dr who 7 ace

In which Mr P and I watch "Battlefield"

Reactions to the Seventh Doctor serial "Battlefield" as we watch.

It's the Brig! And the new Brig! And sword + Vortigern == Arthurian legend time. IN SPACE! Knights as meteors?

Ha! Liz Shaw's id card! And I assume Seven has Three's passcard. Just put on a velvet cape, dude! "How can he be the same man if his appearance and personality have changed?" That's a very good question, New Brig.

When American TV & movies want to signal they're in the future, they show a black President. When British TV wants to signal the future, they have the Brig mention "the King". (Note to self: what will American movies do now that we have a black President in reality?)

Did the Doctor just flirt with that cute Asian chick outside the inn?

Really cruddy armored-knight sword fighting. With spark-guns! Uh. Yes, this is the moment when we overlook cheesy special effects. And cheesy music.

I see Ace has met a soulmate. I am completely charmed by Seven's rrrrrrrrrrolled Rs. Oh. A magical blind person. Scabbard. Lake. Yes, indeed.

Brig in uniform! With a gun. And combed hair. Bet the helicopter shot blew half the budget. Swagger stick: v impt. But is the Brig slated for the "last case before retirement" cop trope?

The Ace conversation intercut with futuristic grenade explosion sequence was... horribly executed. And really too cliched in conception to be tolerated. Ace thinks android; Doctor discovered human. Who calls him "Merlin", which is entirely appropriate and surely there is fic exploring this?

Part 2: Our knights get names. One of them is, rather predictably, Mordred. Terrible dialog they're given to speak, too. Ugh. Why so stilted? Is it because an idiot writer thinks that that's how kids expect people from the past to speak?

Lightning over the castle. There is only one possible response, the MST3K cry of "I'm a crappy special effect!"

Mordred is pretty stupid. I mean, as a character, as a product of writer + director + actor. I feel talked down to. That diabolical laughter is going on for way too long and is way too pointless. Does anybody ever laugh like that in real life.

Oooooooh, angry!Seven. I like that. Now pained!Seven. And we get this cheesy version of Morgaine, complete with her own cheesy dialog. "Let this be our last battlefield." Which makes me think Trek, but must be a reference that I am too ill-read to place. Awwwww: acceptable safety standards. I love Seven and Ace. My favorite Doctor-Companion pair by a long way, and I do love Two and Jamie.

Oh noes, the Brig's chopper is down. This is of course a feint.

"Don't worry, Ace. It's only a trap."

The voice-print keyed door is nicely timey-wimey. And I am enjoying the Brig-vs-Morgaine alpha posturing.

The Doctor is schooling Ace in Clarke's Law. Most excellent. I am on board here for sequences like this, nothing but interaction between the two of them. Though lord, the soundtrack is horrible. As are the special effects at the beginning of part 3.

McCoy pratfalls very nicely. And! The Brig saves him. Ace is sulking about prior Companions! I sort of like that. She's what, nineteen by this point? Just the age to sulk like Rose sulked.

Mordred continues being a Saturday morning cartoon villain. And now his mother is too. Sigh.


I see UNIT has been prepping for the usual Who villains. Like Yetis.

Bessie? BESSIE? But a different car altogether, if I'm not mistaken. I had no idea that anybody other than Three was into the car, though. Complete with predictable diss from Ace that will of course be overcome when it turns out to be mega-souped-up. And there we go!

Was Shou Yuing being groomed as a potential Companion character? Dunno. Ace is sulking, though, at the Brig's mention of many companions. And the Brig going off with the Doctor. And I like that she thinks her job is to protect the Doctor's back. She doesn't trust anybody else to take care of her Professor.

So remind me again: why are Mordred and Ancelyn fighting? What are the stakes? What's Morgaine up to?

Wow. Seven becomes a bit fierce when Ace is threatened. But he still can't kill. The Brig, however... Aw, he touches her nose when he learns she's safe.

The quiet battlefield. Lots of bodies. Somber Bambera. War is bad, mmm'kay? Thank you for the Saturday morning cartoon morality. "Fenric" is so far standing out painfully amongst the litter of these scripts. Why oh why couldn't this awesome Doctor have been given better stories?

Ace is so fierce in defense of her friend. And courageous. And smart. Her forethought with the bullets is what wins the day.

And is this final confrontation the real death for the Brig? I like his attitude. "Probably. I just do the best I can."

Can you explain to me again why Morgaine wants nukes? I understand the Doctor's anti-nuke stance, here, but I don't get what she gets by detonating anything. And now we have an incoherent oh-noes-I-miss-Arfur moment from her, complete with horrible soundtrack, and I don't even get why. And then we get more Jedi mind tricks from the Doctor.

How, exactly, do you lock up massively powerful future-tech users?

Well, that was cracky Saturday morning cartoon fodder. Unlike the Happiness Patrol, competently crafted crack with only a few giant holes. And yes, it was impossible not to ship Bambera/Ancelyn, what with them asking each other if they were married or not. I mean, that was text.
  • Current Music: Something Heavens - H.U.V.A. Network
"Let That Be Your Last Battlefield" was the title of the preachtastic third-season ep with Frank Gorshin: Two survivors of a planet who hate each other because one is black on the left and white on the right, the other white on the left and black on the right. GET IT? GET IT? HUH? HUH?

I have been thinking for a while that the Doctor must be Merlin because, like T.H. White's Merlyn, he youthens.
That was the Trek episode I had in mind, one of the more thuddy of the dreadful third season. Groan.
I did say the shippy as impossible to ignore. There are some giant logic holes in the plot and more than a few of those "Now we're going to teach you an obvious moral lesson" eighties moments, but I do love this episode. It's just so darn entertaining.

And the Brig. Of course.
The Brig was tons of fun. I was shocked by how much I like that character and was rooting for him. Go Brig!
It occurred to me, as I typed a reply to your thoughts on Greatest Show, that I could say much the same things about Battlefield. It too is flawed and occasionally incoherent, but I still like it for isolated themes 'n' scenes.

The maniacal laughter cliches are so hard to watch, it verges on physical pain. The overall plot lacks structure and all that good action-reaction stuff. It's a story where shit just happens. Why are Morgaine and her buds here? Why, for that matter, did Arthur the Freeze-Dried end up here? Why do they want nuclear weapons? Ohh, whatever.

But Shou-Yiung was a good sidekick for Ace, and I think the scene in the chalk circle with Morgaine trying to fill those two young minds with hatred and bigotry was kind of brave and interesting, for BBC1 at 7:35 pm on a Wednesday night. (Yes, I even remember the night of the week it was broadcast, because I was in my first year at university at that point and I made sure Wednesday was my weekly phone-home night, just so I could make sure my parents had the video properly set.)

There's some terrific Seven/Ace moments in Battlefield, and Seven can nail otherwise cringy lines like:

"Exotic alien swords are easy to come by. Aces are rare."

And Ancelyn/Bambera are made of win.

And the moment when the Doctor wakes everyone up (by making them wee their pants) with a popped crisp packet is fab.

My friend Nemo likes Pete Warmsley, the archeologist, because she says it's one of the few times her profession has been portrayed on popular television and they actually got it kind of right.

So yeah. Far and away the weakest script of season 26. Chock full o' flaws and fractures. But it's also got a fair amount of saving graces. Everything else besides, pretty much every scene with Ace and the Brig together was brilliant.
"Exotic alien swords are easy to come by. Aces are rare."

Here's the thing about Ace. She's smart. Smart enough that the Doctor gets into trouble when he doesn't share his plans with her (which mistake he makes over and over). She's impetuous and show-offy and a little insecure (which distinguishes her from the Doctor) and she likes watching things blow up a bit more than she should. She makes him want to explain himself. She makes him bring his moral game up, just because she's watching and he knows she'll figure it all out.

I need to watch more of Sarah Jane, I think, but I'd rather watch Ace than any of the modern companions. Again, damn, this Doctor got only one good season of decent writing. Such a waste of a great Doctor.
That's a lovely icon of Two. Is that from the animated versions of the 'lost' eps? Looks familiar to me.

There follows rambly thoughts on my love for Ace, and for Seven 'n' Ace. And companions, and Who in general. And these thoughts are rambly and long and I am just slipping in a warning right now. Kay? ;)

I think some of Ace's appeal is in the depth of backstory she was given. Most companions in the classic series tended to have a backstory - or at least a 'descriptor' - that would fit into one sentence. Age, profession, home-era and an adjective describing their primary characteristic and they were away.

Ace, right from Dragonfire, was given more to work with. It was established that she'd been thrown from her home to a strange planet and needed (and indeed managed) to fend for herself. It was established that she had 'parent issues'. Her impatience and ability to stand up for herself is nicely encapsulated in the milkshake-tipping scene, and her gregariousness and curiosity in the way she latches on to the Doctor and Mel.

So once we start seeing things like her enjoyment of explosions, it isn't something that exists in isolation. You know? It isn't simply a matter of, "Oh look, the companion has an explosion-fetish." It's something that we add to an existing knowledge; it's something that either fits or contradicts but - most importantly - has context.

I mean, it's a lot easier to incorporate this destructive streak into a girl who's had a troubled upbringing, than into a girl who's always been loved and sheltered and wanted for nothing. Right?

So that's my first point: Ace gets more backstory than most companions, so every time we see a characteristic it has more context.

To illustrate the flipside: even the very best companions tend to be given characteristics that are just 'there'. We know Sarah Jane is a journalist by profession, and we know she's very curious as befits a journalist, but we don't know what it was about her upbringing that made her curious. Did she adopt the characteristic to serve her chosen profession, or was the characteristic innate and thus guided her to her career choice?

It's just one example, and it should be stated that I have potent love for Sarah Jane, Liz Sladen and that era of the show. I wouldn't dream of being disparaging. I'm just pointing out that even a companion of Sarah Jane's brilliance and quality lacks the depth that Ace was given.

My second point on why Ace works so very well is more personal -- in that I mean it isn't necessarily a factor most viewers would take into account.

Okay, I'll rephrase. My second point reeks of 'fangirl'. :)

In my opinion, The Curse of Fenric - a story which finally tells us why Ace was whisked away from Perivale when she was 16 years old and dumped on Iceworld - does that wonderful thing in television drama. It shows, it doesn't tell. (God I wish someone would remind RTD of this excellent rule.)

What does it show? It shows us that Ace is defined as the perfect companion. By a being that's more or less omnipotent.

You're not sold? Well here's my analysis.

Fenric guided Ace's time-storm incident. Of every human being it could have chosen, it picked her. It chucked her across the galaxy specifically in order to meet the Doctor, and it did this because it knew that the Doctor would see something in her that was irresistible.

'Ah,' you may say, 'but Ace was also chosen because of the mother/grandmother being present at the eventual confrontation.'

Okay, so if Fenric's rules were that it could pick any human being with a familial connection to someone else present at the army base, from any generation it pleased (including the ones not born yet), then that narrows the pot down from 'anyone at all ever' to 'a whole shitload of people'. And Ace still gets the nod.

(I personally fanwank that Fenric picked Ace and then manoeuvred her family into position just to fuck with her, but that's by the by...)

(stay tuned for a second post)
It shows us that Ace is defined as the perfect companion. By a being that's more or less omnipotent.

I completely agree with this point, btw, and it's something that occurred to me as I rewatched "Fenric" the other day with sahiya. Ace is a Doctor trap-- he picked her because the 7th Doctor couldn't resist her, because she couldn't resist the 7th Doctor, because they'd stay together long enough to bring them both to Bletchley Park, Turing, and the Enigma machine-- er, excuse me, to Judson and Maiden's Point. Now, how they both recover from learning this fact is a fascinating story, I think. Her trust has been shattered in a deliberate act. She's young enough that this is painful, even though she's also smart enough to get why he had to do it. But he's got to recover as well-- does his attitude toward her change when he learns she's with him because he is vulnerable to her?

I have no ideas yet how I'd explore that, but it's for me where the big Doctor-Ace story lies. sahiya also suggests that Ace might have some things to say to Nine after the Time War. She might know what to do with a Doctor in that mental state, and Nine might trust her enough. (Has this been done?)

Edited at 2009-08-25 04:50 pm (UTC)
Now, how they both recover from learning this fact is a fascinating story, I think.

I agree. I've touched on the idea in numerous fics, but I've never really grasped it by the bollocks. So to speak.

But he's got to recover as well-- does his attitude toward her change when he learns she's with him because he is vulnerable to her?

Interesting question.

As an aside -- I very rarely write Doctor-POV. It seems to me that the Doctor should be one of those characters whose head you just can't get into. Giving him a recognisable process of thought and analysis and reaction, weakens the alien enigma aspect.

That said, it's entirely possible (and indeed often a very nice technique) to write a story that is about one person's reaction to something, while informing the reader about that reaction only through external POV characters.

My disinclination to write from inside the Doctor's head doesn't mean I won't speculate as to what's going on in there, of course! My first thought when I ask myself 'Does the Doctor's attitude to Ace change?' is that the event will provoke its own conflict in him.

I can imagine the Doctor reacting negatively to this proof positive that Ace is the perfect and irresistible companion. No one likes to feel manipulated, even alien enigmas. (And, I'd suspect, especially alien enigmas whose main hobby is manipulation -- in those terms Seven is very much a 'give it but you can't take it, huh?' kind of person.)

On the other hand, I think the end of The Curse of Fenric shows us that Seven's reaction, as he gets his head around this newly-clarified dynamic between him and Ace, is also positive. Positive for the relationship, I mean.

Because when everything's gone bang, and the dust (or at least the mud) is threatening to settle, the only thing he's interested in doing is making it up to her.

In fact, when he says, "I'd never do anything to hurt you..." that's desperation on his face. With a hint of panic.

The Doctor could have pulled Ace up to her feet, told her to get it together and done the 'come on, old girl' type stuff he's done in numerous incarnations with numerous female companions. Or he could have shied from an emotional confrontation and decided that the sobbing teenager is best left alone for a while. He could even have set about manipulating Ace's departure.

But he kneeled before her in the mud and looked like he was going to cry himself.

So yeah. Conflict. How each side to that conflict weighs is a matter for storytelling.

One thing I'd add is that, mud-covered moments of emotional vulnerability aside, neither Ace nor Seven are very good at expressing their feelings. So whatever happens in the wake of Fenric's big reveal, I see it happening over time. And probably needing prods and pushes.

I'll also state, for the record, that should you ever want to bounce specific ideas about Seven 'n' Ace fic around, I'd be delighted to help out. My email address is visible on my LJ profile, and you're very welcome to use it.

I'm eager for you to do so, actually! When it comes to the B/G dynamic, I can see lots in your work that feels familiar, but also lots of new and interesting ideas that I hadn't considered. I'm very intrigued about the new and interesting ideas you might come up with for Seven and Ace -- because we all have our First Fandoms, and our First Ships (personally I had them decades before the terms existed) and those two are mine.
She might know what to do with a Doctor in that mental state, and Nine might trust her enough. (Has this been done?)

I've not seen it, but that means nothing as I rarely go out looking for fic these days.

I started writing it. I'll admit that. I've always been fascinated by the fundamental (and insurmountable) inequality in the Doctor/Companion relationship. I'm not talking about age, experience, wisdom. I'm talking about this:

For any companion, the Doctor will be up there as one of the most amazing things that's ever happened to them in their lives. They'll never meet anyone like him, ever again.

For the Doctor, his companion is one of many.

That doesn't mean he doesn't love his companions - he loves the vast majority of them, I'd say. It doesn't mean he doesn't hold them each to be very special. It just means that every new companion is joining a group of others. The Brigadier and Ace scenes in Battlefield touch on this, and thus make me happy.

I saw signs, in that first season of New Who, that Rose would have a particularly hard time getting to grips with this. She's the only child of a single parent and she was born with the kind of looks that mean she's used to getting her own way. Learning that she was simply 'the latest' in a long series would have been difficult for her. So I envisaged a fic which served two purposes:

Nine takes Rose to meet Ace, and thus acquaints her with a predecessor, and forces Rose to acknowledge that she can be 'a' special one, but she'll never be 'the' special one.

And Nine, in conversation with Ace, begins to recover from the trauma of the Time War.

Seemed like a reasonable premise. Of course, this piece was begun before that second season, when Ten and Rose together scaled improbable heights of smugness, and I started to be aware that RTD's vision of Who was shitting all over the principles and values that I always associated with the programme. (But that's probably a rant for another time.)

So I have a half-finished Nine 'n' Rose 'n' Ace piece on my hard drive that will never be finished because I was never that interested in Nine to begin with, and the interest I had in Rose has long since been snuffed out.

I'll ask around though, among my fellow Ace fans, to see if anyone else ever came across some Nine/Ace interaction in fic.
(...this follows from my previous comment-post.)

The Curse of Fenric never explicitly states any of this, of course. The idea isn't so much as insinuated within the script. But I don't think you can look at Fenric's machinations without acknowledging that it chose Ace because she was somehow special.

This, by the way, does not mean she should be elevated to the 'Saint Ace' status that some more recent companions seem to have achieved. The things that make Ace special in her role as companion to the Doctor are qualities both positive and negative. The point is that she provides exactly what this incarnation of the Doctor needs.

The events of The Curse of Fenric prove this to me. But you can look at Seven's personality, his weaknesses and flaws along with his strengths and virtues, and you can see how Ace fits with that.

More than any other incarnation of the Doctor, Seven needs someone alongside him who will question and argue and cut through his bullshit. He needs a companion who's capable and independent, because he'll so often get sidetracked by his plans and cleverness and thus be unable to constantly look after them. And he needs the closeness of a loving partnership because the things he's required to do will (if I can use this word for an alien being, but I think you see what I'm trying to say) dehumanise him.

He's a genocide machine; at least once, possibly twice. He's the Ka Faraq Gatri, the Destroyer of Worlds, the Oncoming Storm. My own opinion is that it takes a companion with very specific and powerful qualities to keep him from being consumed by the darkness.

Seven needs his Ace. Just as much as Ace needs her Doctor. There's something unbreakable about that bond.

(It could almost be said that there's a kind of Watcher/Slayer analogy in there, in the way two very different people need each other and achieve a greatness beyond the sum of their parts when they're together. As well as, you know, the whole evolving student/mentor thing.)

One final point. In the entire history of the show, classic and new, there is only one single companion who does not leave*. And that companion is Ace.

So we can imagine her getting blown up at age 19, or we can imagine her dying in the Doctor's arms aged 99, or we can even imagine her going to Gallifrey as a student like season 27 was going to have her do.

Yes, it's an accident of timing, given that 1989 was the year the show went on semi-permanent hiatus. But accident or no, it's still a fact. Ace never left. I think there's something compelling in it.

Everything else besides, it's nice to be able to write fanfic where you aren't constantly acknowledging that it's AU!

* By which I mean: doesn't die, doesn't get a bloke and bugger off up the Amazon, doesn't get conveniently left behind, doesn't get snatched out of their timeline by scary Time Lords who erase their memories. Whatever the circumstances, every other companion leaves. Somehow. All except Ace.