54 Stupid Things About
(And 6 Cool Ones)
(But we're not telling you which is which)
(We're expecting you to work that out for yourselves)
Fiona Moore and Alan Stevens
Originally published in Celestial Toyroom Issue 491
1. “Sergeant Benton, tree-planting party, at the double!” So Benton's had a demotion from Warrant Officer, then.
2. The line also suggests that the Brigadier wasn't above abusing his authority to get the UNIT troops to do his personal gardening. Who says corruption in the public sector is anything new?
3. Let's just take this opportunity to remind everybody in Britain that the Polish contributed to the defense of this country in World War II, in fields ranging from the air force to Bletchley Park. Which, given Zbrigniev's limited role here, doesn't have much to do with the story at all, but it's better than making the usual cliched observation about the newly multicultural UNIT, especially as Zbrigniev is said to have served under Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart while the Doctor was UNIT’s Scientific Adviser.
4. The sword apparently sends out a call from the craft beneath the lake, which, when deciphered, translates to “Merlin”. This brings the Doctor and Morgaine. Question is, who sent the signal, and why?
5. It's also worth pointing out that had the signal never been sent, then there wouldn't have been a story.
6. “The beginning of something terrible” (the Doctor, Part One). You'd think it would be hard to snark a story that snarks itself, but it really is the gift that keeps on giving.
7. Czechoslovakia had split into Slovakia and the Czech Republic in 1993. So either this story takes place before 1993, or in another dimension.
8. Things That Never Happened in the 1990s: British road signs giving distances in kilometres, Britain getting a king, the United Nations actually developing a coherent multinational and dedicated military force.
9. Things That Did Happen in the 1990s: £5 for a round of drinks (outside of London, anyway), Britain staying off the Euro. £5 coins did exist, but mostly as commemorative coins struck by the Royal Mint rather than as tender in general circulation.
10. Why does the Doctor have Liz Shaw's UNIT pass under his hat? For that matter, how long has it been there?
11. Wouldn't it have been smarter for Zbrigniev to explain the “off-the-record information” to Brigadier Bambera before inviting the Doctor and Ace in?
12. “How could he be the same man if his appearance and personality have changed?” He can't. Next question.
13. Why does Brigadier Bambera pull a gun on the knight she encounters by the Tardis? For all she knows, it's just the local Dark Ages Society reenacting the Battle of Agincourt.
14. And later, why does Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart pull a gun on Morgaine's warriors when he encounters them in the village? To look at, they're just a bunch of weirdos in fantasy armour holding some kind of ceremony at the war memorial.
15. PSA for anyone thinking of writing for pre-watershed television: rather than use faux-swearwords, it's best just not to have your characters use any expletives at all.
16. The Brigadier was last seen living in fairly austere circumstances in the grounds of a public school. The most rational explanation for how he's managed to get that huge country house is that he's married money.
17. That scabbard's in awfully good nick for an archaeological specimen which has been underground for twelve hundred years, and would you really hang an eighth-century scabbard up in a pub for anyone to handle and muck about with?
18. Even dubbing new laser-beam effects onto the gun battles, as in the Special Edition, can't disguise the fact that the knights appear to be incapable of scoring a direct hit on a Citroen at five paces.
19. It’s unclear whether Ancelyn was blown through the shed roof by the explosive, or he flew there.
20. At that, how does plate armour protect you from a close-range explosive blast and crashing through a roof onto flagstones?
21. Why is Shou Yuing there? Although Warmsly later says she's helped him with the archaeological dig, she seems contemptuous of all things archaeological, saying “can't see it myself, all that patient scraping about. You know, I get the urge to bung half a kilo of TNT down the hole and bring it all up in one go.”
22. Why does Bambera draw a gun on the Doctor just because she finds him in a shed with a man in armour? Especially considering that less than half an episode ago she was giving the Doctor and Ace a lift to the hotel.
23. So, now we know how the Doctor ends up: in the eighth century, he's bound by Morgaine and sealed into the ice caves for all eternity. This is a continuity note for any future showrunners.
24. The door to the spaceship is keyed to the Seventh Doctor’s voice pattern, however, both Mordred and Morgaine state the Doctor has changed his appearance. Clearly, the future incarnation of the Doctor keyed the voiceprint to the Seventh Doctor’s voice because he knew which version of himself would be turning up.
25. “What is Clarke's law?” “Any advanced form of technology is indistinguishable from magic.” This is actually, science fiction author, Arthur C. Clarke’s Third Law. Clarke's First and second laws are, respectively, “When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong” and “The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.”
26. Brigadier Bambera not only pulls a gun on anything that moves, but winds up in a fistfight with Ancelyn right after meeting him, and in their next scene together threatens to break his nose. Clearly these are the sort of diplomatic skills needed to make it to the top in the United Nations.
27. One of us was actually on the studio set during the recording of the sequence where Mordred summons Morgaine. Just thought we'd mention this.
28. The on-floor lighting effect was so hot it was actually burning Christopher Bowen's knees; after multiple takes of the sequence where he laughs manically, he said he was screaming rather than laughing, but then, he added, it was never meant to be a subtle performance.
29. In Arthurian legend, Excalibur's scabbard had the power to protect him on the battlefield; after Morgaine stole the scabbard, Arthur was left vulnerable. This also serves as a symbolic parallel to how Arthur's neglect of his wife Guinevere, and her consequent affair with Lancelot, led ultimately to Arthur's downfall. How all of this has translated into the scabbard being a communications device, we're not sure.
30. How does Nitro-Nine work exactly? It took two cans to clear an ice blockage in "Dragonfire", one to blow up the archaeological site here.
31. At that, putting an explosive on top of the dig is going to cause a surface explosion, not blow a giant crater.
32. Warmsly is a hell of a lot calmer than one would expect any sane archaeologist to be after some vandal has just blown up his painstakingly-excavated dig site.
33. What exactly is the point of having the whole archaeological-dig subplot anyway? It exists only to uncover the “Dig Hole Here” sign, which could easily have been provided through other means.
34. We defy anyone to watch Morgaine's warriors prancing about the churchyard and not think of the Knights Who Say Ni.
35. The Brigadier: “I'm commandeering this car, miss.” Shou Yuing (a few seconds later): “Hey, just a moment, that's my car!” That would be what “commandeered” means.
36. And the Brigadier then drives to the dig, with no mention of poor old Flight Lieutenant Lavel, left to massage her pulled ligament alone. What a gentleman.
37. Let's just think about Lavel for a minute: her sole function is to give the Brigadier someone to talk to until he gets to the village, and, once that’s achieved, she's cannon fodder.
38. On a related note, the pub landlord's blind wife appears to be in the story solely for Morgaine to cure her of blindness. That's it.
39. Why did the Doctor of the future set up an automated defense system for the ship that fails to recognise him? Indeed, since he knows what he's going to do in the past, why have the defense system attack him at all?
40. Shou Yuing's Citroen gives an almighty wobble when the Brigadier brakes the car.
41. Mind you, the Doctor does an equally terrible braking job with Bessie later on. Can nobody in this serial drive?
42. What is the point in bringing Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart out to Carbury at all, let alone with such urgency that they lay on a helicopter service? And if it's that pressing, why has he got to go to London and fill out “inch-thick forms” beforehand?
43. Brigadier Bambera hasn't been informed that Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart is being brought out to the site. What the hell sort of organisation is that?
44. One of Morgaine's knights has some rather fetching red pantaloons.
45. Why do Morgaine's knights ambush the car the Doctor and the Brigadier are in? They have no idea that they're in the car, and, frankly, it could be any local resident out for a drive.
46. As long as Morgaine's people are shooting at us, she won't be using more obscure methods of attack.” How exactly does the one follow on from the other? Is she incapable of using both at once?
47. “You’ll have to excuse my wife. Half an hour ago she was blind”, says the landlord, followed by asking Major Husak, “you’re not English, are you?” The first may be a contender for Stupidest Lines in the Serial, whereas, it could be argued, the second perfectly encapsulates the little England-type attitude toward an increasingly multinational future UK.
48. In the extended version, we learn that Bambera and Ancelyn are headed straight for the nuclear convoy, and thus are leading Morgaine there. Just how thick is Bambera?
49. How do you leave skid-marks on gravel?
50. That's a hell of a view up Morgaine's nostrils as she converses with the destroyer. Do all evil sorceresses trim their nose-hairs?
51. “Shut up, you yellow, slant-eyed —” When provoked, it turns out Ace is a racist.
52. The UNIT soldier firing the bazooka
manages to blow up one of his own men. Smooth, people!
53. A minute later, Ancelyn knocks a man
out by punching him in the helmet.
54. “I'm getting a little tired of
hearing about your mother.” So are we, Brigadier, so are we.
55. Since the power of Excalibur was
protecting Ace and Shou Yuing against Morgaine, why exactly did they
give it to her?
56. Also, since it appears that rubble
can hit Ace and Shou Yuing despite the protection of Excalibur and the
chalk circle, why didn't Morgaine just throw a few chairs at them?
57. “Interstitial time” is a concept
which first appears in “The Time Monster”. That's about the only
Pertwee-era reference in this story which isn't highlighted all to hell.
58. The Destroyer is one of the few good
things about this story, so we'll mention it here in the interests of
59. “Death falling from the sky, blind,
random, anywhere, anytime. No one is safe, no one is innocent? Machines
of death, Morgaine, are screaming from above, of light brighter than
the sun. Not a war between armies nor a war between nations, but just
death, death gone mad. The child looks up in the sky, his eyes turn to
cinders. No more tears, only ashes. Is this honour? Is this war? Are
these the weapons you would use?” Nice sentiments, somewhat undermined
by the fact that the man speaking them blew up an entire solar system
without a second thought a season earlier.
60. It's been asked before, but it's got
to be asked again: Just how do they propose to lock up Morgaine?