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...


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