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Tuesday, 14 December 2004 - Reviewed by Kathryn Young

Through the wonders of the local council a copy of the "extended version no true Doctor Who fan would want to miss" of Battlefield fell into my sticky little grubby Doctor Who obsessed paddy paws. Well first off let me put that one straight: extended version? What extended version? Thirty seconds of the Doc and Ace climbing a spiral staircase covered in fairy lights (the staircase, not the actors)? Well whoops se do (but not in a good way).

Everyone says this story is total and utter...

And yes I began to believe the hype: Bad direction, too rushed, someone even complained that the countryside was too green and nice looking! But then I thought about it. Actually this story is rather clever. Concept wise: OK, so all the plot really consists of is a bunch of other dimensional knights poncing around an over green bit of English country side trying to recover a sword for some reason that is never actually explained, but at least they aren't your usual "oh, let's take over the Earth for the sheer hell of it" type aliens.

I think Aaronovitch had been watching Star Trek: The Next Generation. The bad guys in Battlefield are a sort of cross between the Klingons and the "Knights of Ni" from Monty Python and the Holy Grail (but without the shrubberies). On the one side there is the honour code stuff and on the other there is the cod awful overacting, complete with maniacal laughter.

However by giving them a pseudo medieval background this also gives them a bit of depth and grounds them in a culture that the viewer can relate to. The upshot of the idea that "it may be more exciting to actually think about your villain and perhaps create a bit of backstory about them rather than just write in some malevolent green slime that shimmies around the air conditioning ducts" is the wonderful scene with the head bad lady (who has the most impractical fingernails I have ever seen) and the Brigadier where they take some time out from the mindless slaughter of universe domination and universe saving to have a bit of a chat and honour Earth soldiers who have fallen in battle. And this, along with a lot of other stuff makes Battlefield INTERESTING. Not really scary I admit, but definitely interesting.

Are You Short?

I am. I am very short. Do you know how difficult it is to dominate when you can barely see over the table? This is probably why I will cut Sylvester some slack for Battlefield. Not only does he have to stop some alternately dimensional knights from unleashing bloody and unstoppable destruction on Earth, but he has to cope with being a shortass (and admittedly sort of weird looking) to boot. Perhaps six foot tall Sean Connery could have done it and still found time for a few rounds of golf, but Sylvester had to go the extra gurn just to get people to look at him.

So this is my theory. People criticize his performance in Battlefield all the time. But it is not the gurning, the question mark jumper or the hat. It is because he is short and silly looking. Well so was bloody Napoleon. And look what he did (not that I am saying starting wars and general conquering is a good thing mind you).

As a "vertically challenged individual" I know how tricky it is to make tall people take you seriously - "seven degrees, worked with Mother Teresa, ran the UN, and found the holy grail.. well that's nice dear, but you can't see over the top of the steering wheel without a cushion can you now?"

So what do you think Sylvester (a bloke who, until Doctor Who, was most famous for stuffing ferrets down his trousers and pretending to be a car) did when he was asked to stop a war?

He did everything he could.

And do you know sometimes it works. Short, silly looking and Scottish he may be, but sometimes his performance as the Doctor gives me the chills. Sometimes he totally freaks me out (god help his kids if they ever misbehave). It's the eyes. Sometimes, when Sylvester isn't wiggling around like a man with a ferret down his trousers he comes across all dead spooky and serious. Sylvester may be a clown, but he knew who the Doctor was. And he knew that the Doctor was scary.

Winifred and Ancelyn

Drawn together by a love of hitting people and gratuitous violence Brigadier Bambera and Knight Commander Ancelyn fall in love. They are like a very dangerous and violent version of the Moonlighting couple. He is a spunky blond-haired knight from another dimension (with a healthy respect for the fairer sex) and she is a spunky gun obsessed UNIT Brigadier (with a cute little beret). If you ask me this is a match made in heaven.

Very rarely do we have a love story on Doctor Who, and while I think this one was handled with about as much subtlety as Tom Baker after a late at night down the pub, it is sweet. And INTERESTING. Sometimes I get so sick of your generic scientist/soldier supporting characters who get no character at all and then usually snuff it horribly.

Here we have something different. Instead of putative dead people standing around going "Oh my god we are going to die/the Doctor is a spy and we must kill him" we actually to seem to have characters who aren't just waiting around in suspended animation for the entrance of the Doctor (Maybe the writer had been watching The City of Death?).

I have actually read later books/fiction of some kind where the two characters pop up and they have actually got married and settled down to have little psychopaths, er sorry - kids. And, call me an old softie, but I think that's lovely.

And just think of the sex? Phoaarrrr!