The War Games (1969)

There are quite a few special things about this story. It was the last story to be made in Black and White, it was the last to be screened in the 1960’s, it was also the 50th story in Doctor Who but most importantly it was the final regular appearance of Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines & Wendy Padbury. The War Games is a special story because it’s the first time that we encounter the Timelords and also the length is different. At this time it was the second longest serial in the shows history (being beaten by the 12 episode long Daleks Master Plan in 1965-66). Malcolm Hulke and Terrance Dicks wrote this story and whilst both would become more successful separated. Hulke would write several very good Pertwee stories whilst Dicks would become Script Editor during most of Pertwee’s tenure.

The first four or five episodes are good enough. The Doctor, Jamie and Zoe arrive in what appears to be the First World War but soon they discover it’s a war zone along with different wars from various times. However after the fifth episode the story starts to struggle. You get the feeling that they realised the end was in site and they seemed to just pad it out with bickering between the Security Chief and the War Chief. Once the story got to the Mid-West and the war between the confederates and the Unionists. It’s at that point that the story seemed to start stalling. It’s only because of Troughton, Hines & Padbury that it still seemed to be enjoyable. Once we get to Episode Nine the story starts to pick up again and the final episode is absolutely fantastic. The bickering between the Security Chief and the War Chief was something that seemed like nothing at first but towards the end because a significant part of the plot. The final episode is the best out of all ten. It where we meet the Timelords for the first time even though we don’t get the name Gallifrey for another five years. The arrogant and at times patronising tone of the Timelords is evident straight away, despite their only being three of them they seem determined to keep the Doctor and co on the planet. From start to finish the action never lets up and it’s the first time since the first half of the serial that we get action like this.

The main actors were all very good. Patrick Troughton gave his usual performance but there was something sad about it because he and us knew that this would be his last regular appearance. Frazer Hines also gives a good performance and he has a lot of action scenes which is really what his character must have been created for. Hines and Troughton’s relationship was a strong close one and it was clearly evident in a lot of their stories. Their goodbye scene was really sad. Wendy Padbury always suffered because of the strong relationship between Troughton and Hines. I always liked Padbury’s character because she was smart but wasn’t too smart and whilst Jamie was unaware of future events past 1745, Zoe was not knowledgeable of any events prior to 2000. It’s a shame that Padbury didn’t start earlier because I think she would have livened up more stories.

The supporting cast in this story was very strong. David Saville (Lt Carstairs) was a very typical British WWI soldier. He was ready to do his bit for King and Country but once he discovered the truth he was determined to fight against the real enemy. Saville gave the character a warm and likeable quality to the character that could have been bullish and rude but could have been a totally different character. Jane Sherwin (Lady Jennifer Buckingham) played the character in a way that I could quite work out. She was ok to begin with when everything was all primp and proper but once the action started to get going she didn’t really seem to develop. Philip Madoc made his second appearance in Doctor Who in this story as the War Lord. Madoc plays the War Lord in a very cold and smart way. Madoc’s best performance was yet to come in The Brain of Morbius but this was a very strong outing.

The War Games is a perfect story but it gets pretty close. Even though I have seen this story countless times I still end up watching episode ten and wishing that Jamie and Zoe carry on travelling with the Doctor. It’s a credit to Troughton, Hines & Padbury that they make those few moments some of the most memorable in Doctor Who. It was very sad and its one of the few times that really gets me emotional. As there aren’t many Troughton stories left (most were wiped in the 1970’s), its stories like this one that show what a great Doctor Patrick Troughton was. Admittedly some of his stories weren’t particularly good (Krotons, Dominators etc) but then there were some crackers like The Invasion and The Seeds of Death. The War Games is a fitting end to one of the finest Doctor/Companion combinations since Barbara and Ian.

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