Production Code: 7N
1 - 06/09/1989 19:35
2 - 13/09/1989 19:35
3 - 20/09/1989 19:35
4 - 27/09/1989 19:35
The TARDIS materialises in the English countryside near the village of Carbury, where a nuclear missile convoy under the command of UNIT's Brigadier Winifred Bambera has run into difficulties. Lying on the bed of the nearby Lake Vortigern is a spaceship from another dimension containing the body of King Arthur, supposedly held in suspended animation, and his sword Excalibur.
Ancelyn, a knight from the other dimension, arrives on Earth to aid the King but is followed by his rival Mordred and the latter's mother, a powerful sorceress named Morgaine. They all recognise the Doctor as Merlin - a fact that the Time Lord attributes to events in his own future.
A battle breaks out between UNIT and Morgaine's men. Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart has come out of retirement to assist in the crisis and ends up using silver bullets to kill the Destroyer - an awesomely powerful creature unshackled by Morgaine to devour the world - although he himself is almost killed in the process.
Morgaine tries to fire the nuclear missile but is overcome by shock when the Doctor tells her that Arthur is in fact dead. She and her son are then taken prisoner by UNIT.
The Doctor, Ace and a young woman named Shou Yuing find an armoured knight lying unconscious in a barn. This is Ancelyn who, when he wakes, greets the Doctor as Merlin. Brigadier Bambera arrives and orders them all to stay where they are. Mordred then storms into the barn with his knights and gives orders that all those present be killed.
In the spacecraft under the lake, Ace activates a defence mechanism and becomes trapped in a tank that rapidly fills with water. The Doctor tries to help her but is knocked unconscious by a defensive snake-like creature. Ace tries desperately but in vain to escape from the tank.
Morgaine decides to give Ace and Shou Yuing over to the Destroyer. A huge blue-faced demon appears in the room and the two young women look on in horror.
Ace, Shou Yuing, Bambera and the Brigadier's wife Doris set off for a drive in Bessie, leaving the Doctor and Ancelyn to spend some time with the Brigadier. The Bridadier asks Ancelyn if he is any good with a lawnmower, while the Doctor agrees to cook supper.
Malory, T.H. White and numerous Arthurian sources. (Scholars of myth may note that in the title sequence, McCoy winks the eye that Merlin is said to have sacrificed for wisdom.)
Warmsly quotes Tennyson's 'The Passing of Arthur'.
Steve Parkhouse's Doctor/Merlin comic strips.
DC's Camelot 3000.
Back to the Future.
Raiders of the Lost Ark.
The Taming of the Shrew.
Ace of Wands (Seven Serpents, Sulphur and Salt).
The Destroyer is a personification of Oppenheimer's quoting of the Bhagavad Gita and looks like the creature in Legend.
Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart : "My blood and thunder days are long past."
Shou Yuing : "Can someone tell me what on earth is going on?"
The Doctor : "Well if my hunch is right, the Earth could be at the centre of a war that doesn't even belong to this dimension!"
The Destroyer : "Ah... little man. What do you want of me?"
Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart : "Get off my world!"
The Destroyer : "Pitiful. Can this world do no better than you as their champion?"
Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart : "Probably. I just do the best I can."
Mordred : [On the Brig] "He is steeped in blood."
The Doctor : "Exotic alien swords are easy to come by... Aces are rare."
Mordred : "Look me in the eye, end my life."
Ace's art teacher was Mrs Parkinson. The Doctor can hypnotise humans with his voice, and knock out with a touch. He carries Liz Shaw's UNIT pass, his own, a catapult, and a variety of alien coinage. [Bessie, taken out of time during the Pertwee era (see The Five Doctors), was nevertheless there at its end, so we can assume that Rassilon returned it to Earth and the Brigadier just got it out of mothballs. Somewhere along the line the number plate changed.]
UNIT now have a variety of anti-alien weaponry: silver bullets, teflon anti-Dalek shells, high explosives for Yeti, armour piercing for robots, and gold tipped for 'you know what' [The quip suggests that the Doctor told the Brigadier what he'd learnt about the Cybermen's weakness, perhaps in The Five Doctors.] The Brigadier married Doris (Planet of the Spiders), and gave up teaching (Mawdryn Undead). The UNIT insignia is now a winged globe, and Czech, French and Polish soldiers serve under it. We never met any international UNIT troops during the Doctor's exile, but Zibigniev reveals that they were always present.
[The Doctor says that the Brigadier was 'supposed to die in bed', which is either an insight into the Brigadier's future or the Doctor speaking metaphorically. Perhaps, thankfully, the Brigadier seems not to hear this.] The Doctor's cry of 'Yeti, Autons, Daleks, Cybermen, Silurians' doesn't rouse the new Brigadier to action at all [Some details of all these events leaked out to the media, hence Sarah's knowledge of UNIT in The Time Warrior.]
Lake Vortigern, Carbury, [possibly Wiltshire]. The year is never specified, but there's a King, roadsigns in kilometres, 5 pound pieces, voice operated phones and a round of vodka and coke, lemonade and water costs 5 pounds. Given Zbrigniev's age it cannot be later than about 1995. There are obviously many parallel universes, and we can't be sure if the near future world of Battlefield takes place is the usual one.]
The Brigadier's wife, Doris, is apparently the same woman mentioned in a scene in season eleven's Planet of the Spiders.
The Doctor pays for his drinks with a five pound piece - they are in the future, he tells Ace.
During recording of the sequence where Ace is trapped in the water tank, the tank cracked, causing Sophie Aldred to sustain minor cuts to her hands and creating a major hazard as water flooded out onto the studio floor. The moment when the tank first cracked can be seen in Part Three as the Doctor struggles with the controls and Ace is lifted clear of the water.
James Ellis, well remembered for his role as Lynch in Z Cars, appears here as archaeologist Peter Warmsly.
Jean Marsh, former wife of third Doctor Jon Pertwee, makes her third Doctor Who appearance. In season two's The Crusade she was Princess Joanna; in season three's The Daleks' Master Plan she was Sara Kingdom; here she is Morgaine.
The incidental music for this story was originally to have been provided by the rock group Hawkwind. (It wasn't.)
The scabbard is given huge emphasis, then ignored.
Mordred drinks at least four pints of real ale without apparent effect.
The flying Knight is Pythonesque, the Brigadier gives the Doctor a rather listless karate chop, and the Doctor obviously realises the futility of his command that UNIT 'lock up' Morgaine and her son.
Shou Yuing's red tights.
The Brigadier should have found a more flattering sweater.
Cast & Crew
The Doctor - Sylvester McCoy
Ace - Sophie Aldred
Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart - Nicholas Courtney
Ancelyn - Marcus Gilbert
Brigadier Winifred Bambera - Angela Bruce
Doris - Angela Douglas
Elizabeth Rowlinson - June Bland
Flight Lieutenant Lavel - Dorota Rae
Knight Commander - Stefan Schwartz
Major Husak - Paul Tomany
Mordred - Christoper Bowen
Morgaine - Jean Marsh
Pat Rowlinson - Noel Collins
Peter Warmsly - James Ellis
Sergeant Zbrigniev - Robert Jezek
Shou Yuing - Ling Tai
The Destroyer - Marek Anton
Director - Michael Kerrigan