[personal profile] arthur_of_the_britons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Going home (13) Going Home 19b

Suggested shooting order so far

Arthur is Dead
Daughter of the King
The Challenge
The Gift of Life
Enemies and Lovers
In Common Cause
The Penitent Invader
The Slaves


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

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

Cast notes

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

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

They took the men Dominic

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

Deboarh Watling300 high Now or never (18)300 high

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

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

The best laid plans …

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

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

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

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

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

Celts and Saxons

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

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

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

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

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

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

You’ve got a friend

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

The hot-headed side-kick

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

Don’t call me old!

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

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

Dark Age Men

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

‘That is bloody dangerous!’

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

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

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

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

Ensel arrives (7)

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

Black Rock 19 Nov 2011 (19)

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

The fight (2) The fight (6)

The fight (7) The fight (9)

The fight (11) The fight (12)

Great moments

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

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

Kai’s exchange with Arthur before the flogging.

The moment Kai sees Thuna tending Arthur.

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

Kai, strangling Rodolf with his own whip.


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

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

Dressed to kill?

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the table

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

Slave lunch (8) Lunch (23)

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

Extra! Extra!

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

Honourable mention

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

Black Rock 19 Nov 2011 (18)

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

“Night night, Kiddies!”

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

What’s going on here?

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

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

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

Deserted village (44) Arthur vs Mark (51)

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

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

Headred explains (6)

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


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

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

Arthur starts work The flogging (37)

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

The aftermath

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

The Fight (66) The Fight (92)

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

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

Going home (27) Going home (26)


Some of the music tracks used in this episode were:

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

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


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


Director ………….…. Pat Jackson
Story ………………... Robert Banks Stewart
Executive Producer … Patrick Dromgoole
Producer ……………. Peter Miller
Associate Producer …. John Peverall
Production Manager ... Keith Evans
Post-production …….. Barry Peters
Fight Arranger ……… Peter Brayham
Cameraman ………… Bob Edwards
Camera Operator …… Brian Morgan
Editor ……………….. Dave Samuel-Camps
Sound recordist ……... Mike Davey
Dubbing mixer ……… John Cross
Art Director …………. Doug James
Assistant Director …… Keith Knott
Production Assistant … Patti Belcher
Costume Design .……. Audrey MacLeod
Make-up …………….. Christine Penwarden
Incidental music …….. Paul Lewis
Theme music ………... Elmer Bernstein

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


Arthur of the Britons

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