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.Timeline
“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 Gift of Life
Enemies and Lovers
In Common Cause
The Penitent InvaderLocations
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.
The hut next to the Longhouse has been turned into a forge, and there is a newly-constructed palisade.
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.
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 notesClive 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.
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
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.
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.
We get a rare smile from Arthur at the end.Quote/unquote
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.
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!
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!
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.”
Rolf’s outfit is fairly dull; what he lacks in colour he makes up for in bizarre behaviour.
The Picts are wearing some wonderful body paint.
Also, they are apparently fighting in mini-skirts. Perhaps they were supposed to be kilts ...‘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.” 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.Filming
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.” 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.
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.
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.
This particular frame was also used in the opening credits, but the right way round. Music
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!”
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.Cast
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 WedlockCrew
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