‘THE WAR GAMES’
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War Zone – The End of an Era
Epic! That’s the word for it. This is an epic, action-packed ‘Doctor Who’ adventure!
‘The War Games’ is the final story of Patrick Troughton’s era of ‘Doctor Who’. I was truly captivated by this non-stop, action-packed ten-part story featuring the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe! It’s a well-crafted story; it’s well delivered by Terrance Dicks and Malcolm Hulke and it is well-directed David Maloney.
The DVD for ‘The War Games’ is a 3-disc DVD set, with the first five episodes on Disc 1; the second five episodes on Disc 2 and a wealth of special features on Disc 3. I purchased the DVD for this story when it was released in Tesco in July 2009. I was excited and looking forward to get into this TV tale.
‘The War Games’ is the last story to feature Patrick Troughton’s Doctor, but it’s also the last story to feature Frazer Hines as Jamie and Wendy Padbury as Zoe. It’s such an emotional and strong-moving swansong for three wonderful characters in the TARDIS and I did enjoy how their adventures ended.
I’ve had the DVD cover of ‘The War Games’ signed by Frazer Hines at the ‘Folkestone Film, TV and Comic Con’ in May 2018 and by the lovely Wendy Padbury at the ‘Dimensions 2013’ convention in Newcastle, October 2013. I’m very pleased I’ve had this story signed by Frazer and Wendy, as it’s one of my favourite ‘Doctor Who’ stories. Wendy and I agreed that this was a lovely closing tale for Patrick Troughton’s era as the Doctor as well as for her as Zoe and for Frazer Hines as Jamie.
In 1969, producer Derrick Sherwin asked his script editor Terrance Dicks to come up with a ten-part story in ‘Doctor Who’s sixth season. Terrance took the challenge and with Malcolm Hulke, they came up with ‘The War Games’, a mind-bogglingly clever tale that became significant in the show’s history.
‘The War Games’ has the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe in the TARDIS arriving in the First World War. But as the story progresses, things do not seem as they appear to be when the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe soon realise they’re not on Earth and are on a planet where war games run by aliens are being conducted.
The concepts running throughout are bold. The sheer scale in this story is so massive. This is a strong anti-war story that’s well-told with so many complexities and dramatic plot threads. The horrors of the First World War are so brilliantly portrayed as well as the concepts of the war-mongering aliens.
Wendy Padbury gives a wonderful performance as Zoe. I’ve enjoyed meeting her at conventions over the years. She’s a nice lady and I’ve fond memories of seeing her at signings. I’ve even chatted to Wendy with other fans at a coffee club session at the ‘Dimensions 2013’ convention in Newcastle.
Zoe is now grown-up by this point in ‘Doctor Who’. She’s no longer the little cheeky girl the Doctor met on the Space Wheel. Zoe wears a long white coat and is more serious than she’s ever been. I’m impressed with Wendy’s acting as Zoe, especially when she protested to General Smythe in the tale.
I was equally impressed when Zoe and Jamie stood by the Doctor when calling the Time Lords to go with him when he’s being put on trial. I feared for Zoe’s life when she was being threatened at gunpoint and interrogated by a lie detector. She also shares nice scenes with the Doctor in this story.
Jamie too is a seasoned adventurer in the TARDIS, having travelled with the Doctor for so long. Frazer Hines gives a wonderful performance as Jamie, who is brave and loyal at the Doctor’s side. I like the comedy moments that Frazer and Patrick sometimes put in the tale when they get a chance.
In the story, Jamie gets left behind with Lady Jennifer and soon joins in with the Resistance. Jamie still believes in the Doctor, despite the moment when the Doctor betrays him, Zoe and the Resistance members to those war aliens. He is one of the best companions in the Second Doctor era.
Patrick Troughton gives a magnificent performance as the Doctor. Everything Patrick does is mesmerising and enjoyable, especially when he unravels what’s going on with the war games and opposing the aliens who are conducting these atrocious activities. It defines his Doctor so brilliantly.
I liked how the Doctor shares his adventures with Jamie and Zoe and how he interacts with the War Chief, who is one of his people. We get to learn in this story that the Doctor is a Time Lord and he has to make this hard choice about saving the human soldiers of Earth by contacting the Time Lords.
The guest cast for ‘The War Games’ is so massive! Because of the large scale of the story being ten episodes long, there are so many characters involved in the story that it’s such a challenge to find out who’s who and at what point they come into the story. But they are all such amazing characters.
There’s Jane Sherwin as Lady Jennifer Buckingham. Jane Sherwin is in real-life the wife of producer Derrick Sherwin. Jane brings a lovely plumy attitude to her performance as Lady Jennifer that is so right for the character. Lady Jennifer proves a worthy ally for the Doctor and his friends in this story.
There’s also David Saville as Lieutenant Carstairs, another worthy ally for the Doctor and his friends. I really like his character in this. He’s a true soldier in the First World War, fighting for his king and country, before he discovers something is not right with the war as he shares this with Lady Jennifer.
There’s Noel Coleman as General Smythe, who is an army general in the First World War. Smythe is a typical British general, who for some strange reason gives the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe an unfair trial as he wants them to be found guilty. Smythe’s really a war alien and you truly do want to loathe him.
Smythe’s not the only one as there’s also David Garfield as Von Weich. Von Weich is another war alien who is first in charge of the German side of the First World War and then is in charge of the American Civil War. Von Weich is pretty evil looking and he seems so gleeful, as he relishes in his job.
The main villains of this story include Edward Brayshaw as the War Chief. The War Chief is mainly in charge of the running of the war games and he has knowledge of time travel. It turns out that the War Chief is this renegade Time Lord, who’s helping the aliens in their conquest for the entire galaxy.
There’s also James Bree as the Security Chief, who is like a Nazi with his round-rimmed spectacles and Himmler-like personality. The Security Chief is a little man obsessed with bringing the War Chief down. He does not trust him, especially when finding Zoe, Jamie and the Doctor are time-travellers.
And there’s Philip Madoc who’s in this story as the War Lord. For me, Philip Madoc played the U-Boat Captain from the ‘Dad’s Army’ episode, ‘The Deadly Attachment’. He’s also a great ‘Doctor Who’ villain as this is one of his best. Phillip does quiet menace when he’s in control in his emotions.
There’s also Vernon Dobtcheff as the Chief Scientist; Graham Weston as Sergeant Russell and Michael Napier Brown as Arturo Villar. There’s also a small appearance of David Troughton, Patrick Troughton’s son (who I also met at ‘Dimensions 2013’) as Private Moor, who shots Von Weich in this.
The set design for each of the Time Zones including the First World War and the American Civil War are superb as well as the period costumes for the characters. The set design for the alien base looks spectacular as well as the aliens in costume, including the security guards with their deadly weapons.
Towards the end of the story, the Doctor realises that the problem is too great for him to handle. So with great reluctance, the Doctor has to call his own people – the Time Lords. The Doctor’s afraid to do this, but he has to do it in order to save the people of Earth. He sends them information in a box.
Soon, the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe try to escape as the Time Lords hunt them down. But the TARDIS gets brought back to the Doctor’s home planet. The Doctor can’t run away anymore and we meet the Time Lords who put them on trial. They include Bernard Horsfall; Trevor Martin and Clyde Politt.
I liked it when the Doctor defends himself against the Time Lords by showing them the evils he’s fought in his travels. They include the Quarks; the Yeti; the Ice Warriors; the Cybermen and the Daleks. The Doctor proves his case, but the Time Lords do not seem convinced by the words he says.
In the end, we say goodbye to Jamie and Zoe. There’s a moving farewell between them and the Doctor. Jamie promises not to forget the Doctor. Zoe asks him if they’ll meet again. The Doctor knows they’ll forget him, but gets reassured they will only remember their first adventure with him.
Remember the Tenth Doctor wiping Donna’s memory? Well, a similar thing happens here as Zoe and Jamie return to their own time and places, not remembering their adventures with the Doctor. Zoe returns to the Space Wheel in ‘The Wheel In Space’ as Jamie returns to Scotland in ‘The Highlanders’.
The Doctor’s fate is then decided. The Time Lords decide to send the Doctor to Earth in exile in the 20th century. But the Time Lords have conditioned to force the Doctor to regenerate. The Doctor is outraged and despite being given the choice of what he looks like, the Time Lords become impatient.
They make the decision for him and soon the Doctor’s on his way to regenerate and begin his exile. The Doctor protests as we see him fade away into the void and out of existence, crying out loud. Although we don’t see Patrick’s Doctor regenerating into Jon Pertwee, we know that he’s on his way.
The DVD special features are as follows. On both Discs 1 and 2, there are audio commentaries for the ten episodes of the story with Frazer Hines; Wendy Padbury; Phillip Madoc; Jane Sherwin; Graham Weston; co-writer Terrance Dicks and producer Derrick Sherwin. There are also info-text commentary options to enjoy on each of the ten episodes of the story.
On Disc 3, there’s a making-of documentary called ‘War Zone’ featuring behind-the-scenes interviews with the cast and crew and with new series writers. I enjoyed this in-depth making-of documentary, especially since it highlights how epic the scale of this story and how emotional it was.
There’s ‘Shades of Grey’, looking into the black-and-white days of ‘Doctor Who’. There’s the ‘Now and Then’ featurette on the film locations of the story and there’s also ‘The Doctor’s Composer’, part one of an interview with music composer Dudley Simpson (‘Part Two’ is on ‘The Sun Makers’ DVD).
There’s ‘Sylvia James – In Conversation’, an interview with make-up designer Sylvia James. There’s also ‘Talking About Regeneration’, which looks into the regenerations from William Hartnell to David Tennant and includes interviews with new series writers as well as Kata O’Mara and Peter Davison.
There’s also ‘Time Zones’ where historians give historic details on the various wars featured in ‘The War Games’. There’s also the ‘Stripped For Action – The Second Doctor’ documentary that looks into the comic book adventures of the Second Doctor in ‘TV Comic’ from the late 1960s.
There’s also ‘On Target – Malcolm Hulke’, which looks at the contribution to the ‘Doctor Who’ Target novelization range by Malcolm Hulke. There’s also ‘Devious’, a fan-made film of the story set between ‘The War Games’ and ‘Spearhead From Space’ and it stars Jon Pertwee as the Third Doctor.
There’s a photo gallery of the story and PDF materials including a ‘Radio Times Listing’ of the story; ‘BBC Enterprises Sales Literature’ and ‘Original Design Plans of the SIDRAT’. There’s also a ‘coming soon’ trailer for ‘The Black Guardian Trilogy’ DVD box set (including ‘Mawdryn Undead’, ‘Terminus’ and ‘Enlightenment’) with Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, Sarah Sutton and Mark Strickson.
‘The War Games’ is a truly epic and very clever classic ‘Doctor Who’ story. It’s also a tremendous swansong for the Patrick Troughton era of ‘Doctor Who’. This is a great story with the Second Doctor, Jamie and Zoe, as it depicts the horrors of war and how our heroes tackle the amoral aliens.
It shows the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe oppose the aliens who embrace war for their own conquests. It also introduces the Doctor’s people – the Time Lords – for the first time and how it changes things. I truly enjoyed all ten episodes of this and found it a touching conclusion to the Patrick Troughton era.
‘The War Games’ rating – 10/10
‘TOMORROW’S TIMES – THE SECOND DOCTOR’
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‘Tomorrow’s Times – The Second Doctor’ is currently available on ‘The Dominators’ DVD.
‘Tomorrow’s Times – The Second Doctor’ is presented by Caroline John, who played Liz Shaw in ‘Doctor Who’ with Jon Pertwee. It was lovely to see Caroline as the presenter for this DVD special feature. Like Mary Tamm, Caroline did this before her death in 2012. I’m pleased she did this as she’s very good here.
For ‘Tomorrow’s Times – The Second Doctor’, it was interesting how it gets re-addressed that the press paid little attention to William Hartnell’s departure in ‘Doctor Who’ and likewise paid little attention to Patrick Troughton. This was due to Patrick Troughton being publicity-shy during the late 1960s.
It was also interesting how the reviews on ‘Doctor Who’ got better from being heavily critical to more positive. Though it’s amusing how a reviewer stated that Patrick Troughton was more clownish than William Hartnell. It was also interesting how the critics commented on the ‘Fury From The Deep’ monster.
I enjoyed some of the reviewers and critics’ comments about how the Daleks and the Cybermen were making an impact on children and how they compared to each other. Some said Cybermen were more terrifying than Daleks, since the Cybermen were more human-like as an enemy and the Daleks were…well, Daleks. 😀
I like how the feature ended focusing on the transition of Patrick Troughton’s Doctor into Jon Pertwee’s Doctor at the turn of the 1970s and how reviewers and critics pondered on the show’s future. Caroline John and the image of Jon Pertwee with Silurian hands in the background was very fitting.
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