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by Marc Platt

Review by Felicity Fletcher

Although Battlefield is a novelisation of a television programme, it is not written at the standard of the usual adaptation, but reads as a book in its own right.

Novelisations tend merely to retell events in a visual manner just as they happened on screen, with a few thoughts and feelings thrown in as if to justify the story being put into book form. But Battlefield integrates these things much more subtly and also expands the story in ways which would be difficult or at least very expensive to do on screen. For example, the background of Morgaine and Mordred is filled in and we glimpse the vast medieval world Morgaine has ruled over for a thousand years. The reason for Mordred's surly personality becomes apparent at the same time. The structure of Arthur's space ship is explained and the science involved - organic rather than mechanical - helps surround Arthur and Morgaine's people with a truly 'alternative-dimension' atmosphere.

This development of Battlefield from a novelisation to a novel may be due to the fact that although Ben Aaronovitch scripted the story, Marc Platt (Ghost Light), novelised it. One innovation Platt made which I did not like, however, was Ace's attitude towards Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. Due to her hearing him refer to her as "the latest one" of the Doctor's companions, she conceives a strong dislike for him which she maintains for most of the book. Such a grudge on so trivial a comment seems unlike Ace. Furthermore, unlike Platt's other extensions to the plot, this seems to have no basis in the original storyline.

I thoroughly enjoyed Battlefield. It is well written with far more in it than the novelisation of Ghost Light. I have high hopes for Marc Platt's next Doctor Who book, Cat's Cradle: Time's Crucible.

Review by Paul Scoones

I've always maintained that the best Doctor Who novels are always written by the story writers, so I was disappointed to learn that Ben Aaronovitch had passed the task of adapting his second serial on to Marc Platt. Once I'd read Ghost Light, however, I began to think that Platt might have been a good choice of writer after all. I was wrong - Platt was not a good choice to novelise Battlefield - he was a superb choice! In fact, I find it hard to imagine Aaronovitch doing any better himself.

Battlefield is one of those stories that fans seem to love or hate, but Platt has done the story great justice and I'm sure it will make many of its readers reassess the TV version. I certainly did - it's apparent that what we see on screen is just scratching the surface of a much more complex adventure. The novel gives the depth that could not possibly be realised on screen. And if that last phrase sounds like the New Adventures, then I can tell you that Battlefield is a far better novel than Timewyrm: Genesys.

Like John Peel, Platt is a fan of Doctor Who, and it shows through in his writing in a very special way. Unlike Peel, Platt includes the wider Doctor Who mythos with great subtlety. Take for example a scene in which the Brigadier's helicopter leaves London: "The Brigadier stared down at the toy landscape, remembering action he had seen around St Paul's, Fleet Street and Covent Garden." Little touches like this keep cropping up, but they certainly don't detract from the novel as they do in Timewyrm: Genesys.

The Brigadier and Doris are very well written - as indeed are all the characters in this book - and the gap from Mawdryn Undead is cleverly bridged, reintroducing the Brig to the casual reader at the same time. But perhaps the best 'character' development is in Platt's writing for the TARDIS as a living, thinking entity. I really liked the idea that it's not the Doctor who is in control of the ship. Finally, even the last scene of the story, a low point of the TV version, has been superbly expanded on so that once you put the book down, you are left with a feeling that there is more; much more to come. And if only the TV version had ended on the same tantalising line as the book!

I used to say that the best Doctor Who novels are always written by the story writers but happily, Battlefield has proved me wrong. I feel sure that whatever you thought of the TV version, you'll love this book.

This item appeared in TSV 24 (August 1991).

Index nodes: Battlefield