blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

The Shadow of the Tower (1972) s01e09 – Do the Sheep Sin?

Continuing the hit streak is this episode, Do the Sheep Sin?, which has King James Maxwell dealing with a protest march. He’s been taxing the hell out of the poor, albeit somewhat unintentionally (he thought he was taxing the rich, they just put it on to the poor), and the poor decide they’re going to march on London to plead relief. “Tower”’s 1972 shows a little as the suffering peasants plead with their betters, only for their betters to give them pointless advice and the show’s middle class values are firmly with the betters telling the poor to get over it. They’re not even telling them to pull themselves up by the bootstraps—there’s no Calvinism yet—they just tell them to suffer.

Suffer so Maxwell can wage a war on the latest pretender to his throne, Richard Warwick. Warwick, playing a guy named Perkin Warbeck, is barely in the episode. And there’s a confusing bit about protest leader John Castle, who’s phenomenal, sending secret messages—unless I missed one, and I don’t think I did—there are actually two secret messages while the viewer is left thinking a single secret message was delivered. It’s a messy moment in the script, which is otherwise dead-on. Except, of course, the utterly lack of humanity when it comes to Maxwell’s take on the poor. Was medieval royalty so inhumane as history—even positive history—presents them? Bunch of pricks.

Anyway. So long as the protest doesn’t have arms, it’s not considered a revolt or whatever. So much of the episode is Maxwell sitting around, waiting for the protest, while Castle is drumming up drama. He’s got a hero of the people figure, John Woodvine, making the protest seem kosher, while Castle’s been hoarding weapons for the first chance to take things up a notch. Castle’s ambitions are rather interesting as he’s able to recognize actual injustice and exploit it to manipulate the peasants. He’s the son of a noble, natch, and noble daddy David Garth is actually the one who narcs on Castle to the king. The king investigates, the peasants take up arms, now it’s able minimizing the public image damage.

It’s good. It starts better than it finishes, but it’s good. The script, by Anthea Browne-Wilkinson and John Gould, also has a bit of a determinism problem. The only reason Maxwell is able to drum up trouble in the protest is because Castle’s corrupt. If Castle weren’t corrupt, which Maxwell has no idea about, the investigation is just information gathering, the protest wouldn’t have turned into rebellion. What was Maxwell going to do then? Browne-Wilkinson and Gould don’t even suggest Maxwell would consider that possibility, over ten thousand peasants asking for an audience with their king.

It’s a missed opportunity and a dodgy move.

But otherwise, a rather strong episode, which is good; it’s Maxwell’s biggest part in the story in quite a while.

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