It’s the final season and it would seem intent on going out with a bang. The use of explosives is becoming a bit of a joke now, but Battlefield is the show’s attempt at doing an “epic”, with transdimensional medieval knights facing off against UNIT’s military forces in a large-scale skirmish, while an evil sorceress summons an all-consuming demon. Granted, it ends up looking like a strange war reinactment documentary, but for a BBC show recorded on video in 1989, it’s not bad going.
Battlefield certainly isn’t bad but when the premise is that the legend of King Arthur is from a parallel dimension and a thousand year old war is brought to Earth, you have to expect a bit of hokiness. Larger than life characters speaking of glory and honour in olde worlde tongues, evil cackling laughs and technology dressed up as magic. It’s sometimes a bit much to take seriously, however I do like Mordred and Ancelyn – they have a certain charm to them; it’s like watching a scene from Thor. The Destroyer is your typical overblown world-destroying monster, but it is an impressive piece of puppetry and costuming.
While archeologists dig up old fossils, another fossil is dug up out of retirement and squeezed back into uniform for one last hurrah. The Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart has a way of enhancing any story he’s in, and he has some great moments in this too, particularly reminiscing with the Doctor. Despite the change of actor, the Doctor and the Brig have good screen chemistry. There could have been a bit more friction between him and the new Brigadier (played by Angela Bruce). I particularly liked the exchange in which he confesses to not understanding women, in which the Doctor replies “don’t worry, people will be shooting at you soon”. I half-expected him to die by the end of the story, going out in a blaze of glory, but found myself relieved that he survived the ordeal. It’s a good end for him.
Battlefield also stirs up some nostalgia with the surprise return of Bessie the car, but what I wasn’t expecting was a memory dug up from my own childhood. I have a recollection of the “chalk circle” scene; I have definitely seen it before. My mind has mangled that up with memories of Remembrance of the Daleks but I wasn’t entirely sure this scene was also from Doctor Who. Now I know it was. It makes me wonder what else I saw at age six that has been burned into my impressionable mind, before the show finally went off the air. Not much, probably.
The idea of the Doctor being Merlin is handled with a slight twist: it’s not a case of mistaken identity, rather it’s something he hasn’t done yet. A future incarnation of the Doctor was Merlin, and he even leaves himself a note. That’s quite clever. For a time-traveller, there ought to be this sort of thing happening more often. Speaking of the future, the whole story is a few years ahead of the ‘present’, as evidenced by the pub charging five pounds for a lemonade, and their telephone being voice-activated. We’re not far off that now, are we?
Battlefield is nothing special, but it’s perfectly fine. It’s got some elements of the show’s dafter past, with mad villains and monsters, but it’s good fun.