Browse Classic Who reviews
Browse Classic Who reviews

The Second Doctor and his companions Interrail through some of humanity’s greatest conflicts in Patrick Troughton’s final serial.

Take a seat, Ladies and Gentlemen of Podcastland. We’ve arrived at the very last Patrick Troughton serial.

In The War Games, The Second Doctor regenerates, albeit not quite into The Third Doctor just yet, and Patrick Troughton certainly goes out with a bang. In fact, he goes out with about a thousand of them, as this Doctor Who serial is filled to the brim with explosions and gunshots.

Warring aliens, The War Lords, have enlisted the services of a Time Lord known as The War Chief, and have captured and transposed soldiers from various times and places and political ideologies in Earth’s history to a Westworld-esque arenas. Their plan: to weed out the weak and then, probably, outfit any surviving soldiers with laser rifles and coach them to do battle for The War Lords instead.

Naturally, The Doctor and his companions, Zoe and Jamie (whom we also bid farewell in this serial), get caught in the middle.

Here's what we think of C050 The War Games

We rate Doctor Who stories on a scale from 0.0 to 5.0. For context, very few are excellent enough to merit a 5.0 in our minds, and we'd take a 0.0 Doctor Who story over a lot of other, non-Whovian stuff out there.

Leon | @ponken


Nik | @nikulele


Here's what we think of C050 The War Games

We rate Doctor Who stories on a scale from 0.0 to 5.0. For context, very few are excellent enough to merit a 5.0 in our minds, and we'd take a 0.0 Doctor Who story over a lot of other, non-Whovian stuff out there.

Leon | @ponken


Nik | @nikulele


Here's what you think 7 Responses to “C050 The War Games”
  1. 1) It was supposed to be Poncho Villa. Yes he was known for being… Um…Shall we say lacking in manners? (At least by one side of history).

    2) for a long time I too hated this companion departure. Now I see it differently for exactly the reasons you stated. It’s so heart wrenching. And let’s face it they would never have left the Dr. Under any other circumstances. It was either this or killing them outright.

    By “best departure” I meant that at least their reason for leaving was true to their characters and wasn’t reduced to an offscreen goodbye. They get a “proper” sendoff unlike any other prior. Not like dodo’s third party, “she’s staying”. Even Susan, Ian and Barbra’s goodbyes felt written I to the episode at the last minute. Jamie and Zoe at least felt planned.

    Anywho… Thanks for the podcast. Ioved it as always

  2. This story runs an entire 10-parts and makes it feel like you’ve only seen 6. It never pauses for a breath. After all, they just threw distant past, near past, present and future into one bowl, took the best characters from all those places and worked them into the script with, “go wild” for direction. Top it all off with the doctor’s lore, two companions departing, and a regeneration. Truly epic!
    Every character is multi-dimensional, with their own story, a motive, and their own goals. Every actor shines, and just when you were convinced you saw the best overacting ever, another actor tops it. Even the background characters get in on the fun, like the gunner who lowers his hat over his eyes as he’s dying. Above all though is PT, who still easily steals every single scene he’s in.
    One chilling moment comes when the Doctor and the War Chief instantly recognize one another as Timelords. A whole story is told during that first haunting glance. We also witness for the first time what the Timelords do to an entire race that crosses them.
    As with WH, Troughton will be sorely missed. Yet his sendoff story couldn’t have been better. Likewise the “unexpected” lead up to Jamie and Zoe’s departure only makes their departure that much better. Surely they get two of the top sendoffs of any companion in both reason and execution. At least it was fitting of their characters.
    There are a few oddities, like the charging horde of Romans consisting of only eight excessively edited men. It reminds me of Lancelot charging the castle in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. At other times, there are strange jump cuts where people appear alone in one shot and surrounded in the next. These discontinuities earn the retro-rewrite award.
    I finished this story yesterday, and could easily watch it all over again today. This is one of the most enjoyable Doctor who stories ever, and as such I give it a 4.9. If you don’t like it, I suggest you go and tell the War… … … …..Lord.

  3. Trenton Bless | @trentonbless

    Hello, Podcast Land. I come before you once more to review the swansong of the Second Doctor, the epic that is “The War Games”. If I haven’t joined on for the episode, this mini review will act as my presence for this serial, as I want to be there for the final serial of the Troughton era. If I’m not here for this, I will make it my mission to be there for the Second Doctor Retrospective. Anyways, on to the review!

    The War Games was a ten-week march into the unknown for script editor Terrance Dicks and his buddy Malcolm Hulke, called to arms after two other projects (A six parter and four parter) collapsed. And it’s a monumental achievement. Their flexible format sustains interest and gradually ups the ante with new battlegrounds, soldiers and villains. It’s a Boy’s Own story, as Aliens in Nehru suits and dodgy specs play soldiers for real. Given the context, almost every character is male. Lady Jennifer (played by Jane Sherwin, wife of producer Derrick) is a welcome sight, though you may wonder why the Aliens saw fit to draft a non-military woman into their War Zones.

    I love this serial not only because of how it had to be done quickly, but because it keeps my attention the whole way through. We have villains all over, from the two generals in the War Zones to the War Chief, another Time Lord, and the chilling War Lord.

    As if to compensate for the perceived disaster of The Krotons (his previous Who), director David Maloney doesn’t put a foot wrong. His studio work is tightly directed with fluid camera moves and precise compositions. Episode nine, where the main plot wraps up and time catches up with the Doctor, is one of the most exciting of the 1960s.

    The impact of the majestic tenth episode has barely diminished with the passage of time. A huge TARDIS set is pressed into service and, in another first, thrillingly, we see intruders (the War Lord and his guards) enter the control room. Questions that have persisted since 1963 are answered. The Doctor talks candidly to his companions about his origins then actually arrives on his home planet. Tantalisingly, this world remains unnamed and we see little of it (minimalist slabs, mirrors and rostra). It would remain unnamed until 1973’s “The Three Doctors”. The Time Lords are at their most god-like, mentally conjuring force fields and dematerialising the Aliens (or War Lords, if you like) from existence. This is maybe the best appearance of the Doctor’s people. It’s certainly my favorite appearance of the Time Lords. Heck, any Whovian that is well versed in Classic Who will say the same.

    Of course Pat puts everything into his last one, as well as Frazer Hines and Wendy Padbury. I always liked the scenes with Pat at the end, and with the final trial scenes, you can’t help but feel bad for this Doctor. He’s about to lose everything, from his companions to his freedom. And I find it an interesting choice that there was never a proper regeneration from one to the other. It allowed the series to remain on an open end, just so we can have the Season 6B theory (Probably should have a bonus episode on that).

    So, with that, It’s time to give a final rating to this serial. I absolutely love this serial, but it’s really padded and if those other stories fell through, this serial could’ve been shortened to at the most six episodes. But I do find this serial much better than if it were going to be a four parter. So, I’m gonna give this serial a 4.10/5 because even though I like this serial, there is one regeneration story I think that is so much better. And oh, we’ll get to that.

    Next time, we’re in full color and Blu-Ray Quality as Jon Pertwee goes on his first adventure as he teams up with the Brigadier and UNIT once more to ward off an Auton Invasion in “Spearhead from Space”. See you then!

    And as always, here is a recap of all the scores from Season Six of Classic Doctor Who:

    The Dominators – 2.58/5
    The Mind Robber – 3.55/5
    The Invasion – 3.99-4.0/5
    The Krotons – 2.70/5
    The Seeds of Death – 3.0/5
    The Space Pirates – 2.50/5
    The War Games – 4.10/5 (Do try to keep up)

  4. Paul Fauber | @wordsmithpaul

    A race of bespectacled aliens used Time Lord technology to kidnap humans from wars throughout Earth’s history to conquer the galaxy. Their glasses enabled them to condition human minds to both paper over memory lapses and reinforce orders. The TARDIS trio apparently arrived in the first Wold War, where they were mistaken for civilians and spies before the companions were imprisoned and the Doctor was sentenced to death. While escaping; being recaptured; and running around like Scooby Doo, the time travelers learned this story is not the type of historical tale DOCTOR WHO abandoned two seasons ago. Officers used advanced communications equipment to contact the center, around which the first World War; the American Civil War; a Roman war; the Mexican Civil War; the fight between Highlanders and Redcoats; as well as other wars raged. These wars were divided by strange mist combatants could neither see nor penetrate and green boxes enabled travel among them while periodically supplying an impossible number of reinforcements.

    Their equipment enabled the aliens to discover the Doctor and his companions knew the truth. Fleeing, the Doctor and Zoe were separated from Jamie and took a green box to the center. There, the Scientist summarized the plot and demonstrated a machine for conditioning humans. The War Chief demanded improvements since the machine’s few failures enabled groups of rebels to suspect the truth and grow. When the Security Chief questioned the captured Zoe, she learned every rebel’s identity. The Doctor, meanwhile, stole the Scientist’s machine to help the rebels recruit and escaped to rearrange the mist barriers and set up a safe haven from which he intended the rebels to unite and take over the center.

    The Doctor recognized the War Chief, who supplied SIDRATs, the green boxes that made the war games possible, to double cross the aliens and personally rule the galaxy. He knew the Doctor, too, and needed the TARDIS since his machines would run out of power and become dormant. Thus, the aliens’ meglomaniacal, interstellar objective was impossible to achieve, but would leave hundreds of stranded humans trapped in the war zones. The Security Chief suspected the War Chief’s motives and recorded the Time Lords’ conversation to prove their treachery to their boss, the War Lord. He arrived to supervise the war games and destroy the rebels.

    The War Chief convinced the War Lord the recaptured Doctor would lure rebel leaders into a trap. The Doctor agreed, but only to prevent the Security Chief from wiping everyone out with a bomb. Because few SIDRATs remained operational, the Doctor needed help to send the kidnapped humans back to their own times on Earth. He prepared to summon the Time Lords before hastily making his exit. Meanwhile, the inevitable confrontation between the Security Chief and the War Chief went badly. Each gloated and insulted the other, before the War Chief killed the Security Chief. The War Lord avenged him after hearing the incriminating recordings.

    The Doctor and his companions vainly fled the Time Lords, but were drawn to their home planet. The aliens behind the war games were dematerialized after their trial, despite guards arriving to take Jamie, Zoe, and the Doctor hostage. The Time Lords returned the human soldiers, Jamie, and Zoe to their own times, leaving both companions only memories of their first adventure with the Doctor. At his trial, the Doctor contended he interfered in other races’ affairs to fight evil his people ignored due to their boring, nonintervention policy. The Time Lords banished him to Earth where he would continue fighting evil with a new appearance.

    Terrance Dicks and Malcom Hulke’s ten episode epic developed because the production team scrapped some commissioned scripts for the show’s sixth season. While episode reprises seemed short, titles appearing over a film clip of blazing machine guns provide some padding. The pace of the first three episodes is quick, adding mystery to what seems like history. The next four recap, and reveal plot points fast enough to keep the narrative going. Characters race from place to place and argue until the penultimate episode is played largely for laughs, with the Spanish rebel commander taking the comical lead. At the end, the noninterventionist, awesomely powerful Time Lords arrive, making consequential, unwelcome decisions. The Patrick Troughton era began when William Hartnell was transformed, but fellow Time Lord the War Chief was not so lucky when the War Lord ordered his execution. Also, early in the story, the Doctor used his sonic screwdriver on an actual screw–twice!

    Love the podcast.

  5. Erin Zimmerman | @DoctorZedd

    Happy Christmas Ponken et al.!! Hope you’re enjoying your break.

    Here’s my War Games review:

    I love this serial. It’s got a slow-burning mystery, intrigue, and a real sense of tragedy. (Also, it hails the start of Pertwee, THE BEST DOCTOR. That’s right, I said it.)
    I don’t know if this story HAD to be ten episodes long.. I guess they wanted to get the most out of what seemed to be a huge set-piece budget for Troughton’s farewell. But I never got bored. I enjoyed the dawning sense that something wasn’t right, and the teasing out of the mystery over several episodes. I also thought the ending really stood out, because unlike new-Who, classic stories don’t tend to go for the feels a lot. Watching the Doctor come to the realization that he has no choice but to call on the Time Lords, and all that that entails – especially after having seemed to win the day – was heart-rending. Jamie in particular, loses so much… much more than Donna, who meets a similar fate. It was a sad way to say goodbye to my favourite three-person combination in the TARDIS.

    Random Points:
    -saying “we’re back in history” when they arrive seems like very odd phrasing coming from the Doctor
    -old school gas masks! “Are you my mummy?”
    -I love the early undertone of eeriness in a seemingly “normal” setting
    -I wish I had Jedi mind-glasses… or a Jedi mind-monocle.
    -the Doctor’s recorder seems to be a telescope as well. Huh.
    -umm… where did Lady Jennifer grab Jamie’s knife from?
    -the War Chief has the most villainous-looking facial hair
    -for not involving WWII, there sure seem to be a lot of Nazi-esque characters in this serial
    -if I’m ever surrounded by an enemy ambush, my first words will be “Don’t worry, I’m not going to hurt you.”
    -Jesus, the ethnic stereotypes in this serial are hard to watch
    -there were only two women in the entire huge cast, and they had to ditch one halfway through? Boo.

    Rating: 4.8/5

  6. I was trying to be quick with my reviews to catch up, but I can’t do that here.

    This serial is essential to the history of Doctor Who. The War Games introduces: The Time Lords, Time Lord philosophies, Time Lord politics, Forced Regeneration (although not named), the idea of face selection (over randomness), The Hypercube (not named), the idea that the doctor is a run-away/renegade, that the Doctor stole the TARDIS, first appearance of the Time Lords ability to erase memories, this is the first time the Doctor’s companions are forced to leave, this ends the run of Wendy Padbury and Frazier Hines (Jaime was the longest running companion to that point), ends the black and white era, sees the departure of Patrick Troughton, sets precedents for countless episodes (if not all) to come, and allows for the creation of Season 6B (the only fan generated theory that has been accepted by the BBC (not quite canonical but as close as you can get). While the series might be 2-4 episodes too long it is without a doubt the best of the 6th season.

    I would also classify this serial in my top 5 to this point in the series: 4.9

    Patrick Troughton will be missed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

If you haven't already... Subscribe now!

Subscribe to us on iTunes now! We're dropping a new episode every week (pretty much), reviewing Classic Who, New Who and all kinds of bonus stuff from spin-offs and conventions to Doctor Who comic books.

We last reviewed...

N183 73 Yards