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Battlefield was the first serial of season 26 of Doctor Who.

Nicholas Courtney made his first appearance as Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart since 1983's The Five Doctors, and Bessie appeared for the first time since that serial as well. Following Courtney's death in 2011, this serial marked his last televised performance as Lethbridge-Stewart in the series proper; that same year, his character was written out of the series in The Wedding of River Song out of respect for the actor's passing. However, Lethbridge-Stewart as a character would return to the series approximately three years later, making a cameo in Cyberman form near the end of Death in Heaven in a brief scene paying tribute to the late Courtney.

This was also the first story to feature UNIT since The Seeds of Doom (bar a brief appearance in The Five Doctors) and also the last of the classic series — UNIT would be featured once again in Aliens of London in 2005. Jean Marsh, who played Sara Kingdom in the 1960s, returned in this story in a different role. The Seventh Doctor's costume was also modified as of this story: to coincide with his darkening personality, he replaced his French grey jacket and red-banded hat with dark brown equivalents.

Interestingly, Battlefield introduced the idea that the Doctor was the man behind the myth of the wizard Merlin at some point in his life. Since this ended up being one of the final stories of the classic series, the full details behind this mysterious plot line were never worked out on television and instead interpreted differently across the Doctor Who expanded universe as multiple writers tried their hand at explaining these untold events.


The TARDIS materialises in the English countryside near the village of Carbury, where a nuclear missile convoy under the command of UNIT Brigadier Winifred Bambera has run into difficulties. Lying on the bed of 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, which the Time Lord attributes to events in his own future.

A battle breaks out between UNIT and Morgaine's army. 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 what nuclear war would really mean, and that Arthur is in fact dead. She and her son are then taken prisoner by UNIT.


Part one[]

Kill them now

Mordred readies to kill.

Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, now retired from teaching, as well as UNIT, is enjoying retirement with his wife Doris. UNIT may still need the gallant old soldier, though; new Brigadier Winifred Bambera and her soldiers, in a nuclear missile convoy near rural Carbury, are faced with inexplicable equipment failure and peculiar sightings of armour-clad knights. In the excitement, the UNIT convoy ignores a pair of hitchhikers nearby: the Seventh Doctor and Ace, lured to Carbury by a distress signal so powerful that it even crosses universes.

The Doctor and Ace eventually hitch a ride with archaeologist Peter Warmsly, who is excavating an old battlefield near Carbury — though even he is surprised to find his dig site taken over by tight-lipped UNIT soldiers. While he attempts to get an explanation, the Doctor unearths old UNIT identification (his own and Liz Shaw's) to get himself and Ace into the UNIT camp. Bambera, nonplussed, confiscates the passes and ejects the two travellers from the convoy. But one UNIT soldier, who had previously served under Lethbridge-Stewart, recalls UNIT's former scientific advisor: his eccentricity, his ability to change appearance, and his tendency to attract trouble.

Intrigued, Bambera gives the Doctor and Ace a lift to the nearby Gore Crow Hotel... and asks UNIT headquarters to recall Lethbridge-Stewart to duty.

At the hotel, Ace meets a kindred spirit in Shou Yuing, while the Doctor talks to innkeeper Elizabeth Rowlinson. She is blind but psychic, and knows that the ancient scabbard over the inn's fireplace — an artefact found by Warmsly — is an object of tremendous and mysterious power.

Ace and Shou are chatting outside the hotel when they and the Doctor witness an oddly human-shaped missile crash into innkeeper Pat Rowlinson's microbrewery. It is revealed to be a knight in full armour — not an android, as Ace initially thinks — and, when his helmet is removed, he warmly greets the Doctor as "Merlin". The Doctor, Ace, and Shou chat with the knight, Ancelyn, who refers to the distress signal intercepted by the TARDIS as "Excalibur's call" and claims that it heralds the start of a final war and King Arthur's restoration to the throne. The Doctor surmises that the coming battle isn't properly part of this dimension at all, and belongs to a parallel universe — but before he can test the theory, an exasperated Brigadier Bambera storms into the microbrewery and declares everyone under arrest. She is interrupted by the unexpected arrival of more extradimensional knights, who prepare to kill the group.

Part two[]

Meeting point

Mordred opens the meeting place between realities.

Ancelyn's sworn enemy Mordred, also recognises the Doctor as Merlin. He warns the Doctor of his mother, Morgaine's coming reckoning. After Mordred retreats, unwilling to face the Doctor, Ancelyn and Bambera vie for dominance and the rest of the party retreats to the Gore Crow's lounge.

Mordred, with the help of a sword he calls "brother to Excalibur", begins a strange ritual intended to link his home dimension to present-day Carbury and allow his mother Morgaine to cross over. As he roars in triumph at the ritual's success, the scabbard on the wall of the Gore Crow's lounge breaks free and sails across the room — towards the lake — before implanting itself in a wall, distressingly close to Warmsly. The Doctor realises what is happening, but cannot stop it... Morgaine crosses over, and the hotel is plunged into darkness.

Morgaine and Mordred discuss their plans for battle; the sorceress, seeing a helicopter approach, demonstrates her power by bringing it down. The helicopter, which is bringing Lethbridge-Stewart to Carbury, manages to land, and Lethbridge-Stewart sets off in search of the Doctor.

Warmsly shows the Doctor and Ace the Carbury dig and points out a mysterious inscription. The Doctor recognises his own handwriting instructing him to dig a hole, which he asks Ace to do with some well-placed explosives. At the bottom is an 8th century tunnel... made of cement. The Doctor and Ace investigate, having left Warmsly to guard them.

At the end of the tunnel is a strange room. Ace and the Doctor look in vain for some way out, until the Doctor simply commands the door to open, and it obeys. As they proceed to the next rooms, the Doctor explains that Merlin must have built the rooms — spaceship, it now appears — that they are in... and he is Merlin, or will be.

In the topmost level of the spaceship is King Arthur, apparently in suspended animation, and Excalibur. Ace accidentally draws Excalibur, which triggers an automated defence system that traps her in an airtight chamber rapidly filling with water, and renders the Doctor helpless as she begins to drown...

Part three[]

It's all a myth really

Ace rises with Excalibur.

As the two wander near Lake Vortigern, Warmsly quotes Malory's "Morte d'Arthur" to Ancelyn... when, to his astonishment, a hand appears from the lake brandishing Excalibur. It proves to be Ace, whom the Doctor managed to free from the spaceship below the lake. She emerges wet but none the worse for the wear, and is joined by Warmsly, Ancelyn, Bambera, and, arriving with Shou in her car, which he has commandeered, Lethbridge-Stewart. The Doctor continues to fight the spaceship's defence system, but it is only stopped when Lethbridge-Stewart, who has entered through the tunnel, intervenes. Reunited, the friends leave by the tunnel and rejoin the others at the dig.

Meanwhile, Morgaine has sent Mordred and his knights after the Doctor and the others, with orders to take Excalibur and kill any who resist. The Rowlinsons are terrified by Morgaine's cavalier killing of Flight Lieutenant Lavel, but grateful — if bewildered — when she restores Elizabeth's sight.

The party splits up for the ride back to the hotel: Bambera and Ancelyn in Shou's car; the Doctor, Ace, Shou, and Warmsly in his. Mordred's knights set up an ambush in the woods between the hotel and the dig, but ultimately attack the wrong car; the others make it back to the hotel safely, with Excalibur. There they find that all locals are being evacuated — Shou and Ace slip away unnoticed, while Warmsly and the Rowlinsons protest but ultimately agree to evacuate.

Seven brig bessie

The Doctor is delighted to see Bessie again.

A UNIT patrol sent to find Bambera and Ancelyn, reports that the two soldiers escaped the knights and are at large in the woods. The news, though welcome, does not entirely cheer the Doctor, who points out that Mordred and his knights are also at large... and that nothing stands between them and the now-unguarded missile convoy by the lake. They must return to the convoy immediately. Fortunately for the Doctor, Lethbridge-Stewart thought to bring along transportation: Bessie, the Doctor's car from his UNIT days. He and the Doctor depart, leaving Ace and Shou behind with Excalibur and instructions on avoiding Morgaine's sorcery.

Morgaine leaps at her chance to snatch Excalibur from the hands of its young guardians, summoning the Destroyer to help her, but Ace remembers the Doctor's warning and draws a protective circle of chalk. Much to her surprise, it seems to work... until Morgaine tries a more subtle psychological attack, and sets Ace and Shou fighting, trying to draw one or both out of the circle.

At the dig, the ancient battlefield has become a modern one, as UNIT troops face off against Mordred and his knights, and Mordred himself is confronted by Ancelyn — but as they prepare to fight, the Doctor intervenes and declares that there will be no more bloodshed. But Mordred smugly announces that the battle was only a diversion for his mother Morgaine's attempt at Excalibur... and that Ace and Shou stand no chance against Morgaine and the Destroyer.

Part four[]

Mordred offers the Doctor a trade — the girls' lives for Excalibur — but the Doctor, outraged, threatens to decapitate him unless Morgaine surrenders herself. But Mordred calls the Doctor's bluff; he knows, he says, of Merlin's distaste for taking life. He is proved right, but Lethbridge-Stewart appears out of the woods, gun ready, and declares that he has no such compunctions. The two old friends force Mordred into their car and head back to the Gore Crow Hotel.

They arrive just as the Destroyer, under Morgaine's command, has nearly brought the hotel down on Ace and Shou. The Doctor finds his friends under a pile of rubble, relieved that they were able to stay alive, even at the cost of surrendering Excalibur to Morgaine.

She, meanwhile, has returned, with Excalibur and Mordred, to her castle in her reality. The Doctor and the Brigadier follow her across the void; he himself is followed by Ace, who brings along Excalibur's sheath and the Brigadier's silver bullets.

Morgaine frees the Destroyer, to the Doctor's dismay. While she and Mordred teleport away, out of the Destroyer's immediate path, the Doctor and his two friends are left to flee on foot. The Doctor deduces that, since the Destroyer was bound in silver chains, it will be vulnerable to the Brigadier's silver bullets. Lethbridge-Stewart distracts the Doctor, knocks him out and takes the gun — loaded with the silver bullets — to spare the Doctor the duty of killing the Destroyer. He marches up to the creature, demanding, "Get off my world!". The Destroyer taunts the Brigadier, declaring him to be 'pitiful' and asks if the Earth can do no better than him as its champion. Lethbridge-Stewart responds by answering that such a case is probably true, but declares "I just do the best I can" before he unloads the silver bullets into the Destroyer, destroying it in a fiery green explosion. The Doctor and Ace witness the explosion and find Lethbridge-Stewart's body. The Doctor begins to mourn his old friend, only to discover that the Brigadier has miraculously survived.

Even without the Destroyer, Morgaine and Mordred still pose a threat, as they prove when they cross back into our world and take Bambera hostage. They force her to divulge the launch codes for the nuclear missile and prepare it for launch.

Ancelyn, the Doctor, Lethbridge-Stewart, and Ace return Excalibur to the spaceship under the lake. There they find that the sword activates the spaceship — but does not resurrect Arthur. According to a note left by the Doctor for himself, Arthur was killed in the Battle of Camlann, not placed in suspended animation. The note also warns them that Morgaine has control of the nuclear missile, and the four friends rush back to the surface.

Boys in the garden

The Doctor and Ancelyn admire the Brigadier's garden.

While Ace and the Brigadier destroy the spaceship, the Doctor tries to stop the missile launch. Morgaine is obstinate... but the Doctor explains the full horror of nuclear warfare, and she relents with seconds to spare. She demands of the Doctor that King Arthur face her for a final confrontation, but the Doctor reveals that Arthur died in his last battle. Grief-stricken, she does not notice the Doctor leave.

The Doctor intervenes in a sword fight between Ancelyn and Mordred and renders Mordred unconscious. Ancelyn is freed, and Mordred and Morgaine surrender to UNIT.

Back at the Lethbridge-Stewart house, the Brigadier and Ancelyn are left to work in the garden while the Doctor cooks supper. In the meantime, Doris, Shou, Ace, and Bambera have commandeered Bessie for a girls' trip out on the town.





Cultural references from real world[]

  • Ace calls Ancelyn "Shakespeare".
  • Morgaine claims to be able to defeat the Doctor at chess; the Doctor retorts he is playing poker. He says that he has an Ace up his sleeves.
  • Ace knows Clarke's Law, according to which any advanced form of technology is indistinguishable from magic.
  • Ace refers to the Brigadier as "Colonel Blimp".

The Doctor's items[]

  • The Doctor carries Liz Shaw's UNIT pass (in his hat), his own, a catapult; and a variety of alien coinage, one of which looks like a small mechanical crab.
  • A circle drawn with a piece of chalk provided by the Doctor helps to protect Ace, Shou and Excalibur from Morgaine.
  • The Doctor uses an abort key.

Flora and fauna[]

  • Doris and the Brigadier grow azaleas.

Foods and beverages[]

  • The Doctor discourages Ace from drinking alcohol; she ends up drinking lemonade.
  • Mordred drinks at least four pints of Pat Rowlinson's home-brewed beer without apparent effect.




McCoy, ironically, becomes only the third Doctor to use Bessie on screen.

  • The Doctor uses Bessie again, and the license plate now reads WHO 7.
  • Morgaine flees to her castle through an interstitial vortex; the Doctor and the Brigadier follow her by the same mean, whirlpooling.

United Nations Intelligence Taskforce[]

Story notes[]

  • This story had the working titles Knightfall, Storm Over Avallion, Lake Over Avallion, Pool of Avallion, Song of Avallion, Stormtroopers of Avallion, and The Battlefield.
  • In the original version, set in 1999, Bambera was an American Air Force captain acting on behalf of a joint US-European initiative codenamed "Camelot". The European force is the European Defence Force Army, according to a shot of the treatment in the DVD's Past and Future King feature, a fictional group assuming the EEC would develop a common military policy. Another key supporting character was Lavender Warmington, director of a heritage group called the Carbury Trust, while the Asian student befriended by Ace was named Thai. Ace herself wielded a newly-constructed sonic screwdriver. Morgaine ensorcelled Ace and planned to sacrifice her to the demon she raised — otherwise, the demon would eradicate all life on Earth, thereby sealing the portal between this dimension and Morgaine's, and trapping A'tur. Lethbridge-Stewart called in an airstrike against the demon, and was mortally wounded; his death satisfied the demon, who then departed. Bambera killed Mordred to save Ancelyn, and a reawakened A'tur arrived, offering to bring Mordred back to life in return for Morgaine's obeisance. Bambera accompanied Ancelyn back to his dimension, while the Doctor would then continue travelling through time and space in honour of Lethbridge-Stewart. At one point, Mordred was no longer killed, and the demon (now referred to as a Death Elemental) was able to reanimate dead knights to become his zombie-like servitors. The Brigadier survived the airstrike and slew the demon with Excalibur, only to be fatally injured by the resulting feedback.
  • This story takes place "a few years in the future" from Ace's starting point. This is made evident when Ace is surprised that the combined costs of a glass of water and a glass of lemonade are five pounds.
  • Beginning with this serial until the end of the season, the Seventh Doctor's cream coat is exchanged for a brown one to symbolise his shift from a light-hearted buffoon to the Machiavellian plotter he is known for being across other mediums.
  • This is the last appearance of UNIT in the show's original run. UNIT resumed broadcast appearances in Doctor Who beginning with TV: Aliens of London.
  • This is the last appearance of the Brigadier in Doctor Who itself until 2014's Death in Heaven, although he would make one more televised appearance in the spin-off The Sarah Jane Adventures.
  • Radio Times credits Angela Bruce as "Brig. Bambera" for parts one, three and four; and as "Brigadier Bambera" for part two. All on-screen credits read "Brigadier Winifred Bambera".
  • June Bland (Elizabeth Rowlinson) is credited as "Elizabeth" in Radio Times for part three.
  • This marks the last appearance of Bessie until 2013's The Name of the Doctor. It however only appears through stock footage in that episode.
  • The Radio Times programme listing for part three in certain regions was accompanied by a black-and-white publicity shot of the Doctor and Mordred, which showed the Doctor pushing up the visor on Mordred's helmet, with the accompanying caption "Let's just have a look at you: the time-travelling Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) unmasks Mordred (Christopher Bowen) / Doctor Who 7.35 p.m. BBC1". There was also a slightly altered synopsis, which read 'The Doctor has gone to the battlefield, leaving Ace and Shou Yuing back at the hotel. All they have to worry about there is a demon, nuclear weapons and a witch playing games with their minds". The synopsis in other regions was the same, apart from the omission of the last few words "playing games with their minds".
  • During the water-tank scene at the end of part two, the tank's glass cracked, sending broken glass and water across the studio towards the electrical equipment. By chance, Sylvester McCoy noticed in time to alert the crew; Sophie Aldred was pulled out in time and the studio was hurriedly evacuated. To ensure that nobody assumed that he was ad-libbing in character, McCoy swore briefly before shouting for "someone [to] get her out of there!" It is commonly believed by cast and crew that Aldred might have died if McCoy hadn't noticed in time; Gary Downie has said she was in no danger and it was only the floor crew at risk, (Doctor Who Magazine #338), although other cast/crew believed otherwise.
    • In parts two and three, shots showing part of the incident can be seen as the Doctor struggles with the controls and Ace is lifted clear of the water.
    • The whole incident can be seen in Watertank on the Battlefield DVD.
    • Years later, McCoy would remember that day as the one time he himself was the hero instead of the Seventh Doctor.
  • One Fateful Knight acts as a prequel to this story.
  • This is the last serial in the classic series to feature the TARDIS console room, as well as being the only TARDIS interior scene of Season 26. The sequence in part one, where the Doctor and Ace receive a mysterious distress signal from sideways in time, was recorded on a hastily constructed set — the shortcomings of which were disguised by having the console room in semi-darkness — as the regular TARDIS scenery wall flats had been mistakenly junked after recording of The Greatest Show in the Galaxy.
  • As well as featuring foreign UNIT troops (from France, Czechoslovakia, and Poland), Battlefield does a soft retcon by stating (via Zbrigniev's service under Lethbridge-Stewart) that there had been foreign troops "off-screen" in the Pertwee era. This was an intentional act by Aaronovitch to emphasise UNIT was an international group, confirmed on the Battlefield DVD's behind-the-scenes features.
  • For an as-yet-unknown reason, this story was aired in the United Kingdom on Watch along with The Doctors Revisited - The Seventh Doctor in an omnibus format, instead of Remembrance of the Daleks which was shown with the Revisited special when it originally aired on BBC America.
  • This is the only season opener during the Seventh Doctor's era to not begin with a pre-credits scene.
  • On BritBox, Part Three has a warning for offensive language due to Ace using racial epithets against Shou Yuing when under the influence of Morgaine in the chalk circle, before snapping out of it.
  • Ben Aaronovitch was very dissatisfied with the final production and felt the quality of the design and special effects let it down. He thinks "it doesn't work as a script, has crappy design and unhelpful music". He also felt the Brigadier's inclusion was a big error, that the designers didn't make the knights look futuristic enough and didn't like the CND speech that Andrew Cartmel wrote. It was cut down, and Cartmel admitted that he overwrote it. Aaronovitch later felt that he should have given the best lines to the Doctor and the good lines that were there were just for showing off.
  • Bambera was originally envisioned as being from the Caribbean, hence the "shame" line. To Ben Aaronovitch's astonishment, the Leeds-born, Durham-raised Angela Bruce was cast. ("If I'd known they'd cast someone from Newcastle, I'd have changed the dialogue").
  • Andrew Cartmel named this as one of his top three favourite serials.
  • Graeme Harper was originally asked to direct. He had to decline, as he was busy with Boon. Nicholas Mallett was also considered, but he was assigned to The Curse of Fenric instead. Andrew Morgan was also considered for the job, but depending on who you ask either he was busy as well, or the higher-ups vetoed his being hired for over-spending on Remembrance of the Daleks. It was Morgan who recommended Michael Kerrigan.
  • The Brigadier was supposed to die facing off against the Destroyer. This was approved by Nicholas Courtney, Andrew Cartmel and John Nathan-Turner. Ultimately, Ben Aaronovitch couldn't bring himself to do it.
  • Lethbridge-Stewart was originally going to be promoted to General.
  • The Destroyer of Worlds was envisioned as appearing as a well-dressed human man who later metamorphoses into a more monstrous form. However John Nathan Turner loved the design so much that he decided the Destroyer should only appear as a monster. Which also meant that the transformation scene was cancelled, which cut the serial's cost down. The actor, Marek Anton, was cast simply because he could perform a party trick where he could puff his body out to double the size of his chest. The producer thought that he was the best choice as the script described the later cut transformation that the body would puff out. The knights were intended to be dressed in futuristic combat gear that only looked like traditional armour at a glance, but this was dropped on the basis of cost.
  • One alternative ending had the Brigadier deciding to accompany the knights back to their dimension.
  • Joss Ackland, George Baker, Geoffrey Bayldon, John Carson, Kenneth Colley, Freddie Jones, Ronald Lacey and David Warner were considered for Peter Warmsly.
  • Nicholas Courtney turned down a role in a West End revival of Madame Butterfly to be in this serial, as he felt it would be the last time the Brigadier would be appearing.
  • Jean Marsh had prior experience playing witches, having portrayed Mombi in Return to Oz and Queen Bavmorda in Willow.
  • This was originally conceived as a three-parter filmed entirely on location.
  • Sophie Aldred loved the location of Rutlan water. Marcus Gilbert thought it was wonderful to be on location because of the long summer evenings, apart from the midges.
  • The scene where Ace rises from the water with Excalibur was complicated, as the water was far shallower than expected and the sword didn't come out of the water straight.
  • Nicholas Courtney loved the "Get off my world" line.
  • James Ellis felt his part was underwritten, so he kept adding lines from Alfred Lord Tennyson. A lot of them were cut, but a few snuck in.
  • James Ellis thought the hotel on location was a real one and went to bed in a private bedroom.
  • The helicopter shots had to be done in three hours, as that was all the time the production had the helicopter for.
  • Angela Bruce claims to have persuaded fight co-ordinator Alf Joint to let her use a sword in the scene where Bambera wields a broadsword. She practised with a pencil.
  • Michael Kerrigan suggested the fight with Bambera and Ancelyn behind the Doctor. This fight wasn't choreographed at all.
  • The car scene with the Doctor and the Brigadier took thirteen takes.
  • Ben Aaronovitch cringes at the scene of the Brigadier being blown through the window, as the debris spray didn't happen.
  • Marcus Gilbert would later play King Arthur in Army of Darkness.
  • Angela Bruce said that this was the most enjoyable job she's ever had.
  • Ben Aaronovitch was unhappy with the suggestion made in Mawdryn Undead that the Brigadier had retired from UNIT to teach maths, and he wanted to provide a more suitable end to his adventures with the Doctor.
  • Ancelyn was inspired by Lancelot. His infamous affair with Guinevere suggested Bambera's first name, the linguistically-related Winifred.
  • Cadbury was named for Cadbury Castle in South Cadbury, Somerset, which local tradition identified with the Arthurian Camelot.
  • Peter Warmsly's role was originally filled by a woman named Lavender Warmington, director of a heritage group called the Carbury Trust. This was changed due to John Nathan-Turner's concerns that there were too many female characters.
  • Nicholas Courtney was convinced that the series' end was near due to the BBC's apathy towards it and the dwindling viewing figures, so he was keen to see out his character.
  • Assistant Floor Manager Matthew Purves was the son of Peter Purves.
  • Ben Aaronovitch would subsequently regret the inclusion of Lethbridge-Stewart in his busy narrative, and would feel that he had not properly considered the impact of the expansion from three to four episodes.
  • The production lost two filming days due to a strike caused by a dispute over salaries which pitted the BBC against the Broadcasting and Entertainment Trades Alliance.
  • John Nathan-Turner directed second-unit for Ancelyn's arrival.
  • The effect of Mordred's knights bursting into the brewery did not work as intended. Due to time constraints, John Nathan-Turner indicated that it should be abandoned; a sound effect would have to suffice.
  • This was initially intended to be the second serial of Season 26, with The Curse of Fenric preceding it. However, as John Nathan-Turner felt that the horror themed Curse of Fenric would be better suited to being shown during October, the season was reshuffled so that it became the third serial shown, with Battlefield taking its place as the season debut.
  • This is the only television story featuring Jean Marsh to survive in its entirety, as The Crusade and The Daleks' Master Plan both have currently missing episodes.
  • Rod Woodruff handled the stuntwork. Unfortunately, all rehearsals had been carried out with full-length broadswords, and when the time came to record all the necessary scenes, the wrong and style of swords had been sent to the location.
  • Whilst completing the scenes when the Knights and other characters are blown into the air, Alf Joint's stuntmen actually jumped onto trampolines hidden off-camera.
  • To complete the scene where Ace emerges from Lake Vortigiem with Excalibur, Sophie Aldred took antibiotics, which were prescribed by a BBC doctor. She had some difficulty completing the scene, since she was required to submerge herself in shallow water and then emerge with the sword vertically in the air.
  • For the scene where various knights advance and attack oncoming vehicles, a special lens was used for the camera, which created the impression that certain characters were far closer than they actually were.
  • During the studio sessions, it was discovered that the TARDIS walls had been junked following the completion of The Greatest Show in the Galaxy as a result of a misunderstanding, and the sets were thrown out since they were no longer required. A quick makeshift job of the set had to be created for the TARDIS scene. Dark lighting was used to disguise the fact that set wasn't well-constructed.


  • Part one - 3.1 million viewers
  • Part two - 3.9 million viewers
  • Part three - 3.6 million viewers
  • Part four - 4.0 million viewers

Note: This story received the lowest ratings in Doctor Who's original 1963-1989 run, with only 3.1 million viewers tuning in for part one. It remained the Doctor Who story with the lowest overall viewing figures until Legend of the Sea Devils in 2022, which received overnight viewing figures of just 2.2 million viewers. The more comparable consolidated viewing figure for Legend of the Sea Devils was 3.47 million viewers, meaning that while part one of this story remains the least-watched individual episode, the story overall had an average of 3.65 million viewers, higher than that of Legend of the Sea Devils.[1]


  • The incidental music for this story was originally thought to have been provided by the rock group Hawkwind. (It wasn't.)

Filming locations[]

  • Fulmer Plant Park, Cherry Tree Lane, Fulmer, Buckinghamshire (The Brigadier and Doris at the garden centre)
  • Black Park, Black Park Road, Fulmer, Buckinghamshire (Helicopter flight and crash scenes)
  • Barnsdale, Rutland (Where the UNIT convoy is stuck)
  • Hambleton, Rutland (A Carbury road)
  • Castle Cement Quarry, Ketton, Rutland (Crash site of one of the knights)
  • Little Paston, Fulmer Common Road, Fulmer, Buckinghamshire (The Brigadier and Doris's house)
  • Wothorpe Towers, St Martin's Without, Stamford, Lincolnshire (Morgaine's house/castle whilst on Earth)
  • Hambleton Woods, Rutland (The excavation site)
  • Twyford Wood, Colsterworth, Lincolnshire (Location where the TARDIS materialises)
  • BBC Television Centre (TC3), Shepherd's Bush, London

Production errors[]

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.
  • The cloak of one of Mordred's companions can be clearly seen, as he stands just "off-stage", at the resolution to the stand-off at the beginning of part two.
  • Mordred's breastplate bends considerably when he chants.
  • When Morgaine's lightning bolt strikes Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart's helicopter, the smoke box used for this effect can clearly be seen attached to the back of the left landing skid.
  • Although the mock-up helicopter for the explosion effect is only briefly seen intact, as Lethbridge-Stewart and Lavel run away from it, it has little resemblance to the actual helicopter.


Home video and audio releases[]

  • This story was released on VHS in episodic format, containing additional previously untransmitted material in parts two and three.

DVD release[]

This story was released in Region 2 on 29 December 2008 and Region 1 on 5 May 2009. A two-disc set, it featured the original televised version and an extended movie-format version with new special effects.

Special Features[]


  • On the back cover of the DVD, Coming Soon Trailer is mistakenly listed as being on Disc One, when in actuality, it is on Disc Two.

Blu-ray release[]

This story was released on Blu-ray as part of the Season 26 box set on 27 January 2020 in the UK and 24 March 2020 in the US and Canada (under the title Sylvester McCoy Complete Season Three). 

Disc One:[]

  • Battlefield: TV Version - Four episodes as originally screened in 1989, newly restored for Blu-ray.
  • Audio Commentary - With Sophie Aldred (Ace), Nicholas Courtney (Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart), Angela Bruce (Brigadier Winifred Bambera), Ben Aaronvitch (Writer) and Andrew Cartmel (Script Editor).
  • Optional 5.1 surround sound mix - New for Blu-ray.
  • Isolated Music Soundtrack - Listen to Keff McCulloch’s incidental music.
  • Info Text - Production insights and trivia delivered via an optional subtitle track.
  • Season 26 Press Trailer - A special trailer made for the 1989 press screenings.
  • BBC1 Trails & Continuities - Recorded off-air from the original transmissions.
  • HD Photo Gallery - Featuring previously unseen images.
  • Battlefield: Special Edition - A feature-length special edition of the story containing material excised from the original episodes, enhanced special effects and the options of 5.1 surround sound or stereo.
  • PDF Written Archive - A treasure trove of previously unreleased production paperwork and more, compiled exclusively for this set.

Disc Two:[]

  • Battlefield: VHS Version - Previously unavailable on disc, this four-part version of Battlefield features deleted material back into two of the original episodes. Fully restored from the best available sources, with a brand new optional 5.1 surround sound mix.
  • Storm Over Avallion - The making of Battlefield.
  • Past and Future King - Writing Battlefield by Ben Aaronovitch and Andrew Cartmel.

The seven-disc box set also includes hours of special features previously released on DVD.

External links[]