3.6 THE MADNESS OF PRINCE JOHN
(aka Do You Love Me?)
As the Doctor hurried away, one thought dominated his mind. Whatever powers, whatever towering intelligence the Great One had attained, the price had been too high. The Great One was mad.
Similar thoughts went through my mind as the pre-credits sequence saw Gizzy being dragged from Locksley manor in the middle of the night (or is it that in the middle of a nightmare?) and thrown to the feet of Bad King John. Now, I've seen a fair few representations of this archetypal villain. David Dixon's ruthless-but-clueless lost little boy, the dude from Men in Tights with his ever-moving beauty spot, and of course big fat bald leather clad ex-bikie "NOTTING-HAAAAAAAM!!!" psycho. And to be honest, I think I'd prefer being stuck in a lift with them than the new guy.
And I speak merely after the first scene. I dunno if he'll be the best interpretation of the character, and probably won't be the most interesting, but one thing is for sure, he's the creepiest. Imagine Vince Noir from the Mighty Boosh playing John Simm's Master, a fluting-voiced, dreamy young fellow with wandering eyes who might just have been smoking something from Amsterdam before the cameras start rolling. In script terms, he seems to be the bastard son of Much and Vasey as he coos at Gizzy about love and respect - like Much, issues of trust and love clearly mean a lot to him, and like Vasey, he uses them for his own ends. Indeed, the way he cradles Gizzy's head and almost baby-talk asks, "Do you love me, Guy?" is arguably the gayest moment on British television.
One thing is clear though.
Prince John is insane.
Not mad, not evil, not ruthless. Insane. A total barking nutter. Caligua on amphetamines. Blackadder II's Lizzie on LSD. Hyde without the self-restraint. He completely fits with every action he's made, especially his turn-on-a-dime attitude to the Black Knights, Gizzy and Vasey. In one scene he earns his place in the opening credits. He's not the cleverest, charismatic or even most quotable villain in this season alone, but he's definitely the scariest I can think of.
Some plot. PJ has finally decided that Vasey is not going to pay his protection money, and indeed is probably not a loyal follower - hmm, take the night off, Sherlock - and so asks Gizzy to gut the fucker like a pig. Interesting to note PJ uses positive reinforcement (by noting his trust in Guisborne and the benefits of success) rather than Vasey (who constantly undermines Guy's confidence and threatens to stab him to death), but let's be honest, our leather-clad antihero just needed an excuse. And there's no murky love triangle issue that might save Vasey the way it did Robin. PJ also is interested in his back-up plan: get all the ex-Black Knights and other nobles on PJ's side so when Richard returns, there's no evidence of Shah Mat, et all, a few months pass and then PJ's unleashes a surprise civil war, bushwhacks Richard and so say all of us. Well, that's what Robin assumes he's up to. PJ could be on a tour of England to see the sights, he's crazy enough...
With nothing but French Farce preventing Gizzy from giving Vasey a taste of his own 'knife-to-the-stomach' medicine, Robin decides to call on the strength of the villagers like he promised to way back in Cause and Effect - a four episode turn around, which would get you whiplash in most TV series. This kind of escalation in The Legend of Robin Hood let to poor Will Scarlet getting killed, and this time round things are no less harsh as poor Kate (who uses all three lines of dialogue she has prior to this being a can-do, positive merry man... for a change), and she'd probably be a lot better if similar French Farce meant no one saw her stumbling around in agony, but they're pissed off the ambush got an empty treasure chest and a strange man wearing PJ's hand-me-downs! Things are looking grim indeed, especially as Kate has picked up Marion's tendency do only get life-threatening-dagger-through-the-pelvis wounds and the resident medic isn't confident. Where's Matilda when you need her, that's hwat I want to know? Oh, she's in Skins. Fair enough. Oh, luckily PJ's body double is a qualified physician. Fancy that. A doctor wearing someone else's clothes - where have I seen that before?
This isn't even ten minutes into the episode. It's just going to get more intense...
PJ arrives at Nottingham, more schizophrenic than the Doctor in The Twin Dilemma, one second demanding "Aren't you dead yet?" to Vasey, the next all but indecently assault Isabella, and things spark off from there. Our Sheriff realizes he's in deadly danger, but even HE isn't expecting PJ to turn to him, in tears, via neat teleportation trick, and beg our ugly bald little comic relief to slaughter Guisborne for his failure. With our villains now literally at each other's throats, our demented despot decides to dine and we have one of the funniest TV dinners since Rimmer tried to impress Legion with anti-matter chopsticks. Vasey and Gizzy continue to bitch at each other through light conversation, each having their food tasted in Princess-Bride-style double bluffs as PJ delights at his mastery of Chaser APEC techniques to defeat Robin Hood and having his body-double arrested for impersonation. Now acting like REG on lighter fluid, he does a tour of Locksley where he meets and greets the people, and once he's more popular than Lady Diana, decides for a bit of ethnic cleansing to round off a wedding. Hell, it's better than anything in Something Borrowed.
But PJ's display of "benevolence" soon leads to MORE French Farce as Guy and Vasey try to kill each other without each other noticing, turning this increasingly into a kind of Live Action Roadrunner cartoon as they both JUST miss killing each other in such a way that makes the other go, "Hang on, did you just try to kill me or was that just a coincidence?" and some truly LMAO 'innocent' acting from either side. All of this accompanied by shots of the burning church, treated with the reverence of the Liberator disintegrating. But if you think that's silly, it sadly loses to PJ getting embarrassingly turned on by Isabella's tales of fighting outlaws.
But the Merry Men have their own Chaser stunt to get their own back on PJ, using the King's Evil - which I actually knew about beforehand, thanks to The League of Gentleman's Apocalypse (ironic, the best bits of the film were the ones without Roysten Vasey in it). Speaking of Vasey, he and Gizzy have by now worked out they've been set up... the trouble is, Gizzy was going to slaughter the Sherrif anyway. In a vicious and painfully long (well, maybe just painful) fight - imagine The Androids of Tara done by Quentin Tarantino - Vasey has to use every trick he has against the increasingly-unhinged Guy of Guisborne, who has now concluded that Marion's death was entirely down to the bastard who crucified her and put her in the position for Guy to bissect her with a sword.
"You represent everything that's loathsome about life!" he roars, moving in for the kill.
"I thought that was why you liked me!" grins Vasey as he runs like fuck.
But this time, there's nowhere left to run...
NEXT TIME: TBA!!
"My lords and ladies, I give you Sir Guy of Guisborne... the new Sheriff of Nottingham!"
PJ announces his new Water Tax as an artificial drought strikes England, but when Robin decides to kill off Gizzy once and for all, he discovers just where all the water supply has gone... when Gizzy uses said supply to drown both him and Isabella in the cellars of Nottingham Castle!