So, here we are – Season 3’s seventh episode and we are still squarely in 1969. Indeed, the events depicted here overlapped with several of those from the fifth and sixth episodes in the real world, which I suppose explains why they’ve moved around the timeline…except that I’m still not a big fan of how they did so. Anyway, after drama focused around Elizabeth, Earl Mounbatten, and Charles, we are now circling back to Philip. And his mid-life crisis, except he can’t quite bring himself to use those words.
While “Coup” was a low point in the season for me, I think it’s this episode that’s become my least favorite, however part of that definitely comes from knowledge of what they didn’t cover in later episodes to accommodate this plot. In short, the Americans landed on the moon and, like the rest of the world, the Royal Family watches along. We are bequeathed our first glimpse of Princes Andrew and Edward as children when they are roused from bed to watch it on television, but the real focus is on Philip’s fascination with the events and what they trigger in him.
After watching the astronauts’ exploits, all of sudden Philip’s work doesn’t feel very important to him. An engagement focused on dental cement leaves him cold, and he’s so bothered by it all that he even puts himself and his co-pilot in danger while out flying one afternoon.
He unwittingly gets roped into a group therapy session by Windsor’s new dean, Dean Woods, who is attempting to stand up a program for clergymen battling crises of faith in their own lives. Among their complaints is that the church used to occupy a place of excitement for people that’s now been replaced by television and other such modern trappings. Philip is unimpressed – true to form, he tells them to stop whining and go out and do something about it.
He changes his tune, but only after Elizabeth arranges for him to meet the American astronauts, and he finds them lacking. They’re young men – they’re baffled in the face of his existential questions, and instead regale him with the mundane details of their flight. When Philip complains, Elizabeth sympathizes with the astronauts – they’re just men who’ve had fame forced on them by the nature of their job, and they’ll spend the rest of their lives afraid of disappointing people the way they’ve disappointed Philip. Yes, the irony shouldn’t be lost on any of us.
Philip returns to Dean Woods and his not-so-merry band of clergymen to pour his heart out. His mother has just died, he says, and he’s lost his faith. What is the point of any of it? What is the point of him? Needless to say, he embraces the utility of this spiritual house on Windsor’s grounds, while the episode points out that it’s development earned Philip’s support and is one of the achievement of which he’s most proud.
In reality, St George’s House began in 1966, some three years before any of this went down. Likewise, Princess Alice (Philip’s mother) didn’t die until December 1969. So we’re once again mashing up a bunch of disparate events and linking them together. Frankly, I think at lot of what happened in this episode could have been trimmed and pushed together with the events of “Coup,” without losing the point, but alas.