Thursday, May 23, 2013

7N2 - Battlefield 2

Season 26, like the previous three seasons, featured 14 episodes spread across four stories. However, if one were to, after the fact, allocate these episodes to each story, the distribution might end up a bit different. Ghost Light, which follows Battlefield, might have been better stretched out into four episodes, and The Curse of Fenric, the penultimate story of the season, could have also benefited from an additional installment.

Conversely, Battlefield began life as a three-part story, but writer Ben Aaronovitch was asked to extend the plot over four episodes. It seems evident that most of the new material added to the story was slotted into Part Two. There's a scene where Mordred laughs maniacally, and interminably, during a ceremony to transfer his mother, Morgaine, to another dimension. The Brigadier spends pretty much the entire episode in a helicopter on his way to the scene of the crime. Everything just seems to be in a holding pattern, waiting until Part Three to finally have some of the principles meet up.

There are some good sequences though. It's fun to see Nicholas Courtney and Jean Marsh have a scene together - a pseudo family reunion of the Kingdom/Vyon family from The Daleks' Master Plan. It's also a nice character touch to have Morgaine be respectful of the graves of veterans, as well as the Brigadier's status as a "warrior". A lesser villain would have merely killed the Brigadier without a second's thought. That Morgaine focuses her energy only on attacking other soldiers (eventually - as I said, things move slowly in this story) makes her a believable character, even if she's a medieval witch from an alternate dimension.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

7N1 - Battlefield 1

Because the order in which I first saw Doctor Who stories was all cattywampus, Battlefield was my first proper view of the Brigadier in action. I had fond memories of Mawdryn Undead, but I had no context as to who he was when The Doctor seemed to recognize this befuddled school teacher from 1983. It took me a few seconds, then, to first realize, then remember, who this aging man in a flat cap was, being dragged around a greenhouse by his wife like so many emasculated suburban males before him.

Battlefield doesn't make assumptions about the character of the Brigadier: it assumes you know him and his history, and that his appearance in the very first scene would inspire a heartwarming reaction from the viewing audience. But Mawdryn Undead and The Five Doctors, the last two stories to feature the Brig, aired six years earlier, and Doris, the Brigadier's wife who also appears in this opening scene, is named in a throwaway reference in 1974's Planet of the Spiders (which hadn't even been released on video at that point). Regular viewers (never mind burgeoning super-fans like I was at the time) may have experienced confusion, as is possibly evidenced by the record low ratings the original series started off its final season with.

That said, Nicholas Courtney's presence is never unwelcome, and the scene towards the end of the episode where he dons his old uniform again (complete with swagger stick) is very sweet, and the red herring of his impending death is nicely foreshadowed (thank the maker that they never killed off the character). That foreshadowing scene is emblematic of another scene in this episode set in the TARDIS console room. It is the last such scene set inside The Doctor's time ship, and barely at that. While the console is the same one used in the series since 1983, the surrounding backdrop is a cloth with light coloured circles on it, the original set walls having been destroyed between seasons. While the series would endure a "rest" after this season, it is quite clear, in retrospect, what intentions the BBC had for Doctor Who all along...