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MythicDocWho - Posted on 26 July 2009

Hey folks! Didnt find much discussion of this 7th story except the Benjamin Elliiot mention in This Week in Doctor Who concerning the DVD release. Has anyone watched Battlefield recently? Find it memorable? Or not?

Im currently drafting my contribution to a volume concerning Doctor Who, and am arguing the possibility that the Doctor may have in fact been Gandalf from the Lord of the Rings, (per the Master statement in The Last of the Time Lords) and Battlefield is going to be one of my last discussions in the paper before using all of my findings to drive my point home. In this episode the Doctor is called Merlyn by Ancelyn, Mordred and Morgaine, plus there are voice activated areas only "Merlyn" could have set up, notes from the Doctor's future self (an incarnation that is said to be Merlyn) the tunnel leading to Excalibur has runes on it set by the Doctor as Merlyn, and a few other bits that connect him to the claim. We can argue some technical stuff like, how can the Doctor recall some things that he has yet to do as it was his future self, in the past, that did the actions above and more--plus the wide variety of continuity issues as set forth in the About Time series by Tat Wood and Lawrence Miles (volume 6) or Cornell's Discontinuity Guide. My wife and I werent to fond of the music and without reading the Miles or Cornell critique did find the scabbard had a huge focus then is later forgotten about.

The writer Ben Aaronovitch drew on several sources for Merlyn like TH White, Le Morte D'Artur and Tennyson, --the characters appear to be from a parallel dimension and the battle takes place on Earth, yet the Doctor receives the signal from Earth--

What do ya'll think of this episode? Thoughts on Doctor as Merlyn? Production/story comments?


I will review this after I finish the other seasons or if I survive TIME AND THE RANI, PARADISE TOWERS, and THE TRIAL OF A TIME LORD.

Anyway on first seeing it...and I watched it with the Gallifrean Embassy at Genie's house so long ago now...I was wary. We had had such meetings before to watch the first story of a new Doctor and THE MYSTERIOUS PLANET didn't go down too well. Imagine if you will, the idea that DW was taken off the air and this story is what they came back with.

After the last season before BATTLEFIELD, there was the pretty good Dalek story, the camp HAPPINESS PATROL which I just didn't get back then but do now (still not sure I like it), the awful SILVER NEMESIS, and the GREAT Greatest Show in the Galaxy. Doctor Who was still a mixed bag for me back then and I was still stinging not only from Adric's death but from garbage like THE TRIAL, TIME AND THE RANI, PARADISE TOWERS and especially from DRAGONFIRE, one of the worst DW stories ever and introducing Ace...horrible in her first story. She began to redeem herself.  DW was still finding a way back but it was losing viewers constantly and BATTLEFIELD, had the worst ratings ever.

So with all that in mind I'm not sure how I like the idea of the FUTURE Doctor being a Merlin, taking the show ahead toward some other continuity that is perhaps more mired and confused than the past of the Time Lords and the Doctor and the Master...if they had said that some past Doctor or even, pray tell, the Other, was Merlin I might have been more apt to handle that. Nowadays with the future of the character the Doctor in better hands, I feel more at ease to say things like "There's a place for that in DW at some time" but back then we had A-the Doctor being a master manipulator and knowing things that were going to happen and B-someone who set up his companion and the deadly situations ahead of time and C-crap dialog and stories alot of the time and D-no explanations for things and E-repeated plotlines as in SILVER NEMESIS and F-big ambitions with no real money to pull them off.

This story more than any other around it, needed more money. I mean to have Merlinian and Arthurian armies fighting with swords and needed more. The fights are bewildering...and again I may feel differently when I reassess this. The side characters except for the UNIT woman who gets killed (sorry she did) and the Chinese girl, are all embarassing. Yes, that includes the black woman who over the top does it for the new UNIT Brig, Bambera. She's awful. Ditto Ancilin. And the two main villains. Jean Marsh...was okay but also playing it like Ming the Merciless although like Ming of the old classics, she had some kind of heart and in the end, had some depth.

Truth is: like Arthur and DW itself, we all have our own ideas in our minds as to how such a story or history is and like my post about the Toymaker and Divided Loyalities says, when writers mess with that and try to present something that we've thoght about or read about for years...such as the past of Gallifrey, how the Doc left Gallifrey, why he left, was he born or loomed, doesn't always match up favorably to what our imaginations reconciled in our minds all the bits and pieces of past stuff. ROBIN HOOD, TARZAN, JAMES BOND, MERLIN, ARTHUR, KING KONG, GODZILLA, BATMAN, SUPERMAN, NERO to come extent, are ALL like this. Frankly, I love the new show MERLIN. It is different, fast, emotional and well acted and written. I can take to that easier than this BATTLEFIELD.

That said, Battlefield has some great moments and some truly awful ones.  The appearance of the Destroyer (but not that it stays chained up), the ring Ace and girl have to stay in, and the scene underwater in the spaceship are all well done. Not so sure about Ace's jealousy of the Brig ("Stuff it!" "SO your'e the latest one"). Also Sophie, who can be good, is awful in most of this, especially when arguing with the Asian girl. It gave me throwbacks to DRAGONFIRE and terrible she was in that. Ditto her stupid slang "ACE!"  She sounds like an adult striving to be a teen who's cool and it comes off badly and awkward.

THE Doctor writing notes to himself. As before, I state that back then I was unsure about it. Now I can feel safer about it,knowing that Tennant's Doctor isn't doing this all the time and that all the stories are driven by this kind of manipulation of companions, or foresight into what will happen to him etc. Now I can state that the 7th Doctor as all of those things is fine as long as I have my Big Finish 8th Doctor, Big Finish 5th and 6th Doctor, the 9th Doctor and the 10th Doctor doing what they do. If it had continued with a scheming 7th like Docotr, I don't know how I'd feel about that and I don't know how I feel about most of the New Adventures where the Doc sacrifices Ace's love interest to save a universe while not telling her. Shrugs. I guess it has a place in DW but I'm glad DW is not always like that.

Ditto the Merlin thing. What's next? The Doctor was Charlemagne? The Doctor was Robin Hood? The Doctor was Godzilla and Tarzan? The Doc is Batman? I don't like any of those ideas to be honest. If the Doc were to meet any of those characters THAT, I might like if it were done well.  As for Merlin: how can he be Merlin unless he has powers that are radically different from those he has in our universe? he fools everyone with science? How can he fool Morgaine with science? He must have other powers that seem like magic in that other universe. Then again he was defeated and put in ice.  Which might seem to indicate he didn't know everything that he was doing, just like the current 7th Doctor...he often forgets something and calls himself stupid. It would also indicate that he was fooling Arthur in some way. I prfer MERLIN the new tv show where Merlin is innocent minded and trying to help Arthur the best way he can, while yes, fooling him in keeping his powers secret bcause he has to to keep himself alive thanks to Arthur's foolish father. But even there the father has his reasons for doing what he is  doing just as Morgana in MERLIN is doing what she is doing for reasons. Why is our Morgaine doing what she is doing --because she hates or loves the Doctor or wants revenge or loves Arthur or what? I can't remember but I sure as hell can remember Morgana's hatred for Arthur's father in MERLIN and why...and why at the last moment she fails to kill him or carry out his murder plot. BATTLEFIELD is an intresting exercise that seems to work at any one moment and at any other seems to be a total failure. It's a curious piece and the Brig's addition to it really adds very little. He also seems to be sleepwalking through this role to be honest.

As in all things DW, there's little to go on about how the Doc was Merlin, why he was Merlin, little to  hinge on why things are going on the way they are and all the rest. That doesn't make good drama really, just SOME pretty pictures (and they can't even get that right as things looks cheap during the car chases and gun fights)  and a number of good set pieces.

I recall after seeing this and leaving that meeting that I really didn't wish to be a DW fan I guess my first impression of Battlefield was bad and "What are they doing to this show? That's what they want to do?"              

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