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The Crown: No Woman's Land

Hasnat Khan: “I don't understand what you see in me. I'm a totally average, socially inept, slightly overweight, workaholic doctor.”
Princess Diana: “I'm worried you think I'm this... huge thing. This big, glamorous, celestial thing to be scared of.”
Hasnat Khan: “You are.”
Princess Diana: “No, I'm not. I'm no one anymore. Really, I'm no one. I have nothing. No real friends, no purpose, no role. No family. You forget, I already had a prince. He broke my heart. I'm just looking for a frog to make me happy.”

Episode description: “As BBC's Martin Bashir goes to great lengths to secure an interview with Diana, the lonely princess finds purpose and warmth in a London hospital.”

The episode description, “great lengths,” is mild compared to what really happened: Bashir actually created fake bank account documents in order to land an interview with the Princess of Wales. This was especially abhorrent as journalists – at least journalists associated with respectable news outlets – are supposed to promote the truth.

On the other hand, several other media personalities were already interested, and there were real reasons for Princess Diana to go public with an interview, a tit-for-tat after Prince Charles’s interview with Dimbleby in "The Way Ahead."

A theme of the episode is Diana’s paranoia, from concerns of hers about people listening to her to concerns for actual life. For example, this episode includes a scene where the brakes of her car fail. Now, in my opinion, fiddling with brakes is not a reliable way to kill someone. Too many things can go wrong: the car is mostly likely to have just a minor accident, a fender bender. There’s also the possibility that the driver could kill other people – especially pedestrians – although I suppose if you’re planning to kill someone via failed brakes, you’re probably not concerned about collateral damage. Perhaps failing brakes is a good way to send a message, though, because failing brakes sure do get your heart racing.

This episode also shows Diana’s loneliness, which we don't just see, but get told about repeatedly. Her eldest son goes off to school. She has few friends. Her isolation is exacerbated by her paranoia, because she’s not sure she can trust anyone. She believes her phone is tapped. And even if it weren’t, a radio hobbyist could be recording her conversations, just as one did to Charles and Camilla.

It's hard for her to turn to anyone in the family of her in-laws. We're in the period after the publication of Andrew Morton’s book, Diana: Her True Story. After publishing that, expecting any sympathy from the royals would be unreasonable (but she probably would not have gotten any before). It’s impossible not to compare the situation back then to the Harry and Meghan situation of today. There seems to be some impulse to ostracize some of the royals not in the direct line to the throne, especially if they're popular. When Queen Elizabeth was younger, for a while her sister Princess Margaret was attracting the limelight. Margaret was punished by not being allowed to marry Peter Townsend, and then suffered through a terrible marriage with the Earl of Snowden. At the time of this episode, about 1995, Princess Diana is the one who is suffering, and in the time of this review, the firm is pushing out Harry and Meghan. Gosh, what a dysfunctional family! I think current events combined with the long view are giving me a distaste for The Crown and the British royal family in general.

Princess Diana does try to break out of her loneliness. I love seeing her in the hospital, talking to patients. The initial impulse to go to the hospital is completely altruistic, as she’s offering support for her acupuncturist. However, she continues to go and spend time with patients. Her dates with Dr. Hasnat Khan are truly sweet, eating out of vending machines and then sneaking to the cinema in disguise.

The Queen, hearing that Princess Diana is depressed from Prince William, comes off as moderately concerned. She asks for assistance from Princess Margaret, but Margaret just says she feels for Diana. Apparently no one actually does anything.

Title musings. “No Woman’s Land” is the title of the episode, and seems to be based on the actual words of Princess Diana. Certainly it applies: Diana does not feel safe in her home or her car. She does not trust her family or the people who work for her. There seems to be nowhere she can go. The title works.

Bits and pieces

Bashir was fired from the BBC when the information about how his means for getting this interview came out.

Bashir was also fired from MSNBC in 2013, after making derogatory remarks about Sarah Palin.

In the scene with the failed brakes, the brakes seem to be working again when Diana pulls to the curb. Well, I guess they didn’t really want to endanger anyone.

Prince William is played by Senan West, the real son of Dominic West, the actor who plays Prince Charles.

Elizabeth Debicki’s height continues to be a distraction as she towers over everyone in every scene. It’s especially disconcerting when she is with the actor playing Charles Spencer, Diana’s brother.

An interview with Dr. Hasnat Khan gives insight into how close he was with Princess Diana. Their relationship lasted several years, but finally ended because he could not deal with her celebrity. It wasn’t a matter of jealousy, but the lack of privacy. In contrast, Dodi Al-Fayed had the means to protect her.

Quotes

Prince William: I think I made a mistake.
Princess Diana: I'm sure it's nothing to worry about.
Prince William: What religion?
Prince Charles: Church of England. Which you'll one day be head of.

Martin Bashir: It needs to look suspicious, like an offshore account. Channel Islands somewhere. That'll get his attention.

Princess Diana: Were you looking at his eyes?
Acupuncturist: No.
Princess Diana: His eyes were gorgeous. And warm. Kind. His hands were nice too.
Acupuncturist: The only thing that interests me about that man's hands is that they don't shake when holding a knife.

Prince William: Granny's invited me to come and have tea.
Princess Diana: Oh, that's nice. Just the two of you?
Prince William: Yeah.
Princess Diana: Make sure you put in a good word for me.

Charles Spencer: Everything else all right?
Princess Diana: I think they fiddled with the brakes on my car now, as well.
Charles Spencer: What?
Princess Diana: Though it might just need a service.

Queen Elizabeth: You forget, I also went to Eton. Not as a normal pupil. But to be taught history and the constitution by Vice-Provost Marten. I wanted to send your father there, and he was so excited to go. But Philip had other ideas. And so he was sent to school in Scotland.
Prince William: I know. He still talks about it.
Queen Elizabeth: Not still, surely?
Prince William: Mm-hmm.

Princess Diana: Is there even a film you'd like to see?
Hasnat Khan: Um... Apollo 13?
Princess Diana: Then let's go.
Hasnat Khan: You can't go to the cinema. You're the most recognizable woman in the world. It would cause a public disorder incident.
Princess Diana: Trust me, I've done it before.

Martin Bashir: Because they see her as a threat. Because of her power. Because of her popularity. And perhaps even because of what you know.
Princess Diana: Believe me, I know everything.
Martin Bashir: They're worried about what you might tell.
Princess Diana: Why they try to intimidate me and ridicule me. Make me seem paranoid or mad. But I'm not.
Martin Bashir: No, you're not. You're just a threat. And the bigger the threat, the bigger the lies that are used to silence it.

Overall rating

I believe the episode does well at showing Diana’s loneliness and paranoia, which contribute to making her appear unstable. The relationship with the heart doctor is really sweet. I’m afraid my distaste for the royals these days is influencing me, so I’m bumping up my rating a bit and giving it three out of four Curly Wurly puddings from the vending machine. I'm afraid that's probably a fair assessment of the nutritional value in this series, too.

Victoria Grossack loves math, birds, Greek mythology, Jane Austen and great storytelling in many forms.

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