Doctor Who: The War Games Review

DW War Games

The regeneration-athon continues with the Second Doctor’s send-off. Much like his predecessor’s leaving story, this story is significant beyond just having a regeneration as it’s the first story to name The Doctor’s people as “Time Lords” and indeed the first to show Gallifrey (though the planet isn’t named) and other Time Lords besides the Doctor (and Susan, I guess). It’s also 10 episodes long, so… if you’re planning to watch each of these one a night then I’d get started early! I split it into two lots of five, but I’m obviously posting one a day, so…Good luck if you’re watching these as I post them! Anyway, let’s have a look at “The War Games”…


The Doctor, Jamie and Zoe arrive on an unnamed planet. At first believing themselves in the midst of World War I, they realise it to be one of many War Zones overseen by the War Lords, who have kidnapped large numbers of human soldiers in order to create an army to conquer the galaxy. Infiltrating the control base, the Doctor discovers that the War Chief is also a member of his own race. The creeping realisation sets in that the Doctor cannot solve this problem alone, and that his days of wandering may be at an end…

Note: Full Spoilers From Here On Out!

Cast of Characters:

DW War Games 2

Saying goodbye after one last adventure…

The Doctor (Patrick Troughton) – The Doctor has been enjoying his time on the run from his own people, meeting new friends, fighting foes and generally becoming a better man for it. It’s a shame all things must come to an end…

Jamie McCrimmon (Frazer Hines) – Jamie, originally from the mid-18th century and rather used to war, was still shocked to see the state the world is in during World War I… just you wait until he sees the rest of the war zones…

Zoe (Wendy Padbury) – Zoe is a genius from the 2060s who has been traveling with The Doctor and Jamie for some time now, broadening her horizons and seeing a world beyond computer and numbers, even if this world is full of harsh brutality…

The War Lord (Philip Madoc) – The War Lord is a member of the War Lords and their leader (which is why he’s allowed to have the name of his race as his regular name, I guess?) He and a renegade time lord have began kidnapping human soldiers throughout time in order to build a great army…

The War Chief (Edward Brayshaw) – A renegade Time Lord much like The Doctor, only his ambitions were far worse. Joining up with the War Lords, he hopes to create an army of humans in order to rule the galaxy…

Jennifer and Carstairs (Jane Sherwin and David Savile) – Jennifer, a Women’s Volunteer Reserve ambulance driver, and Carstairs, a Lieutenant in the British army, were both taken out of time during WWI and placed in the war zone to endless battle in order to gain information for the War Lords, they’re just too hypnotized to notice…

Von Weich (David Garfield) – A War Lord who acts as a German Major in the World War I zone, as well as other duties in other war zones. He uses a special lens in his monocle in order to hypnotize his soldiers.

Private Moor (David Troughton) – Moor was formally apart of the WWI zone, but managed to break free of the mind control and join an underground movement against the War Lords…

The War Lords – A race of humanoid people who wish to increase their number by forcing humans to make up their army numbers through hypnotism.

The Time Lords – A race of time traveling people who have evolved to create a non-interference policy. The Doctor, a Time Lord himself, left their home planet and has since violated this policy on countless occasions, meaning if they ever catch up with him, the consequences could be very dire indeed…

and many more!

The Good:

DW War Games 1

Those are some psychedelic walls you have there…

Now for 10 episodes there are obviously times in the middle where the story drags on, or repeats itself, but in general this story pulls the timing off well. The first episode or two is just set like a World War I story, then we get a few stories of them wandering off into other war zones, then we get a few episodes of The Doctor and co. behind the scenes in the War Lords base (with some other war zones reappearing), then we get the final episode set mostly on Gallifrey. It’s not perfect, but the story does at least allow for a change of scenery so as not to get too dull and repetitive.

As for the story itself, I really like it. We have our first villainous Time Lord, we have a race of conquerors who use other races to do their dirty work, and we get plenty of amusing time period cross-overs when the resistance start dabbling in other zones. Jamie is right at home in the thick of the battles and sympathising with the soldiers, Zoe is able to figure things out alongside getting a dose of reality and The Doctor gets to be serious alongside his normal, aloof self. The trio always worked well with each other, and here they really do.

The final two episodes are really great, with The Doctor meeting an old friend turned bad (the first of many!) and ending up having to call his own people to help, knowing full well he won’t be able to get away from them. Hearing the War Chief plead for The Doctor not to do it was great, really built up the tension, it’s a shame the War Lords executed him before he could meet Time Lord justice.

When he get to the Time Lords capture of The Doctor, his allies and his enemies, we get to see the high and mighty Time Lords first hand. They “dematerialise” the War Lord from existence, whatever that means, and Jamie and Zoe are placed back in the times they were taken from, with only their first encounter with the Doctor able to be remembered (despite The Doctor and the two of them doing a hopeless chase sequence, which was fun, but credit to Mr. Troughton, you could see it on The Doctor’s face, he knew it wouldn’t work) We then get The Doctor’s trial, where he shows that he helped countless people from horrible fates and defeated evil foes, resulting in his sentence being merely a forced regeneration (still not named!) and exile on “his favourite planet” Earth, setting up a clean slate for the Third Doctor. Perfectly done.

Small thing, but I absolutely LOVE the “duun-duuuuun!” music string that plays every time one of the War Lords put on the hypnotising glasses or monocle. So cheesy, so great!

The Bad:

DW War Games 3

A pre-Duun-duuuuun! Von Weich…

Apart from the padding in the middle I already mentioned (I lost count how many times the lead trio were captured in the World War I zone…) the only thing that comes to mind is the unconvincing acting in the American Civil War Zone, but generally it’s a really great story, so long as you spread it out…

The Continuity:

DW War Games 4

The Second Doctor begins his transformation, or should that be regeneration! (Yes, but that phrase had yet to be coined…)

Ignoring the obviously already mentioned fact that this is the first time Time Lords are mentioned by name, and the first time a Time Lord other than The Doctor and his granddaughter are seen on screen (oh and the fact this story has the Second Doctor’s regeneration!) during the Doctor’s trial he mentions (and we’re shown) The Quarks from “The Dominators”, the Yeti from “The Abominable Snowmen” and “The Web of Fear”, and The Ice Warriors, Cybermen and Daleks, from several stories each by this point!

There have been conflicting “reports” so to speak, about whether or not Jamie and Zoe actually had their minds wiped or not, featuring in audios and comics stories (as well as in the Five Doctors TV special) with varying degrees of memory. There is also the whole “Season 6B” theory about the Second Doctor being kept alive for a short time to work secretly with the Celestial Intervention Agency before his regeneration in the Third Doctor, but I’ll save that explanation for when I cover “The Two Doctors”.

The Eighth Doctor visits his second self during this adventure in the book “The Eight Doctors“. … It’s not as exciting as it sounds, I’m afraid…

The “Hypercube” the Doctor uses to contact the Time Lords make a reappearance in the Eleventh Doctor story “The Doctor’s Wife”. How The Doctor and the War Chief ended their friendship is shown in the comic strip “Flashback“.

Overall Thoughts:

The War Games is an epic, both in length and in story-telling scope. It’s adds so much to the Doctor Who continuity and manages to be an interesting story in of itself. The Doctor’s trial in the last episode is a great moment, and sets up a fresh (and colourful!) start for the Third Doctor’s era. Can’t ask much more than that for a Doctor’s swan song!

5 Star Watch

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