Sunday 14 October 2012

691 Battlefield Part Four

EPISODE: Battlefield Part Four
TRANSMITTED: Wednesday 27 September 1989
WRITER: Ben Aaronovitch
DIRECTOR: Michael Kerrigan
SCRIPT EDITOR: Andrew Cartmel
PRODUCER: John Nathan-Turner
RATINGS: 4 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - Battlefield

The Doctor & Brigadier capture Mordred but Morgaine orders the commander to attack again. The Doctor & Brigadier bring their captive to the hotel where he escapes as The Destroyer brings the hotel down round them. They find Ace & Shou Yuing in the rubble but Morgaine has escaped with the Destroyer & Excalibur. The Doctor, Brigadier and Ace follow Morgaine through the vortex she has created back to her lair. The Brigadier is attacked by the Destroyer and flung through the wall. The Doctor seizes the sword but the Destroyer is freed. Mordred finds his mother and both disappear from the building as the Doctor, Brigadier & Ace flee. The Doctor loads the Brigadier's gun with silver bullets, but is knocked out by his old friend who returns to the building alone to confront the Destroyer who he kills bringing the building down on them. Mordred & Morgaine capture the nuclear missile and begin it's detonation sequence, extracting the fail safe release code from Bambera's mind. Excalibur is returned to the ship where the Doctor discovers a note from himself saying that Arthur is dead and that Morgaine has gained control of the missile. The Brigadier & Ace destroy the ship on The Doctor's instructions while the Doctor confronts and defeats Morgaine, convincing her top stop the missile sequence. She demands to face Arthur but he tells her that she is dead, breaking her spirit. Mordred & Morgaine are locked up. The Doctor and his friends go to Lethbridge Stewart's house where the ladies go off together in Bessie leaving the men behind to cook the supper.

Hmmm. Apparently the Destroyer is meant to be a euphemism for Nuclear War. Really? That's not how it comes across on screen. He's just a monster, any subtext is completely lost. The story itself on screen just doesn't work. Yes the Special Edition on the Doctor Who - Battlefield DVD works better with some footage reinstated but even so it's still lacking something and doesn't really work: the Brigadier almost feels like a bit of a parody of his earlier self, Bambera is hamstrung by a useless catchphrase and the only characters that feel remotely real all get driven off together in episode 3! It's a huge disappointment because writer Ben Aaronovitch's previous Doctor Who story, Remembrance of the Daleks is just so good.

As originally written Battlefield was meant to kill the Brigadier off in spectacular manner saving the Earth and indeed it was under these conditions that Nicholas Courtney agreed to return as Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart. However by the time of filming the production team had changed their minds as to the long running character's fate. Courtney first appeared in the Douglas Camfield directed Dalek Masterplan in 1965 as Bret Vyon, opposite William Hartnell as Doctor Who, before bring cast by the same director as Captain Knight in Web of Fear with Patrick Troughton. However the actor playing Colonol Lethbridge Stewart dropped out and Courtney got promoted to Colonol. Another promotion, this time to Brigadier, followed when Lethbridge Stewart & Courtney returned for The Invasion and he went on to play the character opposite Jon Pertweein (deep breath) Spearhead from Space, Doctor Who and the Silurians, The Ambassadors of Death, Inferno, Terror of the Autons, The Mind of Evil, The Claws of Axos, Colony in Space, The Dæmons, Day of the Daleks, The Sea Devils, The Time Monster, The Three Doctors, The Green Death, The Time Warrior, Invasion of the Dinosaurs & Planet of the Spiders. In fact the only Pertwee stories that he ISN'T in are The Curse of Peladon, The Mutants, Carnival of Monsters, Frontier in Space, Planet of the Daleks, Death to the Daleks & The Monster of Peladon! He appeared twice with Tom Baker in Robot & Terror of the Zygons and twice with Peter Davison Mawdryn Undead & The Five Doctors. Colin Baker is the only Doctor in the original series that he didn't appear on screen with. This is Courtney's last role in mainstream televised Doctor Who. He returns for two radio productions, the Dimensions in Time charity special, a couple of Big Finish stories and one final television appearance opposite his former co-star Elizabeth Sladen in The Sarah Jane Adventures. Nicholas Courtney died 22 February 2011, aged 81. His passing was noted in the Doctor who episode "A Good Man Goes to War" where it was revealed that the Brigadier had also died in similar circumstances.

Battlefield was novelised in July 1991 by Marc Platt, the writer of the following story, Ghost Light. Bar the two Patrick Troughton Dalek stories, which were released several years later, this is the last Doctor Who story to be adapted by Target Books. Battlefield was repeated from 23 April to 14 May 1993 as the final story in a Doctor Who repeat season: it is the only Seventh Doctor serial to be repeated. It was released on Video on 24th January 2000 with some additional footage inserted. It was released on DVD on 26th December 2008 including a special edition movie edit which reinstated even more footage removed for the broadcast edition (details here.)

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