Episode 9: A Star in the East
With the obliging (if slightly ironic) help of Lady Penelope, Saint-Germain has decided to solve one of the Great Mysteries in human history and visit the Bethlehem Nativity – he must have answers! Here comes a truly biblical Christmas Special, featuring a meteorite, shepherds, a newborn baby in a manger, the wrong King Herod and far too many Wise Men!
So, as a departure from our previous Xmas Specials (usually involving snowy winters and, well, a suitably Christmassy atmosphere), and after years of play, I finally decided to tackle the Big Issue of the Christian Nativity – and the newly Time Lord-ified (ouch) Count of Saint-Germain was just the ideal character to suggest such an expedition (remember that the real-life Count spuriously claimed to have personally met Jesus Christ…).
Why the reference to the “wrong King Herod”? Since Herod the Great (the one who supposedly ordered the Massacre of the Innocents) had actually died in 4 BC, I reasoned that, even with some uncertainty about the dates, this part should actually have been played by his son, the Tetrarch Herod Archealos (who, by the way, had a very short reign and a very interesting end – just check it out).
The aforementioned supernumerary Wise Men (six of them – yes, two sets of them!) were in fact (rival) time-travelling scholars from the 48th century, whose intervention could have caused a historical disaster but who were eventually rescued from imprisonment (if not worse) and put to good use by Penelope and Saint-Germain’s cunning plan, eventually fulfilling their legendary part (well, at least some of them) in the story. In the end, Penelope and Saint-Germain did briefly met Joseph, Mary and their newborn child – but the mystery (if any) was not solved, leaving history, legend and belief run their courses…
This was a light-hearted episode, with a predominantly comedic atmosphere – but is also had some surprising moments of gravitas. We had a great, completely improvised scene where Penelope and Saint-Germain, two obviously foreign and decidedly mysterious wayfarers having appeared from nowhere, were mistaken for angels (a word which really means “messengers”) in disguise by the shepherds and some citizens of Bethlehem. Penelope also demonstrated great poise and confidence when she took the matters of the time-stranded, bickering Wise Men in her hands (“First, let me begin by telling you that you are all rubbish time-travellers…”) and there were great conversations with Saint-Germain about the responsibilities and risks of time-travelling.