Target novelisation

Author Marc Platt Cover image
Published 1991
ISBN 0 426 20350 X
First Edition Cover Alistair Pearson

Back cover blurb: Only a few years from now, a squad of UNIT troops is escorting a nuclear missile through the English countryside. At the nearby archaeological dig, knights in armour are fighting battles with broadswords - and guns and grenades. The Doctor arrives on the scene and meets two old friends: Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, called out of retirement to help in the emergency, and Bessie the souped-up roadster. Ace escapes from death by drowning in a submerged spaceship, only to find herself at the mercy of a demon known as the Destroyer. The action is fast and furious, as expected in a script be Ben Aaronovitch, who wrote the classic Remembrance of the Daleks. And why do the knights address the Doctor as 'Merlin'? What is the power of the sword that Ace retrieves from the bottom of the lake? Will Morgaine carry out her threat to destroy the world?


A Review by Finn Clark 10/4/02

I'm officially impressed. Again the lad's done good; Marc Platt hasn't quite made a silk purse, but he's done an impressive job of pulling a ramshackle four-parter into a coherent, entertaining book.

First of all, it doesn't feel like a novelisation. Remembrance of the Daleks and Ghost Light had their TV stories playing behind your eyelids, but this embroiders and improvises so much around Ben's original that a prologue and two chapters have passed before we come to anything familiar (if you don't count some borrowed dialogue on p18 in the TARDIS). The prologue stars King Arthur and the Merlin Doctor, with his unruly red hair. We get yet another reinvented UNIT, and it's better than most of those we've seen since. UNIT passports apparently don't get stamped at airports (see p11); I wonder if Keith Topping remembered that for King of Terror?

With all this extra material I expected half the book to elapse before we reached episode two. In fact the televised Battlefield episode one is a pile o' shite in which nothing happens and so takes fewer pages than it might, but even so it stretches to page 63 (out of 172). That would have been over the odds had the original been a three-parter.

The beginning is full of reinvention and new stuff. The Merlin Doctor's prologue is startling, leaving you wondering where the hell that came from. Mordred's a nasty piece of work and even those comedy knights manage to be intimidating rather than dappy. The irritation factor is considerably reduced, with Bambera's "shame" being inoffensive and even Ace and Shou Yuing only occasionally making you want to put your head through a window. The Doctor's less developed than in previous novelisations, but that's because his lack of foreknowledge is a plot point. Oh, and the Destroyer starts out as just a big guy in a business suit - which makes him far more sinister and effective.

Mind you, I had to wonder what the kiddies would have made of this. Marc uses long words, not to mention occasional bits of Olde English for Ancelyn and co.

Bambera has never heard of the Doctor, which seems strange for a Brigadier in UNIT if one considers the near-legendary status he's been accorded in the UNIT we've seen in the novels. She does however recall UNIT's Zen Brigade (yes, that's right) based at Aylesbury, where Lethbridge-Stewart lectured. The Brigadier's relatively de-emphasised in the book's first half, which might be because the background fill-in scenes a novelist might have written were already in the original TV story - but I suspect some of 'em were squashed together. A good idea, sez me. The very end sees him getting a job offer which mirrors Shadows of Avalon so closely that it's almost scary.

What's it like as a story? It starts out impressively, but sooner or later it had to hit the TV material... at which point it turns into a comedy! One of the original's redeeming features was its character interaction and charming little touches, which have largely survived intact. This book had me chuckling. The story's bollocks, in that the bad guys land on Earth and then wander around doing sod all for four episodes until everyone kills each other in a battle at the end, but Marc comes damn close to making it work. It doesn't hang together if you think about it, but for quite long stretches it's bloody good stuff.

The only feature I missed from the original was Ancelyn's charm, and Marc has a fair stab at recreating that. An impressive piece of work.

A Review by Terrence Keenan 14/7/07

In the last year or so, Battlefield has replaced The Curse of Fenric as worst Original Who serial ever. And the reason is simple. Fenric may piss me off, may feature some really appalling acting, and even worse story ideas, but it still watchable, and is decently directed.

I can't get past the "Boom" scene in Battlefield without reaching for the off switch. And what makes it worse is that Battlefield is from the pen of Ben Aaronovitch, a fave-rave of mine. (It should be noted for the record that Aaronovitch doesn't like Battlefield, either.)

But after hearing good things about Marc Platt's novelization, I felt duty-bound to read it and see if the printed word could improve things.

The prologue is pretty good, with the red-headed Doctor as Merlin and a decent Arthur. But unfortunately I was sidetracked by the mention of Bedevere, which caused me to say to myself "If we built this large wooden badger...."

Things move along from there. Platt is making Battlefield seem more epic than it is. The storm at the beginning is pretty cool, as is Bambera's introduction. The knights from the other dimension seem almost impressive.

But, then we get to the actual story as originally screened. And thing start to go downhill.

The plunge off the cliff happened on page 56. Platt included the infamous, snot-dribbingly, rectal-probingly foul, vile and awful "Boom" scene. Time stood still. I wanted to find Platt and give him a good kicking. It looks even sillier on the printed page.

Feeling unclean, we pressed on. Morgaine is better in the novelization, as is the Brigadier. My favorite scene, when Elizabeth is healed of her blindness, is nicely done.

And that's about it for the good stuff. The plot machinations are still confusing and at times downright silly. All the really wretched bits from the serial are even more leaden in book form. The ending is the dumbest since Jo forced Azal to kill himself over self sacrifice. And I just get the feeling that Aaronovitch gave up on Battlefield way before they even filmed it. Platt's prose is excellent, but he still can't make the material work.

Battlefield is a competently written book with an appalling story, cack characters and wretched dialogue. Read it at your own peril.