Sep. 17th, 2018

purplecat: The Seventh Doctor (Who:Seven)
There is so much about Battlefield that I really, really like and yet the whole has never really gelled for me and that continued to be the case on this rewatch.

I'm a sucker for the Arthurian legends and I love retellings and different takes and Battlefield has that in spades. I mean, of course, the Doctor is Merlin and it makes so much (ironic) sense for it to be the seventh Doctor who is essentially left cleaning up the mess left by some future incarnation who is leaving him only vague hints about what is going on. I love the way the background in Arthurian myth instantly gives Morgaine a much more complex set of motivations as the antagonist. I love the idea of this blend of magic and technology and chivalry. I love the contrasting brigadiers. I love Doris. I love the relationship between Bambera and Ancelyn.

And yet... and yet...

And yet, mostly, I hate the whole alternative universe part. A lot of the stuff I really like about this episode, the sci-fi twist on the Arthurian legend, the idea of a 20th century resolution to events from, well, probably over a 1,000 years previously that have faded into myth, and in particular the interaction on equal terms of 20th century soldiers with their Arthurian counterparts really would not work without positing that the universe in which the Arthur story played out was at some side-step to our own and yet... Well and yet I don't think the story really does the work to justify the concept. I never really believe in this alternate universe and I dislike the fact we never get any really explanation for how the Arthurian myths exist in our own. I don't like the way no thought has apparently been given to either the vast lifespans Morgaine and her ilk must have or, alternatively, to the time distortion between the the two universes. Are Winifred Bambera and Ancelyn really intended to be linked to Guinevere and Lancelot or this a coincidence or something else? If so how and why and what?

"She's a baddie, isn't she?" said Tame Layman, observing the otherwise apparent superflousness of Shou Yuing. He was a bit non-plussed when he turned out to be wrong, but it is easy to see where this comes from. The character has relatively little purpose in the story. In some ways this is nice, there are quite a few characters and touches in Battlefield that serve relatively little direct purpose but serve to flesh out the characters and themes, and it is impressive to see a story from an era which tended towards the frenetic (and indeed a story that tends somewhat towards the frenetic itself) allow itself the luxury of elements that are not entirely utilitarian in purpose, but the very inconsistency of what aspects are allowed space to breathe and which aspects are glossed over apparently without thought is part of what rankles.

Some of the acting - particularly Bambera and Ancelyn (much as I like them) - is a bit poor. Battlefield suffers, as does so much of 1980s Doctor Who, from a low budget and a lack of time to get things right.

This is such a frustrating story. At one and the same time, I think it is great and feel it is a huge disappointment. Almost more than any other classic story, I'm haunted by the fieeling that this could have been truly and utterly wonderful if there had been more time, and more money, and a little bit more thought.

Tame Layman liked it even though he turned out to be wrong about Show Yuing.

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