Episode 7 finally gives Diana room to breathe. Up until this point, season 5 of The Crown was not sure how to deal with the Princess of Wales; her trajectory was barely present in the earlier episodes. Episode 7, titled “No Woman’s Land,” however, puts Diana front and center. Here she is no longer the young Princess brimming with a sense of wonder and love. Now, with her much-publicized book and the media frenzy, here is a woman who doesn’t know where to go or whom to trust. She is separated, not divorced. Her allegiance to a system that has constantly shut the doors on her face is barely there. Her sons have now grown up, with William attending Eton. She is protective of him but knows he is growing up and developing his own sense of mind. Debicki plays Diana wonderfully, carving out a woman who has lost her ground in the chase. Even as the writing stays dedicated to teasing out the ways in which Diana responds impulsively and looks out for brown men, Debicki remains quietly evocative. You cannot help but feel sympathy for her. Let us take a deep look at No Woman’s Land.
Martin Bashir (Prasanna Puwanarajah), whose controversial interview with Diana shook the royal marriage, is introduced. The public memory exists exclusively around the heartbreaking honesty that Diana brought to the interview, not the shocking story of how Bashir made his way to her through manipulation and lies. No Woman’s Land gets behind the scenes to uncover how Bashir secures the interview with Diana. No Woman’s Land presents Diana as a woman surrounded by a system of lies and deceit, where there’s absolutely no one she can trust or call her own. She suspects that her calls are being tapped, too; strange clicking noises can be heard in between. Not once or twice, but every single time. When she goes in to visit her brother in her car, the brakes are loose. It is a chilling foreboding of what is to come. This constant threat of being observed and tapped gets to Diana. She cannot trust anyone and seeks some semblance of peace by accompanying her acupuncturist to the hospital. It is here that she first meets the handsome Pakistani doctor, Hasnat Khan, a cardiac surgeon. Hasnat Khan is indeed the contrast to Martin Bashir, the other Pakistani who will change Diana’s life forever.
Bashir has been devotedly studying Diana over the years, taking notes from her interviews and connecting the dots. He latches on to Diana’s helplessness as his big takeaway, which could help the BBC grab the spotlight from the present competition it faces from other TV channels. The metaphor with the TV is rather directly shown here, posing as an outdated model that needs to be changed immediately. Every little thing seems to point in the same direction, as the Queen notes. As for Bashir, the episode shows us, in painstaking detail, the entirely fraudulent and unethical way a journalist forces his way into this interview. He fabricates bank statements and forges names and signatures. His entire false narrative about Diana’s closest friends and relatives being paid by the system to watch over her is shocking. Bashir shows that he cares for Diana and that he understands her. In reality, it means little to him other than getting press coverage. Want to know how much of it is actually true? The news is as recent as 2021, when Tim Davie, the BBC director general, made an apology to Diana’s brother Charles Spencer regarding the fake bank statements that were made to claim that the staff members of Diana were paid. Matt Wiessler is the graphic designer behind it, who also claimed to have been used as a scapegoat in this entire process. Bashir repeatedly lied to members of the BBC over the years. In May last year, he apologized for breaking editorial conduct when the inquiry found him guilty of using deceitful methods to secure the interview with Diana.
Episode 7 leaves no stone unturned to show the lengths to which Bashir manipulated Diana in the beginning. When the focus shifts to the other Pakistani man, Dr. Khan, only then does this episode release some of the stress and become a little relaxed. Indeed, the scene in the cafeteria where Diana flirts quite unsubtly with the doctor is a twisted delight. Here is a woman who is trying to connect with a man so far removed from anyone she has ever met. She lays herself bare open- as a woman caught up in a patriarchal system whose every action, word, and code of conduct is kept under strict scrutiny. They decide to go to the movies, but Dr. Khan is not sure how that would be possible with her public persona. She says she can handle it. Indeed, she does, covered from top to bottom in an oversized coat and pants. They watch Apollo 13 and hold hands together. The relationship develops subsequently, even though Dr. Khan is quite insecure about the future of this relationship. “Why me?” he asks. He is just an average man. To this, Diana responds that she is not what the public makes of her—this image of someone so big and royal. In reality, she’s just a normal person looking for love and companionship.
Dr. Khan and Martin Bashir are the two men standing at opposite ends in No Woman’s Land. Diana’s naive association with these men causes her trouble, which she seems to have attached to her lifestyle by now. Episode 7 is dark and unsparing in its suggestions about how Diana was gaslighted continually about her privacy being at risk. It also shows this woman as a fragile, completely isolated individual left to her own wits. The scene at the hospital, where she eases the anxieties of other patients simply by her radiant presence, is marked in contrast to her position in the palace, where her presence is better not taken into consideration. This episode, while introducing Martin Bashir, steadily paves the way for the explosive interview that will follow. No Woman’s Land prepares the ground for us to know how it all started and how unethical and unprofessional all of it was. The writing is strikingly good when it focuses on the journalistic side, with the BBC newsroom in focus. There were also internal agendas based on personal rivalries within the BBC that were also building up, all leading up to the big showdown. Up until now, Diana was not as fully explored in the season, and this episode finally turns the focus on her. Whatever your opinion on the late Princess may be, one cannot deny the deceitful and negligent manner in which her mental health was taken for granted. I simply wish her character had gotten a greater depth away from just the desperation and agony. Debicki steals a moment or two to carve out the mischievous side of Diana, which is delightful to witness. The bludgeoning of metaphors with the BBC and its sudden addition as a topic of discussion within the royal family does feel contrived and patched up. But subtlety is not a trait The Crown endorses, giving away the thematic punches through overt metaphors every single time. Let us now only wait for the next episode to see how the Panorama interview will be depicted in The Crown.
See more: ‘The Crown’ Season 5, Episode 6: Recap And Ending, Explained: What Did The DNA Of Prince Philip Reveal?