Monday, August 23, 2010

Serial 50: The War Games (Part 1 of 2)

Doctor: Patrick Troughton (2nd Doctor)
Companion: Jamie McCrimmon, Zoe Heriot

Written by: Malcolm Hulke & Terrance Dicks
Directed by: David Maloney:

Background & Significance:
In my humble opinion, I think Patrick Troughton is, in fact, the most important actor to ever play The Doctor. That's not to say he's the best Doctor of all time (he's not, but he's certainly up there), but in terms of sheer importance, Troughton's the one who cast the widest influence on the show, and it would never the same without him.

This is, for many reasons, because he's the Second Doctor. He helped redefine the role with grace and energy that Hartnell, quite frankly, wasn't capable of. And he did that without completely discarding all of Hartnell's interpretation. Without Troughton, it's easy to assume later Doctors would have been too much like Hartnell, but Troughton took the part and made it his own.

And then he left. After just three years.

Rounding out his list of contributions to the fabric of Doctor Who, Troughton established a "it's time to move on" precedent. After three years, Troughton decided to move off the role (although he would later make return appearances in the role several times) and onto different things, fearing type-casting.

While this sentiment wasn't echoed by his immediate successors (Pertwee left after five years for various reasons, citing type-casting as one of them; Tom Baker left the role because it was just that time), Davison (his own interpretation very influenced by Troughton's) departed the role after three years on Troughton's suggestion (despite later claiming he wish he had stayed on longer), and fan-favourite David Tennant (himself a huge Davison fan) left after three seasons just like Davison, just like Troughton.

To celebrate Troughton's ending, he was given a mammoth ten-part story (easily the longest story after "The Daleks' Master Plan"). Because no one wants to see me review a ten part story in 5,000 words or less (and no, I really won't because that wouldn't do it justice) I'll be separating this particular serial into two halves and reviewing the other half later this week. There, we'll talk more about the actual ramifications of the story as they're all relegated to the back half and, most specifically, the last few episodes (and they are total doozies, lemme tell you).

But we'll worry about that later. For now, let's just talk about the first half of what is easily my favourite Doctor Who story so far.

So let's get to it!


Part 1:

We open on the TARDIS landing in the middle of a war ravaged area. The Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe disembark and find certain anachronistic objects like helmets and barbed wire. The Doctor surmises that they’re on Earth, in World War I.

No sooner has he realized this than they take cover under a barrage of artillery and gun fire.

In a small breathing time, they’re approached by an ambulance driver named Lady Jennifer who tells them they’re between the lines and she’s heading for the British side.

But then they’re captured by German soldiers, who commandeer Lady Jennifer’s ambulance and start to make for the German lines. But no sooner has this happened than a bunch of British troops run in and save the day, re-commandeering the ambulance back from the Germans.

And so begins the long back and forth of being captured and escaping. I’d say I care, but I really don’t. Not in this story, anyways.

The Doctor and his companions are brought to a British camp, where the Major calls General Smythe over at the home base (which we’ll call “The Chalet” moving forward), explaining that they found three civilians in No Man’s Land (the area between the German and English lines).

General Smythe finds that most irregular and demands they be brought to the chalet for questioning. He tells his second-in-command, Captain Ransom, (who is a total jackass) to inform him when they arrive, because in the meantime he will be in his office taking care of some business.

Also, he freaks the frak out when someone enters his chambers unannounced. Which is because… why? I’ll let you decide for now (cuz I’ll tell you in a bit).

When the dude leaves the room (after getting scolded), General Smythe pulls back the painting on the wall, revealing this futuristic technology that totally doesn’t look like it comes from World War I.

He reports in, saying he’s in the “1917 Zone” and that he requires “5,000 specimens” as reinforcements.

The Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe arrive at the chalet under escorted armed guard. Greeting their arrival, Ransom enters the General Smythe’s quarters only to find him missing. Opting to wait for the General to arrive back from wherever he went off to, he orders The Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe taken to the holding cells and detained there until The General’s return.

Back at the British camp, Lady Jennifer the Ambulance Driver and Lieutenant Carstairs (who rescued the ambulance from the Germans) are talking about their past and where they came from and how long they’ve been there, but the two of them can’t seem to remember. Which is odd.

General Smythe exits his room and gets a briefing from Captain Ransom, in the middle of which Ransom reveals that he entered General Smythe’s room, but found no one there.

General Smythe takes the opportunity to put on his glasses and tell Ransom that he was asleep in his room and Ransom didn’t wish to disturb him and that is what happened.

And Ransom’s face goes a bit slack. And then Ransom agrees with General Smythe that that is what happened.

The Major arrives with Lady Jennifer and Cartsers and introduces them to General Smythe. But when the Major Smythe then asks where The Major met Captain Ransom, The Major cannot remember.

And that’s when General Smythe puts on his glasses and “reminds” The Major of what is up.

So now I think it’s fair to tell you that General Smythe is a bad guy. Most interesting enough, though, I think it’s important to point out that he’s not the real bad guy. Those guys are coming, but Smythe himself is really good in this and plays a good bad guy whenever he’s on the screen.
(He had me convinced.)

A bit later, The Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe are brought in front of General Smythe and the court martial hearing stars.

Wait wait wait. Court martial? But they’re civilians! How can they be on court martial if they’re civilians!

To make matters worse and more confusing, General Smythe starts to read back Carstairs and Lady Jennifer’s testimony, which makes it sound like they’re German spies!

Zoe gets outraged and protests! The Doctor demands to know what’s going on, and General Smythe tells them that Jamie is charged with desertion from a Highland regiment (cuz he’s Scottish. Heh.) and The Doctor and Zoe are charged with espionage. Because of the World War I martial law in place, the penalty shall be death.

They’re given the opportunity to mount a defense, but Smythe shoots them down at every turn. Before they know it, the General orders the court martial tribunal to come to a verdict and The Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe are marched away until they come to a decision.

Lucky for our heroes, Ransom and Major Barrington both think the “spies” innocent, so it looks like they’re going to get off.

But then General Smythe lays on his thick glasses charm and tells them that the Doctor etc are all guilty, and Ransom and Barrington agree.

The Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe are brought back in and General Smythe tells them that they’ve been found guilty. Jamie will be shipped off to a military barracks awaiting his own regimental court martial, Zoe is sentenced to ten years hard work in a penal colony, and The Doctor is sentenced to be executed at dawn.

They protest, but it’s no use. Smythe’s mind is made up and The Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe are all separated.

Once The Doctor reaches his cell, he questions the Sergeant-Major about his time in the military, but the Sergeant-Major can’t seem to remember how long he’s been involved in the war.

In the middle of the night, Zoe breaks into Smythe’s office only to find him not there. She snoops and finds the wall mounted mystery device and then steals the keys to The Doctor’s cell.

She heads down into the bridge jail area place and tries to break him out, but soldiers arrive to cart them away to the firing squad.

And before they can even process it, The Doctor’s tied up to a post and held before the firing squad. There’s a “Present, Ready, Aim”, gunshots, and it looks like The Doctor’s been shot.

Part 2:

Turns out, the firing squad didn’t fire (cuz if you caught that, there was no fire order), but it was someone bunkered down in the chalet, taking potshots at the soldiers for… no reason at all.

If you’ll notice, it looks like he’s wearing a hat from the American Civil War.

Amidst the confusion, The Doctor and Zoe manage to escape and head off to the military barracks, trying to find Jamie.

In the chalet, General Smythe addresses the wall mounted device, saying he’s leaving for the conference. As soon as he finishes, a cabinet dematerializes, making strange whirring and zapping sounds that sound vaguely like another famous dematerializing transportation device.

As Smythe is getting into the device, Ransom bursts in to tell the General that the prisoners have escaped. Smythe is so incensed at Ransom’s rudeness that he uses his glasses mindwashing to convince Ransom there’s transportation ship there and that he went off to a meeting elsewhere and he will be back shortly.

But he also leaves without hearing the message Ransom had to tell him.

At the barracks, Jamie gets a new cell mate: a Redcoat who claims he got lost in a strange mist and that it’s the year 1745. This gives Jamie the chance to attempt a breakout from their cell.

The Doctor and Zoe manage to make it to the barracks and bluff their way in, The Doctor pretending he’s the Examiner from the War Office with Zoe as his secretary.

Ransom goes over escape of The Doctor and Zoe with Carstairs and Lady Jennifer, saying he’s going to take a patrol to the German lines while they stay and man the chalet in case there’s word. Also, it’s apparently their responsibility to tell General Smythe what’s going on when he comes back.

Carstairs and Lady Jennifer start to realize that they both can’t remember where they came from, but they both do remember a white mist that seems to block up and obscure large tracts of time.

So here’s our first youtube. It features some geniusly sneaky Troughton doing some really awesome Doctor stuff as he impersonates the war office examiner and attempts to break Jamie out. It just shows the manic energy that Troughton has that’s just… It’s good. And I really like it.

Also, badass Zoe.

So yeah. They got captured again.

Ransom returns to the Chalet to tell the good news to Carstairs and Lady Jennifer. Carstairs takes the opportunity to explain to Ransom that he doesn’t feel the court martial was regulation, but Ransom insists nothing fishy at all went on at the court martial and leaves.

Carstairs and Lady Jennifer realize that whatever’s happening must be affecting Ransom’s memory, but not theirs. They split up: Carstairs to interrogate the civilians to see if he can figure out what’s going on, and the Lady Jennifer to stay behind and keep Ransom occupied in case he comes back.

Ransom returns and tells Lady Jennifer he’s going to go check on the prisoners to see that they’re safely locked up.

Really, dude. Come on. You a go-getter too? What is it with the bad guys on this show being go-getters and rough-and-tumbles?

Luckily, Lady Jennifer manages to convince him to stick around so he can explain his job, which leads to him talking a lot about the paperwork and the bureaucracy of fighting a war.

Ah paperwork and bureaucracy. I love paperwork and bureaucracy.

The Doctor and Zoe attempt to convince Carstairs that there’s an anachronistic videoscreen in The General’s quarters. He doesn’t quite believe them, but he tells them it’s worth investigation, so he lets them out so they can show him.

He calls the Lady Jennifer and tells her to get rid of Ransom, which she does by telling Ransom that General Smythe was on the other end and he wants Ransom to join him at a command post that just happens to be as far away from the chalet as possible.

Ransom leaves and Carstairs, Lady Jennifer, The Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe break into General Smythe’s office and manage to convince them to see past whatever mental blocks are on them and see the videoscreen.

We also get a brief glimpse of who’s on the other end.

The Doctor worries that they might have been seen and tells them they need to get disappeared and fast.

Lady Jennifer heads off to commandeer her ambulance and The Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe agree to forego the TARDIS in favour of figuring out what’s going on here.

Ransom returns quite unexpectedly and demands to know why the prisoners are out of their cell. Carstairs explains that he has orders from the General to cart the prisoners off to HQ. Ransom is skeptical, as the orders to report to the far off command post was a fake because the General wasn’t there, but Carstairs tells him it’ll be on Ransom is he countermands the General’s orders.

Which I find so funny. Carstairs just got CRAZY bogus intel and then he gets duped again BY THE SAME RATIONALE JUST FIVE MINUTES LATER.

What a moron.

So they manage to escape and General Smythe returns. Ransom proudly tells him the prisoners are on their way to HQ just as Smythe had ordered. And then the General gets pissed and orders them located and destroyed by artillery fire.

The ambulance presses through and continues driving off the road to escape from the barrage, when they disappear into a strange mist, which The Doctor guesses is some kind of mental forcefield.

The Doctor tells them to drive on, but Carstairs and Lady Jennifer seem unable. He puts his foot to the pedal and drives until they emerge on a main road, which is devoid of war and gunfire and doesn’t look at all like the trench warfare of World War I.

The Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe climb the nearby hill and take a look at where they are.

Turns out they’re being charged by Romans.

They race back down the hill and tell Carstairs to start the car! They need to get out of there! The Romans are closing in!

Part 3:

So to just turn off the whole suspense thing you probably have going for you, they manage to back up down the street and re-enter the World War I zone.

The Doctor theorizes that heading off the map they have will take them into a different time zone. In their most recent case: where there are Romans. He theorizes that there has to be a map that shows all the different Time Zones, and they’ll need that if they’re going to get around and figure out what’s going on.

They’ll have to head back to the chalet.

They manage to break back into the chalet and take Ransom by surprise at gunpoint. With apparently everyone out of the way (somehow), The Doctor and Jamie tie up Ransom and start to poke around Smythe’s quarters.

The Doctor locates a safe in Ransom’s room and opts to blow it up rather than waste the time to pick the lock.

What follows is tremendously fantastic scene that sees The Doctor dismantle a grenade in order to pack the lock full of explosives. It’s terribly wonderful because everyone else is freaking out, but The Doctor seems to have it all under control.

He rigs the lock to explode and prepares to set a long fuse that’ll give them plenty of warning.
Unfortunately, Captain Ransom manages to get free enough to yell despite his ridiculously tied-up state. Carstairs manages to silence him, but it’s not long before another officer enters with Zoe and Lady Jennifer in tow.

And that’s when The Doctor lights the fuse on the safe. Which is bad, especially because there’s a British officer right outside, within easy earshot of the forthcoming safe explosion.

Carstairs attempts to get rid of the officer, and finally barely manages to get him to shut the door just as the bomb goes off.

The Officer rushes back inside and makes for the office, but Carstairs gets the drop on him and ties him up.

The Doctor locates a map and looks it over with Zoe, taking note of all the different war zones (and there are quite a many few). They also notice that there’s an empty void zone in the middle where there seem to be no major zones, and The Doctor realizes that’s where they need to get to.

They take off in the ambulance, making for the central zone, but don’t make it very far. Soon, they run into the German line and are captured by Germans.

With Zoe and Jamie detained and Lady Jennifer watching over Carstairs in the ambulance (they pretended he was sick) The Doctor attempts to explain to the German Officer they meet that they aren’t spies.

So The Doctor explains everything, telling them that Zoe’s from the future, Jamie’s from the past, and everything he knows about the time zones.

He brings Jamie and Zoe in and they confirm their stories, but The German Officer is still skeptical. The Doctor then uses his sonic screwdriver to unscrew and rescrew the screw on the officer’s gun.

But just as the officer is about to believe them, a German Captain named Von Weich enters and wants to know the story. The German officer explains that they might be time travelers, and the Von Weich pulls the officer aside and pulls out his monocle.

Which I think is just brilliant.

So the German officer re-enters the room and accuses them of being spies while the Von Weich heads to his office and uses a video screen to report back to home base, wherever that is.

The Doctor re-demonstrates the sonic screwdriver technique, which manages to at least partially unbrainwash and confuse the German Officer enough to steal his gun and use it to “convince” him to take them back to their ambulance.

Elsewhere, in futuristic looking place, General Smythe reports to someone we’ll just call “The War Chief”, to tell him that the people claiming to be time travelers have been captured by the Von Weich.

The Von Weich reports in to tell them that The Doctor and co. have escaped. The War Chief issues an all points bulletin to all zones: the time travelers are to be taken alive.

The Ambulance makes it to the Civil War Zone where they come under fire by Union (or are they Confederate?) troops. After some thrilling action/chase scenery (including Carstairs being a total badass with guns and beatings and such), they manage to get away, but at the cost of Carstairs getting left behind to provide covering fire.

Unfortunately, they don’t get much farther before they run out of gas and have to make it the rest of the way by foot.

Back at the no-Zone (that’s what I’m gonna call it so keep up), The War Chief informs to General Smythe and Von Weich that Carstairs has been captured and will be brought back to the no-zone for re-processing.

And then we get to the end of this episode with a small but lovely youtube that I just love. It’s really solid and isn’t too long, but it leaves you on a really neat cliffhanger that makes you just want to know what happens next.

Part 4:

After the departure of The Doctor and Zoe, Union troops enter the barn and surround Jamie and Lady Jennifer, taking them hostage.

In this space-time machine The Doctor and Zoe start to look around. Zoe’s careful to note that it’s bigger on the inside, just like the TARDIS, and she wonders who could have the technology to do that.

The Doctor seems to have a theory, but the thought does nothing but haunt him.

And this is one of the things I really love about this story. Without giving too much away with what’s going to happen in the next batch of episodes, Troughton plays this marvelously. The way that the answer to Zoe’s question seems to haunt him is nothing short of sublime, and it’s a real testament to Troughton as an actor that he can pull off the crazy manic and comedy he does so well, while still managing to ground his Doctor in real, powerful emotion.

I’ll certainly talk about it more as time goes on (I really can’t not), and I’m positive there’s going to be a youtube of it when we get to the second half of this story, but I thought I’d mention it here because it’s just so powerfully good.

The Doctor and Zoe continue to snoop around the space-time vehicle and the two of them come across a room full of hypnotically entranced soldiers from different time zones. They’re almost like robots, ready to get turned on at a second’s notice.

The Time-Space vehicle lands in the Roman zones and The Doctor and Zoe watch as the Romans disembark. Zoe votes they get off, but The Doctor guesses that by staying on the ship, they’ll land back at the source eventually, which is exactly what they wanted to do.

Back at the barn, the Union soldiers are questioning Jamie and Lady Jennifer about what they’re going to do with these two supposed “spies".

Jamie and Lady Jennifer get tied up, but then the barn gets under siege and the Union soldiers retreat into the woods, leaving their two hostages behind.

And just when it looks like they’re in safe Confederate hands (the fools! No one is safe in Confederate hands!), we see the commanding officer of this particular Confederate platoon.

Ruh roh.

Von Weir reports into the War Chief, saying he’s captured Jamie and Lady Jennifer, but the other two [The Doctor and Zoe] are both still MIA. So… yeah. Now the War Chief knows.

The Doctor and Zoe land in the main no-zone area and disembark from the time-space machine and put on the glasses that Zoe found in the machine in the hopes that they can blend in.

Jamie and Lady Jennifer are released by a stealthy Black Union Soldier, who manages to set them free but get caught in the process.

Great. A black guy gonna get shot by a German officer. That always looks good. But no, not really. Turns out Von Weird just wants to know where Jamie and lady Jennifer are going. He tries his monocle trick, but interestingly enough, it doesn’t seem to work on the Union Soldier.

The next morning, we see Jamie running across the rolling plains of the Civil War Zone (and somehow he got separated from Lady Jennifer. How? I don’t know! But it happened! Don’t question it!) and getting chased by Confederate soldiers. Jamie manages to steal a horse and he rides off to run away some more.

After a bit, Jamie manages to track down Lady Jennifer (how did they get separated again?), but it’s too late. They have guns pointed on them.

They’re dragged back to the barn where they get an opportunity to talk to the captured Black Soldier, who reveals that he’s been un-brainwashed for… quite some time now and he seems to know quite a bit about the mists and such.

And that’s when a small band of resistance fighters manage to take the barn in a big bad rough and tumble, which is big and bad and rough and tumbly.

Once the smoke has cleared they manage to capture Von Weir and we leave with a bunch of them pointing guns at the German Confederate and Jamie protesting their execution of him.

While all this is going on, The Doctor and Zoe get confused with actual workers and brought into a presentation in which a scientist guy explains how they brainwash these soldiers.

Turns out they’re stealing real soldiers from their real wars on Earth and brainwashing them so they fight the war under these particular conditions. It also turns out that the brainwashing doesn’t always work on people with particularly strong wills and characters, leaving small bands of resistance with the capabilities of passing through the time zone barriers.

But this scientist has created a new prototype machine that performs a more effective brainwash. To demonstrate this new method, he brings in Lieutenant Carstairs.

And this brings us to our final youtube, which shows The Doctor and Zoe in some dire straits, some great Troughton work, and an absolutely “oh sh*t” moment that is good because they somehow manage to pull it off.

I love that. When The Doctor and The War Chief meet eyes, I love how much it just takes the whole story into an “oh sh*t” direction. It’s gotta be one of my favourite moments in the whole story. Just seeing how ridiculously scared The Doctor gets is… chilling. The Doctor doesn’t get scared, and certainly not that scared. It says everything about who The War Chief might be, and why he’s possibly such a big deal.

Anyways, so The Doctor and Zoe get separated, leading Zoe to run into a very confused, very lost, and very brainwashed Carstairs. He pulls out his gun and points it at her, ready to pull the trigger on her for being a German spy.

Part 5:

So even though Carstairs manages to pull the trigger, it’s tremendously fortunate that the scientist guy happens to be there to stop him from doing anything he’ll later regret.

Carstairs doesn’t listen, though. And he ACTUALLY PULLS THE TRIGGER. But the gun is empty, so it’s okay. Zoe gets carted away to some holding area and Carstairs is pulled aside for examination by the scientist.

In the barn, the Black Union Soldier continues to look around the place, convinced there’s a tunnel that serves as an exit point for new troops, despite the fact that Jamie and Lady Jennifer attempt to convince the guy that the troops come out of a giant green dematerializing box.

One of the men (from the Napoleon era?), convinced that there is no such tunnel, gets really angry and starts to wrestle the Union Soldier because he’s convinced there is no tunnel.

Amidst the confusion, Jamie catches Von Weir accessing a video screen and uses that to convince everyone that the futuristic technology is real.

Zoe is brought into a room with a swirly wall (no, really, it’s a swirly wall) and left before the security chief, who puts on a ridiculous looking helmet scope and starts to question her about who she is and where she came from.

Turns out the helmet scope thing forces whoever looks into it to tell the truth, which confuses the interrogator, because he thinks she’s from a resistance group and she’s lying to him.

But she’s really telling him the truth about where she came from and the time machine and The Doctor and all that. He starts to show Zoe a series of photographs of known resistance leaders (how did he get those? Did they pose?), hoping she’ll be able to recognize one or two.

Elsewhere in the station, The Doctor runs around until he runs into the scientist, who is in the process of brainwashing Carstairs. The scientist guy points out that there’s an alert out for The Doctor, but The Doctor says that’s totally not true because the alert was for the girl and he was chasing her.

And the guy believes it. Which is fantastic. This guy got punked and he deserved it.

The Doctor manages to convince the scientist to let him watch the de-processing of Carstairs. And once Carstairs is de-programmed, he points out The Doctor right away.

It is only then that the scientist guy realizes that The Doctor is not who he says he is. After a small struggle and chase, Carstairs and The Doctor manage to shove the scientist into the de-programming machine and wipe his mind.

So now The Doctor has an ally to run around with. Yay.

In the barn, Jamie tells the resistance leader about the screen and such, but the resistance leader refuses to believe him. Somehow, it distracts everyone long enough for Von Weir to activate the screen but not use it.

Von Weir’s activation of the screen tips The War Chief and the security chief off enough to order a strike team sent to the barn.

The Doctor manages to locate Zoe and, with the help of Carstairs, render her guard unconscious. She tells him about the questions they asked her, about the resistance and all that, and The Doctor realizes that if they can utilize that information to create a giant awesome resistance they might have a chance to tear this place down.

Lucky for us, Zoe has a photographic memory and can remember that sorta stuff.

An alarm goes off, and The Doctor, Zoe, and Carstairs head to the landing bay, where they watch three soldiers head off to the barn to go rescue Von Weir.

In the barn, the green box dematerializes and everyone takes cover. The doors open, and before anyone can say uncle or anything like that, the guards leap out and start firing with their big long swiry whirly guns.

This is why I call them swirly whirly guns.

There’s a struggle and the resistance manages to subdue the guards with the swirly whirly guns. (That’s about how long it takes).

The green box stays behind, leading Jamie to get an idea. He tries to convince the resistance leaders that they need to get in the green box and head off to the main no-zone area, take the fight to the man.

But Jamie doesn’t think Lady Jennifer should come. Because she’s a woman. And Jamie is a misogynist. And he doesn’t really care who knows it.

But the resistance leader (who actually cares if he’s labeled a misogynist) asks Lady Jennifer if she’ll stay with her men to tidy up their wounds and tend to them [because she’s the woman].

The resistance leader leaves orders with a second-in-command and brings another two men. They hop inside the green box and head off on their little adventure.

The security guy finds the scientist guy and takes him out of the brain de-programmer. Turns out he has his own little agenda against the War Chief and he conveys to the scientist what he knows about Zoe.

Turns out the fact that Zoe and The Doctor know about space-time travel is kinda a big deal. The scientist guy says the only person who knows the secret to space-time travel is The War Chief.

But the security dude corrects him. The War Chief’s people do to.

Didja get why that’s a big deal?

The War Chief is informed that the green box that’s carrying Jamie and the resistance isn’t following procedure in its return. Something must be wrong.

Carstairs, Zoe, and The Doctor, hide in the docking bay, waiting for a green box to return so The Doctor can steal one and get them out of there.

Suddenly, an alarm goes off and guards with swirly whirly guns flood the bay and point their guns at the arrival zone.

The green box dematerializes and Jamie and the resistance squad step out, ever so cautious.
And that’s when the swirly whirly guns open their ambush fire!

The squad (including Jamie!) goes down. We cut to black, and we have a cliffhanger.

Final Thoughts?:
So that's the first half of War Games.

And really, it's a solid opening, if you ask me. There's not a lot to talk about here because the major awesome of this story hasn't quite happened yet. Most of the first five episodes is setting up a ton of stuff that's going to pay off in the back five, so I'll talk about it then. What I want to talk about here is... the genre of this, I guess?

When I was a kid, my father used to show me old Superman serials on VHS, and he would explain to me how his father (my grandfather) said how these old serials worked: every weekend, my grandfather would go out to the theatre, pay a penny (or something) and watch a fifteen minute part of this fifteen or so part story. Every episode would end in a cliffhanger, and the next part would be out the next week.

So what does this have to do with Doctor Who? Or, specifically, this story in particular?

I've been calling these Doctor Who stories serials, and they are. But when I think of serials I always think of that sorta long, eight plus part story that gives you a chunk and then you have to come back next week to see what comes next.

And this is that. And I love it. LOVE IT. I'm insanely jealous of the people who got to be eight or nine when this came out and got to see every single part every week as the story slowly unfolded. This has everything I love about old serials. It's slow, but methodical. You're never really bored, and when the credits roll you just want to know what happens next.

Is it drawn out? A bit, but it really violates the "done in four" rule of Doctor Who. I can't imagine this being much shorter. It's epic, thrilling, and an old school serial. I woulda loved to go see this back in theaters every week for a penny (or whatever), cuz it'd be the talk of the town and it would have been exciting and thrilling.

And the best part is, they don't botch the end. It only gets better from here.

Next Time!:
More 2nd Doctor? Who is the War Chief? Who is the War Lord? What happens to Jamie and Zoe? And the final fate of The 2nd Doctor! We round out our coverage of Patrick Troughton's swansong with "War Games Pt 2!" Coming this Thursday!


  1. They asked Lady Jennifer to stay behind because she was a NURSE.

    1. YAY! someone else spotted the cross on her arm and the fact she drives ambulances