Whovember: Battlefield


In an ideal world, as we draw close to the end of Whovember, I’d be posting a review of a classic tale from the Sylvester McCoy years here. But the only story from that era I’ve watched recently is Battlefield, so that will have to do.

Which is not to say that it’s bad, particularly; cheesy,in many ways, but it’s old skool Who, what else should it be? It is, in fairness, a mixed bag. It has a sense of humour that might have been brilliant in the hands of Adams & Baker, but does at times get a bit silly here. The Arthurian knights from another dimension and the fact that the Doctor, at some point in his future, apparently becomes Merlin, should have been brilliant; unfortunately the fight scenes are mostly just too slow to be believable, and the fact that the knight-aliens slipped into our dimension via a massive plot-hole (or at least, a void where there should have been some inkling of explanation) renders that a bit of a wasted opportunity.

Battlefield is still a lot of fun; the Brigadier is back for a final fling with the good Doctor, and brings Bessie with him, a nice nod to the Doctor’s full-time UNIT days. Of course, ‘the Brigadier’ has retired, and his role is now taken by Brigadier Debb Lister Winifred Bambera; cue slightly sexist assumptions from Lethbridge-Stewart which may have been funny at the time.


Among the villains, wicked witch Morgaine (or ‘Mummy’, as you sort of expect Mordred to call her) and her pet Destroyer, freshly summoned from Hell and looking pretty demonic actually, for a Doctor Who villain, are almost worth hiding behind the sofa from. In fact, if Morgaine had left her son at home to bring in the Tesco delivery and just brought out the Destroyer from the start, well, it would have been (literally) a different story.

The demon summoned from Hell motif, the chalk circle in which Ace and new friend Shou Yuing take refuge, and the possible relevance of Holy Water lend an air of sorcery and the supernatural to the whole affair that is more Buffy than Doctor Who, and like Buffy takes its lead from a pop culture version of Hell rather than any Biblical interpretation.

All that aside, hiding behind the silliness is a story of human relationships against a background of war. The Brigadier is happily married, but torn from his idyllic retirement with Doris to see action again. Mordred is trying, half-heartedly, to step out from his mother’s shadow. Ancelyn and Winifred fall in love over a sword fight or two. And then, of course, there’s the Doctor and Ace.


This is why I don’t think the Doctor should ever be female. Ace is a troubled teen who blows stuff up for attention, until the Doctor meets her and takes her under his wing, at the same time giving her someone besides herself to look out for. The Doctor helps her complete her education – albeit in an unorthodox manner – and keeps her somewhere near the straight and narrow; in Battlefield, he specifically forbids her from joining Shou Yuing in an alcoholic drink, and Ace clearly respects his opinion enough to accept this without fuss.

The Doctor as father figure harks right back to the beginning when the Doctor travelled with his own granddaughter, but with Seven and Ace you get a clearer feel for what trouble Ace might have been in, and from that the importance of the man she nicknamed ‘Professor’.

Exotic alien swords are easy to come by. Aces are rare.

The Doctor has (usually) been a male role model who thought things through and talked his way out of trouble before resorting to violence. TV needs those, doesn’t it? And I think the War Doctor would agree, there has been too much of the young, romantic Doctor recently; Twelve (or do we have to call him Thirteen?) can bring something of the father figure back to the Doctor.

Watch this for the dreadful 80s title sequence and incidental music. No, actually, watch it for a fun interpretation of Arthurian myths, and ponder what might have been – or may yet be.

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