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Digital Subscriptions > Doctor Who Magazine > The Essential Doctor Who: Adventures in History > Character Studies

Character Studies

Bolton-born actor Bernard Kay played four different characters in the early years of Doctor Who. In this previously unpublished interview from March 2014, just nine months before his death, he begins by discussing his memorable role as Saladin in The Crusade.
Prisoners Barbara (Jacqueline Hill) and William des Preaux (John Flint) are presented to Saphadin (Roger Avon) and Saladin (Bernard Kay, seated) by El Akir (Walter Randall) in The Lion, the first episode of The Crusade (1965).

A man of slight build, with a somewhat melancholy face in repose which entirely altered when he smiled, Saladin was many of the things a leader of men needed to be. His force of personality was tremendous, although he did not fight as Richard Ceour de Lion did, at the head of his men.’

This was writer David Whitaker’s description of Saladin, the first Sultan of Egypt and Syria, in Doctor Who and the Crusaders, the 1965 novelisation of his own scripts for The Crusade. Personified on screen by character actor Bernard Kay, Saladin is a more imposing presence, a man of dark and weary countenance, thoughtful, wise and fiercely intelligent but with a dry wit, an eye for Barbara Wright’s beauty and respect for his opponents. The performance is easily the most memorable of Kay’s four roles in Doctor Who, even though it’s confined to just a single scene in each of the first three episodes of The Crusade.

“I don’t remember how I got the idea of playing Saladin so locked-in and quiet a person,” said Kay, relaxing with a glass of red wine in a hotel bar.

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About Doctor Who Magazine

“History sometimes gives us a terrible shock, and that is because we don’t quite fully understand... We’re all too small to realise its final pattern.” Doctor Who’s first journey in 1963 took viewers back to the Stone Age. Since then the TARDIS has visited many other landmarks in a unique chronicle of the Doctor’s favourite planet. Purely historical stories were once a mainstay of the series, but for more than 50 years significant periods in Earth’s past have provided evocative settings for more fantastical adventures. This unprecedented guide takes a trip back in time with the people, places and classic episodes that are essential parts of Doctor Who history.