1 Days Left to Support a Troper-Created Project : Personal Space (discuss)

Recap / Doctor Who S26 E1 "Battlefield"

An incredible Badass. And her boyfriend.
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.

Two great British institutions meet at last, as Doctor Who delves into the King Arthur stories to begin the final season.

The Doctor and Ace follow a signal of some sort to arrive Twenty Minutes into the Future (a Shout-Out to the tradition of having UNIT stories set in a non-specific near future). They land near an archaeological dig somewhere in England and try to hitch a ride to the dig — the source of the signal — from a UNIT convoy passing through with a nuke (Not ones to learn from experience, are they?), but are left in the dust.

Fortunately, archaeologist Peter Warmsly, the guy in charge of the dig, is nicer and does give them a lift. Though he's just as baffled as they are about the whole UNIT nuke thing. UNIT, led by new brigadier Winifred Bambera, is equally weirded out by the people claiming to be "the Doctor" and "Liz Shaw" (the only other UNIT pass the Doctor could find in his clothes), and decides to recall Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart out of retirement and into active duty. The Brigadier's wife, Doris, is less than thrilled.

The Doctor, Ace and Warmsly repair to a watering hole / hotel, where Warmsly bitches about the UNIT hardasses and Ace spends 10 on a lemonade. She also befriends a girl named Shou Yuing. Meanwhile, someone is performing a magic ritual of some sort that
  1. causes a sword scabbard to fly across the room and embed itself into the wall mere inches from Warmsly's alarmed face, and
  2. lets evil witch Morgaine enter our universe from a parallel dimension where the Arthurian legends are a bit real.

Then Pat the innkeeper hears his microbrewery go boom, and the crew rushes to investigate, where they find... a knight in armor. Who looks up at the Doctor and goes "Merlin!"

As it turns out, the Doctor will become known as Merlin at some point in a future regeneration, and he'll have to pretty much wing this adventure — as he has no clue yet how the first half of it will go. He does find a lot of notes, hints, contraptions and archaeological evidence left for him by his future self. Also, the Brigadier brought Bessie!

The next day, the Doctor and Ace dragoon Warmsly into taking them down to the dig. There, the Doctor quickly translates a mysterious inscription as "Dig hole here"; which, he says, he knows, because it's in his own handwriting. Then he tells Warmsly to stand guard while he and Ace investigate the hole, which leads to a tunnel, which leads to a spaceship under the lake. It houses Excalibur, which Ace promptly decides to guard.

While Bambera and the knight (Ancelyn) get into a fist fight and subsequently get their flirt on, the Doctor sets about convincing Morgaine to stop trying to nuke the planet. Things get a little bit complicated when Morgaine decides to summon an Eldritch Abomination to help her out — but luckily, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart is willing to make a Heroic Sacrifice and shoot it back to hell. He survives, too, because the writers love him (we do too, so it's okay).


  • Affirmative Action Legacy: Brigadier Bambera.
  • Alternate Universe
  • Amazon Chaser: Ancelyn.
    Bambera: If you don't start running, I'll kill you myself. Now come on!
    Ancelyn: Winifred?
    Bambera: What?
    Ancelyn: Art thou betrothed?
  • Battle Couple: Ancelyn and Brigadier Bambera develop into this pretty quickly.
  • Bellum Interruptum: The Doctor halts a battle by simply shouting "STOP!".
  • Black Boss Lady: Bambera.
  • Blue and Orange Morality: Morgaine. Her big Pet the Dog and Kick the Dog moments occur back-to-back without her giving either a second thought.
  • Casual Kink: Ancelyn asking Bambera if she's single the day after their first meeting involved her beating him up and manacling him.
  • Call Back:
  • Character Filibuster: Averted. The Doctor's anti-nuke speech originally ran for much longer and was wisely cut down.
  • The Chessmaster: Played with. When the Doctor confronts Morgaine, she remarks that she could always beat him at chess when he was Merlin. He replies that he's not playing chess, but poker, and plays his Ace.
  • Crazy-Prepared: UNIT packs all sorts of ammunition due to their encounters with strange things — high explosives for Yetis, armor piercing for robots, even gold-tipped bullets for "you-know-what". When the Doctor asks if they have silver bullets "just in case" (possibly recalling Mags the werewolf), the Brigadier asks his personnel about that, too. They certainly do, and it ends up saving the day.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Morgaine is genuinely guilt-stricken when she discovers her knights have been fighting UNIT next to a war memorial, and calls a truce to pay respect to the dead.
  • Flashed Badge Hijack: The Brig.
  • Foreshadowing: "He was supposed to die in bed"
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar / Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Brigadier Bambera's habit of saying "Oh, sh... ame" could arguably count as this. See also the Casual Kink example above.
  • Girl of the Week: Shou for Ace.
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: Queen Morgaine, naturally.
  • Have We Met Yet?: Morgaine has met the Doctor before, but this is the first time the Doctor has met Morgaine. That goes double for Ancelyn.
  • Jedi Mind Trick: Used by the Doctor to get civilians out of the danger area.
    Doctor: You're very angry.
    Pat: Of course we're angry.
    Doctor: And you want to leave.
    Warmsly: No, we do not want to leave!
    Doctor: Of course you want to leave [Gives Pat a Look].
    Pat: Of course we do.
    Doctor: I wouldn't stand for any nonsense, if I were you.
    Warmsly: Look, Doctor, the situation is perfectly simple. We are very angry and we... [The Doctor gives him a Look] ...want to leave.
  • Lame Pun Reaction: Ace is not impressed by the Doctor's joke about having "an Ace up my sleeve".
  • Large Ham: Pretty much everybody from the Arthurian universe.
  • Meaningful Name: Winifred is germanified version of Guinevere. (Ancelyn is the original, Celtic version of Lancelot.)
  • Mistaken for Quake: Morgaine's arrival in our universe.
  • More Expendable Than You: The Brigadier says this word for word when he takes the Doctor's weapon by force and goes to face the Big Bad.
  • Not Herself: Under Morgaine's Hate Plague spell, Ace actually spews a racial slur. That is how she realizes she and her friend are being played against each other.
  • One-Word Title
  • Open Sesame: After encountering a locked door in a spaceship dating from the time of King Arthur, the Doctor tries ordering it to open up, on the off-chance that it will recognise him as Merlin too. It works.
  • Out-of-Character Alert: Behind the scenes-example: When noticing that the glass in the water-tank that held Sophie Aldred was about to burst and pour the water onto the studio floor, potentially electrocuting her when it touched the live electric cabling, Sylvester McCoy had an split-second to warn everyone and he knew that he had to say something that everyone instantly knew was serious and not him as the Doctor Ad-libbing. What did he say?
    SHIT!! — somebody GET HER OUT!
  • Paper Bag Popping: How the Doctor wakes Ancelyn and Bambera from their Sleep Cute.
  • Pet the Dog: Morgaine cures Elizabeth's blindness. Admittedly it was because Mordred had all but drunk the bar dry and she probably felt obligated to pay them somehow, but restoring someone's sight is a lot better than some of the ways you could repay them when you're an evil witch.
    • On the other hand, it comes right after a Kick the Dog moment where Morgaine kills and disintegrates Lt. Laval (who was already badly hurt in the helicopter crash), just so that she can absorb Laval's mind and find out more about the situation.
    • Elizabeth is so confused by the Mood Whiplash she is left sobbing "She killed that girl and cured my eyes." over and over trying to process it.
  • Pin-Pulling Teeth: One of Morgaine's knights.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "THERE. WILL. BE. NO BATTLE HERE!!!"
  • Ridiculous Future Inflation: Lemonade still does not cost 10, thankfully.
  • Rummage Fail: The Doctor pulls all kinds of ridiculous things out of his pockets while looking for his old UNIT pass.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Ancelyn and Brigadier Bambera's relationship.
  • Sleep Cute: Ancelyn and Bambera.
  • Spikes of Villainy: The evil knights have spiky decorations on their armor; the heroic Ancelyn doesn't. (This does help in keeping track of who's who when they're fighting with their visors down.)
  • Sword over Head
  • Take the Wheel: With the added detail that the passenger is from an alternate universe where they don't have cars, and the driver takes the time to confirm that this is the case before telling him to take the wheel anyway.
  • Tempting Fate: In the first scene, the retired Brig assures his wife that he doesn't miss his UNIT days at all. "My blood-and-thunder days are long past." Cue plot.
  • This Is no Time to Panic: The Doctor, at the end of Episode 2. A few seconds later, he adds: "Now we panic!"
  • Timey-Wimey Ball: One of the few instances in the classic series where the plot reaches Steven Moffat levels of time travel confusion. A future regeneration of the Doctor has already done the first half of the plot, and Seven has to rely on clues from his future self to complete the second half. Every single character from the other dimension has already met the Doctor, but he's got no idea what he's done (er, going to do) to provoke them.
  • A Truce While We Gawk: There's a moment in Mordred and Ancelyn's final duel where they break apart for a moment — and the Doctor walks right between them, casually tipping his hat as he passes, on his way to his own final confrontation with Morgaine. Mordred and Ancelyn stare after him in utter bemusement for a moment, before remembering that they were in the middle of fighting to the death.
  • Twenty Minutes into the Future: The novelisation established the date as mid-1997. However, in this story the UK has a King as monarch and the five pound note has been replaced by a coin, neither of which has actually happened yet. note 
  • Volleying Insults: Ancelyn and Mordred:
    Ancelyn: Is your army not enough to give you courage?
    Mordred: Courage? To face you, Ancelyn, who fled the field at Camlann? Ancelyn the Craven I call you!
    Ancelyn: What care I for the words of a half-man, who cowers at a woman's wrath?
  • Vulnerable Convoy: UNIT's nuke.
  • War Memorial: Carbury has a memorial to the townspeople killed in the World Wars. When Morgaine and her men encounter it, they stop to pay tribute to the warrior dead, and Morgaine gives Mordred a dressing-down for having assumed their opponents to be savages with no concept of honor.
  • Weird Currency: When the Doctor tips out a handful of change, there's a Zoid in among it, which he describes as "a very valuable piece of coinage".
  • What a Piece of Junk: Ace's and Shou Yuing's initial reaction to Bessie. As per the trope, they change their tune once they see what it can do.
  • Write Back to the Future: The Doctor's notes.
  • World of Ham