One of the things that makes the story is the appearance of Julian Glover in the role of Richard the Lionheart - a great choice given David Whitaker's marvellous dialogue is worthy of a classical stage play. Glover returned again in the Tom Baker story "City of Death". Jean Marsh, better known for "Upstairs, Downstairs", appears as his sister Joanna - she was to appear again as Sara Kingdom in the Daleks Masterplan.
The ship lands in the Holy Land. A hunting party of King Richard and some of his knights are attacked by Saracens. Richard is knocked unconscious and Barbara and one of the knights, des Preaux, pretending to be the King, are taken captive by the Saracens. They are taken to Saladdin and Barbara pretends to be Joanna. The Doctor, Ian and Vicki go to the court of Richard to return his belt and his gain favour. Ian is sent as an emissary to Saladdin to arrange for the release of des Preaux and Barbara and also to pass on Richard's desire for a match between Joanna and Saphadin, Saladin's brother, in order to bring peace. Ian is knighted - Sir Ian of Jaffa!
Saladdin knows that des Preaux and Barbara are not whom they claim to be but he is chivalrous towards his captives. But Barbara has made an enemy of the cruel El Akir, who was fooled by the charade. He arranges to abduct Barbara with the aid of the unscrupulous merchant Luigi Ferrigo.
Ian sets out to rescue Barbara from El Akir, and at one stage is staked to the ground and covered in honey to attract ants by Ibrahim. Ian helps Barbara escape with the help of Ibrahim; and El Akir is killed by Haroun, who helped Barbara, and who avenges the murder of his wife and gets his eldest daughter back. The Doctor makes an enemy of the Earl of Leicester, so the time has come to leave. The companions meet at the TARDIS. Leicester and his knights pity brave Sir Ian who is taken away by evil demons in a box that vanishes in thin air.
There are some great scenes. The Doctor conning a market salesman of stolen clothes in episode 1 and arguing his way out of the problem in episode 2 is funny. As mentioned, the dialogue is superb (some of it is in iambic pentameter) and the costumes are nicely made. The Saracens are not presented in a racist fashion, although the actors are English actors made-up to look middle-eastern. The Saracens are presented as being just as intelligent and chivalrous as the Crusaders.
With all the conflict in Israel and environs, this scene hits a chord
Earl of Leicester : "I urge you, sire, abandon this pretence of peace!"
The Doctor : "Pretence, sir? Here is an opportunity to save the lives of many men... and you do nought but turn it down..."
Earl of Leicester : "Why are we here in this foreign land if not to fight? The Devil's Horde, Saracen and Turk, possess Jerusalem and we will not wrest it from them with honeyed words."
The Doctor : "With swords, I suppose?"
Earl of Leicester : "Aye, with swords and lances, or the axe!"
The Doctor : "You stupid butcher! Can you think of nothing else but killing, hm?"
Peace lies in the hands of class-conscious Palestinian and Israeli workers uniting peacefully and democratically.
All in all, a great story.