Roger Pearce was the camera operator on many episodes. He was kind enough to share some memories of the times, and supplied some of the photos seen elsewhere on this archive.

I was the camera operator on much of the series – some 26 weeks in shooting – which began in a place called Woodchester Park in Gloucestershire. This is where the first village was constructed on the bank of a lake.

Woodchester was actually a far better place [than Woollard] to shoot Iron Age Britain; it’s a vast park, and though managed and farmed, is allowed to live and decay naturally and so pictorially looked more convincing. But it proved far too expensive to travel the cast and crew from Bristol and surrounding area every day, and the company couldn’t afford the accommodation for maybe 100 or so people, so it was decided to build a village much nearer to the Bristol base, and the chosen spot was the top and eastern side of Wollard: a large and steep meadow which slopes down to the river Chew. I remember a bridge was constructed over the river; perhaps the remnants might still be visible.

The disadvantages of this location were the rather restricted view for big wide shots, domestic dwellings, electricity poles and cables, clearly defined farm land with cultivated hedgerows, and the fact that Woollard is on the flight path to Bristol Airport though that not so busy then.

Two other locations you might recall, where two brothers were fighting in a wood, then spill out into open countryside, (one actor was Ken Hutchings; can’t remember t’other) and during the title sequence, 3 or 4 horsemen are following at speed the camera. We pass a telegraph pole: it’s still there, and was in shot! These two locations are on public ground, very near a pub called, ‘The Compton’.

Our unit base was at the top of the field where vehicles and large marquees were erected, one of which was the dining area. During really bad weather, of which there were many instances, we had to raise one side of the tent to allow a flow of water through and out the other side down to the river.

It being the 70s, many of our extras were student types who – apart from their every day clothes – quite looked the part. Some took to hiding at the end of each shooting day to evade crew; they would then re-emerge, occupy the better made huts, co-habit under furs and skins to the warmth of wood fires, and be ready for filming next day! Shall we say security was not what it is today! There was one security guard, and all he did was lock the gate when he thought the last person had gone. When the extras showed up early in the morning, the crew just thought they were really conscientious.

With regard to weaponry: most of the time it would be moulded rubber spear tips and daggers; only when the camera was close in would we switch to metal, although blunted, fake items could still inflict a wound. For any close up work or ‘no combat’ scenes, Kai’s axe would be genuine, but for hand-to-hand combat, an identical rubber axe would be substituted.

I have a vague memory of Ollie being injured. 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! Nothing has changed.

When you are filming a series, you are like family, for the time you are together.

Additional information from Roger:

The scenes where people were riding were filmed from Range Rovers; they were very new at the time, so the crew was very excited about that!

The rock in “Arthur is Dead” was actually made of cloth, over a wooden frame. At one point, you can see a hole in it!

When filming “The Challenge”, 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. The scenes where they ride through the bracken were filmed in the Mendips.

The rock on which Arthur was tied to be flogged in “The Slaves” was in that position already. Black Rock Quarry has been used as a filming location many times.

When asked about filming "The Pupil", Roger says, "the only thing I do recall since you mention Peter Firth is, filming him under a stone bridge or culvert very close to the weir. He would have been hiding from someone, perhaps Kai?1 We chatted about girls between takes! ... As to the fight in the Long House, I can’t remember why we remained inside. It may have been scripted that way or, indeed if the weather was poor, a decision would have been taken to do it there."

The series photographer was Stuart/Stewart Sadd.

Director Sid Hayers was a tall fat jolly man – nicknamed the Michelin Man.

1The weir featured in "In Common Cause". The scene where Peter Firth was hiding would have been the one in the flashback, when he saw Arthur kill his father, Mordor.

Advertising poster

Sunday, 13 August 1972 08:00 pm
This poster must have been made up after the filming of "The Penitent Invader", which took place during the second week in August.

HTV publicity 3 small

Featured scenes, left to right are from "Daughter of the King" (two scenes), "The Penitent Invader", "The Gift of Life", "Arthur is Dead", and "The Challenge."
This article appeared on page 6 of Wednesday 19 July's Western Daily Press.

Is this the real court of King Arthur?
by Nicholas Walker


The wattle and daub village rising among the trees in Woodchester Park is very definitely NOT Camelot. And the Arthur who lives there is no king.

He is an ale-drinking, wench-chasing warrior who’s not on very good terms with the Church.

In fact, he lacks all the traditional Arthurian equipment: Shining armour, Guenevere and the Round Table.

Generations of children have listened with awe to the mysterious tales of Avalon, the Holy Grail, Excalibur and Sir Lancelot.

Now HTV is trying to shatter the myth with a new television series about the great Briton.

Clobbered

Called Arthur, it is being shot on location around Bristol.

The new-look Arthur is being played by Oliver Tobias, fresh from a leading role in the London production of Hair.

Gone are the castles, plumes and Medieval trapping of Tennyson and Swinburne. HTV’s Arthur lives in a hut and wears drab, Celtic clothing. This breakaway from the established Arthurian image is much nearer the historic truth.

But realism can go too far. In a battle scene shot in Compton Dando last week Arthur was clobbered in the back of the head by a spear. Celtic remedies for the wound were dismissed and Oliver Tobias spent two days in the Bristol Royal Infirmary recovering.

Arthur was soon back in charge of his warriors, and next time the battle scene was shot he won.1

“I think Arthur was a gutsy young man, a battle leader and a tactician. The legend is rubbish,” said producer Peter Miller. “We have tried to rationalise the legend. Take Excalibur – of course there was no magic in the sword. It’s just Arthur had a long sword and the Saxons had short axes so he always won his fights.”

“We’ve gone to a great deal of trouble to create a factual setting for the series,” he explained. “A hell of a lot of money has been spent providing the right farm animals for the village.”

Museum

“Some long-horn cows were sent to the highlands of Scotland to grow the shaggy coats typical of the cattle of the period.” A herd of near-extinct sheep are also getting star treatment. They share a special field with the cattle not far from Arthur’s camp. “You see, it has to be real. All the animals came from a cattle museum about 20 miles from Woodchester.2 So far they’ve cost us £600,” said Mr Miller.

Arthur’s camp is near Woodchester Park’s lake. A small sapling3 had to be cut down before work started on the camp – and HTV had to get special permission from the Forestry Commission before it was removed.

A Saxon settlement is being built on the gentle slopes of north Mendip. The Saxons were farmers, so wooded Woodchester would not suit them.

All the legend bashing has left Merlin intact4 – but not as a potion-brewing wizard. He is now Arthur’s political adviser.

Peter Miller: “A Saxon warship is being built in the Bristol studios. It’s based on a real Saxon ship discovered preserved in a swamp in Norway. A special crew of forty oarsmen have been trained to sail it on the lake and in the sea. We plan to stage some battle scenes on West Country beaches.5 But Arthur won the land battles because his men had horses and he understood cavalry techniques. The only thing the Saxons did with horses was eat them. We’re producing fiction based on fact. Educationally it’s as accurate as we can make it – but it’s still a drama.”

The theme of the £500,000 colour production is Arthur’s struggle to unite the warring Celtic chieftains against the invading Saxon hordes.

The 24 episodes will be screened early next year.6

Is this the real court of King Arthur sharp

The captions to the pictures read as follows:

HTV’s log cabin Camelot: Gone is the legendary splendour and the Round Table
Oliver Tobias: King Arthur from Hair
A ragged, rugged funeral procession from Arthur’s woodland camp

1 This is not very accurate. See this entry.

2 This may have been what is now known as, "Cattle Country Adventure Park", situated in Berkley, near Stroud.

3 According to the Director of the first two episodes, "a small sapling" is a considerable understatement. He remembers: "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."

4 It is interesting to see that at this late stage, when three episodes had already been filmed, Merlin was still meant to feature in the series.

5 It's a shame these ambitious plans never came to fruition; budgetary constraints may have got in the way.

6 The 24 episodes were eventually split into two blocks of 12 for UK airing.

Advertising poster

Sunday, 16 July 1972 08:00 pm
This poster was probably drawn up in July 1972, when filming had just got under way. It features an artist's impressions, possibly from photos, of scenes from "Arthur is Dead" and "The Challenge."

HTV publicity 2 small
Poster courtesy of Paul Lewis.

Romance, legend, myth and misunderstanding veil the true story of ARTHUR, the man who roused all England to repel a barbaric invader. Behind the legend lies a freedom fighter, a leader of genius.

In “ARTHUR of the Britons”, HTV West, within whose borders ARTHUR built his own Camelot, have created a 24-part series on the life and battles of the hero ‘king’.

It is the dramatic story of desperate men and desperate times, an age of bloodshed, but an age also of a warrior who held dear the vision of a free, united and Christian kingdom.

The £500,000 series was filmed on West Country locations that once rang to the clash of Celtic and Saxon sword. Two stockaded encampments, one Celtic and one Saxon, were recreated in painstaking detail.

The writers who contribute are of international repute. They include: Terence Feeley, Robert Banks Stewart, David Osborn, David Pursall and Jack Seddon.

ARTHUR and his story belong to the so-called Dark Ages of English history that must remain partly veiled. This television series is the first realistic attempt to look behind that veil.

The text reiterates the premise of the show: Arthur as a wily war leader, trying to unite his people against invaders.

It is interesting to note that Arthur is referred to as "a warrior who held dear the vision of a free, united and Christian kingdom." But nowhere in the series does Arthur refer to his own religious faith, and though a white banner with a red cross is on display in Arthur's village, he never fights anyone simply because they are not Christians; indeed, his foster-father, Llud, believes in different deities, though we are not told which ones.

In "Arthur is Dead", a large book - which might well be a Bible - is seen in Arthur's room; later in the series he consults a monk, but about an agricultural rather than a spiritual problem, and later still, he takes issue with Rolf, for preaching Christian peace and love, causing some of the Celts to lay down their arms.

Perhaps it was thought that a Christian leader might hold greater appeal, but religious fervour just didn't fit with the character of the practical hero they created in Arthur.
Plot

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.


Timeline

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.


Locations

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.

Quote/Unquote

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.


Religion

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.


Music

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.


Cast

Arthur ……………... Oliver Tobias
Kai .….….….….…... Michael Gothard
Llud ………………... Jack Watson
Garet ………………. Nicky Henson
Gawain ………….… Ken Hutchinson

Crew

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.
This article, courtesy of composer, Paul Lewis, from an unknown publication - probably a paper produced for the Bristol area - describes how Oliver Tobias was injured by a spear while shooting the episode, "The Challenge."

The End Column

Extremely mortifying for King Arthur

It wouldn’t have done for Tennyson. King Arthur would never have been put in such a mortifying position.

But television is a different matter. Which explains why a hero of chivalry had his wounds treated by the National Health Service yesterday.

King Arthur, played by actor Oliver Tobias, was filming a scene for a Harlech TV series at Compton Dando, Somerset.

As he fought a desperate duel with the war lord Kai – played by Michael Gothard – Kai aimed a spear thrust at Arthur’s head. The king parried with his shield, but slipped and the spear cut open the back of his head.

The Master of Camelot was carried in an ambulance from the field of conflict.

“I can’t understand it,” said the crestfallen champion at Bristol Infirmary later. “I must have parried a thousand blows during the filming.”

Producer Peter Miller, said “We take every precaution, but this is supposed to be a fight to the death, and it has to look good. Obviously there is some risk.

We will have to film the last piece again. At the moment we have the wrong man winning.”


There has been some use of artistic license in the article. Arthur should not have been referred to as "King", nor Kai as a "war lord." Also, according to Oliver Tobias, it was not Michael Gothard (playing Kai) who threw the spear which he failed to dodge, but a javelin expert who had been brought in for the shoot.

What is true is that Oliver was hospitalised, and the article plays down the seriousness of the injury he sustained. At a meeting with fans in 2010, Oliver Tobias said of the accident: “When it hit me, it was like a ship running aground.”

Though - according to cameraman Roger Pearce - the spearhead was very hard rubber, and not metal, it was nevertheless very dangerous with the weight of the huge spear behind it, and being hit was no laughing matter. Oliver was knocked unconscious. He needed quite a few stitches, and time away from filming to recover, though he returned to work as soon as he was able to.


The End Column small
This photo is courtesy of camera operator, Roger Pearce, who says:

The colour shot is of the sequence in “The Challenge” when Arthur and Kai duel and go down a river bank: me, leaning on the dolly seat as the camera is pulled back up the bank for another take.

Arthur colourb

Injury to Oliver Tobias

Thursday, 13 July 1972 05:00 pm
Oliver Tobias was injured while filming “The Challenge.” The exact date of the injury is not known, but a feature in Western Daily Press on 19 July 1972 states that it was during the previous week. At a fan meeting in 2010, Oliver described the incident:

“Christ I’m lucky to be here – I nearly died during filming.”

For the sequence where Arthur had to parry spears with his shield, they had a champion javelin thrower from Bristol University standing beside the camera, hurling spears at Oliver. He thought he was young and athletic enough to jump out of the way in time, but on one occasion he didn’t make it. A 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 holding his head in his lap while they were waiting for the ambulance, and 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 remembers being out of action for a fortnight with concussion.

“You feel terrible and can’t focus on anything.”


Producer, Patrick Dromgoole was very worried about the injury to his star:

“Oliver's spear injury terrified the life out of us, and might have been quite serious although he tended to play it down and got out of hospital and back to work as fast as he possibly could.”


Cameraman Roger Pearce was rather more sanguine:

“I have a vague memory of Ollie being injured. 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!”


And in the Western Daily Press, the incident was played down:

“In a battle scene shot in Compton Dando last week Arthur was clobbered in the back of the head by a spear. Celtic remedies for the wound were dismissed and Oliver Tobias spent two days in the Bristol Royal Infirmary recovering. Arthur was soon back in charge of his warriors, and next time the battle scene was shot he won.”
Saison 1, episode 3: Le défi

Auteur: Terence Feely


Scène d’ouverture


Dans un bois. Un duel féroce entre deux guerriers celtes.

Garet: Dieu, je vais te tuer !

Gawain: Comme ton père a essayé de tuer le mien ! Mais tu n'auras pas plus de succès que lui !

Ils continuent à se battre.

Garet: Qui était-ce qui a volé l'héritage de mon père ? Son propre frère, le brigand qui t'a engendré !

Gawain: Il a récupéré ce qui lui revenait de droit !

Garet: A mon père, c'était promis, et cette querelle se règle maintenant !

Une lance se plante dans un arbre qui se trouve entre les deux combattants. Arthur, Kai et Llud, à cheval, viennent d’arriver sur les lieux du combat. C’est Arthur qui l’a lancée.

Arthur: Animaux !

Arthur descend de cheval et s’avance vers eux.

Arthur: Les loups en hiver ne font même pas cela à leur famille.

Il arrache la lance plantée dans l’arbre.

Arthur: Vous êtes cousins, vos pères étaient une même chair, un seul sang…

Garet et Gawain ont l’air penaud.

Arthur: Pourtant, vous agissez comme des ennemis jurés.

Arthur envoie sa lance à Kai.

Arthur: Vos hommes se massacrent les uns les autres.

Arthur enlève leurs glaives à Garet et Gawain.

Arthur: Et maintenant vous cherchez la mort par vos propres épées.

Arthur lance les glaives à Kai.

Gawain: Je ne sais pas comment on en arrive là.

Garet: Cela part de rien.

Gawain: Puis la querelle qui vit en nos cœurs prend le dessus.

Arthur: En ce qui me concerne, vous pouvez vous massacrer l'un l'autre tant que vous voulez.

Arthur les attrape par le cou et les pousse devant lui.

Arthur: Mais je vous ai donné le commandement des deux villages qui me protègent au nord. Par trois fois, les Saxons nous ont submergés et m'ont sauté à la gorge avant que je ne le sache, parce que vous étiez trop occupés à vous combattre pour les arrêter ! Vous êtes un bouclier brisé dans mon dos ! J'ai besoin d'hommes derrière moi, pas de petits garçons querelleurs et meurtriers !

Garet: Arthur, nous savons qu'on t'a mis en danger.

Arthur: Vous avez mis tout mon peuple en danger.

Gawain: Cela n'arrivera plus, je le jure.

Arthur: Non, cela n'arrivera plus, je vais m'en assurer. Je vous bannis. Partez en Gaule, tous les deux. A cheval !

Ils obéissent avec réticence.

[Générique de début]



Première partie

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Cameraman Roger Pearce remembered filming "The Challenge" at a location near the Compton Inn, Compton Dando, on the River Chew, in Somerset. This is how the locations looked in May 2014.

General area (5)

General area (6)001
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Season 1, Episode 3: The Challenge

Writer: Terence Feely


OPENING SCENE


A wood. Two men fight fiercely with short swords.

Garet: God! I’ll kill you!

Gawain: As your father tried to kill mine! But you will meet with no more success than he!

They continue fighting.

Garet: Who was it who stole my father’s inheritance? His own brother, the brigand who spawned you.

Gawain: He took back what was his by right

Garet: To my father they were promised. And this quarrel is settled now.

A spear lands in the trunk of the tree that stands between the two of them. Arthur, Kai and Llud have arrived, on horseback; it is Arthur who threw the spear.

Arthur: Animals!

Arthur dismounts, and stalks towards them.

Arthur: Not even wolves in winter do this to their kin.

He begins removing the spear from the tree.

Arthur: You’re cousins. Your fathers were one flesh, one blood.

Garet and Gawain look sheepish.

Arthur: Yet you act like sworn enemies.

Arthur tosses the spear to Kai.

Arthur: Your men butcher one another.

Arthur takes Garet and Gawain’s swords from them.

Arthur: And now you look for death by your own swords.

Arthur tosses their swords to Kai.

Gawain: I don’t know how it comes to this.

Garet: It all starts from nothing.

Gawain: Then the feud that lives deep in our hearts takes us over.

Arthur: For my part you could kill each other any day you wish.

Arthur pulls them by their shirt fronts, then walks away.

Arthur: But I gave you the command of the two villages guarding me from the north. Three times now, the Saxons have swept through and been at my throat before I knew it, because you were too busy fighting each other to stop them. You’re a broken shield at my back. What I need is men at my shoulder blades, not murderous squabbling boys.

Garet: Arthur, we know we’ve put you in danger.

Arthur: You’ve put all my people in danger.

Gawain: It won’t happen again, I swear it.

Arthur: No, it won’t happen again, I’ll make sure of that. You’re banished to Gaul, both of you. Get on your horses.

With great reluctance, they obey.

[OPENING CREDITS]
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