Thursday 11 October 2012

688 Battlefield Part One


EPISODE: Battlefield Part One
TRANSMITTED: Wednesday 06 September 1989
WRITER: Ben Aaronovitch
DIRECTOR: Michael Kerrigan
SCRIPT EDITOR: Andrew Cartmel
PRODUCER: John Nathan-Turner
RATINGS: 3.1 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - Battlefield

Retired Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart is enjoying life with his wife Doris while his successor Brigadier Winifred Bambera is having problems with a Nuclear Missile Convoy she is escorting which has had an electrical explosion and overturned near Lake Vortigen at Carbury. The Doctor picks up a distress call and lands near by. The are taken to the lake by local archaeologist Peter Warmsley hearing impact noises round them that Warmsley suggests are a local army firing range. The Doctor and Ace gain access to the Unit convoy using passes belonging to the Third Doctor and Liz Shaw but are escorted away from the site by Brigadier Bambera who takes them to the local hotel where Ace meets Ling Tai, a young woman of about her ages, and the Doctor takes an interest in a scabbard hanging above the fireplace which Warmsley gave to hotel owner Peter Warmsley and his blind wife Pat. Lethbridge Stewart is summoned to Lake Vortigen by helicopter. Bambera becomes involved in a battle between two groups of knights at the Doctor's Tardis involving swords and advance weaponry. When the single knight that makes up one side is thrown towards the hotel she follows. The Doctor, Ace and Ling Tai find the knight in the hotel's brewery and despite Ace thinking it might be an Android the Doctor unmasks it to reveal a human underneath who recognises the Doctor as Merlin. Bamberra arrives but so do the other party of Knights who hold everyone at gunpoint.

I can remember having high hopes for this story when it first aired: the return of Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart in a story written by the writer of Remembrance of the Daleks incorporating elements of the Arthurian story (I'd seen John Boorman's Excalibur by this point - if you haven't then buy it now on DVD! And how about a UK BD release please?) Well the Brigadier's incidental to this episode though we do (finally) get to see Doris (of Planet of the Spiders watch fame), now Mrs Lethbridge-Stewart, played by Angela Douglas of Carry On Films fame.

If Bamberra doesn't trust the Doctor & Ace, and doesn't accept their story, why does she go to the trouble of driving them to the hotel? Similarly who's accepted that the Doctor is the Doctor and made enough fuss to get the Brigadier summoned to Carbury?

The Tardis scenes at the start are too dark and there's a reason for this: the wall sets had been destroyed since it's last appearance in Greatest Show in the Galaxy and the reduced lighting hides that the backgrounds are just drapes. I didn't say it hides them terribly well!

Bambera's exclamations of "Shame" seem to be an attempt to get another character to swear on screen without actually swearing - see Ace stories passim. We suggest you insert another short word beginning with SH every time she says it and her disgust for hitch hikers will become more evident!

Why does Ace think that the Knight might be an Android? That's because it's meant to be a futuristic Knight, rather than what we got. Unfortunately the costume people read the word Knight and immediately gave us something in the traditional vein rather than, as was intended, something that looked more like Top Gear's The Stig. Think of that, with lightsabres and better guns, not those horribly sparky things (again) and you'll be getting there.

This episode of Doctor Who has the dubious honour of having the lowest viewing figures of any episode of the original run, just 3.1 million. OK it was up against Coronation Street but even so..... This is how the record of lowest viewing figures for an episode of Doctor Who progressed:

Episode #DateStory & EpisodeRating
Million Viewers
1 23/11/1963 An Unearthly Child: An Unearthly Child 4.4
127 10/09/1966 The Smugglers: Episode One 4.3
129 24/09/1966 The Smugglers: Episode Three 4.2
251 07/06/1969 The War Games: Episode Eight 3.5
689 06/09/1989 Battlefield: Part One 3.1

This is the first episode of Doctor Who that aired after I made the transition to sixth form college from secondary school. This is also the first episode of Doctor Who that I recorded off the television! We bought our first video recorder that summer and already by this point I owned Spearhead from Space, Day of the Daleks, Death to the Daleks, Revenge of the Cybermen and Terror of the Zygons on video. I still have the recorded copy of Battlefield, and all four stories this season, to this day and was almost tempted to dig it out to watch for the blog!.

A large amount of Battlefield is recorded on location with very little of the action in this episode occurring in the studio. Fulmer Plant Park in Buckinghamshire is then location for the garden centre that the Brigadier & Doris visit quite close to Little Paston which is where the scenes at their home were recorded. The majority of the action in this story occurs at locations in Lincolnshire with Twyford Wood providing the location for the Tardis landing site while Hambleton Old Hall serves as the Gore Crow Hotel. Nearby Hambleton Ridge is where Bambera radios the convoy for assistance and is also probably the location where the shots of the UNIT convoy is in difficulty were recorded from using Barnsdale on the other side of the lake. Finally the shot of the Knight crashing into the hill was filmed at Castle Cement Quarry about 5 miles away from the other Lincolnshire locations.

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