Day 359 — December 25th 2021

Battlefield Parts Three and Four

The big thing that’s bothering me about this story is that there’s loads of action and excitement, but it’s all being directed quite poorly, which robs these moments of the impact they should have. Take the shootout between the knights and Bambera , for example. It should be properly thrilling, with the knights leaping out of the bushes and firing at the car, but it’s undermined by moments like knights hiding behind the smallest trees, which would offer so little cover that they might as well not bother. That might be the case, though, because when the knights do step out into the middle of the road, Bambera gets up to a few feet away before she notices them! It’s the kind of implausible moment which takes me out of the story and spoils things a bit.

It’s a shame because actually they’ve gone to town on the action in this one. The car shootout, the crashing helicopter, a big battle at the archeological dig site, including loads of explosions… it should be proper exciting but I’m watching it and struggling to engage even a little. I’m trying to recall if the Brigadier got to do as much action as this in his own era, and I don’t think he did, so it’s nice that he’s given the opportunity for his final go around at least.

I wonder if I’d be more engaged had they gone for something a bit more traditional for this story? A standard ‘alien invasion of the home counties’ might have felt more familiar and easier to connect to than mythical knights from a parallel dimension. Especially because there doesn’t seem to be any indication as to how or why they’ve ventured over to our world for this battle. There’s a moment in this one where the Brig lists the types of bullets they’ve gotten to hand, and I can’t help thinking that I’d rather be watching the all new UNIT take on any one of those enemies.

Brigadier: ‘Armour piercing, solid core, with a Teflon coating. Go through
a Dalek.’
Doctor Who: ‘A non-stick bullet.’
Brigadier: ‘UNIT’s been very busy, Doctor. We’ve also got high-explosive rounds for Yeti’s and very efficient armour-piercing rounds for robots. And we’ve even got gold-tipped bullets for you know what.’
Doctor Who: ‘No silver?’
Brigadier: ‘Silver bullets?’
Doctor Who: ‘Well, you never know.’

I should say that I love the idea of creating a UNIT team for the late 80s/early 90s, and it’s a shame that the series was cancelled before Bambera and her troops could return. Even better is the fact that they’ve created a properly international operation, with characters from around Europe joining the ranks. When Lavel gets offed by Morgaine it feels like it means something because she’s one of the new characters who we’ve had some time to bond with. That said, I didn’t notice it was her to begin with and thought it was just any random soldier — I wonder if it would have had more impact if they’d killed Zbrigniev instead?

For all I might moan about wanting a more traditional threat for New UNIT to face, this story does a really good job of making Morgaine feel threatening. The moment when she kills Lavel feels genuinely surprising, and I was expecting a reveal that she’d survived right up to the moment when she’s polished off for good. They then make Morgaine more complex by having her restore the sight of the blind landlady. I think it’s down to a nice performance from Jean Marsh that the character works as well as she does, but it’s nice to see a villain given some interesting characterisation all the same.

4/10

I used to be of the opinion that they should have killed off the Brig in this story, as was the original intention. It felt like a fitting aspect of a story which introduces a new version of UNIT, and it also seemed somehow right to polish him off in the dying days of the original run, given that he’s been a key part of it for so long. I’ve changed my mind over time and now I’m really glad they didn’t kill him off. Part of that is because I don’t think this would have been a great story to go out in, and partly because it only feels right that he should be around for future eras to utilise. It didn’t bother me at the time that we never saw Nick Courtney show up in the New Testament (The Sarah Jane Adventures aside), but these days I feel more like it was a missed opportunity. He’s the perfect bridge across eras.

I’ll tell you what, though, this is a brilliant final episode for the character. He gets to be the one standing up to the big monster and fighting for his world! That’s perfect! I love the flippancy he has as he prepares for the fatal shot;

The Destroyer: ‘Pitiful. Can this world do no better than you as their champion?’
Brigadier: ‘Probably. I just do the best I can.’

I’m glad that he gets to bow out of the series in a blaze of glory like this, and while I know it’s not a universally loved moment, I rather like the little epilogue we get back at the Brig’s house. There’s something rather sweet about the idea of he and Doctor Who cooking supper together, abs it puts me in mind of all those actors who didn’t get on so well during their time on the series but became firm friends later in life.

This episode also gives us what I think is the best monster costume of the 1980s. The Destroyer looks incredible, abs even holds up well in close ups. There’s something about the animatronics that make the mouth move, and the fact that you can even see it drooling which really works. Marek Anton gives him a brilliant voice, too, which suits the character so well. The problem is… well, he’s all talk! He spends most of the episode asking to be released from his silver chains so he can devour the world, but when he’s given his freedom he just wanders around an abandoned building pontificating until the Brig can stick a bullet in him. It’s a bit of an anti-climax for such a striking creation.

I could stand to lose Morgaine’s final stand with the nuclear weapon, too. There’s something quite exciting about her fleeing this dimension with Excalibur and leaving ‘Merlin’ to deal with the threat of the Destroyer. Having her pop up again five minutes later feels a bit like they’ve remembered there’s still some time to fill. That said, it gives McCoy his best scene of the story, so not a complete bust.

4/10

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Will Brooks

English Boy in Wales. Freelance Writer and Designer. Doctor Who Art for Big Finish, Titan Comics, Cubicle 7. TARDIS Fan. Pinstripe Counter.