Plot

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.


Timeline

“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


Locations

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.

BB stunt (4) BB stunt (5)

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 ...

The Battle (73) The Battle (81)

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.


Quote/unquote

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!


Music

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.


Cast

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

Crew

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.”
Episode 1.6: The Duel

Writer: Terence Feely


OPENING SCENE


A misty morning. The sounds of birds. Arthur, Kai, Llud and two other Celts ride into view, over a hill. Some other riders are seen in the distance, coming to meet them.

Arthur: Mark of Cornwall.

Kai: He won’t be pleased to see us.

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

Llud rubs his left shoulder.

Llud: Oh ...

Kai casts a worried glance at Llud, then looks at Arthur and shakes his head. Llud makes another sound of pain.

Arthur: Perhaps it was wrong for all of us to have come. One of us should ride back and keep command of the camp.

Llud: My place is at the battle – not at the hearth with the women and children.

Kai: It’s a long hard ride, even to reach the battle area.

Arthur and Llud turn to look at him.

Llud: I was making long, hard rides before you were born.

Kai: [as if Llud has just made his point for him] Ye-es.

Llud: It’s this weather gets into my shoulder. Well, are we going to stay here gossiping, or are we going to see Mark? Come on!

They ride forward to meet Mark and his four companions.

Arthur: This is the battle that decides.

Mark: Decides what? I’m in no trouble.

Mark and his men chuckle.

Arthur: Unless the Saxons are stopped at Modred’s Field they’ll overrun us. And then you … will be in trouble.

Mark: You asked for men, I gave you men. Now you come begging for horsemen.

Arthur: A messenger has brought word that the Saxons outnumber us, six to one. But as warriors they are raw. And they’ve never met cavalry.

Mark: Why should it be I must get you out of trouble once again?

Llud: Because you’re a Celt. And there’s such a thing as loyalty to the blood. Perhaps you haven’t heard of that in Cornwall.

Mark and Llud give each other hostile looks.

Llud: If you’ve no stomach for the fight, say so, and let those who have get on.

Mark: I’ve no cause to like you, Arthur. But I like Saxons less. I’ll help you fight your battle. But I give you fair warning. It’s a long way to Modred’s field. Keep him … [points at Llud] out of my way. [to horse] Hah!

Mark and his men turn and ride away. Llud watches them go.

[OPENING CREDITS]


PART 1

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