Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Doctor Who: Battlefield

Part One

“And boom!”



A garden centre. Whoopee. How very exciting. But hang on- it’s the Brig. With Doris, she of the name checking in Planet of the Spiders! How very fanwanky. But it’s great to see the Brig again, even though all the dialogue in this scene is a bit of a crude info-dump (“What, giving up teaching?”)

And we get UNIT too, now a proper UN organisation with blue berets and a few token foreigners to prove it. And there’s a new Brigadier, played by Angela Bruce, the female Lister from the most recently broadcast episode of Red Dwarf. She’s great. Her catchphrase isn’t. And it’s a bit odd how Zbigniew calls her “sir”. Hasn’t she noticed she’s, er, a she?

Blimey, it’s a bit dark in the TARDIS. It’s almost as if they were trying to hide the fact they’ve managed to dump most of the console room between seasons. The Doctor is also a bit darker with his new jacket. Symbolism, perhaps? There’s talk of “sideways in time” which alerts all those aware of how this show works that this is where the baddies are going to come from. They’re following a signal from Earth “a few years” in Ace’s future, a signal consisting of just the word “Merlin”. Oooh! We never do find out what it was.

The Doctor’s great when infiltrating himself with UNIT. I love the old-fashioned pocket-emptying, the passes, his reply to Winifred’s “I think I would have noticed a nuclear explosion.” With “Yes, they are conspicuous.” But he’s even better being all brooding and mysterious about this Arthurian stuff, at least now where the possibility of it all making sense by the end still seems open.

If Patrick’s “Arthur’s Ale” is approved by CAMRA then it must be damn good, but the script seems to mock it, especially with the philistine comments of Ace’s explosive-loving mate Shou Yuing. Bah. Apparently Ben Aaronovitch is not a real ale lover. Disgraceful. Shouldn’t be allowed. All right-thinking people love real ale.

Still, the coolness of the Doctor apparently having a Zoid in his pocket rouses me from my ranting state of mind as the knights with guns suddenly appear and start shooting at each other all over the place. I’m not sure what good the mediaeval armour’s supposed to be doing them under the circumstances, but I understand Aaronovitch intended it to look a lot more futuristic, which would have made a lot more sense and been a lot cooler.

I love the Brig’s constant assurances to Doris that he’s definitely not going to get killed, which were clearly put there to foreshadow his Beowulf-esque demise until Aaronovitch decided otherwise.

We finish by meeting Ancelyn, who recognises Merlin, and then some baddie knights. All this looks good mostly, and there are some cool concepts flying about, but I’m with Shou Yuing when she asks “Can someone tell me what on Earth is going on?”

Part Two

“Yes, remember Badon and my mighty arts!”

For years until I first saw the DVD with subtitles I thought the above quote was about a “mighty arch”. Anyway…

These knights are from another dimension. One of them, Mordred, is obviously a key figure from Arthurian legend, but I don’t think Ancelyn is. I’m still not sure exactly what’s going on, or how it’s all supposed to relate to the mythology, if at all beyond the superficial.

Mordred’s insane laughter is… an interesting approach. The Doctor’s use of a crisp packet to wake up Winifred and Ancelyn is much cooler, and I love the humorous way their relationship develops throughout the story.

A couple of niggles though; who got Geneva to call in the Brig, and why? Is Winifred not considered capable? And then there’s the ridiculously slow pace of Peter Warmsly’s archaeological dig. It would have taken the Time Team crew a bit less than ten fricking years to sort that load of trenches out. And then there’s Morgaine’s confrontation with the Brig at the cemetery- good scene, yes, but what are the Thirteen Worlds, and who are the S’Rax? And why is Arthur in a sodding spaceship under the lake? What’s happening?

Part Three

“Something’s wrong.”


“We haven’t been attacked yet.”

So, Warmsley thinks the whole Arthurian thing’s “a bit of a myth really,” in spite of the fact he’s spent ten years digging a site whose only apparent worth is its connection with the legend? Still, it’s cool to see Ace emerge from the lake with Excalibur.

The Doctor and the Brig finally meet, and I love the Brig’s casual attitude to the fact the Doctor’s changed again; “Who else would it be?” We get Bessie too. But the best bit is of course where the Doctor stops the battle. I don’t mean “THERE. WILL. BE. NO. BATTLE HERE!” but the hilarious insults Mordred and Ancelyn throw at each other.

I still have no idea what’s going on, mind.

Part Four

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

I admit the Destroyer looks good, whoever he is. This story is getting more and more like an episode of Angel as it goes on. Except nowhere near as good, obviously.

Everything in this story, with the Brig knocking the Doctor out so he can get the final confrontation, is clearly signposting his heroic sacrifice. I’m glad it doesn’t happen though. Full of nice little Brig moments though it is, this story isn’t really worthy of being the Brig’s swansong.

The Doctor’s talking Morgaine out of using the nuke sort of works, I suppose, and I like the note left from his future self. That doesn’t mean I have any idea what’s been happening, though. And it’s with good reason that everyone always asks exactly how they’re supposed to “lock up” Morgaine.

Still, there’s something about this story’s heart that’s in the right place. We may get the very Scooby Dooiest of Scooby Doo endings, but in a good way.

Well, that made no sense. There’s also a sense, although to a lesser extent than Silver Nemesis, that things have been edited so tightly as to affect the clarity of the narrative. And it’s not directed all that well either. But the main problem is the many basic things that aren’t explained- we learn nothing of who Morgaine’s lot or Ancelyn’s lot actually are, where they came from or what they want. And because, unlike last story, this story isn’t abstract or allegorical- it’s not about anything other than the plot itself, not even Arthurian myth in any meaningful way- these things matter. Still, it diverted me, had some good set pieces and some fun humour. A highish 2/5.

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