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Published on June 19th, 2009 | by Christian Cawley

The War Games

Wendy Padbury Patrick Troughton and Frazer Hines in The War Games

If there was one Doctor Who adventure fans have been longing for then it’s the Second Doctor adventure, The War Games. This 10-part thriller was a prime example of how inventive and downright enjoyable the series had transformed into. It was serious, had a strong message and gave us one of the best series ending cliff-hangers ever.

When the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe arrive on Earth they find themselves in the midst of a terrifying battle. At the centre of the mystery stand aliens who have kidnapped soldiers from different periods of Earth’s history and brainwashed them in to fighting each other. Their aim is to form an invincible army from the survivors and use this to take over the galaxy. When the Doctor learns the terrible purpose of the War Games he has one chance to defeat the aliens and end the Games…but to take it means risking recapture by his own people, the all-powerful Time Lords who are waiting to bring him to trial and who are capable of ending his very existence.

For a 10-part story The War Games is actually far better than some of Troughton’s shorter adventures. Inventive with a nice touch of satirical comment, it reflected the times it was created and made a stance about the futility of war. Social comment aside it’s a cracking adventure with Patrick Troughton, Wendy Padbury and Frazer Hines giving their all. It’s a popular myth that this story drags its heels but it doesn’t at all – it’s paced incredibly well, characters come and go but have a meaning to their introductions and exits.

Malcolm Hulke’s and Terrence Dicks’s scripts are littered with strong prose and really give the cast something to chew on and provides Season 6 with its best run of episodes. One feeling overshadows this and that’s that we all know that this was the end of the Troughton era. This guy took over the series and made it his own. Without his talent the show we all know and love wouldn’t be here today and just by watching this DVD you realise just how brilliant he could be.

The final scenes the Doctor shares with Jamie and Zoe are quite moving and heartfelt. The team was breaking up, not just for dramatic purposes but for real and it comes across as very poignant and true.

Extras

Discs 1 and 2

Commentary: Frazer Hines, Wendy Padbury, Phil Madoc, Jane Sherwin, Graham Weston, Terrence Dicks and Derrick Sherwin all participate in this jovial gag-track. Information abounds from the crowd and anyone who has spoken with Frazer will know what excellent value for money he really is.

Production Notes: The usual highly informative text we have become accustomed to for these releases.

Disc 3

War Zone: This documentary on Troughton’s swansong is an affectionate and honest account of the production of the story. Most of the surviving cast and crew pop up with anecdotes. Light at times you get the feeling of the era and the effect of the disbanding “Who family” and how much it meant to some people. There are also good comments from new Doctor Who writers such as James Moran and Paul Cornell.

Shades of Grey: Now here’s a very informative piece, especially for those with even the slightest interest in television production. This is a look at how the production team overcome the technical restraints of monochrome television. A great extra that could have easily been extended.

Now and Then: The latest piece from the ongoing series looks at the locations used for The War Games 40 years on.

The Doctor’s Composer: We all know how important Dudley Simpson’s work was for Doctor Who and this is an overdue profile of the prolific artist. Dudley’s pieces can be heard in the first five seasons and should be applauded for what he achieved. This is the first part with a hint that more is to come as Dudley composed for Doctor Who for another 10 years.

Sylvia James – In Conversation: Another backroom star gets the chance to shine as make-up designer Sylvia James talks about her work across many of Patrick Troughton’s stories.

Talking About Regeneration: Obviously this is look at the Doctor’s ability to transform his physical appearance, still one of the show’s most intelligent pieces of continuity. It looks at each of the regenerations (including the new series) and is a nice if light piece.

Time Zones: For educational value this is the best as learned persons such as poetical historian Dr Martin Farr, military historian Crispin Swayne, Lindsay Allison-Jones and Prof. Susan Mary Grant discuss the accuracy of the historical content of the story.

Stripped for Action: The series continues with a look at the comic strip adventures of the Second Doctor. Now these were not the finest pieces of entertainment but have a nostalgic feel that reflects Troughton’s tenure as the Doctor.

On Target – Malcolm Hulke: Now why this hasn’t been tackled before I’ll never know. The Target range of books was a must when I was growing up and this look at Malcolm’s work in print form. One of the best extras of the set I look forward to more on this range.

Devious: Probably the first extra most will jump to! Devious was a production piece of Doctor Who fandom that took 10 years to shoot. It takes place between The War Games and Spearhead from Space featuring their own incarnation of the Doctor, as sort of 2.5 edition. Jon Pertwee was employed for the day to help segue the story into Spearhead which was to become his final appearance as the Third Doctor. Fun and inventive this shows just how dedicated Doctor Who fans are. Loved it.

Photo Gallery: A huge selection of production shots from the making of the serial with an atmospheric soundtrack.

Coming Soon: A way over-the-top promotional piece for The Black Guardian Trilogy release, good fun though!

Easter Egg: Not telling!

The War Games on DVD is a solid release with a set of extras that some Hollywood releases would be proud of. For anyone who had any doubt about black and white Doctor Who should invest in this and then proceed to check out earlier adventures.

The War Games is available to preorder from Amazon for just £13.48!

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About the Author

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A long-term Doctor Who fan, Christian grew up watching the show and has early memories of the Graham Williams era. His favourite stories are Inferno, The Seeds of Doom and Human Nature (although The Empty Child, Blink and Utopia all come close). When he’s not bossing around the news team, Christian is a freelance writer specialising in mobile technology and domestic computing, and enjoys classic rock, cooking and spending time in the countryside with his wife and young children. You can find him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.




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