Sunday, 20 May 2018

Fall of Eagles: Death Waltz

Could this have been the BBC's dummy run for I Claudius? Made in 1974, two years before I Claudius, there are so many similarities - from episodes written by Jack Pulman to the style of having most of the drama arising from actors in a studio set talking to each other. Plus there is a considerable cast overlap.

The period sets and costumes in Fall of Eagles are every bit as impressive as in I Claudius, though the directing lacks the superbly-timed dramatic flourishes that help consolidate the later series in its rightful position at the pinnacle of BBC drama. Unlike I Claudius, this series does have a significant amount of location filming, but then that would be easier for a series set around 100 years before it was made than 1900 years (or near).

The subject matter is the fall of the three Emperors of Germany, Russia and Austria in the period of 1848 to 1918. So additional similarities to I Claudius can be seen to be the setting over a span of years with the main characters aging as the episodes pass, and the minor characters all coming and going as required. The theme is also similar, dealing as it does with Emperors, the subject of monarchy, dictatorship, autocracy, and the struggles between reformers and those who have a vested interest in preserving the old order of things.

The cast is massive, and as well as having a significant overlap with I Claudius encompasses loads of familiar faces from British TV of the era, Doctor Who not least, and I shall endeavour to point these out as they come up.

Death Waltz, the first part of Fall of Eagles is, sadly, the weakest and least essential episode. Taking place well before the rest of the series, it tells the story of how the young Austrian Emperor Franz Josef makes an unwise marriage to Princess Elisabeth of Bavaria, against his mother's wishes.

One thing this series cannot be faulted for is the acting. Elisabeth is played by Diane "Sandbaggers" Keen, who is the main character for this episode. But by the time the characters of Franz Josef and Elisabeth return, in part four, they will be many years older and so played by different actors - a lack of continuity that distances this episode from the rest of the series, and this is the main reason I think it is the weakest link.

Of the three empires, Austria gets the least focus in the series. I think this episode could have worked better had the Austriancentric parts one and four been placed together, since the latter of these, Requiem for a Crown Prince, is one of the best of the series and Death Waltz does work well as a prologue to the events in that. But the episodes are arranged in chronological order so this was not to be.

Friday, 18 May 2018


Every so often some mannys talk on the internets about making more Blakes 7 for TV, but because mannys are fundamentally not as good as cats they still haven't.

If I was in charge of making Blakes 7 for modern TV, here is how I would do it.

Modern TV seems to love remakes and reimaginings of old TV programmes, instead of just making more of the same programme in the same way. Modern TV also seems to love making the baddys into the main characters. And prequels. Mannys love prequels, for some reason.

With this in mind, I would not call the series Blakes 7 any more. I would not even call it Blakes 8, despite this being an obvious name for a sequel.

I would call it... Servalan.

It would start with a large ensemble cast of baddy characters all jockeying for position within Space Command while dealing with the plot of the week. Servalan would just be one character among many but at the end of each episode she would somehow end up on top, like a sci-fi House of Cards, and as the cast thinned she would become more and more central.

Towards the end of the season one episode would see the events leading to Avon's capture from Servalan's point of view, and in the finale of the season Servalan would become the Supreme Commander of the Terran Federation and the name "Blake" would be mentioned for the first time.

A second season would then parallel the events of the first season of Blakes 7. To begin with Servalan would be consolidating her power and would keep winning and remain in charge. Then about half way through the season she would have to deal with the growing problem of Blake and the Liberator, so she would appoint Space Commander Travis, and things start to go wrong from there.

If season one is her rise, then season two is Servalan's (partial) fall, caused by Blake's success and her failure to obtain Orac. Then season three would parallel Blakes 7's second season and so see her rise again, using the shadow of Star One and the galactic war to become President.

And so on from there. By the time we get to see Rumours of Death from Servalan's point of view... all the awards, thank you very much.

Blake, Avon and the crew of the Liberator would be recurring characters, just as Servalan was in Blakes 7. They would meet Servalan in the same ways as they did in Blakes 7, preferably with exactly the same dialogue being used, although there would be no requirement for them to look the same or for the sets to be identical. And they would still be terrorists to the Federation, but by this point in the series it should be obvious to all viewers that the Federation are the baddys.

One thing that would be absolutely essential would be to not ever refer to Servalan by any other name. Like Columbo, her only other name is her rank or title at the time. No hints, no clever-clever moments that some mannys are so fond of - in the modern day, if you showed it on screen for even an instant then it would be all over the internets within moments. If not sooner. Not even initials would be allowed.

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Eurovision 2018

In Portugal Eurovision is Serious Business, so this year's Eurovision Singing Competition was not as much fun as the last few have been. Also the defeat of Perennial Eurovision Baddys Russia in the semi-finals meant that we had nobody to boo.

There were still a lot of great and fabulous songs for us to watch though!

The Czech Republic's song was the first properly wacky entry to make it into the final this year, which is always good as so many of them don't make it that far.

For Norway their winner from 2009, Alexander Rybak, returned to have another go and I liked his song. I also liked the Austrian entry from Cesár Sampson who is a handsome manny, and I was clearly not the only one to think so because he did well and came third.

My favourite song was the one from Moldova, because it was the most fun with the singing mannys acting like they were in a sex farce play. Moldova are getting to be like Sweden - they really know how to do Eurovision.

I was not too keen on Israel's song, but I did like their decision to have cats as backing dancers.

Even without having the cats singing, Israel still managed to win!

Like last year there was a stage invasion, which is becoming something of a Eurovision tradition. It occurred during the United Kingdom's song, which was being performed by a young, pink-haired Servalan. Graham Norton kept going on and on about it in his commentary, but it was actually over so quickly that it wasn't even clear to us watching that what had happened was not supposed to happen.

I wonder whose turn it will be to get invaded next year?

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Big Gay Longcat reviews Doctor Who: Battlefield Part Four

Where is Måns Zelmerlöw when you need him? He's not scared of dancing with demons, like when he won the Eurovision Singing Competition for Sweden in 2015. Oh, he's probably too busy with Eurovision to help the Doctor today.

The Doctor captures Mordred with his own sword but Mordred knows the Doctor won't kill him and he's right, it is a bluff.

Then Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart comes and points a gun at him and Mordred practically poos himself because he knows that, unlike the Doctor, the Brigadier isn't bluffing. Don't mess with Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, a manny who will never just cap you once when Five Rounds Rapid is an option.

Morgaine is prepared to sacrifice Mordred and orders her henchmannys to attack again - cue another battle scene, and another HAVOC somersault.

Morgaine still cannot get into the magic circle, and although the Destroyer claims to have enough might to break into the circle, he is still bound with silver chains and so cannot act unless Morgaine releases him.

The Destroyer makes some explosions and, in the confusion, Mordred escapes. Ace and Shou Yuing give Excalibur to Morgaine in between scenes, because the baddy finally acquiring the MacGuffin they've been pursuing for several episodes isn't the sort of thing we need to see, and Morgaine escapes through an "interstitial vortex" (a magic door, in other words) back to her base in the ruined castle.

The Doctor and the Brigadier follow, and Ace a moment later with the scabbard and UNIT's silver bullets (they did have some after all!) thinking these might be useful against the Destroyer what with his vulnerability to silver.

The Brigadier shoots the Destroyer (with normal bullets) and they have no effect, then the Destroyer throws the Brigadier through a wall with his magic green special effect. With Ace's help the Doctor gets Excalibur back from Morgaine, so she releases the Destroyer and grabs the sword back while the Doctor is surprised.
"But I thought she was bluffing."
Mordred comes in and surprises Morgaine by being still alive, allowing the Doctor to grab Excalibur back again. Morgaine and Mordred teleport away while the Destroyer is still taking off his silver chains and getting ready to nom the world.

The Doctor, Ace and Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart run away for a bit. I'm not sure why when the Destroyer is threatening to nom the whole world, maybe they just wanted to do the next scene on location? The Doctor knows Ace has the silver bullets, and he puts them in the Brigadier's gun with the intention of going back to shoot the Destroyer, but the Brigadier says
"Good lord, is that a spaceship?"
and karate chops the Doctor (he must have picked up some Venusian Karate from the Doctor back when he was being played by Jon Pertwee) so he can go back instead.

It is time for the Brigadier's heroic sacrifice, the one that the entire story has been building towards.
"Little man. What do you want of me?"
"Get off my world."
"Pitiful. Can this world do no better than you as its champion?"
"Probably. I just do the best I can."

He shoots the Destroyer and its head explodes like a Nazi in Raiders of the Lost Ark, only green. The Doctor and Ace think that the Brigadier has been killed in the explosion but... he hasn't. He's fine.

Wait, what?

He's fine. He doesn't sacrifice himself at all. This doesn't make any sense - thematically, the whole progression of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart's character arc since the very first scene of the story has been towards his laying down his life to save the Earth. It feels like a terrible cheat to then go "nah, I'm fine." Unlike cats and Time Lords, mannys aren't supposed to get up again after they've died - not until they appear in another story as a different character. Nicholas Courtney managed this back when he played Bret Vyon, so he ought to have understood what was expected of him. And considering that season 26 was the final season of Doctor Who, it's not as though they needed to keep the character of the Brigadier alive for him to come back again after this, is it?

Mew mew mew. I just don't understand this plot development, and neither do any of my friends, and it is spoiling our enjoyment of this otherwise excellent story. It has put me in a bad mood even though the Eurovision Singing Competition is on TV later on, and I didn't think that was possible.

Oh well, I suppose I should carry on with the review.

Mordred captures Brigadier Bambera and Morgaine uses her mind-reading powers to find out how to launch UNIT's nuclear missile. The Doctor, Ace, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and Ancelyn take Excalibur back to where King Arthur is and they find out King Arthur is dead, which is a surprise because I thought this fact was obvious from the first time we saw him.

There is a note from the Doctor to the Doctor warning him that Morgaine's words are backed with NUCLEAR WEAPONS!

Ancelyn has a swordfight with Mordred while the Doctor goes in to face Morgaine and try to persuade her to abort the nuclear missile launch. Meanwhile Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart doesn't do very much, almost like he is superfluous to the plot now that his one opportunity to self-sacrifice has been and gone.

"All over the world, fools are poised ready to let death fly. Machines of death, Morgaine, are screaming from above. A light brighter than the sun. Not a war between armies nor a war between nations, but just death. Death gone mad. The child looks up in the sky, his eyes turn to cinders. No more tears, only ashes. Is this honour? Is this war? Are these the weapons you would use? Tell me!"
The Doctor's speech to Morgaine is good enough to distract me from how annoyed I am that the Brigadier is not dead. Morgaine aborts the launch, then says she wants to see King Arthur again. The Doctor tells her that Arthur is dead and she doesn't believe him at first, but then she has a sad. Jean Marsh nails this scene, and makes us feel sympathy for a baddy who was only a minute ago trying to wipe out the world by starting a nuclear war.

Mordred defeats Ancelyn but the Doctor saves him. He tells Brigadier Bambera to arrest Mordred and Morgaine. I would love to have seen a courtroom drama based on their trial, or that of some other aliens captured by UNIT, but the BBC have never been very good at picking the subjects for spinoff series.

Look, there's a dog!

Back at Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart's house we see that he has a doggy. This vital piece of information changes everything - now we know he would have never gone out to self-sacrifice when he had a doggy waiting for him at home, that would just be too sad. Suddenly it all makes sense!

In the final scene, the Brigadier returns to retirement and domestic life, while Mrs Lethbridge-Stewart goes off with Ace, Shou Yuing and Brigadier Bambera in Bessie, leaving Alistair, Ancelyn and the Doctor to W-word in the garden. The Doctor once again proves he is a master manipulator by offering to make noms for them all instead.

The final shot of the story is questionably framed, with the camera panning from a two-shot of the Brigadier and Ancelyn... a two-shot of Ancelyn and the Doctor...

...but this means that we don't see the Brigadier and the Doctor rightfully placed together. Either the camera angle should have been wider to view all three at once, or else Ancelyn should have been on the left so the final image was a two-shot of the Brigadier and the Doctor. Here, let me show you what I mean with a quickly composited picture:

Battlefield is a triumphant sendoff for Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart as he goes off to live a well-earned happily ever after with Mrs Lethbridge-Stewart and his doggy, in which he definitely doesn't get turned into a cybermanny because that would be the stupidest idea imaginable, on a level with killing off Captain Kirk or not getting Peter Woodthorpe to play Gollum. These things would never happen.

It is also a great story in its own right, with a superb baddy in the shape of Morgaine, who is sort of like Lady Peinforte done right in that she is a powerful, knowledgeable opposite to the Doctor and with an unseen shared backstory with him. Mordred is also a solid, Richard-like henchmanny for her, and neither of them got killed off or turned good so they could maybe have come back if only the show had not been cancelled.

On the other paw there are certainly some... controversial directing choices in this story ("Boom!") but these are superficial flaws and for the most part they do not detract too much from what is an exciting, fun adventure story, one of the classics of the Sylvester McCoy era.


Friday, 11 May 2018

Big Gay Longcat reviews Doctor Who: Battlefield Part Three

The Doctor wakes up and does something with the controls to send Ace up through the roof of the studio, then the special effect comes back and hits him again. There are some odd editing choices made in this scene, including the use of some shots more than once, and I suppose we have to put that down to being forced upon the makers by the studio accident that almost killed Sophie Aldred (the cracked glass is visible in at least one such shot) as examined in More Than 30 Years in the TARDIS.

Peter the archaeologist is telling Ancelyn about Excalibur and the Lady of the Lake (it is left ambiguous whether Ancelyn already knows all this and is merely humouring Peter, or if the version of the story as it exists in our dimension is genuinely new to him) when Ace rises out of the lake holding Excalibur. I think the "Boom!" scene was cleverly inserted into part one so that this would appear to be subtle by comparison.

The Doctor is still being chased by the special effect until Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart comes in and stands on a prop, causing the special effect to vanish in line with the BBC Technicians' Union rules at the time.
"I just can't let you out of my sight, can I, Doctor?"
"Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart. So you recognise me, then?"
"Yes, who else would it be?"
This moment of reunion is slightly spoiled by the way the Doctor sounds a bit drunk when he says the Brigadier's name.

Speaking of drinking, Mordred is trying to get drunk at the hotel, and then he sexually harasses the Brigadier's helicopter pilot for a bit until Morgaine comes in and uses mind-control and mind-reading powers on her to find out all about UNIT. This causes the pilot to go
and then Morgaine electrics the body into ashes, before paying for Mordred's drinks by curing Elizabeth's blindness. This is a rather nasty scene, and it reminds us that Morgaine and Mordred are baddys and that what code of honour they do have is a twisted one, so they can be nasty one minute and nice the next.

Morgaine's henchmannys attack to try to capture Excalibur. UNIT decides to evacuate some of the minor characters so we don't have so many to keep track of - Peter, Pat and Elizabeth have all served their purpose in the plot so off they go.

Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart has a speech to the Doctor about the new UNIT, a very efficient way of highlighting what has changed since the 1970s, and so it is a shame that Battlefield stands as the only story of this new era as it could have been interesting to see.
"Armour piercing, solid core, with a Teflon coating - go through a Dalek. UNIT's been very busy, Doctor. We've also got high-explosive rounds for Yetis and very efficient armour-piercing rounds for robots. We've even got gold-tipped bullets for you-know-what."
Sounds like Voldemort's in trouble if he ever shows up.
"No silver?"
"Silver bullets?"
"Well, you never know."

Brigadier Bambera and Ancelyn get cut off from the others by the baddys. The Doctor and Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart plan to go to their rescue in Bessie, and the Doctor gives Ace a piece of chalk with which to draw a circle to protect her and Shou Yuing from Morgaine's magic. This is almost too subtle, but the low-tech (bordering on no-tech) chalk is in contrast to the technological weaponry that the Brigadier had just been showing off to the Doctor.

Morgaine scries on them in her magic giant lightbulb and sees that Excalibur has been left with Ace and Shou Yuing. Her plan appears to be to summon a demon (I'm not quite sure how that helps), but we only see its shadow on the wall for the moment.

At the hotel, Ace and Shou Yuing get scared by thunder and lightning (and who can blame them?) so Ace draws the magic circle. It then gets dark... outside the circle.

Morgaine uses magic to get Ace and Shou Yuing arguing to try to get them to come outside the circle, but when Ace nearly falls out of it they see it is a trick and make up with a hug. This is a good scene in which we are left to infer the extent of Morgaine's influence, even if Ace gets a bit racist for a moment.

There is a brief action scene of UNIT and the baddy knights fighting, including one gratuitous somersault in classic HAVOC fashion (nice to see not everything has changed since the '70s). Ancelyn challenges Mordred to single combat and they charge at each other, but the Doctor runs in between them and shouts
"Stop! I command it! There! Will! Be! No! Battle! Here!"
It's like he's channeling William Shatner and BRIAN BLESSED at the same time.
Mordred immediately spills that this is only a diversion while Morgaine does their real plan of going after Excalibur.

Morgaine and her demon, the Destroyer, go into the hotel room and menace Ace and Shou Yuing, and as the cliffhanger moment we get our first proper look at the Destroyer.

Scary face!

The Destroyer is a properly scary monster, although - and this may just be me being obsessed with Eurovision this week - he does look like he could be in the band Lordi, who won Eurovision for Finland in 2006.

Part three has a fair amount of padding, albeit well disguised as action scenes of fighting or escaping from the baddys, or the scenes with the minor characters. There are also good scenes, most of them involving Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart who has really taken over this story.

While Doctor Who has never shied away from the trope of Sufficiently Advanced Technology being like unto magic, it is used a lot in this story, with the chalk circle and the demon summoning battling each other over which one is the ultimate example of this.

Back when I reviewed his previous story I mentioned that the writer was a fan of the tabletop Role-Playing Game Ars Magica, and the protective magic circle ward is a notable feature of that game. Its first edition came out in 1987, so I do wonder if he was already being influenced by it by the time he wrote Battlefield?

It's tomorrow, I'm so excited!

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Big Gay Longcat reviews Doctor Who: Battlefield Part Two

The Doctor makes a concerned face, which either means that they are in a lot of peril or else that Sylvester McCoy has forgotten his next line. Brigadier Bambera tries to arrest the baddys and then shoots at them, but they are immune to bullets.

The baddy leader is Mordred and he also thinks the Doctor is Merlin and gets scared by this. With Ancelyn's help the Doctor cleverly bluffs Mordred and his henchmannys into going away.

Mordred finds a spooky ruined castle and a thunderstorm suitable for summoning his mother, Morgaine, from the other dimension where they come from.

In the hotel, the scabbard flies across the room and stabs into the wall, giving Peter Warmsley the archaeologist a scare but at the same time giving the Doctor a clue that something important lies in that direction.

Mordred starts laughing maniacally as he performs the quasi-magical, quasi-scientific summoning ritual. He is still laughing when we cut back to him two scenes later.

Morgaine arrives. She is played by Jean Marsh, who was previously in Doctor Who as Sara Kingdom in the 1965-66 story The Daleks' Master Plan. Coincidentally, this was also the first Doctor Who story that Nicholas Courtney appeared in, as Bret Vyon, and now they are together again for his last.

Morgaine talks to the Doctor even though he is in another scene.
"Then, Merlin, let this be our last battlefield."

Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart is still on his way in the helicopter the next morning. Morgaine has the power to shoot electricity from her hands, like the Evil Emperor in Return of the Jedi. She electrics the helicopter, seemingly just for the lols, and it crashes.

Peter shows the Doctor and Ace his archaeological dig, and there is a carving that he can't read but which the Doctor immediately knows says "dig hole here." Ace uses Nitro Nine to explode a hole, because it was either that or get the Time Team in, and that show wouldn't start for another five years. Although Battlefield is supposed to be set in the near future, so maybe...
The Doctor and Ace find a tunnel and go into it.

Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart meets Morgaine and they have a friendly chat because Morgaine doesn't want to fight on holy ground. Mordred did call her "immortal" earlier on, maybe she is a Highlander?
"I am Morgaine, the Sun Killer. Dominator of the Thirteen Worlds and Battle Queen of the S'Rax. What say you?"
"I am Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. Surrender now and we can avoid bloodshed."
These scenes are important for establishing that Morgaine is an honorable baddy, and she sends away Mordred for being dishonorable in exactly the same way as Frodo doesn't send away Sam in The Lord of the Rings.

The tunnel takes the Doctor and Ace deep into the heart of BBC Television Centre. The doors open to the Doctor's voice, and the Doctor thinks he might really be Merlin in his own "personal future." Ace is confused but this seems perfectly straightforward to me, although I expect I have watched a lot more Doctor Who stories than her. Plus I can get help from Professor Cat with the difficult bits.

The Doctor and Ace find the dead King Arthur from another dimension. Ace pulls Excalibur from the stone and, instead of her becoming king of England, sets off a special effect trap. They try to run away from the effect but they are trapped inside the studio and cannot escape.

Ace then gets stuck in a tiny room that fills with water, making her wet (oh noes), and the special effect knocks out the Doctor. The final shot of the episode is him having a sleep.

This is no time to have sleeps, Doctor, this is an exciting cliffhanger. Sophie Aldred's acting is especially convincing that she is in genuine peril here.

I'm really looking forward to part three, not only to see how they escape from this situation, but also because so far the Doctor and the Brigadier have been kept separated and we still have their reunion to come.

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Big Gay Longcat reviews Doctor Who: Battlefield Part One

Battlefield is the first story of season 26, the last season of Doctor Who the BBC made before they cancelled it for 16 long years... not counting one-off returns such as Dimensions in Time, I mean that this is the length of time it went without a full series being made.

Battlefield stars Sylvester McCoy as the Doctor and Sophie Aldred as Ace, and it was written by Ben A A Ronovitch who also wrote the previous season's opening story so I anticipate this being of a similar level of quality to that one.

Notoriously, when Battlefield was first broadcast in 1989 it was on BBC1 at the same time as Coronation Street was shown on ITV, which resulted in part one having the lowest number of viewers of any Doctor Who story: 3,100,000. This still seems like quite a lot of mannys to me (since the BBC only counts mannys, apparently, and the number of cat viewers in 1989 is not, to the best of my knowledge, recorded for posterity), but it is supposedly really very bad.

Fortunately by the time of part four the viewing numbers had increased to 4,000,000 exactly, meaning that in the intervening weeks 900,000 mannys had heard how good Battlefield was - possibly they heard it from their cats, I don't know - and so decided to watch it instead of Coronation Street.

Unlike with seasons 24 and 25, there is no pre-titles sequence. It starts with the unexpected appearance of Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, who we haven't seen in Doctor Who since The Five Doctors - if he has turned up for the 25th anniversary then I'm afraid he is a little late.

He is retired, telling Mrs Doris Lethbridge-Stewart his "blood and thunder days are long past." Hmm, I wonder what this could possibly be ironically foreshadowing?

In the next scene UNIT soldiers (ones who aren't retired), led by Brigadier Bambera, are having a spot of difficulty with their truck being borked. It has a nuclear missile in it, so they are understandably concerned. I mean, Gandhi might need it if he wants to play a game of Civilization.

In the TARDIS, the Doctor and Ace are receiving a distress signal from Earth and they go to investigate. They get a lift (by using the Richard method of hitch-hiking, only more successfully) from Peter Warmsley the archaeologist, who can't wait to give them the exposition they need about what's going on at his dig.
"The dig, as a matter of fact, is a hobby. A battlefield."
Clang! He drops the story title.

Some space knights come to Earth using a bad special effect.

The Doctor tries to use his old UNIT pass to get involved in the plot but, because his face doesn't match his photo, Brigadier Bambera turns him and Ace away. This is far too sensible behaviour for a guest character to display. Fortunately her second in command, Lt Zbrigniev, is there to remind her that a shapechanging alien is a far more likely explanation than an enemy impersonator. Even so, she takes some persuading:
"He changed his whole physical appearance."
"His whole appearance?"
"And his personality."
"How could he be the same man if his appearance and personality have changed?"

Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart gets a 'phone call from UNIT Headquarters in Geneva, but he doesn't want to go back to W-word for them (sensible manny) until he hears that the Doctor is back. Here we see him rapidly pass through several steps of "The Hero's Journey" as he receives The Call to Adventure, then he Refuses the Call, until he Hears the Doctor is Involved.

When next we see Brigadier Bambera she has teamed up with the Doctor and Ace, with their difficulties having all been resolved off-screen to save time. They go to a hotel to meet some more of the guest cast - Pat the hotel manager, Elizabeth the blind manny, and Shou Yuing the random hotel guest/friend for Ace.

Brigadier Bambera is driving around on her own when she gets caught between the space knights having a pewpewpew gun battle. Her catchphrase appears to be "oh shame!" which is a bit rubbish really, but you probably couldn't get away with "oh for fuck's sake!" in a show that kittens might watch. The space knights start fighting with swords so Brigadier Bambera runs away.

In the hotel there is a scabbard that the archaeologist dug up, and the Doctor asks him about it.
"For the scabbard's worth ten of the sword."
"Said Merlin."
No, it was the Doctor that said... aha, I see what they did there. This bit makes sense once you know what happens later on.

Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart is now back dressed as a soldier, about to go and join in the plot. Mrs Lethbridge-Stewart doesn't want him to go. He says it is his duty to go but really he does want to go after all. He gets collected by a helicopter. There are lots of gratuitous shots of the helicopter, it must have been expensive.

The space knights are having another pewpewpew fight, this time including using space grenades. At the same time Ace is talking to Shou Yuing about explosives, and saying "Boom!" a lot. Subtle this bit is not.

One of the knights gets blown up and into the brewery near the hotel, and this is seen by the Doctor, Ace and Shou Yuing so they all go to investigate.

There they meet Ancelyn, who is handsome so must be a good knight. He calls the Doctor "Merlin," knowing him by his "manner" rather than his "aspect" and so making this one of the most evocative ways of having a character recognise the Doctor across regenerations that I have seen in the series.

Brigadier Bambera comes in and tries to arrest them (I bet Russell "The" Davies loves that bit), but then the baddy knights come in and their leader says
"Kill them. Kill them now!"

Despite some questionable SFX, and some directing choices that perhaps weren't quite as effective as the makers thought they would be ("Boom!") this is a great first episode. A lot happens, but it is clear that a lot has still to happen - Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart still hasn't arrived in the main storyline, and neither has the main baddy Morgaine (although we have seen her in brief cutaways).

The way in which Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart is (re)introduced is interesting - with so much focus on his difficult decision about whether or not to return to help the Doctor, the story seems to be setting him up for a tragic ending where he will save the day but die in so doing. If this was a war movie then that would definitely happen, or else why place so much emphasis on what he is giving up if he does not, in the end, need to make the self-sacrifice?

While that could make for a very Shakespearean ending to Battlefield, I hope that it is not the case and that the Brigadier can live happily ever after. Just like Avon, Captain Kirk, and Willie Caine.