This was the first story in the last series of the original Doctor Who. First shown in September 1989, it’s one that’s gained more than its fair share of negative criticism, but I always rather liked it.
The Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) and Ace (Sophie Aldred) respond to a distress signal, and find themselves in an England some years in the future. Quite apart from a nuclear missile convoy getting into trouble, there’s a little matter of some hi-tech knights in armour who’ve popped in from another dimension. And they’re looking for King Arthur. Just to add to the fun, they recognise the Doctor as Merlin. Ace asks him if he really was Merlin, and he indicates that he might be one day. Add in mystical swords, a demonic being that’s about to destroy, well, everything and you’d have a lot of fun. Add in the wonderful presence of Nicholas Courtney as the Brigadier, and you’ve got a little gem.
It suffers a bit from having been stretched from three episodes to four during its development, and some bits maybe aren’t as well put together as they might have been, but overall, I’m very fond of it.
Extras are the usual mixed bag of documentaries:
- Storm over Availlion – the usual “making of” thingy
- Past and Future King – writer Ben Aaronovitch and script editor Andrew Cartmel look at the commissioning and writing of the story
- Watertank – Sophie Aldred narrowly avoided serious injury (at least) during the filming of a stunt. This is what happened.
- From Kingdom to Queen – Jean Marsh looks back on her appearances in Doctor Who
Plus the essential production subtitles, photo galleries and more.
But there’s even more than that! On a second DVD, there’s a new 95 minute movie version of Battlefield, with enhanced effects, new sound mix and some cut scenes restored. I haven’t had a chance to watch that version yet, but I’ll get to it….
 Who knows, we may see that one day, but I suspect not while the Merlin TV series is running…