The First Doctor The Second Doctor The Third Doctor The Fourth Doctor The Fifth Doctor The Sixth Doctor The Seventh Doctor The Eighth Doctor The Ninth Doctor The Tenth Doctor The Eleventh Doctor The Twelfth Doctor
Serial 7N:
Battlefield

Plot

The Doctor and Ace discover that a UNIT platoon has come under assault whilst transporting a nuclear warhead. The attackers are knights from another dimension led by the legendary sorceress Morgaine, half-sister of King Arthur, whose magical powers appear to be real. The Doctor learns that one of his future incarnations will become Merlin, and bury Arthur beneath the waters of a nearby lake. With Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart at his side one last time, the Doctor must confront Morgaine, who has summoned a demonic entity known as the Destroyer of Worlds.

Production

After making contact with Doctor Who script editor Andrew Cartmel in early 1987, Ben Aaronovitch worked on several different story ideas before settleing on an adventure which would juxtapose sword-and-sorcery elements with a modern setting. Thinking especially in terms of the Arthurian legends, this could offer the opportunity to provide a scientific explanation for the mythology's magical events and characters. As the summer waned, Aaronovitch began developing ideas for his serial, which won the approval of Cartmel and producer John Nathan-Turner. Aaronovitch had planned to include characters from the United States Air Force, and Nathan-Turner suggested that he incorporate the fictional United Nations Intelligence Taskforce, which had appeared throughout Jon Pertwee's time as the Third Doctor. In turn, this motivated Aaronovitch to inquire as to whether he could use UNIT's Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, last seen in 1983's The Five Doctors.

In the autumn, however, Cartmel and producer John Nathan-Turner asked Aaronovitch to rest his Arthurian adventure in order to work on Remembrance Of The Daleks, which would serve as the first story of Doctor Who's twenty-fifth season. The earlier storyline was not forgotten, however, and Aaronovitch returned to it the following spring, at which point it became known as “Storm Over Avallion” (with “Lake Over Avallion” also considered). Although it was originally conceived as a three-part adventure, Aaronovitch was now directed to develop it for four episodes.

Ben Aaronovitch planned to feature a revived A'tur (as Arthur was renamed) at the story's conclusion

Aaronovitch made use of many elements of Arthurian folklore, most obviously borrowing Morgaine (also known as Morgan le Fay), Mordred and the sword Excalibur. He also planned to feature a revived A'tur (as Arthur was renamed) at the story's conclusion, and described him as king of the Br'tons (rather than Britons). Ancelyn was inspired by Lancelot, one of the greatest of the Knights of the Round Table. Lancelot was perhaps most notorious for betraying Arthur by having an affair with the king's wife Guinevere -- the latter appropriately inspiring Bambera's first name, Winifred. Ace's retrieval of Excalibur from Lake Vortigern was an inversion of one legend regarding how Arthur obtained the sword, in which it emerged from beneath the surface of a pond, offered to him by the Lady of the Lake. Carbury itself was named for Cadbury Castle in South Cadbury, Somerset, which local tradition identifies with Arthur's castle Camelot.

At this stage, Aaronovitch retained the USAF element of the serial; Bambera was an American captain acting on behalf of a joint US-European initiative codenamed “Camelot”. Another key supporting character was Lavender Warmington, director of a heritage group called the Carbury Trust, while the Asian student befriended by Ace was named Thai. Ace herself wielded a newly-constructed sonic screwdriver, resurrecting the device used by the Doctor for many years until its destruction in 1982's The Visitation. Morgaine ensorcelled Ace and planned to sacrifice her to the demon she raised -- otherwise, the demon would eradicate all life on Earth, thereby sealing the portal between this dimension and Morgaine's, and trapping A'tur. Lethbridge-Stewart called in an airstrike against the demon, and was mortally wounded; his death satisfied demon, who then departed. Bambera killed Mordred to save Ancelyn, and a reawakened A'tur arrived, offering to bring Mordred back to life in return for Morgaine's obeisance. Bambera accompanied Ancelyn back to his dimension, while the Doctor would then continue travelling through time and space in honour of Lethbridge-Stewart.

In September 1988, actor Nicholas Courtney was approached about returning as the Brigadier. Courtney -- who had recorded a cameo appearance as a tourist in Silver Nemesis at the end of June -- agreed, and indicated that he approved of the plan to kill off the character. Given the BBC's attitude towards Doctor Who in recent years, together with its unimpressive viewing figures, Courtney was keen to shepherd Lethbridge-Stewart's story to a close, since he did not think the programme would continue for much longer. With the actor on board, the scripts for “Storm Over Avallion” were commissioned on September 16th.

Nicholas Courtney was keen to shepherd Lethbridge-Stewart's story to a close

At this point, Aaronovitch made various changes to his storyline. Bambera was now a UNIT brigadier, Thai was renamed Shou Yuing, Lavender Warmington's role was taken over by Peter Warmsly, and Ace's sonic screwdriver was dropped. Mordred was no longer killed, and the demon (now referred to as a Death Elemental) was served by resurrected, zombielike Men-at-Arms. The Brigadier survived the airstrike, and slew the demon with Excalibur, only to be fatally injured by the resulting feedback. Concerns about the unpredictable nature of weather on location prompted Aaronovitch to reconsider his title, with “Pool Of Avallion”, “Song Of Avallion” and “Stormtroopers Of Avallion” all considered.

By early 1989, Aaronovitch's story was intended to be the first into production for Season Twenty-Six, as Serial 7M. Nathan-Turner had hoped to attract Graeme Harper -- who had directed The Caves Of Androzani and Revelation Of The Daleks in the mid-Eighties -- back to Doctor Who for “Storm Over Avallion”, but he was unavailable. Instead, the director would be Nicholas Mallett. However, Courtney then advised the production office that he had been offered a role in a West End revival of Madame Butterfly, for which he would be required during the planned April recording dates. As such, it was decided to interchange “Storm Over Avallion” with the next story on the recording schedule, The Curse Of Fenric. “Storm Over Avallion” would now be made as Serial 7N in May. Unfortunately, it transpired that Courtney still would not be able to appear in both Doctor Who and Madame Butterfly, and he ultimately decided to turn down the West End opportunity. Courtney was contracted for his return to Doctor Who on February 14th.

Because of the changes to the production calendar, “Storm Over Avallion” would now be made by a director new to Doctor Who named Michael Kerrigan. Kerrigan had been recommended to Nathan-Turner by former director Andrew Morgan, whom the producer had originally eyed for the slot. His previous credits included The Baker Street Boys, Dramarama and Knights Of God. The key piece of casting for Serial 7N was the sorceress Morgaine. This went to Jean Marsh, who had been the First Doctor's short-lived companion Sara Kingdom in The Daleks' Master Plan, as well as Joanna in 1965's The Crusade. Marsh also had prior experience playing witches, having portrayed Mombi in Return To Oz (1985) and Queen Bavmorda in Willow (1988).

The production team felt that Battlefield was so full of incident that the Brigadier's heroic death would be overlooked

Meanwhile, Aaronovitch's scripts continued to evolve. Still searching for an appropriate title, he offered “The Battlefield”, which Cartmel abbreviated to simply Battlefield. Aaronovitch had also wanted to promote Lethbridge-Stewart to General, but his rank reverted back to Brigadier. More significantly, Nathan-Turner and Cartmel now felt that the story was so full of incident that Lethbridge-Stewart's heroic death would not get the attention it deserved. Aaronovitch offered other alternatives, including one where the Brigadier survives and decides to accompany the knights back to their dimension. In the end, however, the production team preferred the version where he returned to his quiet life with Doris.

Other changes were of a more logistical nature. Morgaine's demon, now called the Destroyer of Worlds, was envisioned as appearing as a well-dressed human man who later metamorphoses into a more monstrous form. To simplify the narrative, it was decided that the Destroyer should only appear in the latter guise. Similarly, the knights were intended to be dressed in futuristic combat gear which only looked like traditional armour at a glance, but this was dropped on the basis of cost.

Location filming for Battlefield began on May 6th in Buckinghamshire. In Fulmer, the garden centre was actually Fulmer Plant Park, while the Brigadier's home was a private residence called Little Paston. The Doctor's roadster Bessie was seen for the first time since The Five Doctors at Little Paston, with the false license plate changed from “WHO 1” to “WHO 7”. The day then concluded with the helicopter footage, performed on the ground at Black Park.

On May 7th, material at the old farmhouse was filmed at Dowager House in St Martin Without, Lincolnshire. The next day, the exterior of the Gore Crow Hotel was really Hambleton Old Hall in Hambleton, Leicestershire. Filming should have continued on May 9th and 10th, but this work was cancelled due to a strike caused by a dispute over salaries pitting the BBC against the Broadcasting and Entertainment Trades Alliance; indeed, rehearsals had already been affected. As such, work on Battlefield didn't resume until the 11th, when some of the sequences at Warmsly's dig were recorded at an excavation site in Hambleton adjacent to Rutland Water.

The TARDIS console room was represented by a simple set, because the walls had been accidentally destroyed the year before

Next, road scenes were filmed on May 13th and 14th in the Twyford Woods near Colsterworth, Lincolnshire, and on the 15th at Hambleton Ridge in Hambleton. Part of the 14th was also spent on Ancelyn's arrival, at Castle Cement Quarry in nearby Ketton, while sequences at the war memorial were taped on the 15th at St Andrew's Church in Hambleton. This should have drawn the location work to a close, but the two filming days lost due to the industrial action had now been rescheduled for May 16th and 17th. These were dedicated to the remaining material at the archaeological site, and again saw work at the Hambleton dig and Rutland Water.

Three days of studio recording then took place in BBC Television Centre Studio 3, beginning on Tuesday, May 30th; the rehearsals were again hampered by the labour strife. The first day dealt with scenes in the farmhouse and the TARDIS console room. The latter was represented by a simple set, obscured by dim lighting, because the console room walls had been accidentally destroyed after their appearance in The Greatest Show In The Galaxy the year before. Since this was the only interior TARDIS scene for Season Twenty-Six, the production team decided against constructing a long-term replacement that year. On the 31st, Kerrigan recorded material in the Gore Crow Hotel bar and the UNIT command trailer.

A variety of scenes then remained for June 1st, beginning with those in the brewery and the tunnel, as well as the shots of Morgaine in the crystal ball, before proceeding to the sunken spaceship. Last of all was the sequence where Ace became trapped in the airlock which then began filling with water. What no one realised was that the glass used for the tank was not of the appropriate thickness, and once water had been pumped in, with Sophie Aldred hammering on it from the inside, the prop began to lose its structural integrity. Fortunately, as cracks spidered across the glass, Sylvester McCoy realised what was happening and alerted stagehands to the danger. Aldred was pulled clear just as the glass shattered and water poured out over the studio floor. The actress suffered some glass splinters in her hands, but was otherwise unhurt. Nonetheless, tabloid coverage sensationalised the incident, suggesting that Aldred had barely managed to “cheat death”. Footage of the mishap would later be used in BBC safety training videos.

Michael Kerrigan directed for the second season of The Sarah Jane Adventures in 2008

Battlefield was Michael Kerrigan's only Doctor Who assignment, although he would reestablish a relationship with the programme when he directed The Day Of The Clown and Secrets Of The Stars for the second season of spin-off show The Sarah Jane Adventures in 2008. In between, Kerrigan's many credits included Coronation Street, The Famous Five, The Basil Brush Show and Captain Mack. Kerrigan passed away on August 7th, 2014.

It was thought that Aaronovitch might contribute two serials for Doctor Who's twenty-seventh season: the spaceship-set “Earth Aid” and a caper taking place in modern-day London which would introduce a new companion. Aaronovitch was also being groomed as a possible successor to Cartmel, having already provided some assistance on the other stories for Season Twenty-Six. However, the cancellation of Doctor Who later in 1989 put paid to all of these plans. Subsequently, Aaronovitch wrote for Jupiter Moon, Casualty and Dark Knight, and also wrote or cowrote three novels for Virgin Publishing's Doctor Who: The New Adventures range, beginning with Transit in 1992. In 2011, Aaronovitch enjoyed considerable success with his urban fantasy novel Rivers Of London (published as Midnight Riot in the United States), which spawned multiple sequels.

Season Twenty-Six retained the same Wednesday evening timeslot in which Doctor Who had been transmitted the year before. This meant that, for the third year in a row, it was tangling with ITV's enormously popular soap opera Coronation Street. Although Doctor Who had been enjoying some tentative signs of ratings resurgence during Season Twenty-Five, the premiere of Battlefield part one on September 6th was a huge step backwards for the programme. With just 3.1 million viewers, it would prove to be the lowest-rated non-repeat broadcast in Doctor Who history, and while subsequent episodes rebounded slightly, it was a sign of dark times to come for the Doctor...

Sources
  • Doctor Who: The Handbook: The Seventh Doctor by David J Howe and Stephen James Walker (1998), Virgin Publishing, ISBN 0 426 20527 8.
  • Doctor Who: The Eighties by David J Howe, Mark Stammers and Stephen James Walker (1996), Virgin Publishing, ISBN 1 85227 680 0.
  • Doctor Who Magazine #317, “Archive: Battlefield” by Andrew Pixley, Panini Publishing Ltd.
  • Doctor Who Magazine Special Edition #10, 13th April 2005, “Ride On Time” by Andrew Pixley, Panini Publishing Ltd.
  • In-Vision #101, April 2002, “Production” edited by Anthony Brown, Cybermark Services.

Original Transmission
Episode 1
Date 6th Sep 1989
Time 7.35pm
Duration 24'06"
Viewers (more) 3.1m (102nd)
· BBC1 3.1m
Appreciation 69%
Episode 2
Date 13th Sep 1989
Time 7.35pm
Duration 24'07"
Viewers (more) 3.9m (91st)
· BBC1 3.9m
Appreciation 68%
Episode 3
Date 20th Sep 1989
Time 7.35pm
Duration 24'13"
Viewers (more) 3.6m (95th)
· BBC1 3.6m
Appreciation 67%
Episode 4
Date 27th Sep 1989
Time 7.35pm
Duration 24'14"
Viewers (more) 4.0m (89th)
· BBC1 4.0m
Appreciation 65%


Cast
The Doctor
Sylvester McCoy
Ace
Sophie Aldred
Morgaine
Jean Marsh
(more)
Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart
Nicholas Courtney
Peter Warmsly
James Ellis
Brigadier Winifred Bambera
Angela Bruce
Mordred
Christopher Bowen
Ancelyn
Marcus Gilbert
Doris
Angela Douglas
Pat Rowlinson
Noel Collins
Elizabeth Rowlinson
June Bland
Shou Yuing
Ling Tai
Sergeant Zbrigniev
Robert Jezek
Flight Lieutenant Lavel
Dorota Rae
Knight Commander
Stefan Schwartz
Major Husak
Paul Tomany
The Destroyer
Marek Anton


Crew
Written by
Ben Aaronovitch
Directed by
Michael Kerrigan
Produced by
John Nathan-Turner
(more)

Stunt Arranger
Alf Joint
Theme Music composed by
Ron Grainer
Incidental Music
Keff McCulloch
Special Sound
Dick Mills
Production Manager
Riitta Lynn
Production Assistant
Rosemary Parsons
Assistant Floor Managers
Matthew Purves
Julian Hearne
OB Lighting
Ian Dow
Engineering Manager
Brian Jones
OB Sound
Martin Broadfoot
OB Cameramen
Paul Harding
Alan Jessop
Visual Effects Designer
Dave Bezkorowajny
Video Effects
Dave Chapman
Vision Mixer
Dinah Long
Graphic Designer
Oliver Elmes
Technical Co-ordinator
Richard Wilson
Camera Supervisor
Geoff Clark
Videotape Editor
Hugh Parson
Properties Buyer
Sara Richardson
Studio Lighting
David Lock
Studio Sound
Scott Talbott
Costume Designer
Anushia Nieradzik
Make-up Designer
Juliette Mayer
Script Editor
Andrew Cartmel
Production Associate
June Collins
Designer
Martin Collins


Working Titles
Storm Over Avallion
Lake Over Avallion
Pool Of Avallion
Song Of Avallion
Stormtroopers Of Avallion
The Battlefield

Updated 6th August 2015