Doctor Who: Season 26, Episode 1

Battlefield: Part 1 (6 Sep. 1989)

TV Episode  -   -  Adventure | Drama | Sci-Fi
7.3
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 138 users  
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Knights from a parallel universe arrive on Earth to find the legendary sword Excalibur. And only the Doctor and Ace with the assistance of Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart and save the Earth from total catastrophe.

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Title: Battlefield: Part 1 (06 Sep 1989)

Battlefield: Part 1 (06 Sep 1989) on IMDb 7.3/10

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Cast

Episode cast overview:
...
Sophie Aldred ...
Ace
...
Nicholas Courtney ...
James Ellis ...
Angela Bruce ...
Christopher Bowen ...
Marcus Gilbert ...
Angela Douglas ...
Noel Collins ...
June Bland ...
Elizabeth Rowlinson
Ling Tai ...
Robert Jezek ...
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Storyline

The TARDIS arrives on present day Earth where the Doctor and Ace investigate a distress signal, only to discover knights from another dimension led by the evil sorceress Morgaine and her son Mordred have arrived in our dimension to seek out Excalibur, the mythical sword of power of the legendary King Arthur. The Doctor is mistaken for Merlin, and the Doctor believes Merlin may be his future incarnation. Reuniting with Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart, The Doctor, Ace, a young Chinese woman named Shou Yuing, U.N.I.T officer Brigadier Winifred Bambara and a knight named Ancelyn set out to stop Morgaine and her knights unleashing the demonic Destroyer of the Worlds and prevent Morgaine and Mordred from destroying the planet with a nuclear warhead that U.N.I.T is transporting across the countryside. Written by Daniel Williamson

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6 September 1989 (UK)  »

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1.33 : 1
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Trivia

This serial was released by the BBC on video cassette in the UK in March 1998. See more »

Quotes

Ancelyn: [to the Doctor] My Lord Merlin.
Brigadier: Merlin?
Ancelyn: He has many names.
Brigadier: He also has many faces.
[seeing Ace]
Brigadier: And he has many companions. This must be the latest one.
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User Reviews

 
"I Just Do The Best I Can."
25 June 2009 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

(Note: A Review Of All Four Episodes)

I was rather intrigued when I first learned of Battlefield. Featuring my favorite Doctor Sylvester McCoy, the return of UNIT and tying into Arthurian legend (which I'm rather intrigued in) it was going to be an interesting story to view. While Battlefield turned out not to be a classic along the lines of say The Curse of Fenric or Ghost Light, Battlefield stills proves to be an exciting and ever watchable Doctor Who story.

At the heart of it all is Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred as the seventh Doctor and Ace. Both show off their remarkable chemistry that made them one of the most successful TARDIS crews of the original series. McCoy in particular gets some fine acting moments such as the "there will be no battle here!" section of part three and the nuclear weapons speech in part four. Aldred also gives a nice performance as Ace though the character does come across as being downright immature at times. That said there are plenty of good things to say about Aldred's performance especially in the special edition's scenes with Brigadie Lethbridge-Stewart. As always the delight for watching a story from the McCoy era lies in the splendid work of its leading cast.

The story also features another one of the great things of the McCoy era: a fine supporting cast. Nicholas Courtney makes a welcomed return as UNIT's former commander Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart even if there are moments where he is pushing credibility at one or two moments. That said Courtney gets the best lines of the story including part four's classic "I just do the best I can!" plus some fine moments with McCoy's Doctor. Also of special mention is Jean Marsh who gives a well-stated and even believable performance as the Arthurian villainess Morgaine, the result being one of the single best performances of the McCoy era. There's also a nice performance from Angela Bruce as the new Brigadier in charge of UNIT, Winnifred Bambera, which makes it a shame that the show didn't get to go on much past this story and we never got to see more of the character. There's also nice performances from James Ellis, Marcus Gilbert, Robert Jezek and Angela Davis amongst others. That said there are some rather mixed performances from Christopher Bowen as an over-the-top (and out of place) version of Mordred and Ling Tai as the immature Shou Young. All said though it is as good a supporting cast as any to be found in the McCoy era.

The story has some nice production values as well. The sets and costumes are nicely done considering the low-budget the show was forced to work within. Thi is especially true of the Knights armor which, while not the sort of futuristic thing originally envisioned, stands up well today because it isn't futuristic. There's also the Destoryer in parts three and four who in a short space of time leaves a huge impression. Te Detroyer is a brilliantly realized creation as not only a fantastic monster but as a personification of Oppenheimer's "destoryer of worlds" as he described nuclear weapons which gives the story a nice piece of symmetry as well. That said the production values aren't perfect.

Battlefield suffers from two very distinct problems in the forms of its special effects and music. While special effects in the original Doctor Who series have a;ways been a mixed affair anyway here they are sadly lacking at times such as he Knights guns that do little more then shoot sparks or the sad looking exterior effects related to the Destroyer towards the end of the story. There's also the mater of the score by Keff McCulloch which works for the most part but is at times seeming out of place at times then too loud and too brash at others, especially in the action sequences. Thankfully the special edition on the recent DVD release helps to solve some of those problems.

One of the more successful elements of Battlefield is the script by Ben Aaronovitch. Doctor Who has time and again proved itself capable of adopting mythologies for its own purposes the Battlefield is no exception. The story makes fine use of the Arthurian legend with its use of its heroes and villains, giving the story an anchor in on the long lasting and best known mythologies of the Western world. Even more interesting from the Arthurian standpoint is that the Doctor is identified as being as Merlin which not only makes for a nice plot device but adds a nice bit of mystery back to the Doctor. There's also a nice return to some of the elements of the series own mythology including the return of UNIT and its original commander Lethbridge-Stewart, the Doctor's old car Bessie and the morality about war and diplomacy that ran throughout the original UNIT stories of the 1970's. The latter is particularly evident in the Doctor's speech on nuclear weapons (written in fact by script editor Andrew Cartmel) towards the story's conclusion. While the story has some structural issues (such as a slow moving first episode and the Lethbridge-Stewart taking half the story before really making an impact on events) the script is a good one and it stands up well.

So where does Battlefield stand? Well while it has its issues it is still an enjoyable and ever watchable piece of Doctor Who. While it might not be a classic story along the lines of say Genesis of the Daleks or later McCoy stories like Ghost Light or The Curse of Fenric, as an adventure story is a fine one. What more can you really ask for?


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