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16 December 2014

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...

Day 715: Battlefield, Episode Two

Dear diary,

I’m almost surprising myself when I say that this one is really good! Yesterday, I mentioned that Battlefield didn’t have the strongest reputation behind it, and I’d sort of resigned myself to thinking that it would probably be the weak link in Season Twenty-Six, but actually, I’m really caught up in things, and I’m really enjoying it!

In many ways, this feels a lot like a Matt Smith episode. There’s strange goings on with time, with the suggestion that a large chunk of the guest cast have encountered the Doctor at a point later in his time stream than he is currently, a lot of bluster on the part of the Doctor as he tries to remain in charge while piecing everything together, and lots of little moments that wouldn’t feel at all out of place in a more recent Steven Moffat episode. The Doctor looking down at the mysterious inscription in the ground and commenting that it says ‘dig hole here’ in his own handwriting elicited a huge laugh from me, and I love him working out how to open a door inside the space ship simply by barking ‘open up, it’s me’. It’s giving McCoy a chance to flex his more ‘entertainment’ muscles again, too, which is always fun.

Even the mythologising of the Doctor that we get in this story seems to fit better with the depiction of the Doctor in the 21st century version of the programme. Oh, sure, there’s been elements of it right the way through the programme, going right back to almost the very beginning, but there’s some lovely descriptions of the Doctor here - that he ‘rides the ship of time’ and that he has ‘worn many faces’ - which would sit right at home in the modern programme, and are really rather lovely. It often gets said that the McCoy years are very much a basis that the 2005 rival picks up from, and I’m seeing that more and more as the episodes roll by. Add in the on-going character arcs for Ace and the Doctor, the relationships with the companions’ family (this was perhaps more prevalent with Tegan, but there a new relative just popped up when they needed to put someone in danger), and the fact that the programme has become far more Earth-centric in this final season - there’s a solitary alien world in Survival, but even that’s tied to Perivale - I can really see where the comparisons come from.

Aside from all of that, there’s also the sheer fun of the idea at the heart of this one. It’s Doctor Who does the Arthurian legends… and being Doctor Who, they can’t just go for setting it in a time of myths and magic, but they instead make the knights dimension-hopping soldiers who’ve been caught up in a time-travel based plot with a future version of the Doctor, and they pit them against UNIT. I mean, come on, that’s a brilliant Idea, and it really is something I’d have loved as a kid. I was so completely in to castles and knights, and wizards… give them laser guns and point them towards a nuclear convoy, and it only gets better!

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