick Dromgoole, the Executive Producer, would ask her to recommend people who lived in the area for particular parts. For “The Penitent Invader”, he wanted a man of a certain age, and her husband was available, so Patrick cast him as the jeweller, and Barbara as his wife.

When her husband came out of the make-up caravan, she didn’t recognise him. They put him in a wig and a beard, and – later on, after he was supposed to have been robbed by Rolf – Patrick gave them some dirty old rags to bandage his head. Patrick kept screaming at her because she was laughing so much at silly things her husband was saying to her while they were trying to film.

Temptation (75) Temptation (78)

In the scene where Rolf had attacked a young girl on the river bank, Patrick was telling the victim to spread her legs out, and look like she’s been raped, but she said “I can’t, there’s all stinging nettles there!” Perhaps this is why she was kicking her legs!

In the scene where Clive Revill, as Rolf, has to walk across hot coals as penance, he was supposed to put his feet in gaps which had been left between the coals, but ended up actually walking on hot coals because he kept missing the gaps. And he had to do it again, because Patrick noticed that Barbara, playing the part of one of Rolf’s bemused villagers, was wearing a watch.

Cast notes

Clive Revill has a long career, which includes appearances in three major science fiction franchises, Star Trek, Star Wars, and Babylon 5.


Clive Revill as slave trader Trakis in Babylon 5.

"By the Gods!"

Religion has a major influence on events in “The Penitent Invader.” According to Llud, the reason the Picts are such fearsome opponents is their belief that “if they died in battle, they went straight to their paradise – but if they were defeated, or surrendered, they went straight to hell.”

Llus is clearly not a Christian himself, because when Herward the Holy, complains about Rolf’s behaviour, Llud says, “I thought he’d been converted to your religion – to the Christ of the One God.”

Rolf does profess to be a Christian, but while claiming that he is “begging to reform”, he simply confesses any sins, does his penances, then goes out and commits more offences.

Llud is understandably sceptical of the efficacy of these Christian penances, especially when he sees how old and frail is Rolf’s confessor, Abbot Morpeth.

Luckily, the Abbot seems to have no qualms about handing over responsibility for Rolf’s spiritual guidance to a heathen, and Llud warns Rolf, “I’ll set some penances for you. Remedies of the old gods.”

The leather jacket, lined with spiky metal studs, which Llud makes Rolf wear, “was a favourite penance of Mithras, god of the Roman soldiers”; perhaps Llud is himself a follower of Mithras; it seems that the main difference is that punishments under Mithras are more severe!

What have the Romans ever done for us?

Llud seems to have learned more from the Romans than just the methods he uses to try to tame Rolf. The way he refers to “Lacinius the old Centurion” gives the impression that he may even have fought alongside them.

Arthur has also learned from them: “An old Caesar’s trick. Set a barbarian to fight barbarians” – and this is what finally brings Rolf to heel.

The Masochism Tango

Rather than trying to avoid punishment, Rolf the Penitent seems eager to invite it:

“Kill me. Slay me first. Burn me over a slow fire. I deserve it. I am a sinner! I want to pay! … Use my own sword … Cut out my heart and give it to the dogs. Stake out my liver for the birds to pick at … cut off my head” and then later: “More, more! I’m a miserable sinner! A damned soul! I deserve more! More!”

Llud’s attempt at aversion therapy – beating Rolf with the flat of his sword or with his metal hand on top of the studded waistcoat, flogging, and hot coals – doesn’t seem to deter Rolf in the slightest, and Llud, for his part, rather than going about this as an unpleasant chore, is actually enjoying making Rolf suffer.

Temptation (12) Temptation (40)

Temptation (43) Temptation (55)

It seems that this was all a bit too much for the TV station which originally showed “Arthur of the Britons” in Germany. Despite having dubbed this episode into German, along with all the others, they didn’t show “The Penitent Invader” when they broadcast the rest of the series, and it only appears on the German DVD set (released in 2013) as a “bonus.”

Dark Age Men

Llud is very macho in this episode, dealing unflinchingly with Arthur’s wound, and accepting no nonsense from Rolf.

Though we don’t see much of the other principals, most of the interactions between Arthur and Kai are very intense. After taking a knife in the back, Arthur is in a very vulnerable position, and Kai does all he can to take care of him, wrapping him in his fur, helping him take a drink, evicting Herward from Arthur’s chair and getting him settled in it.

In return, Arthur really lays into Kai; on the surface, he is angry that Kai didn’t follow his orders, but in reality, he is probably lashing out because he hates having been seen in such a weakened state. Kai gets angry in his turn, and rubs salt in the wound, by pointing out that, while Arthur is incapacitated, he can still fight beside his men.

The best laid plans …

Herward’s timely appearance is the first evidence of Arthur and his people having got any benefit from the alliances Arthur has been building, though Herward then asks for his help.

Arthur’s plan – to send Llud to deal with Rolf – is an abject failure, except in the comedic sense.

He also seems a bit at a loss as to how to deal with the Picts, but he is firmly of the opinion that the best form of defence is … well, defence; “Careful defence. To kill without being killed” and “Let the boar run onto the spear.” Kai has little confidence in this approach.

It’s only when Arthur lets his two problems – Rolf, and the Picts – deal with each other, that he hits on a winning solution.

Great moments

The way Arthur falls when hit by the Pict’s knife is very convincing, and when we see Llud cauterising Arthur’s wound, it looks as painful, as you’d expect it to be. Arthur shakes and sweats, clearly in shock from the pain, both of the injury and the treatment, and he looks genuinely fragile afterwards.

The way Llud faces Rolf down at the feast is priceless.

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And a lovely little detail, that you might miss if you weren’t watching closely: Arthur and Kai have set out a model battlefield on the longhouse table, with a loaf for the longhouse, apples to represent the Celts, and knives for the Picts.

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We get a rare smile from Arthur at the end.

Aftermath (18)


Arthur: I’d sooner spare you twenty swordsmen, but I will give you Llud.

Rolf: Kill me! Slay me first!

Llud: There are more sides to you than a woman’s argument.

Rolf: Threats don’t frighten me. Not even Arthur’s. I frighten me.

Llud: That old man couldn’t scourge the hairs off a peach!

Llud: Great good, and great wickedness, are but a hair’s thickness apart.

Llud: Oh, I think you’ll find he’s a friend. If you go to sleep with one eye open.

The burden of command

Arthur starts to feel the pressure of the responsibility he has sought. Herward tells him plainly: “He’s a Celt! You are the self-appointed leader of the Celts. You are the one who would show us the way to live in peace. Rolf the Penitent breaks that peace. He is your burden.”

Meanwhile, he has a nasty injury, and the Picts to deal with. On top of that, he has had to send Llud away, and his second-in-command is fighting him over tactics. He must have felt very much alone.

When matters are resolved, Arthur is still unhappy that he has to ally himself with men of such questionable morals, but pragmatically admits, “Good or bad, we need Rolf.” Realpolitik comes to Camelot …

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

There were a lot of horses used in this episode – 16 in total, according to the call sheet.

In the opening scene, Herward rides to Arthur’s rescue on Blondie; his two cavalrymen are riding two horses seen for the first time in this episode, a chestnut with and irregular blaze and snip, who will be referred to as “Flame”, and a black or dark brown horse with a triangular star, irregular stripe, and wide snip, dubbed “Pythagoras.”


When Llud arrives at Rolf’s village, he is riding his usual horse, Curly, with whom he sticks for the whole episode. His attendants are on Flame, and the bay with the white star, James. Another bay horse stands hitched to a wagon, near the longhouse. As Llud and Rolf talk near the forge, a skewbald horse not seen before pulls a wagon past them.

When Llud takes Rolf out riding, Rolf is mounted on James. The two horses in the corral are Flame, and the grey horse, Jim.

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When Rolf rides out to attack what he thinks is a band of unarmed travellers, he is once again on James; at least three of his followers are also mounted, on Flame, Jim, Charlie (a larger bay horse with a faint star), and Merlin.

While Rolf and his men are fending off the Picts, 6 bay or chestnut horses, including Merlin and Blondie, are cropping grass in the background, seemingly unconcerned! These are presumably meant to be Rolf’s horses, though why Rolf and his men would abandon their advantage by dismounting is unclear. Also unclear is why Jim is not among them. They had him when they left the village!

Hammer of the Picts (6)

When Arthur rides to the rescue, there are 11 horses in his party, but due to the speed and the film quality, it has not been possible to identify every horse. Arthur is riding Skyline; Kai is on Pythagoras, and Llud is on Curly. James, Jim, and Merlin are also present, as well as another grey horse, probably either Pinkie or Bernie. The remaining four horses are bays or chestnuts – probably the same four unidentified individuals who were cropping grass.

As Rolf’s people return to their village, the skewbald horse pulls a cart bearing some of Rolf’s dead. Also in the party are Merlin, Jim, and Blondie, and Rolf is once more on James.

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

Dressed to kill?

Early in the episode, Arthur wears his ring armour – which does nothing to protect him from the Picts’ knife. Kai wraps a new fur around him after Llud treats his wound; he appears to have pinched it from King Athel's throne!

Hereward's demand (56) Morcant's plot (19)

For the battle, he wears his tan tunic, and at the end of the episode he is relaxing in a blue shirt with a studded collar and cuffs.

Kai wears his studded tunic throughout the episode. Llud also wears his studded tunic, sometimes with a studded leather jacket on top. Underneath it all he wears a rather tatty white shirt, often open to the waist.

Herward is in priestly garb, similar to what he wore in “Arthur is Dead.”

Arthur is Dead (46) Hereward's demand (7)

Rolf’s outfit is fairly dull; what he lacks in colour he makes up for in bizarre behaviour.

Introducing Rolf (7)

The Picts are wearing some wonderful body paint.

Intro (6) Intro (31)

Also, they are apparently fighting in mini-skirts. Perhaps they were supposed to be kilts ...

Hammer of the Picts (7)

‘That is bloody dangerous!’

There are two battle scenes in this episode. In the first, Arthur and Llud seem to be mostly fighting hand-to-hand against the Picts. In the second, Rolf and his men defend themselves with swords, shields and spears against the knife-wielding Picts; most of Arthur’s men ride in and cut them down with swords; Kai, of course, uses his axe.

On the call sheet relating to the date when the fight scenes were filmed, listed, and underlined, as if they were of high importance, are towels – presumably to dry off the extras or stuntmen who had ended up in the river – and brandy, which the wisdom of the time said would warm them up afterwards, and be a good remedy for shock!

On the table

At Rolf’s feast, there is a pig on a spit. It’s hard to see what the rest of the spread consists of, though there are apples, and some dry bread for Rolf. He offers Llud “Adder’s Sting” to drink. This is interesting in the light of Proverbs 23:

When you sit down to eat with a ruler,
observe carefully what is before you,
and put a knife to your throat
if you are given to appetite.

Here, it is the ruler, Rolf, who is given to appetite, and it is he who puts a knife to Llud’s throat! Proverbs 23 continues:

Those who tarry long over wine;
those who go to try mixed wine.
Do not look at wine when it is red,
when it sparkles in the cup
and goes down smoothly.
In the end it bites like a serpent
and stings like an adder.
Your eyes will see strange things,
and your heart utter perverse things.
You will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea,
like one who lies on the top of a mast.
“They struck me,” you will say, “but I was not hurt;
they beat me, but I did not feel it.

Perhaps Terence Feely had this in the back of his mind when writing the script.

Rolf has a dead deer ready for a future feast. It looks like the same deer Kai carries into Arthur's longhouse in “Daughter of the King.”

Feasting (24) Longhouse scene (16)

Extra! Extra!

A great many extras are used in this episode – for the Picts, and Rolf’s villagers. It was perhaps convenient that it was filmed during the school summer holidays!

Honourable mention

Rolf’s long-suffering villagers deserve a mention for putting up with their erratic leader. And Abbot Morpeth’s donkey gets points for cuteness.

Abbott Morpeth (11)


There weren’t many special effect used, but they did zoom in on the knife that buries itself in Arthur’s back! They did a similar thing with the tree branch which we are supposed to think has killed in “Arthur is Dead.”

Intro (15) Arthur is Dead (19)

What’s going on here?

Arthur says that “Today, Kai lost seven men holding them to the north … I myself saw six fall to their knives.” As the Picts’ attacks have been going on for 5 weeks, Arthur’s village should be emptier than the village of Midsomer!

While Arthur is lying waiting for Llud to finish heating his rock, Llud goes on and on about how impossible it will be to defeat the Picts, and then, with unfortunate timing, says “straight to hell” at the moment he sears Arthur’s wound. If Llud is going to make a habit of treating people’s injuries, he should do some work on his bedside manner.

Last time we saw Herward, in “Arthur is Dead”, he was calling on Celtic deities, “Nodens! Meponas! Barli!” to help him move the huge rock from on top of the sword. Now, he is a Christian. Perhaps the Celtic gods’ failure to help him move the rock led to his conversion ...

Herward complains that Rolf “ravages my cattle”; Rolf certainly has some unusual tastes!

When Llud first arrives at Rolf’s village, the sky is completely grey and cloudy. A few minutes later, it is mostly blue, with just a few clouds.

Introducing Rolf (4) Introducing Rolf (23)

Llud’s attendant is carrying a flag, but it’s hard to see what the design is; perhaps it’s meant to be a white flag of truce.

The biggest puzzle of the episode is Rolf. Sly, mercurial, sometimes sincere, often charming and funny, but always unreliable, he seems an unlikely village leader. Who put him in charge? Was the post of “Village Idiot” taken, or did the villagers decide to combine the two posts? Perhaps they were fascinated to see what he would do next – or maybe they were just along for the plundering.

There’s something odd and discomfiting about the way Rolf’s quite serious misdeeds – he steals, rapes, wounds (and maybe kills) on Llud’s watch – are played for laughs, as if he’s just a bit of a scamp getting up to mischief all the time. A scamp who can apparently eat a whole boar in one night.

Rolf is rather too easily was taken in by Llud’s story of gentle harmless people having to pay tribute to Arthur – but then, perhaps Rolf was judging Arthur by his own standards.

And why does Rolf walk over the coals, even when Llud has gone? He could quite easily have just cut straight to the plundering! It seems unlikely that he doesn’t dare break his promise to Llud; perhaps he is just playing to the crowd.

When Arthur shows up to catch the Picts by surprise, he seems to have miraculously recovered from his life-threatening knife-wound, enough to kill a few Picts himself. But he briefly becomes left-handed just before riding to Rolf's rescue.

Here he is, with his shield on his left arm, and his sword hanging to the left, ready to be drawn using his right hand. But in the next frame, he draws the sword with his left hand, and his shield is on his right arm.

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As Arthur, second from the right, gallops into battle, his shield is still on his right arm, so his sword must be in his left hand. But when he rides at his first Pict, his sword is once again in his right hand, and his shield on his left arm. Presumably there was some logical or aesthetic reason these two short pieces of film were reversed, left to right.

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This particular frame was also used in the opening credits, but the right way round.

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Folk singer, the late Fred Wedlock (below, left) makes a cameo appearance as Rolf’s minstrel, though he doesn’t get to sing. His widow says: “He is sitting, playing a dulcimer, which HTV covered in an animal skin. I still have it now!”

Feasting (5) Aftermath (8)

Meic Stevens (above, right) makes another appearance as Arthur’s minstrel, Cabot: once again, playing a mandolin, altered to look like a crwth. He sings:

Rolf the Widow-Maker, fought the Painted Ones.
Found his penance in the slaying.
Rolf the Penitent shrived his sinning
Mourned his dead … paid his paying.

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

8. Kai the Saxon/Skirmish and Rout: Arthur is wounded; Herward arrives.
28. Purposeful March: Llud arrives at Rolf’s village.
6. Infiltration and Treachery: Abbot Morpeth tells Rolf he must obey Llud.
2. Sinister March: The temptation of Rolf.
26. Evil Stirs: Llud witnesses the results of Rolf’s activities; Rolf walks over hot coals.
8. Kai the Saxon/Skirmish and Rout: Arthur arrives at the battlefield.
10. Battle on Horseback/Bitter Victory: Victory over the Picts
25. Arthur is Dead: Rolf and his people return with their dead.
The whole suite of music, written by Paul Lewis, is available on CD.


Arthur …………….... Oliver Tobias
Kai ……………….… Michael Gothard
Llud ………………... Jack Watson
Rolf ……………….... Clive Revill
Abbot Morpeth …….. Hedley Goodall
Herward ………….… Michael Graham Cox
Cabot …………….… Meic Stevens
Minstrel ………….…. Fred Wedlock


Director ………….…. Patrick Dromgoole
Story ………………... Terence Feely
Executive Producer …. Patrick Dromgoole
Producer …………….. Peter Miller
Associate Producer …. John Peverall
Production Manager … Keith Evans
Post-production …….. Barry Peters
Fight Arranger ……… Peter Brayham
Cameraman ………… Tony Impey
Camera Operator …… Brian Morgan
Editor ……………….. Terry Maisey
Sound recordist …….. Bob Stokes
Dubbing mixer ……… John Cross
Art Director ………… Doug James
Assistant Director …… Dennis Elliott
Production Assistant … Ann Rees
Costume Design .……. Audrey MacLeod
Make-up ……………. Christine Penwarden
Incidental music …….. Paul Lewis
Theme music ……….. Elmer Bernstein

Brother Amlodd, a monk who evidently has Arthur’s confidence, shows Arthur that Cerdig’s cattle are dying of a disease, and advises him that it could spread to the animals on which the Celts depend.

Arthur relays the information to his people, and tells them that he intends to offer a remedy Amlodd has devised to the Saxons. The news is not well-received.

He and some of his men capture a Saxon, and use him as a messenger to arrange a meeting with Cerdig. The meeting takes place at the Giant’s Dam. The Celts and Saxons exchange insults, then Arthur tells Cerdig that if he wants to stop the disease, he must kill all his animals and burn their byres.

Cerdig believes the disease will pass, and that Arthur is just trying to trick him. But the Saxons’ animals continue to succumb to the illness.

Arthur and Kai sneak into Cerdig’s village at night, to try to make him see sense. Arthur manages to convince him to do as Brother Amlodd suggested, by promising him half of the Celts’ animals. Cerdig demands that Kai remains behind as a hostage, to ensure that Arthur makes good on his promise. Arthur agrees, but threatens to cut out Cerdig’s heart, if Kai is harmed.

Cerdig speculates with his lieutenant, Ulm, as to whether Kai could be persuaded to stay on the Saxons’ side.

Meanwhile, Llud is very displeased with Arthur for leaving Kai in Cerdig’s hands, and warns him never to do it again.

Cerdig talks to Kai about his Saxon origins. He tries to convince Kai that his father might still be alive, but refusing to acknowledge “the Saxon who kills Saxons” as his son.

Arthur, Llud and Amlodd watch the Saxons burning their dead animals and their pens.

Cerdig and his men bring Kai to the Giant’s Dam to make the exchange – the animals for Kai. But Cerdig tries to persuade Kai to stay, offering to send out word asking his real father to come forward.

Kai sees Arthur’s horse through the trees on the opposite bank. He agrees to stay, so long as he does not have to fight Arthur or Llud. Cerdig agrees; Kai’s hands are untied, and Cerdig hugs him. Kai then attacks his guards, jumps off the Giant’s Dam, swims across the weir pool, and runs to Arthur.

Arthur is annoyed that Kai didn’t wait for the exchange to be completed as agreed. Kai says that Arthur need not now send the animals to Cerdig, but he looks back at an old Saxon who Cerdig suggested might be his father, then agrees that Arthur must keep his promise. Arthur thanks him, and they go home.

A few days later, Arthur’s people meet with Cerdig’s again, and Arthur tries to persuade Cerdig to put a stop to Saxon encroachments on Celt land. Cerdig says he will, but he has no intention of doing any such thing, and Arthur knows it.

A disease of cattle is an unusual plot element for a children’s TV show. Perhaps the writer, Michael J. Bird, had in mind the problems with foot-and-mouth disease during the late 1960s.


"In Common Cause" is thought to have been filmed much earlier in the series than it was shown in the UK, probably just after "Enemies and Lovers."

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 village at Woollard, recently used by King Athel's people, to become a Saxon settlement once again. To help disguise this fact, most of the filming is done from inside the village, facing outwards, or towards temporary structures, and the actors; we don’t, this week, see the village from the perspective of someone outside it, coming in.

Cerdig and Ulm (4) Cerdig's ploy (26)

The Giant’s Dam is actually Woodborough Mill Dam, at Woodborough Mill Farm in the village of Woollard.

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Further details of the location can be found here.

All scenes set in Arthur’s village take place indoors, so these were probably filmed at Woollard as well.

Author note

Michael J. Bird wrote just this one episode of “Arthur of the Britons”, but it is perhaps one of the favourites. Details of his better-known work, including “The Lotus Eaters” and “Who Pays the Ferryman?” can be found at his tribute site, here.

His script is the only one in which a Saxon speaks any german; at the beginning of the second part, Ulm uses the german word for "king", addressing Cerdig, "My Lord Koenig".

Cast notes

Peter Stephens, who played Brother Amlodd, died on 17 September 1972, just over a month after giving what turned out to be his final performance, in “In Common Cause”, an episode which was not broadcast until 24 October 1973, more than a year after his death.

Peter had appeared with Michael Gothard before – in Michael’s first film, “Herostratus.”

Farson (72)

Stephens played advertising executive, Farson, and Gothard played Max, a young poet who offers to let his planned suicide be used for advertising. In “In Common Cause”, Michael Gothard’s character treats Peter Stephen’s with no more respect than during their first screen encounter; here is Kai, casually stuffing a plum in Brother Amlodd’s mouth!

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"By the Gods!"

During the 6th to the 9th centuries, monks and nuns were among the few people who could read and write, and were seen as guardians of knowledge, so it is not surprising that it is a monk who draws Arthur’s attention to the problem with the Saxon animals, and suggests a remedy.

The Saxons don’t appear to be Christians, as Cerdig asks Brother Amlodd: “What does your one god tell you, then?” and doesn’t immediately trust his advice.

In his rant at the Council meeting, Arthur says: “Fate has planned this for Cerdig, better than if he’d sacrificed his own son to the gods.” He may be referring obliquely to Abraham and his son Isaac (Genesis 22:5 and 22:8), but it is Llud who – without his consent – temporarily sacrifices his son to Cerdig.

Arthur’s wisdom

Arthur is quick to see the big picture when Brother Amlodd points out the danger of the spread of disease, and also reasons for himself that the Saxons will suffer less because they have an alternate food source which will be unaffected: wheat. His plan to beat the disease by sharing knowledge with the Saxons, though unpopular, makes perfect sense.

But his offer to Cerdig is not just a stop-gap measure – it is part of Arthur’s strategy of weaving alliances based on mutual defence and self-interest. He even tries to use it to gain a permanent ceasefire. But Cerdig does not play by the same rules as he does, and Arthur recognises that Cerdig’s agreement not to burn or pillage, nor to take any more of the Celts’ land, is worth very little.

The burden and loneliness of command

Arthur acts decisively, even though he knows his people, and even his own family, may hate him for it. The Celts are angry and confused when he suggests giving advice to the Saxons, but when he returns – having left Kai, and a promise of livestock, with Cerdig – you could cut the hostility with a knife. With even Llud, his adopted father, turning against him, Arthur must have felt very much alone.

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This is never more clear than in the penultimate scene, where Kai and Llud, occupying the high ground, greet each other joyfully, while Arthur waits below, excluded from the family moment, until Kai gives his seal of approval to Arthur’s bargain.

The pledge fulfilled (71) The pledge fulfilled (61)

Dark Age Men

Most of the macho posturing is confined to an exchange of insults at the Giant’s Dam.

Cerdig makes a slighting suggestion that the Celts have come to surrender to him, and in return, Kai suggests that he’s too old and deluded to fight.

Cerdig then reminds the Celts of their previous oppression by the Romans, implying that they were uncivilised before, and not much better now.

“Listen now to these Celts, who hunted and fought in their mud huts, until their lords and masters of Rome taught them to wipe their noses with leaves, and to be good servants. What did they learn from their masters? Nothing! Save to fight!”

It must have been a rare concession to the fact that this was children’s TV, that it was their noses Cerdig mentioned being wiped with leaves!

Family Ties

In this episode, the ties between Llud and Arthur, and Llud and Kai, are stated explicitly for the first time, by Llud himself, when giving Arthur a piece of his mind: “I’ll stand beside you against any threat, as I have done since you were a child. But never again put Kai, who is also as my son, at this risk to achieve your own ends.”

The fact that Llud is not Kai’s real father gives Cerdig the opportunity to plays on Kai’s insecurities about his origins. At their first meeting, he all but calls Kai a bastard: “Saxon puppy, who has all the Celts for his brothers, and no man for a father!” and when Cerdig has Kai in his hands, he offers to help find his real father – if he will join the Saxons’ side.

Cerdig's ploy (44) Cerdig's ploy (69)

At first, Kai seems sure his parents are dead, and gives a knowing look when Cerdig’s mind-games begin. Nevertheless, Cerdig’s suggestion that if his father lived, he might not acknowledge the “Saxon who kills Saxons” as his own, seems to disturb Kai. Perhaps his escape is partly motivated by the worry that he might be tempted by Cerdig’s offer.

When Kai gets away from the Saxons, Llud welcomes him with pride and delight; he is even happier when his two adopted sons resolve their quarrel.

I’m a man of my word

Arthur has already brought up the significance of giving one’s word, and keeping it. In “Daughter of the King” he says of Bavick: “He’s without honour ... If he made a pledge it would disappear on the wind the moment your back was turned. He would never keep his word.”

In the same episode, Arthur is angry when Llud immediately recaptures Eithna; he complains: “I promised a fair exchange!” And when Eithna refuses to go back to her father, he says, “Tomorrow morning at first light you will return to your home. That was the pact I made.” He even fights Kai, to try and get his way.

However, it is in “In Common Cause” that the notion that Arthur’s word is sacrosanct is first stated, when Cerdig tells Ulm, “to Arthur, the word that’s spoken cannot be recalled.” Kai later says, “He will come. Arthur keeps his bonds”, and finally Arthur himself confirms: “To Celt or Saxon, my word must stand.”

It must have been some reassurance to Kai, when he was being held captive, that Arthur would surely follow through on his promise to Cerdig: “Injure this man in any way, and there will be no place, here or across the sea, where you shall be safe. For I will hunt you down and cut out your heart.”

But after Kai’s rant: “There is no more sickness. Our animals are healthy, and the hunting will be good. With empty bellies, our enemies would soon be at our mercy. I say prepare for …” it looks as if Arthur might have been wondering whether the price for keeping his word is too high. It is only after Kai agrees, “Your word must stand” that Arthur tells the herdsmen to leave the animals, and Arthur’s thanks to Kai for supporting him is very sincere – as if he feared he might have been forced to break his word, in order to keep the backing of his father and brother.

The hot-headed side-kick

Kai is remarkably restrained under the circumstances; he may not agree with how Arthur does things, but though he questions orders, he allows Arthur to leave him as Cerdig’s hostage with only a sad lowering of his head.

On the other hand, he feels sufficiently strongly about being held hostage, to escape – even though he knows that Arthur has come to ransom him. But he also assumes that he will be saving the Celts from giving Cerdig their animals. And perhaps Kai considers escaping a challenge he can’t resist!

Understandably, Kai is angry when Arthur has the nerve to criticise him for his impatience, but when Arthur thanks him for supporting his pledge, that is all Kai needs to make him feel "himself again."

Celts and Saxons

Arthur says the cattle disease was not seen until the invading Saxons set up farming, and at first he is pleased to see Cerdig’s animals dying from the “Saxon Plague”, because: “Men with empty bellies have little heart for war.” He doesn’t necessarily want them dead – so long as they stop fighting.

But he comes to fear that the disease will see “the entire Celtic race … searching the forests in vain for the meat that is their life’s blood” while the Saxons “reap in their filthy wheat” and wait for the Celts to die of starvation.

Kai points out that the Celts are hunters, not farmers, but in fact, the differences between them don’t seem so great when faced with this common problem. The Celts hunt, and don’t grow wheat, but they still use milk and wool, and they are not the only ones who hunt; Cerdig thinks that other Saxons, overseas, will also be interested in the land’s “abundant game.”

The main difference between them seems to be their opposing philosophies. For Arthur “There is honour in battle.” Cerdig retorts: “There is greater honour to see that your family is fed. To do that, a man must till land, and pasture flocks.”

Kai sees the conflict more simply: “Among the Celts, I was a warrior among warriors. I cannot stay here to be a fool, among fools such as you!”

Don’t call me old!

Llud is growing old disgracefully – his table manners leave a great deal to be desired!

Arthur's idea (15)

But he shows his teeth in this episode; when Arthur returns alone from Cerdig’s village, leaving Kai in Cerdig’s hands, he tells him unequivocally, “never again put Kai, who is also as my son, at this risk to achieve your own ends.” He doesn’t specify what the consequences for Arthur will be, if his warning is ignored.

In council (29) In council (36)

What's Cerdig's game?

Cerdig’s actions and motivations are a bit of a mystery. He purports not to trust Arthur to send him half his animals – demanding Arthur leave Kai as a hostage, to make sure he keeps his word. But later, Cerdig tells Ulm that “to Arthur, the word that’s spoken cannot be recalled”, as if it were a fact of life.

And despite having told Arthur that he would kill Kai, if the ransom was not forthcoming, he evidently has no real intention of doing so, because he asks Ulm what Kai would do, if Arthur didn’t ransom him: whether he would try to return to Arthur, or fight on the Saxon side – neither of which would be possible if Cerdig had had him killed.

And the way Cerdig embraces Kai, when he thinks he has persuaded him to stay, seems a little overly affectionate.

Kai escapes (43)

So what is Cerdig’s game? He seems intent on getting Kai to come over to the Saxons’ side. But why? Perhaps he thinks it would damage the Celts’ morale – especially Arthur’s – or that Kai is such an exceptional fighter, his axe would make a significant contribution. Yet, even when Kai fools him, and escapes, he tells his men, “Hold your spears! Hold your spears, I say!”

Perhaps he is just afraid of Arthur’s retaliation if Kai is harmed. But it almost makes one suspect that the writer was allowing for an “I am your father” moment between Cerdig and Kai, in a subsequent episode.

Great moments

The moment when Arthur tells the Celts he will give Cerdig advice on how to get rid of the illness.
The scene in Cerdig’s bedroom, where Arthur makes his deal, then utters his threat to Cerdig.
Llud’s reaction when Arthur returns home, alone.
Kai’s escape, and his struggle to accept Arthur’s decision.


Arthur: Men with empty bellies have little heart for war.

Arthur: There is honour in battle.
Cerdig: There is greater honour to see that your family is fed.

Cerdig: There is self-interest in what you propose, so I believe you are in earnest

Kai: Among the Celts, I was a warrior among warriors. I cannot stay here to be a fool, among fools such as you!

‘A man on a horse is worth ten on foot'

Arthur rides Skyline throughout this episode – possibly because this horse’s very white coat made him more visible behind the trees near the Giant’s Dam. Skyline looks in a bit of a lather at the start of the episode, and Peter Stephens seems to be steadying him.

Cattle diseased Cattle diseased (3)

When the Celts arrive to round up their Saxon messenger, Merlin, Blondie and Flame can be identified, as well as two bay horses, possibly James and Charlie.

An appointment (9) The pledge fulfilled (57)

Llud, as usual, rides Curly, and Kai, as in “The Penitent Invader”, rides Pythagoras.

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

Dressed to kill?

For some of the episode, Arthur is wearing a brown suede tunic that looks as if he stitched it himself – by candlelight.

home-made An appointment (22)

For the rest, he wears a white tunic or coat, with a blue lace-up shirt underneath; the shirt looks rather like the blue shirt Kai wears in the scene in "Daughter of the King" which was to be filmed in November.

Blue shirt, white tunic Longhouse scene (42)

Llud wears his usual white under-shirt, to which he adds his brown suede jerkin for formal meetings with Cerdig and with the Council. Kai wears his usual studded tunic, to which he adds a big fur sash when meeting Cerdig, along with his furry boot-covers, which also go with the “stripped to the waist” look.

formal string, shirtless

Cerdig is clad in his usual big furry tunic, and has a man-bag tied to his belt – presumably containing the kinds of things the Celts would keep in their saddlebags. Like Kai, he has furry boot covers, so this is presumably a Saxon fashion which Kai affects.

Cerdig string

Many of the other Saxons wear sheepskins, tied on with string; these seem to serve little purpose other than to identify them as Saxons!

‘That is bloody dangerous!’

During the first meeting at the Giant’s Dam, Arthur throws down his spears to blunt them, metaphorically and possibly literally as well, to show he hasn’t come to kill Saxons. The Saxons throw down their axes and spears in response.

Except at this meeting, Kai doesn’t have his usual axe with him. When he and Arthur go to Cerdig’s bedroom at night, Kai uses one of the smaller Saxon axes to threaten Cerdig. Presumably, his own was too large and unwieldy to hold over Cerdig for the close-up; it would have completely hidden Cerdig’s face!

A pact is made (20)

When Kai escapes, he picks up the axe that Cerdig, in his excitement, threw down, and gives it to the old man Cerdig was trying to persuade him might be his father. The old Saxon is later seen returning the axe to Cerdig!

In this episode, we see one of the very rare uses of a stuntman for one of the principals. When Kai jumps off the Giant’s Dam, he is portrayed not by Michael Gothard, but by a stuntman in a bad wig.

Kai escapes (66) Kai escapes (89)

We know, from interviews with people involved in “Herostratus”, that Michael Gothard didn’t like heights; also, the water in the pool below the dam is not very deep, so the director can be excused for not wanting to risk letting one of the stars jump into it from the top of the dam. But it is clearly Michael Gothard who swims across.

On the table

This is the main question in the episode: what will be left on the table when the disease has taken its toll? But at the Celt meal pictured early in the episode, food seems plentiful.

Later, Arthur brandishes a rather revolting bit of meat at Llud and the rest of the Council to make a point. Both Arthur and Cerdig eat apples while they are talking.

Dead turkeys hang in Cerdig’s village.

Extra! Extra!

The Saxon guard who was killed by Kai in “The Gift of Life” has been resurrected to work for Cerdig.

In the hut (54) An appointment (24)

To add insult to injury, Kai kills him again!

extra 2 extra

Honourable mention

This goes to the Saxon fellow with the lovely long hair, whom Cerdig is trying to pretend might be Kai’s old dad.

Cerdig's ploy (59) The pledge fulfilled (49)

What’s going on here?

When Arthur and his men capture the Saxon to arrange a meeting with Cerdig, he says "Tell Cerdig that I would meet with him at dawn tomorrow." But how did Cerdig know where they were supposed to meet?

And why is Merlin, just visible to the right of Arthur, Kai and Llud, wandering about on his own, during the first meeting?

Meeting at the dam (12)

Is this the Celts holding Council, as spoken of in “The Gift of Life”?

In council

If so, they don’t have much – or indeed, anything – to say for themselves, and Arthur evidently doesn’t seem to care much for their opinion. He didn’t bother consulting them before making the pact with Cerdig, and he told Kai, “Such decisions are mine.”

vlcsnap-2014-10-26-00h39m23s171 vlcsnap-2014-10-26-00h39m25s188

And where does the Saxon – on Kai’s left – go off to in such a hurry? It looks as if he’s remembered he was supposed to feed the chickens. Or perhaps he is just walking off in disgust, at his leader’s emotional display!

In the final scene, when Arthur rides into view, he is wearing the brown tunic, but for the rest of the scene, he is wearing the blue shirt and white tunic. They seem to have just re-used the footage from the first meeting.

No explanation is given as to why, during his stay in the Saxon camp, Kai has been deprived of his tunic, and is walking around stripped to the waist with his hands tied behind his back. Some might suggest this needs no explanation, but presumably it was part of Cerdig’s attempt to soften him up, and make him feel vulnerable. Judging by the way Kai drinks so eagerly when Cerdig’s goblet his held to his lips, the Saxons may have been depriving him of fluids as part of the same process: not enough to give Arthur the excuse to take revenge, but enough to make Kai’s stay with them unpleasant.

Nevertheless, after his escape, Kai, rather bizarrely, turns to wave to the Saxons, before rushing off to meet Arthur!

The pledge fulfilled The pledge fulfilled (8)

The other question that has to be asked is: what is Arthur thinking? His unilateral decision to offer Cerdig half the Celts’ livestock seems arrogant, but you can understand the logic.

But his agreement to leave Kai in Cerdig’s camp as a hostage without even asking Kai seems unnecessarily harsh, and Kai, though not wholly surprised, is clearly upset. Evidently, Rex Edwards, who wrote the novelisation of the series, felt the same way, because in his version, Arthur initially rejects Cerdig’s demand, and offers to stay as a hostage himself; Kai then volunteers to stay. This makes Arthur seem much less cruel.

But when Kai manages to escape, and comes running happily to join Arthur and Llud, rather than congratulating him on getting away, Arthur greets him with a rebuke: “Could you not wait?”

What is wrong with him?

One can only imagine that it has taken Arthur a lot of threats, arm-twisting, and cajolery to persuade his people to surrender half their animals, and that this, along with Llud’s intense disapproval of everything he has done over these last few days, has made him very tired and irritable!


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

22. Revelry: The Celts capture a Saxon.
11. Desolation and Despair: The Celts and Saxons meet at the Giant’s Dam.
18. Celtic Girl: The Saxons mourn their dying animals.
11. Desolation and Despair: Arthur and Kai meet Cerdig in his room.
20. The Fair Rowena: Cerdig discusses Kai’s parents.
16. Danger Mounts: Kai makes his escape.
20. The Fair Rowena: Kai considers his decision.
1. Flourish for a Hero: Arthur concludes his business with Cerdig.

The whole suite of music is available on CD.


Arthur …………….... Oliver Tobias
Kai ……………….… Michael Gothard
Llud ………………... Jack Watson
Brother Amlodd …… Peter Stephens
Cerdig ……….…….. Rupert Davies
Ulm …..………….… Kenneth Ives


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

The episode opens with Arthur and Kai being brought as captives into King Athel’s village. Morcant, who appears to be in command, accuses them of being Saxon spies, and tells a Warrior to kill them quickly. But before the command can be carried out, the old, blind King Athel appears, establishes Arthur’s identity, and berates Morcant for his supposed mistake. He introduces Arthur and Kai to a worried-looking young man called Tarn, who is his grandson, and only living relative. During the introductions, Kai only has eyes for a young woman in the crowd.

At the feast that is held to welcome Arthur and Kai, the young woman sings a love song, clearly directing it at Kai. He follows her down to a meadow, where it transpires that he and the woman, Goda, were once close, but Kai went away to fight, and Goda moved on. Kai tries to persuade Goda to leave Athel’s village and return home with him. She says it is too late – she is betrothed to Morcant.

The next morning, when Arthur and Kai are preparing to return home, Kai hangs back, still hoping that Goda will change her mind, and come with him. Arthur complains about his lovesick behaviour, saying he shouldn’t expect her to come running when he calls. But Goda appears, Kai helps her onto his horse, and they depart.

Morcant persuades King Athel to allow him to take some men to join Arthur in fighting the Saxons. He then reveals to the Warrior that he has a spy in Arthur’s camp, who will discover the system of defences that protects Arthur’s people. His true intention is not to join Arthur, but to launch a sneak attack on his village.

When Arthur and Kai arrive home, Kai immediately announces that he and Goda are to be wed, in three days’ time, and invites everyone to a celebration feast. Llud seems delighted, but Arthur is clearly less than happy.

Goda goes to investigate the area around the village, and accidentally triggers Arthur’s warning system, which the villager manning them helpfully explains to her. She immediately relays the information to the Warrior from her village, who is hiding in the undergrowth.

On her return, Kai asks where she’s been, and tries to persuade her to go for a ‘walk’ with him, but she fobs him off.

Early next morning, Kai decides he can’t wait the three days it will take for the abbot to arrive, so he goes to the hut where Goda is supposed to be sleeping. Finding her and her belongings gone, he immediately wakes Arthur and Llud, who realise that their defences are compromised.

Meanwhile, Morcant arrives with a small force, intending to kill everyone in what he assumes is a sleeping village. But he finds all the huts empty. Kai and Llud lead the cavalry down the path towards him, and Arthur and his foot soldiers spring up from hiding to block Morcant’s escape.

Heavily out-numbered, Morcant’s men refuse to engage Arthur’s superior force, so Arthur leaves it to Kai to deal with Morcant, in single combat. They fight, and Kai drowns Morcant in the lake.

Arthur returns to King Athel’s village, and – sword in hand – enters a hut where Tarn cowers away from him. At the same time, Kai enters a hut where Goda is sleeping, and wakes her with the blade of his axe.

When Arthur comes out, King Athel – who knows that Kai killed Morcant, and fears the Arthur has killed Tarn – accuses Arthur of treachery. Arthur tells him Tarn is alive, and tries to explain that it was Morcant who was the traitor, but Athel won’t listen to reason. He insists that they are now enemies, though his attempts to fight Arthur are futile.

Arthur and Kai meet on the return journey, have a terse exchange, and gallop into the distance together.

Author note

Scott Forbes was an Oxford-educated actor, who worked in the US and in England; he took up screen-writing later in life.


“Enemies and Lovers” was originally shown as episode 9 of season 1, but seems to have been filmed before most of the episodes shown earlier.

Oliver Tobias still looks a bit fragile following the injury suffered in “The Challenge”; when they arrive home, instead of his usual casual slide down his horse’s neck, Arthur accepts help, leaning on the lad taking his horse.

Wedding announced (5) Wedding announced (7)

In the scene where Kai drowns Morcant, Oliver Tobias may even be wearing some sort of protective gear under a rather high collar.

Morcant defeated (93)

Perhaps – as well as the need for Kai to redeem himself in the eyes of the village – Oliver’s injury was a practical reason why Kai is the one to fight Morcant.

In the German book, “Konig Arthur”, and in the German DVD set, "Enemies and Lovers" appears immediately after “The Challenge”, and before “The Gift of Life.” However, in “The Gift of Life”, some of the buildings in Arthur's village were set on fire.

burning village small copy

So at least some of "The Gift of Life” must have been filmed before "Enemies and Lovers", because in some shots from "Enemies and Lovers", the charred remains of buildings can be seen.

Morcant attacks (21)

Suggested shooting order so far

Arthur is Dead
Daughter of the King
The Challenge
The Gift of Life
Enemies and Lovers


Arthur’s people are still living in the village by the lake, at Woodchester.

Goda deceives (6) Morcant defeated (2)

Morcant defeated (4) Morcant defeated (74)

“Enemies and Lovers” is the last episode to feature this location.

King Athel’s village is the one built at Woodborough Mill Farm, Wollard, and first seen in “The Gift of Life.”

Welcome (23) Match 1 GoL (3)

In its incarnation as Ulrich's village, there were only about five huts in the entire settlement.

vlcsnap-2014-08-07-23h05m12s63 Arrival at Athel's

A few more huts have been added since then, as well as a new trackway into the village, and Arthur and Kai are marched past what looks like the skeleton of another new building.

Welcome (17) You are mine (20)

The bridge is clearly the same one in both episodes. But while Kai and Goda's first conversation occurs by the stream - actually the river Chew - in King Athel's village at Woollard, some of it was filmed near a much larger body of water - probably one of the lakes at Woodchester.

You are mine (75)

The Villager’s statement that “It’ll take a day and a half to ride to Glevum, and a day and a half back” hints that Arthur’s village is 30 - 40 miles from Gloucester. The Wollard location is actually about 35 miles south west of Gloucester.

Inside Information

Hilary Dwyer, who played Goda, was later to marry Duncan Heath, and help run Duncan Heath & Associates, the actors’ agency that represented Michael Gothard from 1978 to 1982.

Cast notes

Esmond Knight, who played King Athel, had a career spanning nearly 6 decades.

Athel’s grandson, Tarn, is played by the young Peter Richardson, who later masterminded and starred in the "Comic Strip" spoofs.

The Tragedy of King Athel

The political situation in King Athel’s village is reminiscent of a Shakespearean tragedy, with the blind and foolish old king, the evil plotting couple, and the innocent young heir to the throne.

Morcant seems to have made it standard procedure to detain any strangers caught near Athel’s village: a deliberate attempt to isolate King Athel and his grandson Tarn from anyone who might speak against him, or give them any support. Clearly recognising Arthur and Kai, Morcant orders their summary execution. Perhaps he already knows about his betrothed’s prior association, and wants to get rid of a romantic rival; perhaps his main target is Arthur, as a political rival.

Utterly ruthless (Morcant later tells his men to leave no man, woman or child alive during his attack on Arthur’s village) it seems quite possible that Morcant was responsible for the death of Tarn’s parents; nevertheless, King Athel has agreed that in the event of his own death, Morcant will be regent until his grandson Tarn comes of age. Tarn seems painfully aware that when King Athel dies, his own life will be forfeit, though the old king is oblivious to the danger. The only time Tarn seems relaxed is when greeting the important visitors, perhaps seeing, in Arthur, a glimmer of hope.

The day Arthur appears Athel’s longhouse, sword in hand, is the day Tarn has been expecting for most of his young life – but he thought that the man with a sword who came when he was alone would be Morcant. Rather than killing him, Arthur backs Tarn into Athel’s throne. Very soon, he will have to take up the old king’s responsibilities.

Dark Age Men

Kai – as so often – allows himself to be led by his emotions. He knows what he wants, and goes after it. Whether or not he really searched for Goda for three seasons, he certainly makes a pretty speech about it, and claims her as his own.

“As the hawk drops from the sky, from this moment you are mine.” “Your prey?” “Aye, and my woman.”

Perhaps when she calls out, “Kai! It’s too late now”, she is trying to warn him of the disaster that is about to strike, but Kai ignores her protests and Arthur’s scepticism, and behaves like a love-struck teenager. As soon as they arrive home, Kai announces his love to the world, extravagantly inviting everyone to his wedding celebration.

If everything had gone to plan, this might have given his status a considerable boost; he would be entertaining the whole village, and marrying a Celt of some apparent importance: "Goda, Daughter of Hywel." As it turns out, his gamble almost costs him everything.

For any man, to be abandoned by the woman he loved, on the eve of marriage, is the kind of thing that could scar him for life. But Kai’s tragedy isn’t only a personal concern. His error of judgement in welcoming a spy into Arthur’s camp has endangered the whole village, and when he realises this, he almost breaks down. For a man in Kai’s position – a warrior who needs to keep the confidence of the men he leads into battle – such a public humiliation could have dealt a mortal wound to his reputation.

Understanding this perfectly, Arthur gives Kai the chance to retrieve something from the wreckage, by despatching Morcant.

Having disarmed his enemy, Kai chooses to fight him bare-handed, and when Arthur offers him a hand out of the water, he seems reluctant to take it. Perhaps he thinks it would have been easier if Morcant had put him out of his misery. Nevertheless, he has got a little pride back.

There is just one more thing he must do. In one of the darkest moments in the whole series, Kai finds Goda sleeping, and wakes her with his axe. Goda spied on Arthur’s people, and betrayed them to their enemy; traitors must die. Though the details are left to our imagination, Kai later tells Arthur: “She got what she deserved.”

"By the Gods!"

Arthur says “Heaven help us” when he realises Goda is coming home with them.

Kai sends for Felix, Abbot of Gloucester, to conduct the official marriage service. This may have been simply a status symbol; Kai has never shown any religious inclinations before. But he intends to at least appear to do this by the book, so he sends Goda to stay with Selvira, one of the village women, who - judging by her garb - may be a member of a religious order.

Wedding announced (20)

The best laid plans …

Having been prevented from killing Arthur and Kai on the spot, Morcant sets Goda up to ensnare Kai, who is only too willing to believe that she will leave her betrothed for him. However, when Goda discovers the secret of Arthur’s defences, Morcant’s plan - “We attack, from there!” - is somewhat lacking in tactical genius.

Arthur’s evacuation of the village must have been accomplished with great despatch; it seems likely that he had drilled his people for just this contingency.

Great moments

Kai, somehow managing to swagger with his hands tied behind his back.
Goda calling Kai, “You pig!” and his amused reaction to it.
Arthur’s expression when Goda shows up for the return journey, and when Kai throws her luggage to him to carry.
The subtle interaction between Arthur and Kai before and after Kai fights Morcant.


Arthur sums up Kai’s problem: “He has a sickness – one that reoccurs every time he sees a pretty face.”

Arthur’s wisdom

Wise or not, Arthur seems to have learned that fighting Kai over a woman is pointless. He fought him over Eithna in “Daughter of the King.” This time, he seems to accept that “if a man and a woman want to be together, they will be together. That’s the law.”

Family Ties

The information Arthur gives to Athel – that his father was slain at the Battle of Ilchester, and that Athel gave his mother the circular clasp Arthur now wears – is the first we hear of Arthur’s parents.

The esteem in which Llud is widely held is shown when Athel says of Kai, “It is enough that you’re the son of Llud, to be welcome at my hearth.”

Celts and Saxons

Morcant tries to use the Celt/Saxon conflict to further his own ends, first claiming to think the Arthur and Kai are Saxon spies – which, given Arthur’s complexion, he could only hope to get away with because King Athel is blind – and then pretending he wants to help Arthur fight the Saxons, though for some reason he says they are coming “from the far north.” King Athel is well aware of the Saxon problem: “It was ever so.”

‘A man on a horse is worth ten on foot’

When Arthur arrives at King Athel’s village, his captors are leading Bernie; the Warrior walks past Skyline, who is tethered nearby. When Arthur leaves the village, he is riding Skyline. He rides the same horse on his second departure from Athel’s, but when he meets up with Kai, he is riding Bernie again.

Predictably, it is Merlin, the same – evidently strong and reliable – horse who carried Kai and the children to Ulrich’s in “The Gift of Life”, who carries Kai and Goda back to Arthur’s village. When Kai rides back after his final encounter with Goda, he is riding Merlin’s stand-in, Smudge.

When they ambush Morcant, Llud is riding Curly. Blondie is among the Celts’ horses.

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

Dressed to kill?

Arthur wears a leather tunic we haven’t seen before. At the beginning, he is also wearing a blue cloak, with the metal clasp King Athel recognised as having been a gift from himself to Arthur’s mother.

Kai wears the same suede/leather shirt as in The Challenge, or one very similar. When he goes to look for Goda on the morning of the attack, he throws on the big cloak with the fur trim. For the rest of the episode, Arthur wears his ring armour, and Kai wears his studded tunic.

Llud also wears a studded tunic, seen before in “Arthur is Dead” and "Daughter of the King."

Morcant defeated (6) Arthur vs Mark (56)

The same tunic was later worn by Robin of Sherwood (played by David Robb) in “Ivanhoe”: a film in which Michael Gothard appeared as a Saxon prince, Athelstan.

IE (21) IC (36)

Morcant wears two different tunics; the one he wears to attack Arthur’s village is more elaborate than the one he wears at Athel’s.

Goda wears a striking – and expensive-looking – blue dress for the whole episode, except for during the scene where she sings at the feast, when – like most of the other women – she wears grey.

King Athel and his grandson Tarn are both also unaccountably clad in dresses.

Athel and Tarn (2)

Perhaps it is indicative of their rank, but Tarn’s, which reaches only to his knees, is particularly emasculating. King Athel later dons a battle helmet with no eye holes.

‘That is bloody dangerous!’

Kai finds both Arthur and Llud sleeping with weapons in their hands. When Arthur’s people ambush Morcant’s, they are armed with swords, spears and shields.

The only real fight in the episode is between Kai and Morcant: Kai’s axe against Morcant’s sword. Kai easily relieves Morcant of his weapon, then they fight hand-to-hand. Morcant also grabs a long pole to jab at Kai, who then drowns him in the lake.

Some interesting filming techniques and angles are used for this fight. This may be partly in an effort to disguise the use of a stunt double for Morcant.

Morcant defeated (73) Morcant defeated (66)

On the table

Athel’s feast includes the usual liberal helpings of grapes and apples. Also, some melons, what might be gooseberries, a pheasant, and what appears to be a small pig on a spit.

Honourable mention

You have to feel sorry for the people of Athel's village. While loyal to their King, they clearly realise that he's lost his grip. Despite Athel’s declaration that Arthur is an enemy, one of them helps Arthur onto his horse, and no one makes any attempt to stop him from leaving, while their King is slashing wildly with his sword, trying to kill him.

Also, the Warrior deserves some credit for his sensible response to Morcant’s ridiculous command to attack Arthur and his men: “There’s too many of them.”

What’s going on here?

Arthur’s reaction to Kai’s romance with Goda is interesting. At first he appears genuinely amused, but when he realises Kai is serious about her, his expression runs through anger and contempt, to utter shock and devastation when Goda actually shows up. One might have expected that his main concern would be the political ramifications; Kai is, after all, stealing Goda from King Athel’s chosen second-in-command, to whom she is betrothed. But despite the outright hostility Arthur displays, he doesn’t use the political situation as a reason to stop Kai from bringing her home with him; in fact, he makes no mention if it. Perhaps Kai hasn’t told Arthur about Goda’s prior betrothal!

Kai sends for Felix, Abbot of Gloucester, to conduct the official marriage service: but the Benedictine abbey at Gloucester doesn’t appear to have been founded until about 1022 – centuries after the wedding was to take place.

Who is Hywel? King Athel tells Morcant to leave Hywel in command of the village, and Kai mentions that Goda his Hywel’s daughter, as if he were some local dignitary, but we are never introduced to him.

Arthur’s confrontation with Tarn is puzzling. Tarn gave him no reason to suspect he was in league with Morcant, yet Arthur threatens him with a sword. Perhaps having been almost murdered in his bed made Arthur tetchy.

After betraying Kai, Goda would probably have returned to King Athel’s village, which is where Arthur is returning from at the end of the episode; so why do Arthur and Kai appear from different directions before riding off together?

And finally, the audience is asked to believe that Goda would choose Morcant over Kai. This seems to be asking rather a lot of the imagination!


Once again, the minstrel – this time in King Athel’s village – is played by Meic Stevens; he plays what looks like a hummel, while Goda sings one of his songs, Love Owed.

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

6. Infiltration and Treachery: Arthur and Kai are brought to Athel’s village.
15. At Dead of Night: King Athel decides Arthur and Kai can be trusted.
18. Celtic Girl: Kai spots Goda in the crowd.
20. The Fair Rowena: Kai and Goda walk in the meadow.
30. Night Scene: Arthur berates Kai; Goda appears.
32. Children’s Games: Arthur, Kai and Goda ride home.
22. Revelry: They arrive at Arthur’s village.
6. Infiltration and Treachery: Goda investigates Arthur’s defences.
3. Celtic Horns: Goda tells the Warrior her findings.
6. Infiltration and Treachery: Goda returns to the village.
31. Lyrical Romance: Kai runs to meet Goda.
16. Danger Mounts: Morcant’s attack begins.
11. Desolation and Despair: Kai drowns Morcant.
23. Arrival of Arthur: Arthur leaves King Athel’s village.
Variations on title theme: Arthur and Kai ride home.

The whole suite of music, written by Paul Lewis, is available on CD.


Arthur ……………... Oliver Tobias
Kai .….….….….…... Michael Gothard
Llud ………….......... Jack Watson
Athel …..................... Esmond Knight
Goda ………..…....... Hilary Dwyer
Morcant ……….…… Mark Eden
Warrior …………….. Robert Russell
Minstrel …………… Meic Stevens
Villager .…………… Rex Holdsworth
Tarn …….……......... Peter Richardson


Director ……………. Sidney Hayers
Story ……………....... Scott Forbes
Executive Producer … Patrick Dromgoole
Producer ……………. Peter Miller
Associate Producer … John Peverall
Production Manager ... Keith Evans
Post-production ...…... Barry Peters
Fight Arranger ……... Peter Brayham
Incidental music ……. Paul Lewis
Theme music ……….. Elmer Bernstein
Cameraman …………. Tony Impey
Camera Operator ……. Roger Pearce
Editor ……………….. David Williams
Sound recordist ……... Bob Stokes
Dubbing mixer ……… John Cross
Art Director …………. Doug James
Assistant Director …… Simon Hinkley
Production Assistant … Maggie Hayes
Costume Design …….. Audrey MacLeod
Make-up …………….. Christine Penwarden

Arthur and Kai return to their village to find it in flames, following a Saxon raid. The villagers are still trying to put out the fires when a Saxon longboat is seen in the river. Naturally, they think the enemy is returning, and Kai is the first to leap into action; but no dire threat lurks in the boat – just two Saxon children.

One of the Celt women leads the villagers in an angry protest; she wants to tie the children to the boat, and let them sink with it. But Arthur and Kai protect them, Arthur, carrying the girl, and Kai, shielding the boy with his cloak.

They find out that the children, Krist and Elka, don’t belong to their attackers, but to Ulrich’s people round the headland: Saxons with whom they have had no quarrel before.

Arthur tells Kai that he must be the one to take the children back to their village. At first, Kai refuses, saying that he is “no minder of children, especially Saxon brats”, but then Arthur reminds Kai that he was born a Saxon, and brought up by Llud, who was not too proud to look after a Saxon child. Kai is the only one who could get away with taking Krist and Elka home. Protesting that he is no good with children, Kai eventually goes along with Arthur’s plan.

He and the children travel through the summer countryside, stopping now and then. At one point, the children go and hide. When Kai finds them, he teaches them a secret whistle, in case they ever need to call for help.

At last, they arrive at a place Krist recognises, and Kai tells them to run ahead of him down the track to the village. He wisely intends to return home without encountering any more Saxons. But as he returns to his horse, one of the men from Ulrich’s village, Hald, surprises him, and – seeing that he has returned the lost children – insists that he come to the village.

Kai is greeted like a hero, wined and feasted. Ulrich’s daughter, Hildred, who has taken a shine to Kai, tries to persuade him to stay in their village. This incurs the anger of Horgren, a Saxon villager who carries a torch for Hildred, and resents this popular newcomer. Realising he has stayed too long already, Kai gets to his feet to return home, but Ulrich insists he stay the night, and Kai resigns himself to it.

Then the children blow his cover. While being put to bed, Krist innocently complains, saying that the Celts let them stay up late, and Kai is unmasked as the Saxon who rides with Arthur. He rapidly turns from hero into villain.
To Kai’s surprise, he is not killed straight away, but bound, and brought for trial. Accused of being a traitor, for killing his own kind, Kai says he doesn’t kill Saxons in revenge for having abandoned him. He only kills those who try to kill him, or to destroy the Celts’ way of life by cutting down the forests.

Horgren wants him put to death, but Hildred comes to his defence, saying that he brought the children back, and two lives deserve one – he should be set free. But Horgren accuses him of bringing the children back so he could spy on the camp.

As Ulrich and the rest of his elders debate Kai’s fate, he is kept bound and guarded in a hut. But Hildred sneaks around the back of the hut, and sticks the head of a spear through the wall, and Kai uses it to cuts his bonds.

Seeing that he is free, the guard comes inside and – in the ensuing struggle – accidentally stabs himself with his own knife. Kai hides the body and pretends he is still tied up. Ulrich comes with the surprising news that the prisoner is to be escorted out of Saxon territory, and set free.

Then Horgren comes in and finds the body. Kai bursts past two guards, out of the hut, and makes a run for it. All the men of the village give chase. Krist and Elka watch as they go past.

Kai hides in the woods. He breaks the neck of one of the men searching for him who gets too close. Meanwhile, Horgren finds Kai’s horse, and conceals himself nearby. When Kai runs to the horse, Horgren ambushes him, and they fight in the bracken.

Kai emerges, the victor, but with a nasty bleeding wound to the flank, and finds that his horse is nowhere to be seen.

The whole village is out beating the undergrowth for him, so again, he hides. All seems hopeless until Kai hears the secret whistle he taught the children. He peers out from his hiding place, to see them leading his horse towards him, half staggers, half falls onto the path, and lets Krist and Elka help him onto his horse. Kai grips Krist’s hand, tousles his hair, and rides away.

Elka then uses her – conveniently decapitated – doll to distract one of the Saxons, while Kai escapes.

Finally, we see Kai, lying in bed at home, his wound bandaged, and looking rather pensive. He and Arthur discuss how the Saxons treated him, and Arthur is perturbed to find that Kai has good things to say about Saxon justice. He has seen that the enemy is not so different after all.


Despite being aired before “The Challenge”, “The Gift of Life” seems to have been the second of the two episodes to be filmed. It appears after “The Challenge” in the “Arthur of the Britons” annual-format book by Terence Feely, in a German book loosely based on the series, “Konig Arthur”, and on the German DVD set.

In “The Gift of Life”, Krist’s enquiry about a wound on Kai’s neck, given to him by Arthur, and the reference by Ulrich’s minstrel to Arthur and Kai’s great fight, both suggest that the events in “The Challenge” were supposed to have occurred before those in “The Gift of Life.”

An injury suffered by Oliver Tobias while filming “The Challenge” caused a delay in completing the episode, and they changed the schedule so as to keep filming. There are three early episodes – “The Gift of Life”, “The Penitent Invader”, and “People of the Plough” – in which Arthur barely features, presumably because Oliver needed time to recuperate. Though these episodes were filmed not far apart, the producers decided to spread them out, perhaps so that Oliver’s absence would not be so noticeable.

Further evidence for this episode having been filmed second, is Oliver Tobias’ apparent unsteadiness on his horse as they ride into the village. Oliver was a very skilled horseman, so it would be surprising to see him having problems if he were in the best of health.

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Suggested shooting order so far

Arthur is Dead
Daughter of the King
The Challenge
The Gift of Life


Arthur’s village is still set at the Woodchester site, by the lakeside.

Longboat (20)

“The Gift of Life” is the first episode to feature the site at Woollard, where Ulrich’s village was set. The site was later to become Arthur’s new village. All filming was on the north east side of the longhouse.

Inside Information

Sean Fleming was actually the son of the Executive Producer, Patrick Dromgoole, but he used a pseudonym for the credit. Sean kindly agreed to be interviewed, and supplied these extra details.

Cast notes

Though Llud is mentioned, Jack Watson doesn’t appear in this episode. Supposedly, Llud was called away to see Ambrose.

Stephan Chase, who played Horgren, recently appeared in Maleficent. Some of his memories of appearing in the series can be found here.

When Tamzin Neville's mother, Daphne, who worked for HTV, heard that they were auditioning children, she took her three daughters to try out for parts. Tamzin was cast as Elka, and Perry was given a small speaking role as one of the Wood People’s children in “The Wood People.”  All three sisters appeared in "The Gift of Life", as both Perry and Sophie were cast as extras, along with their mother.

Welcome (18)

Daphne is on the far right, Sophie is wearing the gold dress, and Perry, the violet dress.

They all had ponies, so Tamzin, who was 8 years old, could already ride, though – according to Sophie – no one asked, before giving her the part. According to Sophie, Oliver Tobias later introduced Tamzin as his co-star.

Daphne Neville, who acted as their on-set chaperone, recalls that Michael Gothard was very good with the children.


This is Daphne, who appeared as an extra, playing a Saxon woman, with Tamzin, as Elka, Geoffrey Adams as Hald, and Sean Fleming as Krist.

Thanks to Stephan Chase, Sophie Neville, and Daphne Neville.

Further details and photos from the filming of "The Gift of Life" can be found on Sophie's blog, here.

The Hot-headed Sidekick/Family Ties

Though Kai is the first to tackle whatever threat is in the boat, when he finds it is just two children, he tries to keep them at arm’s length. But Arthur makes him engage, giving Elka’s doll to fix, and Kai is disconcerted when she thanks him for putting its head back on.

Then, as Arthur and Kai discuss what to do with the children, we find out why Kai might be reticent: Arthur reveals – for the first time – that Kai was an abandoned Saxon child, found and raised by Llud.

This sets up one of the main conflicts in the series; Kai is “the Saxon who rides with Arthur"; the cuckoo in the nest, who – every now and then – finds his loyalty questioned by others, or tested by circumstance, and has to prove himself a Celt at heart. This is probably why he was so keen to leap into the attack when the Saxon longboat appeared. It also explains his reluctance to talk to the children, or to be the one who returns them to their village.

Having persuaded Kai that he is the only one who can do the job, Arthur adjures Kai not to, “get too involved with the Saxons, and stay.” This seems unfair, given that he is the one who insisted Kai go in the first place, and earns him an offended look from Kai, but is perhaps less surprising if one assumes that their ferocious contest in “The Challenge” occurred just before the events in this episode, rather than after them.

Despite Kai’s earlier reluctance to be a childminder, during the course of their journey, Kai clearly becomes attached to the children, and when they go and hide, he is ready to draw blood to get them back. On finding them, he calls them, “little Saxon monsters” with a good deal of affection. He was genuinely worried and claims there are dangerous wild boar around, but in truth, he was just being over-protective! Despite what he claims, he is good with children!

On arriving in Saxon territory, Kai has some unsettling experiences: being asked by Hald, whether he mistook him for a ‘murdering Celt’; being welcomed as a hero by people he regards as his enemies; hearing the minstrel play a song that reminds him of his childhood. When he is asked to stay, by the Saxon leader’s pretty daughter, Hildred, he immediately gets up to leave, as if reminded that Arthur asked him not to get too involved with the Saxons, and fearing that this could easily happen.

Then, when his identity is revealed, Kai learns how the Saxons see him: Kai, the barbarian, Arthur’s right-hand man, the Saxon who fights against Saxons, and a traitor; Kai the Butcher.

In defending himself, Kai explains that as a child, he was left for dead by the Saxons, but he denies killing for revenge. He experiences a moment of confusion as to how to refer to himself: “The Celts were here before us. You are the intruders.” He tells them that he only kills those who would have killed him – and despatches three Saxons, in making his escape.

Celts and Saxons

At the beginning of the episode, we witness a very unpleasant reaction from one of the women in Arthur’s village, to the two Saxon children: “No woman here is going to mother them. That boat is holed and sinking – lash those Saxon brats to the boards and send them down with it!”

Later, we learn some of the reasons the Celts and Saxons don’t get along. Kai accuses the Saxons: “You despoil our forests. You cut down our trees. You drive out the wild boar which is the food of life to us.” The Saxons are farmers, the Celts, hunters; both raid each other’s villages.

As Ulrich and his Elders decide what to do with Kai, we see that the young Saxon woman, Hildred, doesn’t have much faith in the justice of her own people; she pre-empts her father’s decision, by helping Kai escape. When Kai learns that he is to be set free – and that his Saxon guard died for nothing – he is clearly perturbed.

On Kai’s return, Arthur is in a sombre mood, telling Kai, “Wear that wound proudly, Kai. That is the only gift you will ever receive from the Saxons.”

But to Arthur’s annoyance, Kai has learned that the Saxons are not all bad: “They are men like us, and like us, they also believe in justice.” Arthur says that if the positions had been reversed, “The Celts would have held council. The lawgiver would have decided the case.” But Kai dares to suggest that the Saxon justice system is fairer than that of the Celts, because “There, every man was heard.”

Perhaps his final statement – “they gave me … a gift of life” – is an acknowledgement not only of those in Ulrich’s village who spared his life, but of the fact that he was born a Saxon.

"By the Gods!"

Hald twice says, “By all the gods”: once when he sees the children are alive and well, and again when he learns that Kai has come from a Celt village, but we are not told the names of any of these gods.

Dark Age Men

When Hildred steps up to defend Kai, Ulrich says that “women may not be heard.” But in Saxon society, women had equal standing, within the community; they owned property, were often educated, and were sometimes buried with weapons.

The best laid plans …

Sending Kai to a Saxon encampment doesn’t seem one of Arthur’s most brilliant plans.

Kai teaches the children a secret whistle in case they need to call for help, and this later proves critical to his own survival. He – very sensibly – tries to avoid going into the Saxon village, telling the children to go on ahead of him.

But neither Kai nor Arthur gave the children any coaching as to what they should tell the Saxons about where they have been, or with whom.

Great moments

Krist’s refusal to be over-awed by Arthur, or by his precarious situation, demanding, “What’s yours?” when asked his name. Also, the way he protects his sister from the harsh truth, saying that their parents “had to leave us.”

Kai, grumpily repairing Elka’s doll, and the look he gives her when she thanks him.

Arthur’s anxious look as Kai and the children ride away.

Kai’s ‘typical grown-up’ response to Krist’s enquiry about why it’s dangerous country: “Because it is!”

The triumphant procession of Kai and the children into the village.

Elka, setting her Saxon foster parents straight about the Celts: “And they’re NOT savages. They’re NICE.”

The children helping Kai onto his horse, and Elka’s quick thinking in distracting one of his pursuers.


Kai has most of the best lines:

"Why couldn’t you – feed the squirrels before we left?"

"I’ve killed only those who would have killed me."

"They are men like us, and like us, they also believe in justice."

The burden and loneliness of command

The burden must feel especially heavy when your people are demanding the execution of children. The Celts leave Arthur with little choice but to risk losing Kai, by sending him into enemy territory. Arthur looks pensive as he watches Kai and the children leave, and cuts a lonely figure as he heads back into the longhouse. Perhaps another reason he sends Kai to the Saxon village is to give him the chance to return to his own people, if that is what he wants.

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

Arthur rides Bernie into the village, while Kai rides Merlin. Merlin also carries Kai, along with both children, to Ulrich's village. On the return journey, Kai rides Merlin's's stand-in, Smudge.

The Celt horseman who rides in saying that the Saxons are coming back, rides James.

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

‘That is bloody dangerous!’

Kai goes to the Saxon village armed with a sword; he never gets to use it in combat, but has to fight barehanded against his guard, as well as Horgren and another of his pursuers, all of whom are armed.

Most of the Saxons carry axes. Hald jubilantly embeds his in a fence post on his way into the village, and Horgren later grabs it on his way past, in pursuit of Kai. The guards all carry spears, and one of them stabs himself with his own knife.

Dressed to kill?

At the beginning of the episode, Kai is wearing a brown smock-type shirt, and a big cloak, which had previously seen service on “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” season 2, episode 7: The Attila the Hun Show, broadcast in 1970. Kai also wore this cloak at the beginning of “Arthur is Dead”, and in later episodes.

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Longboat (13) No good with children (4)

Arthur is wearing a brown tunic with light brown trim like the one he wore in “The Challenge.” However, this tunic – or one very like it – was ruined during the fight with Kai. It’s possible that the final fight scenes from “The Challenge” were filmed after this scene – or that two similar tunics were made by the wardrobe department.

For his journey to the Saxon village, Kai wears his studded tunic, with a bit of sheepskin slung over the shoulder, to make him look more like a Saxon, but he doesn’t leave his furry boot covers behind. During the feast, Kai is no longer wearing the sheepskin.

Though most of the Saxon men wear white sheepskins – which must have been extremely uncomfortable in midsummer – the higher-ranking men like Ulrich seem to wear fur.

In comparison to the dull and dirty clothes the Celt villagers wear, the Saxon women are clad in summery pastel-coloured dresses.

No good with children (5) Welcome (18)

At the end of the episode, Arthur is wearing what appears to be a dark blue woolly bathrobe, and Kai is clad in just his cloak, and a rather unsanitary-looking bandage!

On the table

The Saxon feast consists of various fruits and vegetables, bread, and what might be a pig, roasting on a spit. As Kai lies in his sickbed, he has been provided with apples, a leg of something, and an enormous bunch of grapes.

Honourable mention …

… for the magnificent efforts of the Celt villagers to put out some very nasty-looking fires; also, the horse that safely carries Kai, Krist and Elka – all of whom do a fine job.

What’s going on here?

It seems a bit odd that Krist, a Saxon child, is carrying a wooden sword, rather than an axe, but Kai’s decision to go to Ulrich’s village armed with a sword doesn’t elicit any comment from the Saxons, so perhaps these things were sometimes left to individual choice.

This is the first episode in which we see what appear to be obvious tyre tracks – though it could be argued they were made by cartwheels.

The Journey (52)

When Kai arrives in Ulrich’s village, the women come running from their work in the fields. The men then come from the village, where they were doing …. what, exactly?

Hildred says that the minstrel only knows one song – the one about having room in his house for a wife – but the minstrel himself claims he sings a song about Kai’s “great fight” with Arthur, so perhaps Hildred was joking!

Krist complains about being put to bed early, but later, when Kai escapes, he and Elka are fully dressed, and up and about.

Kai doesn’t seem surprised that the horse he finds tied to the tree after his escape is not the one he left there, earlier in the day!

The Journey (18) Escaping (59)

Arthur seems unreasonably cross with Kai on his return – as if he volunteered to go and get himself into trouble!

And is that a matchbox on the shelf?

Welcome home (7)


According to the cast list, the Saxon minstrel is played by Meic Stevens, though he is using a different voice to the one he used when he was playing Arthur’s minstrel, in “Arthur is Dead.”

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

26. Evil Stirs: the Celts watch the Saxon longboat approach the jetty
33. Springtime: the Saxon children appear from the bottom of the boat; Kai and the children ride away from the village and through the countryside.
13. In All Weathers: Krist feeds Kai’s horse some grass; Kai looks for the children.
29. Pastoral Episode: Kai and the children enter Ulrich’s village.
26. Evil Stirs: Hildred helps Kai cut his bonds; Ulrich comes to give judgement.
12. Duel: Kai escapes.
10. Battle on horseback: Kai and Horgren fight.
29. Pastoral Episode: the children help Kai onto his horse, and watch as he rides away.

The whole suite of music, written by Paul Lewis, is available on CD.


Arthur ……………... Oliver Tobias
Kai .….….….……… Michael Gothard
Horgen …………...... Stephan Chase
Hildred …................. Heather Wright
Ulrich ………..…..... Kenneth Benda
Krist ……….…….... Sean Fleming
Elka ……………...... Tamzin Neville
Hald ………………. Geoffrey Adams
Minstrel …………… Meic Stevens
Celt Villager .……… Roger Forbes
Horseman ……......... Sean McCauley


Director ……………... Pat Jackson
Writer ……………...... Terence Feely
Executive Producer ….. Patrick Dromgoole
Producer ……………... Peter Miller
Associate Producer ….. John Peverall
Production Manager ..... Keith Evans
Post-production ...…..... Barry Peters
Fight Arranger ……...... Peter Brayham
Incidental music ……... Paul Lewis
Theme music ……….... Elmer Bernstein
Cameraman ………….. Bob Edwards
Camera Operator ……. Brian Morgan
Editor ……………….. Dave Samuel-Camps
Sound recordist ……... Mike Davey
Dubbing mixer ……… John Cross
Art Director …………. Doug James
Assistant Director …… Keith Knott
Production Assistant … Patti Belcher
Costume Design …….. Audrey MacLeod
Make-up …………….. Christine Penwarden

The episode starts with a fight in the woods, between two cousins, Garet and Gawain, who are continuing a long-standing feud between their fathers over an inheritance.

When Arthur interrupts them, Garet admits, “It all starts from nothing.” He and Gawain don’t really hate each other – they just get carried away.

But Garet and Gawain are the leaders of their villages, whom Arthur charged with keeping the Saxons to the North at bay, not fighting each other. Mightily displeased, Arthur banishes them both to Gaul. Each cousin offers to go there alone, to stop the fighting, then they squabble again, over who should have the right to make this sacrifice! Finally they work together, taking Arthur, Kai and Llud by surprise, pushing them off their horses, and escaping.

When Arthur and Kai give chase, Kai suggests a bet: Arthur’s dagger against Kai’s new spear, that Kai catches one of the brothers before Arthur.

Arthur ambushes and catches Garet with minimal effort, while Kai rides after Gawain, and takes him prisoner. Both miscreants react with oddly good-natured acceptance when they are caught, and – this time – their hands are tied, to stop them getting away again.

Now Kai wants to know who won the bet. Seeming to know that the answer will cause trouble, Llud is reluctant to tell him, but Kai won’t let it rest, and Llud has to admit that Arthur won by a narrow margin.

Kai resents giving up his new spear, but he resents it even more when Arthur won’t accept it. Kai launches it over their heads; Arthur observes that he must be tired, then throws his own spear, which lands a little further away.

Llud tries to get them moving on, but they ignore him, challenging each other for both distance and accuracy, in spear throwing. Their exchanges acquire a definite edge, and the contest becomes more hazardous as they test out each other’s shield arms, then joust, then belabour each other with their spears.

Amused at first, Garet and Gawain give each other increasingly puzzled looks. They are beginning to wonder why they are the ones tied up. Llud is getting worried, but Arthur laughs off his concerns – “It’s just a game, Llud” – while Kai continues to rise to Arthur’s baiting.

Arthur knocks Kai’s spear from his hand; Kai draws his axe. Arthur throws away his spear and draws his sword. They fight again, until they break each other’s shields. Then they simply ride at each other, their weapons crashing together.

Arthur cuts Kai’s stirrup, unhorsing him. Arthur dismounts, and they continue fighting, sword against axe. Kai disarms Arthur. Arthur runs to get one of Garet and Gawain’s confiscated weapons – a short sword – and Kai throws his axe away and asks for the other, to make the contest more even.

Both wounded, they fight on until both are disarmed. Then they throttle each other, and – locked together – roll down a bank into a stream, and struggle in the mud and water.

As Llud and the two cousins look on in dismay, Arthur picks up Kai’s axe, and brings the blade down into the mud, where Kai’s head lay a split second before. Kai gets to his feet, pulls a knife from his belt, and stares at Arthur.

The sight of Kai’s axe embedded in the mud finally brings Arthur to his senses, and they both stand down.

They climb up the bank, together, helping each other. Llud unties Garet and Gawain. Their banishment is rescinded.


Despite being aired after “The Gift of Life”, “The Challenge” seems to have been the first of these two episodes to be filmed. It appears before “The Gift of Life” in the “Arthur of the Britons” annual-format book by Terence Feely, a German book loosely based on the series, “Konig Arthur”, and on the German DVD set.

In “The Gift of Life”, both Krist’s enquiry about a wound on Kai’s neck, given to him by Arthur, and the reference by Ulrich’s minstrel to Arthur and Kai’s great fights, suggest that the events in “The Challenge” were supposed to have occurred before those in “The Gift of Life.”

The injury suffered by Oliver Tobias while filming “The Challenge” caused a delay in completing the episode, and – as cameraman Roger Pearce acknowledges – they changed the schedule so as to keep filming.

An article in the Western Daily Press published 19 July refers to this accident as having occurred during the previous week, so "The Challenge" must have been mostly filmed in the week beginning 11 July.

Suggested shooting order so far

Arthur is Dead
Daughter of the King
The Challenge

Broadcast problems

On 11 January 1973, a letter from R.J. Simmons, Press Officer for HTV West, was published in The Stage.

Simmons was responding to a complaint that episode 3 of “Arthur of the Britons”, "The Challenge", broadcast on 20 December 1972, was difficult to understand. Simmons explained that this was because a Post Office fault caused the loss of sound during the first 8 minutes, resulting in the loss of much vital dialogue. According to the letter, several companies showed that episode again later.


Cameraman Roger Pearce confirmed that the scenes where the protagonists ride through the bracken were filmed in the Mendips. The rest of the episode was filmed in Compton Dando, at this location.

Inside information

Oliver is justifiably proud of having done all but one of his own stunts for the series, and sports a “Worldwide British Equity Registered Stuntman” sticker on the windscreen of his Ducati.

While filming stunts for “The Challenge”, he suffered a serious injury. At a meeting with fans in 2010, he said: ‘I’m lucky to be here – I nearly died during filming.’ For the sequence where Arthur has to parry spears with his shield, they had a champion javelin thrower from Bristol University standing beside the camera, hurling spears at Oliver.

Oliver thought he was young and athletic enough to jump out of the way in time, but – on one occasion – he didn’t make it. The spear glanced off the inside of his shield instead of the outside, and hit him on the back of the head. ‘When it hit me, it was like a ship running aground.’

He remembers Michael Gothard holding his head in his lap while they were waiting for the ambulance, and then waking up in Bristol Infirmary thinking he’d died and gone to heaven, and that the very pretty nurse bending over him with a gold cross dangling from her neck was an angel. He needed ten or more stitches (reports vary), and was out of action for a fortnight with concussion: ‘You feel terrible and can’t focus on anything.’

Cameraman Roger Pearce says: “I think it was late afternoon and the result of a spear being thrown; it would not have been metal but a solid rubber tipped one. But with the weight of the wooden shaft behind it, it could still wound. I seem to remember Ollie was taken off by ambulance to be checked over and there may have been a few stitches to boot! Was filming halted? No, just rearrange the call sheet and press on!”

When filming the fight in the stream, Roger recalls that they rolled down the bank a couple of times to practice, but they couldn’t get their costumes wet, or it would have been all over.

Oliver remembered that they were extremely cold by the time they finished filming the fight. In the scene following the fight, where they ride off on their separate ways, Arthur is wearing different breeches. Oliver said this was because ‘we washed our clothes, and I refused to get on a horse with a wet gusset!’

Cast notes

Both Ken Hutchinson (Gawain) and Nicky Henson have long careers in TV and film.

Re-working the legend

In Arthurian legend, Gawain is one of the greatest knights of the Round Table. His brothers, Gareth and Mordred are also knights. When Lancelot accidentally kills Gareth, the recriminations and political machinations that follow precipitate the break-up of Arthur’s Round Table, and Arthur’s death in battle with Mordred.

In “The Challenge”, Garet and Gawain’s dispute precipitates the struggle between Arthur and Kai, which prompts Gawain’s fearful speculation, “It’s to the death …” to which Llud responds, “If what you say is true, then it’s more than the death of one man. It’ll destroy the other. It will destroy this land”: echoes of “The King and the Land are one.”

Dark Age Men

Most of the commentary on this episode could easily appear in this section: the whole 25 minutes is a feast of macho posturing. The competition between Arthur and Kai starts innocently enough, but Kai is a little too anxious to learn who caught his man first, and is annoyed when Arthur says he only won because he knew Gareth and Gawain’s minds: tantamount to saying, “It wasn’t fair on you – I used my superior intellect.”

Then when Kai beats Arthur for distance with the spear-throwing contest, Arthur moves the goalposts: “It’s accuracy that counts.”

He beats Kai at hitting the target, then goes out of his way to insult Kai’s defensive capabilities:
Kai: So you have a better shield arm too, have you?
Arthur: I did not say that … To state the obvious is a tedious pastime.

Kai keeps the coolest head, while Arthur seams desperate to win at all costs; during the jousting, when Kai wounds him, drawing blood, he is clearly furious.

Though Arthur gives up the advantage of his spear, apparently for the sake of fairness, later, when he has cut Kai’s stirrup, pitching him from his horse, he says: “I wouldn’t want you to say that my horse beat you.” It sounds as if he just wants to keep fighting until he has beaten Kai in as many ways as he can; until Kai acknowledges him the better warrior.

Then Kai, with his axe, sends Arthur’s sword flying off out of reach; at this point, with no weapon in his hand, Arthur should have admitted defeat, and – if he was in his right mind – he would have. But he runs to fetch a short sword.

Now, Kai gives up his axe, in exchange for another short sword, because he can see that there is no point trying to call a halt to the fight; Arthur will not be satisfied until he has won.

It isn’t until Arthur nearly splits Kai’s head open, and Kai gets to his feet and pulls a knife from his belt – which he could have done any time when they were fighting hand-to hand – that Arthur comes to his senses.

The best laid plans …

Not tying Garet and Gawain up right from the start wasn’t one of Arthur’s best moves. As a result, Garet and Gawain’s escape plan, made up on the fly, works like a dream.

The smug look Arthur gives Garet and Gawain at the end almost hints that his fight with Kai was a deliberate attempt to teach the Garet and Gawain a lesson; to show them how they look from the outside. If so, they took the charade much too far!

And the plan to send Garet and Gawain to Gaul … well, that didn’t really work out.

Great moments

The episode is full of them.

Build-up (14) Build-up (21)

The beginning of Arthur and Kai's disagreement.

Spear contest (46)

The little flick Kai gives Arthur’s hand at 10.25 to try to get him to calm down.

Kai, standing at bay at 16:02 with only an axe, against Arthur’s spear;

The moment Arthur comes to his senses and throws the axe away, and the way they help each other back up the bank afterwards.


Arthur: You’re a broken shield at my back.

Gawain: All those who are close by blood ties have their differences. Only holy men and cowards agree all the time.

Kai: I was pinning frogs’ legs before I could talk.
Arthur: It must have been irksome – not being able to tell anyone about it.
Kai: I can tell them about it now.

Arthur: I wouldn’t want you to say that my horse beat you.
Kai: Your horse would have a better chance.

Gawain: It’s to the death …
Llud: If what you say is true, then it’s more than the death of one man. It’ll destroy the other. It will destroy this land.

Family ties

This episode introduces a recurring theme of familial rivalry, in the persons of cousins, Garet and Gawain.

The relationship between Arthur, Kai and Llud has still not been explained, but in this episode, Llud says: “I trained you both for battle.” Then, as their contest intensifies: “had to come – now they must fight it out.”

This tells us that Llud has seen them grow up together, and been aware of this rivalry bubbling under the surface for a long time; that Arthur and Kai have fought before, probably with varying degrees of seriousness, ranging from play, through practice, to quite serious quarrels.

As it is fairly clear that Kai is older than Arthur. 1 It seems likely that Arthur has been fighting Kai for most of his life, and – probably – for most of that time, as the younger and more slightly built of the two, he has been losing: and he hasn’t liked it, which would explain why Llud thinks it “had to come.”

Their importance to each other is hinted at when Llud answers Gawain’s “It’s to the death …” with, “If what you say is true, then it’s more than the death of one man. It’ll destroy the other.”

Arthur’s wisdom

To quote Arthur hinmself, in "Arthur is Dead" - “If I fight now to prove myself, reason will have flown.” Reason certainly went on a long migration in this episode! He seems to forget that just because he is the leader, doesn’t necessarily mean he must be the strongest or most skilful fighter, and he allows himself to get so caught up in the contest that he almost kills his best friend.

The burden of command

The worry about having to keep his people safe, and sort out these squabbles between his underlings must put Arthur under a lot of pressure. Llud reminds Arthur and Kai: “This is no feast day. We have work ahead of us” – but perhaps that is part of the problem. As Arthur puts it, “Young men must have their sport.”

The hot-headed sidekick …

… seems less hot-headed than Arthur, on this occasion.

A wager’s a wager

Wagering is part of normal life for Arthur and Kai – as in their race at the end of “Arthur is Dead”, and their knife-throwing for who fetches supplies, in “Daughter of the King.” But for some reason, this particular wager leads to trouble. Arthur must have known that Kai would be insulted by the rejection of the spear Arthur won from him.

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

This week, Arthur is seen doing the same unconventional dismount as Kai did in “Daughter of the King”, swinging his right leg over his horse’s neck, so he doesn’t have to take his eyes off Garet and Gawain.

At a meeting in 2010, Oliver Tobias told of how, in one scene from “The Challenge”, the horse that he was riding bolted, because it hadn’t been trained to carry the two spears that were dangling from either side of the saddle, and made a loud clanking noise when it moved. The horse was spooked, and bolted; it was running for ages in a blind panic. Oliver tried steering it towards a tree, but that didn’t slow it down, and he was thinking of throwing himself off, but he eventually managed to get it under control again. This was a horse called Skyline. Throughout most of the episode, Arthur is mostly seen riding his usual white horse, Bernie.

Kai once again rides Merlin. Llud rides his usual chestnut, Curly; Gawain rides Blondie, and Garet rides Pinkie.

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

‘That is bloody dangerous!’

There is a lot of stunt work in this episode, and some of it was evidently quite dangerous, given the aforementioned injury to Oliver Tobias. Everyone except Gawain falls off their horse; Kai falls off twice! The lack of any kind of head protection is, as ever, taken for granted.

To open the episode, Garet and Gawain go at it hammer and tongs, and as for Arthur and Kai: there aren’t many weapons don’t make use of. They fight with spears, swords, shields, and short swords; Kai fights with his axe for the first time, and Arthur also uses it, nearly splitting Kai’s skull. At the end, Kai pulls a knife to defend himself.

As well as the fights, there is the scene where Kai rides after Gawain, at a gallop, holding his spear over his head with both hands, and launches the spear. This must have required great strength and balance.

Dressed to kill?

Arthur is wearing the same brown tunic with light brown trim that he wore for part of “Daughter of the King”, with a white shirt underneath. Kai wears a suede lace-up shirt. His studded tunic can be seen stowed behind his saddle, but – despite the fact that he spends much of the episode fighting – he doesn’t put it on. Llud wears a suede jerkin, with a white shirt.

What’s going on here?

While Arthur berates Garet and Gawain in the woods, we see a reaction shot of Llud which was clearly taken out in the open.

Arthur intervenes (12) Arthur intervenes (9)

The shot was stolen from the scene where Arthur and Kai are about to throw spears at each other.

When Kai first launches his spear, Arthur observes that he must be tired, then throws his own spear; everyone, including Kai, seems to acknowledge Arthur’s throw as the longest. But if you take into account the positions from which each man threw his spear, Kai’s has clearly travelled further than Arthur’s.

The bits of sheepskin binding meant to blunt the points of Arthur and Kai’s spears look entirely ineffective.

Spear throwing (4)

Arthur claims to have been taught the short sword by the Romans, and Kai retorts that he’s killed Romans with it. Both these statements appear anachronistic, as the Romans officially left Britain before they were born. It’s possible they are referring to former Romans who had become naturalised, or to Britons like Ambrose, who still emulated the Roman ways.


There is little reference to religion in this episode, apart from Garet’s opening line, “God! I’ll kill you!”

Arthur’s shield has a cross on it.

Honourable mention

The horses ridden by Arthur and Kai during their battle have to be mentioned here, for bravery and trust in their riders, who were swinging axes and swords around their heads.

Mounted fight (156) River brawl (32)

Garet and Gawain provide great comic relief.


Paul Lewis revealed that for the scene where Arthur and Kai fight in the stream, one of the editors reversed the tape and played a music cue backwards. “It was a long sequence of sustained string tremolos punctuated by drumbeats, rising in pitch and intensity to a big climax. There was a fight in the mud which got slower and slower until the combatants dropped from exhaustion, so Editor Alex Kirby played the music backwards so that it gradually sagged away to nothing! So resourceful, and the joke is I never noticed! So much grunting, clashing of weapons and muddy splodgy sounds!”

The reversed track seems to be “Battle on Horseback.” In total, the tracks of incidental music used in this episode, were:

Track 12, Duel: Garet and Gawain fight in the woods.
Track 34, Title theme (bridge): riding through the bracken.
Track 14, Chase!: Arthur and Kai chase Gawain and Garet.
Track 26, Evil Stirs: tensions mount between Arthur and Kai.
Track 11, Desolation and Despair: Arthur insults Kai’s defensive abilities.
Track 9, Muttering and Plotting: Arthur and Kai throw spears at each other, and joust.
Track 10, Battle on Horseback/Bitter Victory: they fight on horseback.
Track 12, Duel: they fight on foot, with short swords.
Track 10, Battle on Horseback (reversed): they roll down the bank and fight in the stream.
Track 23, Arrival of Arthur: the two groups go their separate ways.

The whole suite of music, written by Paul Lewis, is available on CD.


Arthur ……………... Oliver Tobias
Kai .….….….….…... Michael Gothard
Llud ………………... Jack Watson
Garet ………………. Nicky Henson
Gawain ………….… Ken Hutchinson


Executive Producer ... Patrick Dromgoole
Producer …………… Peter Miller
Director ……………. Sidney Hayers
Story ………………. Terence Feely
Associate Producer … John Peverall
Production Manager ... Keith Evans
Action Arranger ……. Peter Brayham
Post-production ……. Barry Peters
Cameraman ………... Tony Impey
Camera Operator …... Roger Pearce
Film Editing ………... David Williams
Sound recordist ……. Bob Stokes
Dubbing Mixer …….. John Cross
Art Direction ….…… Doug James
Assistant Director ….. Simon Hinkley
Production Assistant .. Maggie Hayes
Wardrobe ……..……. Audrey MacLeod
Make-up ….….…….. Christine Penwarden
Incidental music ……. Paul Lewis
Theme music ………. Elmer Bernstein

1 Michael Gothard is older than Oliver Tobias by eight years, and in Arthurian legend, Sir Kay is generally said to be older than Arthur.

The episode opens with Arthur and Kai traipsing through a waterlogged yard, in the middle of winter, bringing supplies to the longhouse from an outdoor store-shed. They then compete with Llud for “who fetches the mead” by throwing knives at a target board, while discussing Kai’s success at bedding one of the village girls, on whom Arthur also had his eye. Then Arthur’s aim is spoiled by his anger at a rival Celtic chieftain, Bavick, who often raids the villages of other Celts; Arthur vows to “split his head in two.”

In the next scene, set in summer, Arthur, Kai, and some of their men are out riding when they spot a party of armed Celts, whom Arthur mistakenly takes for Bavick’s men. Before joining battle, Arthur and Kai chase down a riderless horse they have spotted. They are then almost attacked by another local leader, Tugram, who takes them for Bavick’s men. Bavick recently attacked and burned Tugram’s village, and took all the women.

They notice Bavick’s daughter jumping out of a tree, and Arthur sends Kai to take her prisoner – a task he sets about with gusto.

Back at the longhouse, Arthur has a discussion with their captive, whose name is Eithna. He learns that Bavick is a doting father, and is a man who keeps his word. He tells Tugram and Kai that he intends to extract a promise from Bavick, not to attack other Celts, in exchange for the safe return of his daughter. Hearing this, Eithna rushes out and attacks Arthur, who cuts off a lock of her hair. Llud sets off – with the lock of hair – to negotiate with Bavick.

The next morning, Arthur tells Eithna to go to the lake to bathe, and put on a dress. When she refuses, he throws her over his shoulder, carries her down, and pitches her into the lake.

Bavick takes Llud captive, and refuses to consider the terms offered until his daughter is returned.

Meanwhile, Kai finds Eithna preening by the lakeside, and they discuss Arthur’s philosophy. Kai is just putting into practice Eithna’s opposing philosophy – “You should know what you want, and take it” – when a messenger arrives from Bavick, demanding the return of Eithna as a fair exchange for Llud.

Eithna tells Arthur he is weak for using a woman as a hostage, and also for giving in, rather than killing her. Arthur explains that he is trying to stop the cycle of violence.

Arthur and his men go to exchange prisoners with Bavick, but as Llud crosses paths with Eithna, he snatches her from her horse, and once again takes her prisoner.

Bavick sends word that he agrees to Arthur’s terms: a promise of peace for the safe return of Eithna. Eithna tells Arthur she wants to stay in his village, but Arthur insists that she return home. At the celebratory feast, Eithna tells Kai, “You could be of service to me.”

The next morning, apparently after a night of passion, Kai tells Arthur that he and Eithna want to be together; she is staying with him. Arthur and Kai fight fiercely, and Arthur ends up pulling a knife, but when Kai says, “you want her!” he slowly lowers it. Eithna is pleased, seeing the fight as proof that Arthur is attracted to her. She returns home.

In the final scene, Arthur and Kai are both brooding over their fight. Llud hands Kai two horns of wine, one of which Kai throws in Arthur’s face. He gives the other to Arthur, who responds in kind. Their quarrel is over.


“Daughter of the King” was first shown on 7 November 1973, as part of Season 2, but – apart from the knife-throwing scene at the beginning – the episode was filmed in July 1972 by Peter Sasdy. For some unknown reason, the knife-throwing scene had to be re-shot in November 1972. If the post-production work on the episode was not finished, this may explain why the episode was shown so far out of order. Also, HTV may not have wanted to show two episodes where Arthur and Kai have a big fight (the other being “The Challenge”) so close together.

Suggested shooting order so far

Arthur is Dead
Daughter of the King


The version of Arthur’s village seen throughout most of this episode is the one by the lake at Woodchester Park, near Stroud, in Gloucestershire.

The knife-throwing scene was filmed in the village location built at Woodborough Mill Farm in Woollard, after the whole production was moved there from Woodchester.1

The location of the scenes where Arthur’s men meet Tugram’s and Bavick's, and of Bavick’s palisaded village has not yet been established.

Cast notes

Madeleine Hinde, who played Eithna in this episode, had worked with Michael Gothard only a couple of years before, on “The Last Valley.” In this epic film, Michael played Hansen, one of a band of mercenaries, who tries to rape Madeleine’s character, Inge.

Hansen and Inge small

Tony Steedman, who played Tugram, was later seen as Wolfie’s dad in “Citizen Smith”, and as Socrates in “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.”


We also see an early performance by Iain Cuthbertson, almost unrecognisable as Bavick.

Inside Information

The daughter of one of Michael's friends recalls: “In ‘Daughter of the King’, the bit where he sort of nudges Arthur? That was a typical Michael thing. If he wanted something he would come and sit next to you and give that little nudge. If there was no response, he would give a bigger nudge, and so on and so on, until you caved in! ... The more I see of ‘Arthur of the Britons’, the more I see that there is SO much of Michael in Kai.”

The rest of the memories she has shared can be found here.

Re-working the legend

When Arthur gives Eithna her impromptu bath, the Lady of the Lake becomes the Lady in the Lake. Of Arthur and Kai’s fight over Eithna, Patrick Dromgoole said: “The jealousy of Arthur and Kai over Eithna is a common dramatic triangle, as in the original Malory.”

Dark Age Men

Bavick, the villain of the week, is depicted as rapacious; Tugram complains, “They took our women away!” and complains to Arthur, “You’re being very protective with Bavick’s whelp. Is he being as tender with the women he took from our villages?”

But Kai also treats Eithna as a spoil of war. He seems to expect that Arthur will ravish her, and if Arthur isn’t interested, Kai is ready to try his luck, though he doesn’t seem to mind when she puts up a fight. “A wildcat! I like that.”

When Eithna is captured, she is wearing breeches, but Arthur demands to know: “Do you ever dress like a woman?” To encourage her to put on a dress, he – very childishly – humiliates her, by throwing her into the lake. Why he cares so much about his enemy’s daughter’s attire is never explained, but Kai is pleased with the result: “Arthur’s done well with you in my absence.”

Kai and Arthur's seeming rivalry over Eithna was foreshadowed in the opening scene, where they banter about their competition for Leesa’s favour, and by the minstrel's song: "Let not a woman’s guiles and wiles, quiet smiles, blind your eyes." In the end, they don't let it spoil their friendship.

The burden of command

In the opening scene, Arthur quickly switches from joking about Kai’s latest conquest to the problem of Bavick – from the private to the political. His responsibilities as a leader are never far from his mind. Later, we see that Arthur even thinks twice about giving up his hostage to save Llud’s life, so intent is he on achieving peace among the Celts.

Arthur’s wisdom

Once again, the episode focuses on how tired Arthur is, of “the bloody business of Celt killing Celt.” When Eithna accuses Arthur of being weak, he says: “Not weak – practical. If I’d killed you, your father would have sought vengeance. All your death would have achieved is more death.” When he finally secures Bavick’s promise, he says “I’ll drink to anything that brings peace between the Celts without shedding a single drop of blood.”

The hot-headed side-kick

There has still been no mention of why Kai, who looks like a Saxon, is living among the Celts. Eithna has evidently noticed that there's something different about him, because she asks him why he stays with Arthur. Perhaps the writers hadn’t yet worked out how their principal characters were connected.

Kai tends to agree with Eithna, that “a warrior settles his arguments with the sword”, and talking is “for women and old men”, but he says he is staying with Arthur to find out who is right.

Nevertheless, Kai’s loyalty to Llud is not in doubt; when Bavick takes Llud hostage, to exchange for Eithna, Kai says, “Llud’s life for a dream? Why are you hesitating?”

But at this point, Kai is still pulling against Arthur; he is prepared to put his leader's peace plan at risk, for the sake of his attraction to Eithna.

Don’t call me old!

Llud seems to have been based on a legendary hero from Welsh mythology, the source of king Lud from Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain.

Llud’s prosthetic hand is mentioned for the first time, during the knife-throwing scene. “Your aim is off, Kai. I could do better with my silver hand.” Bavick also refers to it: “You are the silver-handed, eh? … the warrior who is always at Arthur’s side.”

The best laid plans ...

Arthur’s decision to allow Llud to go to Bavick’s camp as his negotiator is inexplicable, and has a predictable result: Llud is taken hostage. However, Llud’s recapture of Eithna is masterful.

When Arthur and Kai fight, Eithna thinks her plan – to find out Arthur’s feelings for her by taking Kai to bed – has worked, but she fails to appreciate how much Arthur’s primary aim, of stopping the Celts fighting each other, means to him.

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

It is in “Daughter of the King” that Arthur uses the phrase that is the title of this section. He considers horses so important that he catches one that is running loose before even thinking of taking on what he thinks is a group of enemy fighters.

He challenges Eithna over her use of a horse: “Horses are worth their weight in any metal. They’re for soldiers. Yet your father lets his children ride.” He sees this as evidence that Bavick values her very much, and spoils her – which makes her a useful hostage.

During this episode, Arthur mostly rides Skyline; Eithna’s loose horse, which he catches by riding alongside it and scrambling across onto its back, is Jim.

Kai rides Merlin, a large black or brown horse with a wide irregular blaze and snip. Llud rides Curly, a chestnut horse with a very wide blaze with a curl at the top left. This, his usual mount, is not the horse he rides in the credits.

Tugram rides a black horse with an irregular blaze of variable width, and wide triangular snip, “Pythagoras.”

When Kai stops to talk to Eithna by the lake, he dismounts in an unconventional manner, by swinging his right leg over his horse’s neck. This method has the advantages of looking good, and of allowing the rider to keep their eyes facing the front. Arthur often dismounts this way, but Kai only does it when he is trying to impress.

Bavick is seen riding two bay horses, “Charlie”, and “James.” Among the horses Arthur's men are riding are “Blondie” (Dirk’s horse in the first episode), Arthur’s grey horse, Bernie, and a large chestnut with an irregular blaze, “Flame.”

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

"By the Gods!"

Bavick brings up religion: “The monks say, ‘an eye for an eye.’”

Arthur’s banner – a red cross on a white background – is visible once again.

Kai tells Arthur: “if a man and a woman want to be together, they will be together. That’s the law”, but it isn’t clear whether this is a religious or civil matter.

A wager’s a wager

Arthur, Kai and Llud are seen competing for who gets sent to fetch the supplies. Llud evidently won the last round, sending Arthur and Kai out to the store shed. This time, Kai loses out again.

"That is bloody dangerous!"

Arthur has to jump from one horse to another. Kai gets to brandish his axe – “the only thing Bavick understands” – at both Tugram and Eithna.

Eithna jumps to the ground from the bough of a tree. She pulls a knife on Kai, but it isn’t taken away from her when she is captured, and she later attacks Arthur with it. She also scratches Arthur’s face with her nails.

Llud grabs Eithna off her horse, and rides back to Arthur with her dangling by his side.

Arthur raises his sword to salute Bavick, and Bavick does likewise. Both Bavick’s and Tugram’s men are armed with spears.

Near the end of the episode, Kai and Arthur fight, landing on fishing baskets, and breaking a trestle table, and Arthur pulls a knife on Kai. After that, Arthur and Kai both attack innocent pieces of furniture – Kai with his knife, and Arthur with his sword.

Dressed to kill?

The green shirt Llud is wearing in the knife-throwing scene didn’t appear in Llud’s wardrobe until about November – another clue that the scene was filmed later than the rest of the episode, for most of which he is wearing his studded tunic over a white shirt.

As well as his women, Bavick seems to have stolen all of Tugram’s shirts, because the poor chap spends most of the episode with bare arms and chest, covered only by a leather jerkin.

Kai wears a blue shirt in the the knife-throwing scene, and puts on two furry jackets, including one with huge sleeves, to go outside. For most of the episode he is wearing his studded tunic.

Arthur has a selection of clothes: a tunic with a hood, a brown tunic with light brown trim, and – from the first episode – his ring armour, and yellowish-tan tunic. During the knife-throwing scene, he wears a sleeveless sheepskin jacket, also seen in "The Wood People."

On the table

Kai brings a dead stag in from the store house. This stag also features in “The Gift of Life” and “The Penitent Invader”, but we never see anyone eating it! Arthur carries a sack of what is presumably grain, and Llud demands mead.

At the first feast, after the capture of Eithna, Llud seems to be eating lettuce, though he also has a choice of apples and what might be medlars; one of the extras is eating a chicken leg.

Arthur and Eithna have a whole chicken between them, a big bowl of apples and grapes, some bread, and what looks like raw turnips. Arthur eats two fish, one after the other.

Later, Eithna has bread, meat and apples, and eats grapes in a desultory manner.

At the last feast – after Bavick capitulates, there is a whole dead piglet on the table, and Llud starts up a raucous chant, “Wine! Wine! Wine!”

Great moments

The opening scene: a wonderful glimpse at how Arthur, Kai and Llud spend their spare time.

Eithna’s reaction after Kai offers to help her pass the “long, tedious night ahead” – “My thanks, but I should not want the night to be any longer, or more tedious, than necessary.”

Arthur and Kai’s fight, and their reconciliation, by soaking each other with wine.


Arthur: A man on a horse is worth ten on foot.

Kai: Every man should enjoy his last night alive.

Extra! Extra!

The extras do a good job of getting on with things in the background while their leaders are concerned with matters of consequence.

Honourable mention …

… for the stunt chicken who rushes out of the path of Llud’s horse.

"Night-night, Kiddies!"2

In the first scene, when Arthur and Kai joke about their rivalry over Leesa, Arthur makes a Chaucerian sexual innuendo: “Which one of her three eyes did she use, eh?”

This is unlikely to have been understood by most of the demographic at which the series purported to be aimed!

What’s going on here?

In the opening scene, where Kai traipses through the water, he is wearing his furry boot covers over Wellington boots.

During the scene where Arthur catches the loose horse belonging to Eithna, the camera cuts away before he has successfully got onto the second horse’s back; he may not actually have made it!

What was Eithna doing in a tree?

It’s unlikely that Arthur would have been able to get hold of big bunches of grapes, like the one at which Eithna was seen picking.

At the beginning of the scene where Arthur meets Bavick to exchange prisoners, Bavick is riding Charlie, but after his daughter has been recaptured, he is sitting on James. Why has he commandeered his adviser's horse?

Exchange and recapture (12) Exchange and recapture (26)

We never do find out whether Tugram’s men get their women back!


As Arthur’s minstrel, folk artist Meic Stevens sings, and plays the lyre.

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

Track 21, Celtic Bard: Arthur and Kai bring supplies from the store
Track 33, Springtime: Kai goes to bring in the barrel of mead.
Track 10, Battle on Horseback: Arthur’s men ride across the countryside, and Kai chases Eithna.
Track 16, Danger Mounts: Arthur and his men discuss how to deal with Bavick; Eithna attacks.
Track 8, Kai the Saxon: Llud rides off to negotiate with Bavick
Track 22, Revelry: Arthur throws Eithna in the lake.
Track 20, The Fair Rowena: Eithna preens by the lake.
Track 30: Night Scene: Arthur hears that Bavick has accepted his terms
Track 3, Celtic Horns: They go to make the exchange with Bavick
Track 10, Battle on Horseback: Arthur and Kai fight.
Track 30: Night Scene: Arthur and Kai resolve their differences.

The whole suite of music, written by Paul Lewis, is available on CD.


Arthur ……………... Oliver Tobias
Kai .….….….….…... Michael Gothard
Llud ………………... Jack Watson
Bavick ……………... Iain Cuthbertson
Eithna ……………… Madeleine Hinde
Tugram ……………. Tony Steedman
Minstrel ……...……. Meic Stevens
Treg ………………...Timothy Kightley
Horseman …………. Colin Fisher


Executive Producer .... Patrick Dromgoole
Producer ……………. Peter Miller
Director …………….. Peter Sasdy
Story ………………... David Pursall and Jack Seddon
Associate Producer …. John Peverall
Production Manager ... Keith Evans
Fight Arranger ….…... Peter Brayham
Post-production …….. Barry Peters
Cameraman ……….... Bob Edwards
Camera Operator ….... Roger Pearce
Film Editing ……….... Don Llewellyn
Sound recordist …….. Mike Davey
Dubbing Mixer ……... John Cross
Art Direction ….……. Doug James
Assistant Director …... Simon Hinkley
Production Assistant ... Ann Rees
Wardrobe ……..…….. Audrey MacLeod
Make-up ….….……... Christine Penwarden
Incidental music …….. Paul Lewis
Theme music ………... Elmer Bernstein

1 The production was moved after about a month, as it became too expensive to transport the cast and crew from Bristol to Woodchester each day.

2 Another of Director, Sid Hayers’ catch-phrases.

The episode – and the series – starts with a race, between five Celts: Arthur, Kai, and three others. Arthur is in the lead when he is knocked from his horse by a tree branch, and Kai is immediately at his side. When the other riders catch up, Kai tells them to: “… tell the World, Arthur is dead.”

It seems that “Arthur of the Britons” is over before it has really begun. Arthur lies on a bier, covered in flowers, and surrounded by his people.

Meanwhile, four rival chiefs, Mark of Cornwall, Herward the Holy, Dirk the Crafty, and Ambrose, all start making their own preparations to try to take over Arthur’s territory, before Arthur is even cold.

Each man makes his move. But they are expected; one by one, they are caught by Arthur’s people and imprisoned in the longhouse, with a sombre-looking Kai guarding the door. They all think Kai has taken over from Arthur, and is going to kill them.

Then Arthur appears. The reason he has trapped them is not to kill them, but to try to form an alliance. He challenges them all to get a sword out from under a big boulder; whoever succeeds will be their leader. But it’s only when Arthur gets them all to push together, that the sword can be got out – and Arthur snatches it.

He wants them to join forces against the main threat to the Celts – the Saxon leader, Cerdig, who is taking over their lands, and cutting down the forests where they hunt. Arthur asks for half of each leader’s army to join him, and help push Cerdig out.

While they are arguing about it, a Celt sneaks out of Arthur’s camp, and goes to Cerdig, to tell the Saxons what Arthur is planning; Cerdig sets out to take on the new alliance before it can get started.

While Mark is fighting Arthur over the leadership, Cerdig’s forces show up, and – against Arthur’s advice – Mark and the others go to fight him. They are routed, and forced to fall back to Arthur’s village.

Only then does Arthur manage to get them to go along with his plan. He leads a small group of his men to confront Cerdig, but – after a short skirmish – he pretends he has been forced to retreat. Cerdig gives chase, and Arthur leads the Saxons into a swamp. Cerdig’s men don’t know the way through, and when they get bogged down, the Celts work together, and manage to kill most of them with spears. But Cerdig gets away, assuring Arthur that he will be back.

Having seen the wisdom of working with Arthur, both Ambrose and Herward agree to send him a quarter of their armies; Dirk refuses, and Mark just rides away with a look of disgust.

Then Arthur shows himself a bit of a spoilsport, by breaking up the victory feast early, in spite of Kai urging him to let the men enjoy themselves.

Finally, Arthur and Kai race again, for real this time, and once again Arthur gets what he wants by trickery.


This episode – at least, the main part of it – was the first to be filmed, at the end of June, 1972. However, the horse-racing scenes at the beginning and end of the episode were clearly filmed in autumn, judging by the colour of the leaves on the trees. A reference to filming a lot of riding, in a letter written in November by Michael Gothard, to the daughter of one of his friends, shows that filming of these scenes was due to take place on or around Friday the 24th of November 1972.

Viewing figures

On 11 January 1973, in a letter published in The Stage, from R.J. Simmons, Press Officer for HTV West, Simmons reveals that “Arthur is Dead” and “A Gift of Life”, achieved no. 4 place in HTV’s top ten programmes.


The version of Arthur’s village seen in this episode had recently been built at Woodchester Park, near Stroud, in Gloucestershire, which belongs to the National Trust. More details of this location can be found here.

The ‘swamp’ where the Saxons were drowned was on land owned by the Neville family in the village of Frampton Mansell. According to Martin Neville, they dammed two streams, and then had to wait three days for the field to be sufficiently wet. Diggers were brought in to make the holes in which the Saxons drowned.

field at Frampton Mansell

Picture courtesy of Sophie Neville

Cerdig’s camp is thought to have been in the Mendips.

Inside information

Of the filming, Director, Peter Sasdy says:

I was engaged to direct the opening episode of the series, with the understanding that, waiting for me there, was Arthur’s ‘village set’ already built. However, on arriving in Bristol and being taken to see this village set, all I’ve seen in the middle of the forest were a great number of trees with big chalk marks and numbers on them. "That’s where the village WILL BE BUILT!" I was informed. Not a good start...

After some panic, and bringing in outside crews – as always in the film industry, under pressure, working day and night for 7 days a week – more or less everything was ready to start the production on schedule.

I know I had very little time during pre-production, but I was happy with the casting of the main characters, and with the costumes; also I had a very good local Director of Photography Brian Morgan, and from London I brought my camera operator Anthony Richmond (that was very unusual for HTV to have freelance operator) – who is now a well established DOP in Hollywood.

Perhaps the fact that Arthur’s village wasn’t ready explains why filming did not begin until July, though this article in TV Today, 15 June 1972 stated that filming was to begin in June.

The scene where Arthur was shown being hit by a tree branch was one of very few where a stuntman was used. The stunt, known as a ‘flick-back’ was a particularly dangerous one. Oliver Tobias took pride in doing his own stunts; he even sports a “Worldwide British Equity Registered Stuntman” sticker on his motorbike windshield. But by the time they filmed that scene, he had already suffered a serious head injury; presumably, the production team felt they couldn’t afford to take any more risks with the star.

According to cameraman Roger Pearce, the rock with which all the chiefs had such difficulty was made of painted cloth over a wooden frame.

Cast notes

Michael Gothard had worked with Brian Blessed on two occasions before “Arthur of the Britons”: on “The Further Adventures of the Musketeers” and “The Last Valley.”

Cabot the Crafty, who hits Herward on the head, is played by folk singer Meic Stevens; near the end of the episode, he doubles as Arthur’s minstrel.

Reworking the legend

The sword under the stone is a clear reference to the sword in the stone in Arthurian tradition. Arthur’s return from the ‘dead’ could also be seen as a reference to his expected return from Avalon.

Kai is modelled on the Sir Kay of Arthurian myth, “King Arthur's foster brother and later seneschal, as well as one of the first Knights of the Round Table.” According to Val Joyce, in Welsh poetry, Kai is known as "Kai Gwyn", meaning Kai the Fair, or White, so making him a blond Saxon was a stroke of genius. The legendary Sir Kay was exceptionally tall, and older than Arthur, so the casting of Michael Gothard, who was 6 foot three inches, and Oliver Tobias' senior by eight years, fits in well.

Llud is loosely based on Lludd Llaw Eraint, a legendary hero from Welsh mythology, though he doesn't seem to have had any Arthurian connections.

"By the Gods!"

To help him move the stone, Herward invokes the Celtic gods, Maponos, a god of youth, Nodens, a deity associated with healing, the sea, hunting and dogs, and Barli – possibly a god of crops. Ambrose ridicules him, believing that Mithras, a Roman deity, and god of the legions, is the true god.

Herward claims the gods were against them when they failed to defeat Cerdig at their first try, and agrees to join together against Cerdig because “It is counselled by the gods.” Arthur ironically replies, “The gods are wiser than I thought.”

Arthur doesn’t speak of his own religious beliefs, but he has a large book in his room – probably a Bible – and his banner, near the entrance to the village, is a red cross on a white background, so it seems safe to assume that he has Christian tendencies.

Dark Age Men

There are no female characters of interest at all in the first episode, and most of the men in this series are – not surprisingly – quite sexist; many of their insults involve unfavourable comparisons with women. In this episode alone, we see the following:

Ambrose: [to his men] … We don’t want to slouch in like a lot of old half-women. March like the legions of Rome!

Mark: [to Kai] What are you waiting for? Kill us! We’re not women, that we have to prepare.

Mark: [to Dirk] … Let’s see how you get on! The muscles of a girl-child!

Mark: [to Arthur] Where were you when the battle was at its hottest? Skulking in the camp like a handmaiden!

Even Arthur resorts to this kind of name-calling, to aggravate Cerdig, asking him: “Have you come to fight, or talk all day like an old woman?”

For Arthur, brute force is a last resort. “I am trying to build an alliance based on sense and reason. If I fight now to prove myself, reason will have flown. I won’t be a leader, just a fighting stag.”

But both his friend, Kai, and his mentor, Llud are in agreement that – when challenged by Mark of Cornwall – he will have to fight, because, as Llud says, “there’s a time to fight with the mind, and a time to fight with the belly. And these men understand only the belly.”

The best laid plans …

Arthur’s plan to lead Cerdig’s men into a swamp works well – but he’s disappointed to have made an enemy of Mark, who is a powerful chief.

The other chiefs’ plans all fail spectacularly. Even Dirk, who has the brains to use a lever, can’t shift the rock – but it was a good idea!

Great moments

The chiefs’ squabble.
Arthur’s miraculous recovery.
Arthur and Kai’s face-off over tactics.
Kai’s smile at the end of the episode, when he sees that Arthur has tricked him.


Cerdig talks Arthur up, setting the tone for the series: “Dangerous man, Arthur of the West. He thinks before he fights!”

Arthur’s wisdom

Arthur is a trickster. He doesn’t lie, but he’s not above stretching the truth or letting people believe what they want to, to manipulate them. When the chiefs complain, he tells them: “You tricked yourselves”, and when Mark protests that Arthur got the sword with their help,” Arthur uses this as a lesson: “And that’s how I’ll beat Cerdig. With your help. None of us can do it alone."

The burden and loneliness of command

They have a feast, to celebrate their victory over Cerdig, but Arthur feels he has to break it up early, saying: “Great victories are as dangerous as great defeats. Men get soft and sleepy. Our danger remains as great as ever it was.” These are violent times, and any respite is brief.

In the penultimate scene, Arthur goes to sit alone in his room, looking sombre. A lonely man, he relies on his lieutenants, Llud and Kai for advice, but the burden lies heavy on his shoulders.

The hot-headed side-kick

In this, the first episode, Kai is depicted as hot-headed, and perhaps too ready to do violence, which fits in with how Sir Kay is shown in later interpretation of the Arthurian legend, as a bullying boor.

Kai resembles the Saxon enemy more than he does his fellow Celts, but no explanation is given for this.

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

An advantage the Celts have over the Saxons is that most of the Saxons can’t ride. Cavalry fighting is one of the Romans’ warfare tactics: a legacy of which Arthur makes full use, and right from the beginning it is clear that both Oliver Tobias and Michael Gothard can really ride.

Arthur mainly rides two white horses during the series, whose real names were "Bernie", and "Skyline." In this episode, he is seen riding Bernie.

For most of the episode, Kai mostly rides a black or dark brown horse with a star which is often hidden by the bridle, "Blackstar." However, before the races start, he is riding a black horse with a star, short strip and snip, which we will refer to as “Moonlight.”

Moonlight300 high

He must have swapped horses with the stunt rider who was mounted on Blackstar, for the actual race. Perhaps Moonlight wasn’t fast enough.


There are also two other very white horses in the race, one of which has a very fancy bridle, and appears to have been especially trained for stunts; halfway through the race, the rider gets the horse to rear and throw him off, and a bit later, the same horse falls, unseating him, presumably on cue.

Acrobat300 high

These horses are not seen again in the series. The race scenes were filmed much later than the rest of the scenes from this episode, possibly in the Blackdown Hills. Perhaps these particular horses were stabled nearby.

Mark of Cornwall rides a big dapple grey, whose name was Jim, and Dirk rides the small brown horse with a blond mane, "Blondie."

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

“That is bloody dangerous!”1

In addition to the stunts mentioned above, there is a lot of very fast riding in this episode. It also features the one stunt Oliver Tobias didn’t do himself – possibly because he’d already suffered an injury. The stunt, known as a flick-back, occurs in the opening scene, where Arthur hits his head on a tree, comes off the horse backwards, and lands on the ground flat, on his back. This difficult stunt was deemed too dangerous, so they got in a professional stuntman. When someone has to fall from a horse, a pit is dug where they are supposed to fall, and re-filled, so that the ground is softer to land on.

There are a lot of weapons used in the episode. When the Celt leaders refuse to discuss an alliance without their weapons, Kai is all for killing them, but Arthur says “If you need swords to feel like men …” and insists that Kai return them.

The “sword under the boulder” is the weapon Arthur uses throughout the series. In this episode, he also fights Mark with a club.

Llud uses what we later learn is his metal hand to block Mark, but no mention is made of this ‘handicap.’

We see Kai holding his trademark axe, though he doesn’t fight with it; he and the other Celts kill the Saxons with spears.

Cerdig and the other Saxons usually fight with axes – but theirs are smaller than Kai’s. Some of them also have swords.

Dressed to kill?

Arthur wears something known as ‘ring armour’, but the design seems to have been a too-literal interpretation of medieval artwork; such armour would not have provided much protection.

Kai is wearing the same tunic as when he played Hansen in “The Last Valley” in 1971.

The Last Valley 40

You can tell the Saxons from everyone else, because they wear sheepskins. Ambrose dresses as a Roman.

On the table

Mark of Cornwall tears a strip off a roasting pig, while his followers bring him a dead stag for later.

A single spring onion graces the table, while Arthur wrangles the chiefs. No wonder they're not very co-operative, if that's all they've been offered to eat!

Spring onion

Cerdig shares what appears to be meat with a female companion. He also has some loaves, and a bowl of apples and strawberries.

The Celts’ feast after the battle doesn’t look very impressive – bread and meat. Mead is the drink of choice.

Extra! Extra!

Students from Bristol University feature strongly in this episode.

Honourable mention ...

For the goat who chews impassively throughout Arthur and Mark of Cornwall's posturing.


What’s going on here?

While lying in state, Arthur is wears a facial mask like the one found at Sutton Hoo: a Saxon artefact!

Arthur is seen on a funeral pyre, but no one sets light to it. Was the whole village in on the scheme?

What was that big heavy rock doing in the middle of Arthur’s village in the first place? Also, the hilt of the sword initially seems to be pointing away from Arthur, yet he manages to reach it quite easily.

Arthur tells the chiefs, “Cerdig was at Ilchester last night, not a day’s march from here.” It seems he is quite a bit less than a day’s march away, because the spy manages to make the journey there, and Cerdig then makes the return trip to Arthur’s territory, in the time it takes for the Celtic chiefs to compare the size of their weapons.

For someone who lives by the sword, Arthur doesn't treat his weapon with much respect, often holding it by the blade, and even putting it back in its sheath while it is still covered in blood.


Kai starts both races on the black horse with a thin white blaze, and finishes them on a black horse, with a white spot on its forehead.

For most of the first race, Arthur is wearing a tan tunic over his ring armour jacket, but there is a short period when he is seen only wearing the ring armour, which he wears throughout the second race.

Arthur and Kai agree to run their second race on the same route as the first - but we don't see them going up the muddy bank on the second run.


As Arthur’s minstrel, folk artist Meic Stevens sings:

Then strode bold Arthur up to Cerdig …
... The Saxons fell upon us, like the rain upon the ground;
But the great Lord of the Forest bade the quagmire suck them down.
When Arthur fought the foe.

He is playing a mandolin, made to look like a crwth.

Victory (14)

The 34 tracks of incidental music, beautifully written and orchestrated for the series by Paul Lewis, were used judiciously throughout the series; the soundtrack was never obtrusive, but always a subtle enhancement to any scene where it was used. The whole suite of music is now available on CD.

Some of the music tracks used in this episode were:
Track 3, Celtic Horns: after Kai has said “tell the world – Arthur is dead."
Elmer Bernstein’s theme
Track 5, To Battle: when Ambrose is marching on Arthur’s village.
Track 6, Infiltration and Treachery: when Arthur’s man goes off to instigate Cerdig’s attack.
Track 12, Duel: used during battle scenes.
Track 14, Chase! and track 8, Skirmish and Rout: when Arthur and Kai race at the end.


Arthur ……………... Oliver Tobias
Kai .….….….….…... Michael Gothard
Llud ………………... Jack Watson
Cerdig ……………... Rupert Davies
Mark of Cornwall ….. Brian Blessed
Dirk the Crafty …….. Donald Burton
Herward the Holy….. Michael Graham Cox
Ambrose …………... Norman Bird
Cabot, Minstrel ……. Meic Stevens
Spy ………………... Tom Chadbon
Sentry ….….….….… Roger Forbes


Director ……………. Peter Sasdy
Writer ……………… Terence Feely
Executive Producer .... Patrick Dromgoole
Producer ………….… Peter Miller
Associate Producer … John Peverall
Production Manager ... Keith Evans
Post-production ……. Barry Peters
Incidental music ……. Paul Lewis
Theme music ………. Elmer Bernstein
Cinematography ….... Bob Edwards
Camera Operator …... Roger Pearce
Film Editing ………... Don Llewellyn
Sound recordist ……. Mike Davey
Dubbing Mixer …….. John Cross
Art Direction ….…… Doug James
Assistant Director ….. Simon Hinkley
Production Assistant .. Ann Rees
Costume Design …… Audrey MacLeod
Make-up ….….…….. Christine Penwarden
Fight Arranger ……... Peter Brayham

1 One of Director, Sid Hayers’ catch-phrases.


Arthur of the Britons

August 2015

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