Doctor Doctor Who Guide

It is ironic that one of the few Patrick Troughton stories to exist in its entirety, The War Games, could actually do with being trimmed down an episode or two. An excellent story but, alas, a tad long with many gratuitous scenes that could be cut. As long as all the scenes with the chillingly malicious General Smythe, the dry Von Weich, pompous Security Chief, charismatic War Chief and, most of all, the sneering, soft-spoken War Lord, could all be retained. Cut out some of the escape/getting recaptured scenes perhaps?

This story has always had a fascination for me. I was actually born on the year it came out (1968) so the first I knew of it was when the target book by Malcolm Hulke came out in...oh dear. 1981? Normally I had no interest in Dr Who books other than the ones being televised at that time, but what I knew about this story had an increasing fascination for me. It wasn't a typical DW story by any means, something apparently was to happen to the second Doctor by the end of the book to make him regenerate, the time lords were to be involved for the first time curiosity so got the better of me that I bought the novel and was thoroughly captivated. Malcolm Hulke's dialogue was as sharp as ever, yet there is absolutely no description at all of the War Lord. He just appears two thirds into the book. My young mind pictured him as a tall, dramatic figure in long, flowing robes! Imagine then some months later in a DW magazine there is a photo of the character...I was flabbergasted! This short, dapper figure with the beard, thick glasses and high forehead: this was the War Lord? And yet this character who seldom spoke above a murmur even when threatening someone with death is easily the most evil 'human' villain in DW's history.

Which point brings me to the video, seen years later. These aliens with their war games are evil and without compassion, excellent baddies, but to look at they are middle aged, balding, short, bespectacled...utterly unremarkable, but this is all the more chilling. Evil is not just looking like an Ice Warrior, a Cyberman or even a Dominator...the alien race in the War Games have the evil in their souls.

The plot was easy for my young mind to grasp also, being fairly simplistic in concept unlike, say, Logopolis which at the time I confess to being baffled about plotwise until the book came out several years later. The War Games is highly dramatic, not least of all for the shock ending. The little Doctor and his companions for once do not win through at the end, and its all the more shocking because right till the end one is rooting for them, thinking they might make it. And as for Jamie and Zoe...was there ever a more poignant scene than the one at the end when they are forced to depart due to the time lords' intervention?

On a lighter note, fans of Blackadder Goes Forth will see very definite similarities between that and episodes 1-3 of the War Games.....the château, the trenches, the captain, the general, the adjutant with his form obsession....I guess Ben Elton was a DW fan as a child.

Absolutely brilliant. 10 out of 10!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Filters: Television Second Doctor Series 6