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Morgaine Serial 7N:
Battlefield

Working Title: Storm Over Avallion.

Starring: Sylvester McCoy (The Seventh Doctor), Nicholas Courtney (Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart), Sophie Aldred (Ace).

Plot
The TARDIS picks up a distress call from modern-day Earth. The Doctor and Ace discover that a UNIT platoon, led by Brigadier Bambera, has come under assault whilst transporting a nuclear warhead. The attackers turn out to be Arthurian knights from another dimension, led by the legendary sorceress Morgaine, whose magical powers appear to be real. When the Doctor meets Ancelyn, a knight opposed to Morgaine, he learns that a future incarnation of himself will become Merlin, and that he buried King Arthur and Excalibur beneath the waters of a nearby lake. The Doctor must confront Morgaine, who has summoned a demonic entity known as the Destroyer of Worlds.

Production
Prior to writing Remembrance Of The Daleks for Doctor Who's twenty-fifth season, Ben Aaronovitch had devised a storyline called Storm Over Avallion, which drew heavily on the Arthurian myths. This had been passed over because the already-planned Silver Nemesis also contained medieval elements, but script editor Andrew Cartmel considered it again when it came to putting together Season Twenty-Six. (Note that some sources suggest that an earlier Aaronovitch submission, Nightfall, was an earlier version of this storyline.) Avallion had been planned as a three-part, location-only serial, but Cartmel asked Aaronovitch to expand it to four episodes, including some studio material. This revised version was commissioned on September 16th, 1988.

The return of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart -- whose last appearance had been in The Five Doctors in 1983 -- was planned all along, although initially he had promoted to General. His death at the story's climax was seriously contemplated, but ultimately it was decided to have the Brigadier survive. In Aaronovitch's original conception, the knights were to have worn futuristic equipment which looked like armour only superficially; unfortunately, it was felt that this would be too costly to realise. Similarly, Aaronovitch's vision of the Destroyer of Worlds had to be scaled back. The writer wanted the Destroyer to start off as merely a man in a business suit, who gradually became more demonic as the serial progressed. This would have been both too expensive and too time consuming to achieve, and so the Destroyer appeared in his monstrous form throughout.

At Cartmel's suggestion, the adventure was retitled Battlefield. It was originally due to be made first, but Nicholas Courtney, playing the Brigadier, was not available for the April recording dates. Consequently, Battlefield and another Season Twenty-Six story, The Curse Of Fenric, were flipflopped. As a result, Battlefield lost its original director, Nicholas Mallett, and gained the director first assigned to Fenric, Michael Kerrigan, making his sole contribution to Doctor Who.

Serial 7N began its Outside Broadcast recording on May 6th, 1989. Locations used included Fulmer and Iver in Buckinghamshire, Upper Hambleton in Leicestershire, and various sites in Lincolnshire. Unfortunately, the production was hit by a coordinated strike effort on the part of the National Union of Journalists and the Broadcasting and Entertainments Trades Alliance, forcing the scheduling of two additional days. Cast and crew then returned to the studio for three days from May 30th. On June 1st, during recording of the scene where Ace is trapped in an airlock filling with water, the glass partition on the tank fractured. Fortunately, Sylvester McCoy was able to alert stagehands to the danger, and Sophie Aldred was pulled clear of the set just moments before the water burst through the glass and onto the electrical cables covering the studio floor. Except for a few glass splinters in her hands, Aldred was unhurt, although the incident would be sensationalised and receive considerable coverage in the tabloid press.

Although The Curse Of Fenric was allocated the first spot in the broadcast schedule for a time, it was later decided to move Battlefield into that position. Doctor Who was once again airing on Wednesday evenings for Season Twenty-Six, still up against the soap opera powerhouse Coronation Street on ITV. Battlefield episode one aired on September 6th. This was Aaronovitch's final broadcast Doctor Who story, although he continued to assist Cartmel in planning the remainder of the year, and had a serial -- Earth Aid, featuring the Samurai-like insectoid alien Metatraxi -- under strong consideration for Season Twenty-Seven. Aaronovitch was also viewed as a strong contender to eventually replace Cartmel as script editor. With Cartmel, Aaronovitch wrote an early script for the 1989 Doctor Who: The Ultimate Adventure stage play. He also contributed three novels to Virgin Publishing's The New Adventures series of original Doctor Who fiction: Transit, The Also People and So Vile A Sin, the latter cowritten with Kate Orman. Aaronovitch also continues to write for television, including episodes of Casualty and Jupiter Moon.

Details
Original Transmission Details
Episode Date Time Duration Viewers Audience App.
1 6th September 1989 7.35pm 24'06" 3.1m (102nd) 69%
2 13th September 1989 7.35pm 24'07" 3.9m (91st) 68%
3 20th September 1989 7.35pm 24'13" 3.6m (95th) 67%
4 27th September 1989 7.35pm 24'14" 4.0m (89th) 65%

Principal Crew
Producer John Nathan-Turner
Script Editor Andrew Cartmel
Writer Ben Aaronovitch
Director Michael Kerrigan
Designer Martin Collins
Costume Anushia Nieradzik
Incidental Music Keff McCulloch

Principal Guest Cast: Marek Anton (The Destroyer of Worlds), June Bland (Elizabeth Rawlinson), Christopher Bowen (Mordred), Angela Bruce (Brigadier Bambera), Noel Collins (Patrick Rawlinson), Angela Douglas (Doris Lethbridge-Stewart), James Ellis (Peter Warmsley), Marcus Gilbert (Ancelyn), Jean Marsh (Morgaine), Ling Tai (Shou Yuing).

Novelisation: Battlefield by Marc Platt (book 152), July 1991; cover by Alister Pearson.

Video Release: Battlefield, episodic format, March 1998; PAL (BBC Video cat.# 6330) and NTSC (Warners cat.# E1078) formats available; photomontage cover. About two minutes' worth of deleted material from episodes two and three are included, including the Doctor's explanation of the organic nature of the spaceship under Lake Vortigern (from part two), the Brigadier being introduced to Ace (from part three), and a conversation between Ace and Shou Yuing exploring Ace's relationship with both the Brigadier and the Doctor (also from part three).

Rankings: 61st (67.98%, Doctor Who Dynamic Rankings website, 22nd June 1999); 97th (65.24%, DWM 1997 Annual Survey).

Sources


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