Battlefield sees Doctor Who take on the whole mythology surrounding Merlin and it should have been epic but instead, they managed to make a right dogs-dinner of it!
Now I'm pretty certain that back in the day, this was one of the first Doctor Who adventures I ever owned on video and I remember loving every second of it! I remember loving all the talk about Merlin and Excalibur mixed with crashed spaceships, alien knights and also being confused as to why everyone was referring to the Doctor as Merlin, wondering if a chalk circle would really protect you from an all powerful sorceress and cheering as the Brigadier shot the Destroyer, despite having absolutely no idea who this bloke was!
However, watching it back recently for the first time in yonks, it is clear that no matter what my younger mind thought, Battlefield just amasses to a load of tosh. It is pretty clear the series' budget went into producing the epic, Curse of Fenric and Ghost Light, leaving Battlefield to deal with the remaining table-scraps. Mixing the Arthurian mythology and science fiction is nothing new, but even in the 1980s it still felt rather new. But the story completely fails to deliver on this idea, coming across as something akin to a confused school play. The biggest problem with this story still remains the budget which just wouldn't stretch to include the types of effects this story needed.
After a shockingly long absence, UNIT finally made their return here, and they've expanded their ranks to no longer include just white males. But despite being more diverse, UNIT are still helpless when it comes to this new threat, without the Doctor on hand to tell them it'll all be alright. But luckily Nicholas Courtney is on hand as the Brigadier to give some help. But like the Brigadier himself, Courtney seems to be around only to make they whole piece bearable. But he is still brilliant, while he is a little older and rounder than you might remember, but he remains one of the Doctor's oldest and most trusted allies. In the original script, he was die at the end, which would have been a nice and fitting end for the character but in the end, nostalgia won and he returned home to enjoy his retirement with his wife, Doris.
However, Battlefield doesn't just see the Brig and UNIT come back but also the Doctor's favourite roadster, Bessie. Last seen in Robot in 1974, it still doesn't look right without anyone other than Jon Pertwee behind the wheel. And this story is supposed to be set in the not too-far-future where we have a King, five-pound-pieces and where 80s fashion is back in vogue. So its not too dissimilar to nowadays.
Besides the return of the Brigadier, UNIT and Bessie is the Destroyer, the true villain of the piece. For little-to-no budget, the costume people actually cobbled together a rather convincing demon costume. However, no amount of great design can cover up the fact that the script doesn't give us a reason for him being there, he appears out of absolutely nowhere and because of this, his storyline goes nowhere. But from the moment he appears, you don't doubt the threat that this creature poses and he is certainly far more menacing than the episode's real villain, Morgaine, who just comes across rather bland thanks to the lacklustre performance from Jean Marsh, who feels like she is just rehashing her performance from Willow and Return to Oz...