REGULAR CAST, GUEST CAST & CREDITS
TV GUIDE PROMO
SYNOPSIS by Lady Jane Gray
COMMENTARY by Lady Jane Gray
Nicholas Rowe (Peter Graham)
Hugh Dancy (Michel Previn)
Victoria Scarborough (Rita Rosellini)
Less Clack (Dr. Jaebert)
Patrice Coquerel (Rene)
William Tapley (Jacques de Molay)
Gaetan Wenders (Chevalier)
Written by Andre Jacquemetton
Directed by Ian Toynton
Filmed on location in Toronto, Canada and Paris, France by Fireworks Entertainment Inc. and Gaumont Television. Executive producers: Jay Firestone and Adam Haight; Executive consultant: Gil Grant; Co-executive producers: Christian Charret, Denis Leroy, and Rob Gilmer.
TV GUIDE PROMO
Sydney and Nigel must authenticate the 1307 medal of Jacques de Molay and find the invincible sword of the master of the Knights Templar.
Des moines apportent le mystérieux médaillon du Temple des Chevaliers au Docteur Jaebert, conservateur à l'Institut fran‡ais des Antiquités. Sydney et Nigel se rendent à Paris pour authentifier la trouvaille ainsi que la légende qui l'accompagne: au temps des Croisades, en 1307, Jacques de Molay, Grand Maître du Temple des Chevaliers, ordre créé pour protéger les pèlerins sur la Terre Sainte, avait pour mission de cacher des documents sacrés, et l'épée du Grand Maître de ses ennemis.
After monks deliver a Knights Templar medallion to Dr. Jaebert, curator at the French Institute of Antiquities, Sydney and Nigel are off to Paris to authenticate both the find and the legend behind it. In 1307, Jacques de Molay, the Grand Master of the Knights Templar, the order created to protect pilgrims in the Holy Land during the Great Crusades, trusted the future of the Templars to his aide by commanding him to hide sacred documents and the Grand Master's sword from their enemies. The reappearance of de Molay's medallion could mean that the sword, believed to make the Grand Master invincible in battle, is not far behind. With the help of an unlikely expert Sydney and Nigel rush to puzzle the ancient clues together, before a greedy Relic Hunter and unscrupulous saboteur can beat them to the punch.
This synopsis is by Lady Jane Gray.
The Knights Templar, or "Poor Knights of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon" were an important military and banking organization from roughly 1120 to 1307. Originally formed to protect Christians in the Holy Land, the knights were showered with estates and gold; at the height of their power they numbered some 20,000 throughout Europe, and they had the military strength, the network of members, and the organization to transport gold, quickly becoming bankers and couriers to Pope and King. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, "At this juncture, King Philip IV of France had every Templar in France arrested on Oct. 13, 1307, and sequestered all the Templars' property in France. The reasons why Philip sought to destroy the Templars are unclear; he may have genuinely feared their power, or he may have simply seen an opportunity to seize their immense wealth, being chronically short of money himself. At any rate, Philip accused the Templars of heresy and immorality [read homosexuality] and had many of them tortured to secure false confessions to these charges." The order was disbanded, their properties distributed, and their leader, Jacques de Molay, was burned at the stake in 1314.
Sydney gives us a very different view of the Knights, one closer to their origins as protectors of the weak. Looking at us directly in the eye, she spins her globe and we're transported to . . .
Paris, around 1300, the castle of the Knights Templar. We're in a vast room, it must be thirty feet from stone floor to beamed ceiling; the room is sparse, heated by a single fire, the only decoration massive statues twice as tall as a man. Framed by simple iron candelabra, a man is writing; he wears a singlet, all white but for a simple crimson cross.
Outside the turreted castle, misted gray morning as three men on horseback wearing the Fleur-de-lys of the kings of France reign in their steeds, contemplate the castle defenses. The walls are quickly scaled, two guards dispatched by crossbow, and the gate is raised; the castle has fallen. Our solitary writer hears the commotion, straps on his sword but it is too late, as two, a dozen men stream into the room. "Jacques de Molnay, Grandmaster of the Knights Templar, you have been found guilty of heresy and conspiring against the holy church. You are under arrest. Your sword, Monseur De Molnay."
The Grandmaster of the most powerful army in Europe draws his sword, raises it high; pommel of gold, jeweled, the blade shining: "With this blade I have defended the weak and the humble and fought a hundred battles in the name of the Lord. I will never surrender it." The invaders draw close; de Molnay steps back, draws them in, then attacks, fearless. Surrounded, attacked on all sides, he dispatches those sent to arrest him, begins stuffing papers into a leather satchel when another Templar arrives. The king of France is at the gates with an army and an order from Pope Clement, disbanding the knights. By flickering light, de Molnay entrusts the documents, his invincible sword, and a heavy medallion around his neck, to the young knight. "The king must never wield this sword; only a true knight can possess it." It is to be hidden in 'La Place Sacre' and as the noise of Philip's army is heard in the background, de Molnay tells the young knight to go; he will face the king. Alone, against the rising tumult, he walks forward, opens the door, steps into the light.
And at Trinity, Sydney rushes through her front office: "Claudia, two tickets to Paris. Nigel! Paris."
Nigel is his usual dissheveled grad student self, but Claudia is stylishly dressed, tasteful light red dress, Chinoise, with a light pink scarf (very Parisian) to set it off. "Paris? Nigel, I love Paris. No, you don't understand: I really, really love Paris. Everything about it: the clothes, the fashions. The clothes. Call in sick." Nigel informs Claudia he is not calling in sick, and Claudia threatens him, "I'll tell about the embezzlement." Nigel, it seems, borrowed from petty cash to pay for his lunch, and hasn't returned it yet. But Claudia has him: date, time, Penal Code yes, it's prison for Nigel unless she gets to go to Paris.
This little subplot runs through the episode, Claudia using Syd's cell number to threaten Nigel transatlantically, as Sydney loses patience: 'What's going on, Nigel?' "Is this something I need to know about? (No, no. Definitely not.) 'We're going to have to talk about this, Nigel.' I'll suppress further mention.
Nigel refuses, enters Syd's office. While Claudia mugs hanging (scarf, you know) Syd tells Nigel that she could be on the track of the sword of the last grandmaster of the Knights Templar. A fourteenth century Templar medallion has been found in the walls of a monastery outside Paris; she's been called in to authenticate it - with her own agenda: using its clues to discover the last resting place of . . . the sword. Outside Syd's office, Claudia's meliorated her demands; Nigel's to shop for her, to wait her call.
Next stop, Paris, a view of the Eiffel tower from Pont Neuf, and we're in the French Institute of Antiquities. Peter Graham, Assistant to the Curator is introducing himself, and Syd, in turn, introduces Nigel as 'my colleague.' Yes! In a large room with stained glass at the window, marbles, statues, bas-reliefs paintings and a tapestry, relics all about, a man in his mid-fifties, all vest and tweed and short cropped brown hair turning gray, wheels around, then propels himself towards Nigel and Sydney. "Who are you?" "Sydney's assistant.' 'Lover?' 'Assistant!' 'Assistant lover?' Now Syd enters, 'Assistant assistant!!' 'Well, it's not as if it would be precedent setting,' and he wheels about again, to leave a disorganized pair, Nigel looking askew at Syd, she determinedly ignoring his looks. But Henri brings forward the medallion; tells Syd what she already knows, that she must now search for, discover the sword.
Peter leaves the two with his cell number, and Nigel asks about Syd's 'assistants.' She warns him it isn't an appropriate topic, but he persists and earns a 'What do you say we get our little English mind out of the gutter and get on with the business at hand?' Nigel apologizes, and Syd says she knows where to start the search: a bar called L'Explorateur.
The bar reminds one of nothing so much as the one on Moss Eisley; the sounds of a jazz band, and a heavy bald man with an earring lets them in. Man in a fedora; an Arab with a burnoose; an ethnic gentleman in a bowler and two Chicago gangster types. Wearing her leather jacket, her black leather cord about her neck, Syd blends into the scene in ways that Nigel likely never will. She gazes past a man with a spider monkey on his shoulder and explains that the clientele are relic hunters -- or wannabees. They look like older Indiana Jones' gone to seed or perhaps anise. Nigel is left at the entrance (sans droids) while Syd interviews a suspendered man as wide as he is tall, wearing a ring with a stone fit for his size. He kisses her hand ('Renee! You drooled on me!' 'What brings you here?' 'The food.'), but Syd's inquiries about experts on the Knights only serve to confirm the rumors. Glancing back, to observe Nigel being held at knifepoint by a short African-American gentleman, she hears that the secret is out: it's known the medallion has been found and Syd's presence confirms she has seen it. Renee tells her to search out a Michele Previn, and, as she leaves with Nigel, she's observed by a young woman, dressed all in red but for black earrings. But Syd grabs Nigel's arm, hustles him out, as the woman in red contemplates the meaning of what's she's witnessed.
Michele lives on a converted barge, docked on the Seine, just below Notre Dame. They enter belowdecks just as the opening chords of the heavy metal version of Bach's Tocatta and Fugue in D Minor screech through the air (the traditional mad-scientist theme, usually played by Vincent Price or Christopher Lee, and usually on an organ). The houseboat itself is a cultural m‚lange, a hypermodern square firepit on a column at the center; Akira posters, life size cut-outs of cartoon vamps; in trying to unplug the amp, to get a hearing, Nigel stumbles upon a comic book: 'Amazon Chicks.' We've gone from pre-Renaissance to post-modern with barely a glance at a timepiece.
Michele, in true counter-cultural hero style, is contemptuous of Syd, has no use for her smile, her credentials or her quest: 'Always fortune hunters, out to enrich themselves.' Nigel asks if the comics are his references; he replies that comic books are the modern myths; they're one of the few places where real heroes still exist. The Knights Templar? 'They were the rock stars of their times.' But the medallion? You can purchase one like it at any coin dealer. Though, as Syd later observes, he does secretly take a wax impression of it.
Outside, Nigel walks away, but Syd grabs him by the collar, throws him behind a car. It's one of the great comic techniques of this episode: let's grab Nigel by the collar and throw him about. In any case, Syd has spotted Michele; concealed, she and Nigel spy as Michele opens a door, disappears into a chamber beneath the bridge. Now it's a waiting game; evening falls, mists rise from the Seine, the lights of Paris ripple in reflection before Michele reappears. Another tossing around for good old Nigel, and the two enter where Michele has left. Another jerking about . . .
It's a long, dark passageway; Syd flicks on lights: they're in some kind of utility tunnel, under the Seine. They find a complexity of passageways, footsteps echoing emptily, until Nigel, (jerked back) realizes that the lights of the tunnel must illumine any secret chamber: unscrew the lightbulbs, and the secret chamber will reveal itself. Syd and Nigel each makes a stirrup to boost the other one up, but Nigel wins by a whimper: "I'm quite capable of lifting you up, Sydney. Look, it's not often I get to contribute in a physical way. Unlike your last assistant. At least allow me this." An irritated Sydney climbs on him, and they begin a slow intricate dance, or a wild uncontrolled stumbling. In either case, Michele has forgotten something, and by the time they've located his secret chamber, he's back, observing them. This room is richly furnished with historic memorabilia: a tapestry, paintings, fey stone lions, crosses, a portrait of the grandmaster. Nigel discovers, under wraps, three stone crosses, embossed one each with a lion, a crescent moon and a cross. Before they can explore further, Michele, creeping up on them, is crept up upon himself, beaten unconscious. Syd fights off his assailant, chases him, he gaining time by knocking out a light, enough time for him to escape to a car, almost run her over. We've got a very ticked-off Syd on our hands.
Back at the barge, Syd explains that she needs Michele's help to recover the sword, 'before the wrong people do.' Michele quite naturally asks how he is to know that they aren't the wrong people, a question Nigel answers with a quirk of his mouth. Syd encourages Michele to talk, about the history of the Knights, about the story, that de Molnay cursed King Philip and Pope Clement; that the sword was the instrument of the grandmaster's power. Syd asks him if he believes all that; in his moment of confession, of vulnerability, Syd asks him to help recover the sword.
But he needs time to study the medallion; glimpses of Paris at night, a view of the Champs Elysee, festooned with light, view towards the Arc de Triumph, while Nigel and Syd return to the club to scout out the opposition. "There's your pygmy friend, Nigel" and Syd strides to the woman who'd been eyeing her earlier, Rita. 'It's good to see you again.' 'I'll bet. Last time we parted you left me in a flea market with a dead Bedouin named Fez.' 'I cut his throat?' 'Stabbed him in the back.' 'Right! That sort of business is behind me now. I'm in Paris to find a husband.' 'I'm sure you'll find someone suitable for you in here.' 'The sword belongs to whoever finds it.' A sentiment she'll doubtless regret, later.
Syd returns to the barge in the morning, carrying two baguettes. Entering, she notes she's being watched, but lets it ride. She's been unable to contact Henri at the Institute; has left a message with his assistant. This morning she's wearing a form fitting, low-cut black dress; gold at her neck; she could be any sophisticated young Parisian woman, and blends into the larger culture as well as she did into the hunters at the club. Michele, interrupting Lady Jane Gray's appreciation of Parisian women, tells us that in cleaning the medallion, he's found markings along the side; he rolls the oversized coin in ink, then makes an imprint on paper. "Early Arabic" Nigel informs us; Michele continues, "I think it translates loosely as 'Pierre Chevalier' " "Stone Knights" again a contribution from Nigel, while Syd repeats the name, looking puzzled. Nigel picks up a very old book; bound in leather, tooled with gold. Michele explains it was written by monks; it speaks of 'La Place Sacre' which was a hideaway outside Paris, but no-one knows its location. For a moment it seems things are happening too quickly for Sydney, but then it comes to her: "There's a painting titled 'Pierre Chevalier' in the Louvre." It's difficult not to notice how beautiful she looks at just that moment: focused, intent on the quest.
No sooner observed than done: we're in the Louvre, massive, honey-gold wooden doors open while sub-assistant curators bring in a painting, reds in a gold frame. At the center is a castle, an abbey, our eye led to it by a luxuriant green garden path, and in front of it all, a knight. The painting, titled 'The Stone Knight', was, it happens, a gift from de Molnay to Philip. Michele obviously still doesn't know with whom he's dealing: 'Do you always get this kind of treatment in a museum?' eaening a warm smile of appreciation from Syd, and a 'You should see what they do for her at Disney World' from Nigel; drawing in turn the look from Syd.
Which brings us to the abbey depicted in the painting, now simple ruins, though the grand arches stand yet. Syd's back in her relic-clothes, and while Nigel roams the grounds, Michele doubts his quest: 'Maybe the sword was not meant to be found.' Syd's reassurance, that he can't really mean it, is met with a very post-modern 'I don't know any more', when Nigel announces he's found something: an indentation that matches the crosses he'd seen in Michele's secret hideaway beneath the Seine. But once back in Paris, they find that they find nothing: the hideaway has been searched; underneath the tapestry of the lady and the unicorn, Michele intones 'They've taken everything. The stones, my research.' And Syd reads the meaning, sees the hand of . . . Rita.
Back at the club, while Nigel avoids a semi-naked young woman enfolded by a python, Syd uses a whip, Indiana Jones style, to recover the stones from a fleeing Rita. On the road back to the abbey, Syd tries to call Henri at the Institute, but Peter Graham tells her he's resting; he'll take the information instead. When Henri does wheel up, Peter lies, tells him the quest is going badly. Enter villain number two, his villainy rather telescoped.
At the castle, Nigel has found the third hole for the third stone; Syd gives him a chummy hit on the arm; Nigel winces but question of the moment is, which stone for which stone-indentation? Randomness didn't fit the medieval mind, and here Sydney deciphers the code: the lion is England, to the north (Syd points Nigel north); crescent is Islam, to the east. Cross - well, that's the Templars, in the center. No sooner than all the stones are set, than . . . than nothing happens. Each stone, though, has an arrow, and as the relic hunters follow the direction of the arrows, they meet at a giant stone altar. Under moss, green as grass, a slot and Sydney realizes that the medallion is the key: the altar slides back, to reveal a series of moist, narrow stone steps descending to darkness. But not dark; there are torches, and, lit, they guide us, to the sacred place, the place that will be the end of our quest.
I hate to interrupt, but does it bother anyone else that in Relic Hunter, intricate counterweighted mechanisms always work perfectly the first time they're tried? That torches unused after seven centuries light bright as day? That the wood holding the torches survives untouched by seven hundred years of decay?
Not to break the mood, or nothin' because we are under the surface of things now: statues, 'sarcophagi' Nigel tells us, as the three wander through the burial ground of the Templars. The Stone Knights. Nigel gets the dead-end, while Syd takes Michele down a passage; holds him back while she springs a trap, a giant semicircular blade with the cross of the Templars on it. One stone statue stands alone, back to them all, facing an altar, holding the golden, jeweled sword of Jacques de Molnay.
And it distracts us, from a dark figure who knocks Nigel unconscious; Graham, revealed at last, holding a gun, trained on Sydney. He tries to take the sword, but it will not yield; he lowers the gun for an instant and it's kicked out of his hand. Syd looks around, giving Graham time to grab a halbard, have at her with it. And Michele is at the sword; with a twist he's freed it from the stone, he lifts it, just as we saw de Molnay himself, the grandmaster, lift it in defense of the poor and the weak. And uses it, to cleave blade from halbard, saving Syd from the mad attack of Graham.
Back on the Seine, on the barge, under the guardianship of Notre Dame, Michele admits that he would never have found the sword without the medallion, hence it belongs to the Institute. Syd, uncharacteristically tells him, no: it belongs to a knight with a true heart. Once again Michele is uncertain, but Sydney tells him it is his destiny.
This commentary is by Lady Jane Gray.
Sic et Non
I gotta confess, I'm deeply ambivalent about this episode: I don't know whether to give the writers stars or a maitrese, perhaps to teach Cultural Studies at Paris V. The episode is strewn with cultural references: not only to the deep past of France's cultural heritage, but to contemporary media. From the riff on grade-B horror films (the Bach Tocatta transcribed to electric guitar) to Raiders of the Lost Ark (spider monkey on Arab shoulders), and Star Wars (the bar) we've even got references to the Arthurian legend, gangster films, Anime and comics. Style becomes substance.
There's more to it than that, though. Michele strikes me as rude, secretive and shallow; the type of youth so disaffected from high culture that he can imagine rock stars as heroes and comic books as a source of myth. The text seems to agree with him: Henri, who ought to be the curator of French Antiquities, instead is old, crippled, at the mercy of venal assistants.
And there's a bit more to Michele as well: with him, we're always going underneath. In the subterranean passages beneath the Seine is concealed his true culture; this time the symbols are those of the cross, the lion, the true knight. Michele is a romantic, not a cynic; one who quests and one who knows the symbology of his quest.
A sword is not just a sword; the cross not just a symbol, a signifier. Nigel discovers three crosses: interchangeable signifiers yet they aren't. Each cross is marked, has a meaning, one that only the knowledge of history can unravel. So it is with the 'La Place Sacre', the place of the Stone Knights: only the unraveling of the historical allusion leads us below the surface, to the true meaning of the words.
Alas, symbols and signs take one only so far. Plot and character make independent demands, and eventually one runs into some damned aged lesbian-feminist, who ought to have died in the early eighties, but still sits about deconstructing stories about older women who give young boys their swords.
The plot is a simple linear quest: first this happens, then the next thing; nothing points to anything else; nothing means anything outside of itself. True enough, we have two villains and time itself to defeat, but . . . The episode of the headless nun is a useful contrast; that one a finely worked plot, perhaps like a medieval tapestry, where animals, flowers, figures point to something, a meaning to understand if we pay close attention. Here - there is nothing beyond; the story controls us, we can only watch as it unfolds.
So it is for subplots: the incident of Syd's lover/assistant leads us nowhere, neither into Syd's character nor to Nigel's. It serves no function, lives only in some kind of limbo where bad plots go after they die. I will however admit the opposite: the incessant insignificant phone calls from Claudia serve to distract us from the important calls that keep Graham aware of every step Syd takes. Through these oppositions you may attain truth.
Characterization strikes me as a second weakness in the episode. Consider the villains: they're in the plot to oppose the heroes, but outside of that, they have no existence, no character of their own. The same inattention to character is clear in the motions the leads are made to go through. I don't buy Claudia's blackmail of Nigel; I don't buy Nigel's acquiescence. I don't believe in a Nigel who whines about Sydney having slept with her last assistant, and I don't believe in a Sydney who grabs Nigel by the collar and tosses him about at every turn of the plot. I very much don't believe in a Sydney who can't defend herself against a halbard-wielding administrator, a Sydney who has to be rescued by a young boy and his sword.
To get to the point where Sydney knights Michele, gives him his sword, we've got to accept that all the lead characters need to be shortened, in reverse perspective, to enhance Michele's heroic stature.
I have a bit of a problem with the ending, as well: what in the world is Michele to do with a sword? A bit of thought would reveal that Doctors Without Borders comes closer to the ideal of the Knights Templar than any number of culturally diffuse adolescents waving swords ever could. A typical RH episode shows us how an individual grows through contact with their history, with relics. I'm not exactly clear what growth Michele has achieved, here.
And . . . lastly . . . I find sight gags of dwarves of African descendent to be more racist than humorous.