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
Episode 2.3: The Prisoner

Writer: Robert Banks Stewart


A Celtic warrior is standing watch, within view of Arthur’s village. He sees an escaping Saxon stagger from hiding, fall, and then run across an open space, back to cover.

Celt watchman: [mouths] Hey …

He blows a horn to summon help.

The Saxon, Roland, clearly wounded, leans against a fallen tree, gets his breath back, looks at his injured hand, then tries to move on.

Kai canters up to the Celt watchman.

Kai: What is it?

Celt watchman: Down there. I saw … saw a Saxon run into those trees.

Kai: Only one?

Celt watchman: Yeah.

Kai: I’ll deal with him.

Kai goes down a slope in the direction the Celt watchman indicated.

Roland continues his laboured progress through the trees.

The Celt watchman looks on as Kai dismounts at the edge of the wood. Kai takes his axe from in front of his saddle, and goes in among the trees.

Roland continues his halting progress.

Kai leans against the same fallen tree and finds Roland’s blood on his hand. He continues his pursuit up a wooded slope.

Roland runs down the other side of the hill, and comes out into the open. He reaches a small river, looks back, and sees Kai emerging from the trees.

They meet on open ground. Roland throws his axe at Kai, and misses. Roland runs; Kai follows and brings him down with a trip and a push. He is about to despatch Roland with his axe, but stops, and examines a medallion he has seen around Roland’s neck.



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Arthur of the Britons

August 2015

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