Companion: Jamie McCrimmon, Zoe Heriot
Written by: Malcolm Hulke & Terrance Dicks
Directed by: David Maloney
Background & Significance: As said in part one, much of Patrick Troughton's tenure helped define the show moving forward. Troughton's era established UNIT and he was the first of many many regenerations. It showed many returns of The Cybermen as a seriously badass threat, saw two of the best Dalek stories of all time, and introduced a whole cadre of monsters (Ice Warriors, Yeti, etc.) in exotic alien locales.
Terrance Dicks (most famous for being script editor for the last half season of Troughton and all of Jon Pertwee) decided to send out Patrick Troughton with a bang, co-writing a story that removed some of the mystery surrounding The Doctor. And by that I don't just mean any mystery or a small mysteries like his favourite brand of cat nip.
No. They decided to introduce The Time Lords.
Up until this point, The Doctor had identified himself as non-human (except early on when people weren't so sure) but had never explicitly stated what his race was actually called. Here, we get the introduction of The Time Lords and the ultimate exile of The Doctor to Earth.
Interestingly enough, we already know that this isn't the first time a non-Doctor Time Lord has appeared, but for all intents and purposes that doesn't count. The gag with the Meddling Monk was nothing short of a cheap shot, designed to just heighten the stakes without answering any bloody questions or delivering on the potential of meeting another rival Time Lord.
But this is some crazy. Seriously. You'll see. This is proper Time Lords, being a right threat and a real menace that makes you understand The Doctor and why he left and what his whole deal with leaving is. It gives us a lot of information, it sets up a radical new status quo that Doctor Who won't ever possibly escape from (although they certainly tried), and it delivers an emotional wallop in the final episode as Troughton and co. go out with an amazing bang that's still felt over forty years later.
And it really helps that the story doesn't suck.
So let's get to it!
So brief recap: The Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe landed on a world with wars and stuff. The Doctor, Zoe, and their new friend Lt. Carstairs are in the bad guy’s base and just watched Jamie get shot by some dudes with swirly whirly guns.
The soldier guard wet suit peeps start to haul Jamie and the small squad of resistance fighters away. Zoe begs The Doctor to go help Jamie, but they can’t really do anything, so they run off towards the processing room, which is probably a more advantageous position or something.
The Security Chief (he literally doesn’t have a name) informs the scientist guy that they didn’t bring The Doctor, Zoe, or Jamie to this war planet. No. They got there by themselves.
That’s important, because the only people who have the ability to travel through time and space besides the War Chief is his people. The scientist guy is shocked, and he asks if “The Time Lords” are getting involved.
And for those of you playing at home, this is the first ever mention of Time Lords in the history of Doctor Who, and if you’ve been paying attention and reading between the lines, you’ll know what that means for The Doctor.
The scientist guy begins scanning and processing their new prisoners while The Doctor, Zoe, and Carstairs sneak around the backside of the processing room (teehee) to see if they can break in.
The Doctor manages to rig one of the panels to de-magnetize or whatever and they watch as the scientist guy scans Jamie, determines that he was never processed, and sends him off to The Security Chief for questioning.
The War Chief bursts in, asking how the scientist guy’s doing with the re-processing, and he finds out about Jamie’s lack of processing and how interesting that can of awesome is.
The War Chief, Jamie, and some guards leave and The Doctor asks Carstairs to pull off some sweet James Bond moves and take out the small number of guards who protect the room while he goes to say hello to the scientist guy again.
In the Civil War barn, the King of Peladon holds Von Weir at gunpoint.
No really, it’s the King of Peladon.
Nothing more to say there, I just wanted to point out the King of Peladon.
The War Chief bursts in on the Security Chief and starts barking for answers as to who these people are. It’s a bit of a power struggle, and particularly amusing because this whole thing will play out for the next FOUR EPISODES and The War Chief never really suspects any treachery from the Security Chief until it’s too late.
The Doctor, Carstairs, and Zoe manage to wake up all the resistance squad and hightail it out of there, The Doctor careful to try to steal the re-programming device. He doesn’t, but he tries.
The Doctor and everyone sneak back out of the room and head for the docking bay, confusing The War Chief and The Security Chief, who come in at the only entrance, only to find everyone not there.
The Security Chief gets all soft rage and proclaims that they only could have escaped with a space-time machine and this makes The War Chief caught! Red handed!
Which is just lunacy. Especially when The War Chief finds the panel through which everyone snuck in and out and pops it out the wall, just to prove his point that the Security Chief is a ponce or whatever.
The Doctor and co manage to rescue Jamie and dress up like a bunch of World War I soldiers in order to escape.
They break into the docking bay and The Doctor starts to mess with the controls for the space-time machines, which is literally a metal board with refrigerator magnets. Which is awesome and hilarious and awesome.
The Doctor hurries everyone into the machine, but elects to stay behind (as do Jamie and Carstairs) in order to steal back the processing machine.
Everyone else arrives back in the Civil War barn just as Von Weir manages to take control of The King of Peladon’s mind and attempts to convince him to shoot the just-arrived resistance.
In the ensuing struggle between the King of Peladon and random resistance soldier, Peladon goes down and Von Weir takes a gun and demands that everyone get back in the green box because they are going home.
And then The King of Peladon shoots Von Weir. Which ends that storyline.
The War Chief and Security Chief get into an argument about everyone getting away. The Security Chief is upset because one of the people who got away knew how to fly the space-time machines.
WE GET IT. YOU ARE SKEPTICAL.
The Doctor, Jamie, and Carstairs manage to sneak all the way through the facility and grab the re-processor without being detected (they are ninjas) and manage to make it all the way back to the docking bay before they’re confronted.
The Doctor throws down a smoke bomb and takes everyone by surprise. He rigs the time-space machine to take them away, and the three men all pile in and take off.
Once inside, though, the vehicle stops dematerializing. The Doctor attempts to work the controls to get them gone, but just then the Security Chief comes on the PA, telling them there’s no chance of escape and yada yada.
The Doctor continues to fiddle as The War Chief impatiently asks how The Security Chief plans to get them out. The Security Chief says they will come out eventually, and now they play the waiting game.
Which is hilarious because they could sit in there for HOURS while The Doctor figures out an over ride.
Fortunately, The War Chief is impatient and uses the controls to dimensionally warp the time-space machine, shrinking the inside into barely breathable space. He gives The Doctor thirty seconds to come out, or he’ll smush them like they were bugs.
With no other options, The Doctor acquiesces and comes out under a flag of truce. The War Chief demands Jamie and Carstairs join them, but The Doctor refuses and smashes his second and final smoke grenade, causing confusion, and allowing him time to reset the controls and steal the necessary ones.
And before you say “That’s unpossible!” please remember that they’re refrigerator magnets.
The Doctor escapes with Jamie and Carstairs, and head back to anywhere except the 1917 Zone, cuz that’s where they’re expected.
The War Chief and the Security Chief argue that the SIDRAT (that’s what The War Chief called them) is untraceable until it lands.
And then the alarms start blaring, signifying the arrival of the much-talked-about War Lord, who seems to be the head guy around here.
Note, The War Lord has nothing to do with the Time Lords. That’s just his name. Also, he totally doesn’t look like Steve Jobs.
The SIDRAT lands in the Roman Zone and the Security Chief orders an all points bulletin to bring them in.
As he does this, The War Lord enters and starts losing his shit over the lax security that allowed a bunch of resistance folk to run around the main area center place for four episodes.
In the Roman Zone, The Doctor, Jamie, and Carstairs are attacked by Romans [again] in the exact same place as they were at the end of episode two. They make a run for it and manage to escape into the mist.
The Security Chief gets on The War Chief’s ass for knowing the secrets to space-time travel and calls The War Chief a traitor without actually calling him a traitor. Not only that, but he talks to the War Chief and completely ignores the War Lord, which, come on dudes. If you’re going to be like that, you might as well tell your boss.
The War Lord gets pissed and tells them to stop bickering and to work together.
The Doctor, Jamie, and Carstairs are spotted as they enter the 1917 Zone, and word is sent up to General Smythe (remember him?), who orders them shot down by machine gun fire.
They take cover, but they don’t have to for long, cuz just then Zoe and the other three or four or whatever resistance peeps show up and take out the machine gunners.
But it turns out that’s a farce because the soldiers manage to swoop in and surround The Doctor, Jamie, and Carstairs.
They’re taken and captured and brought before the General who orders The Doctor executed and Jamie and Carstairs re-processed and taken to the front lines to fight.
Turns out General Smythe isn’t acting under anyone’s orders at the moment. He just wants to see The Doctor killed.
The Doctor gets carted away for his execution and Smythe enters his office and opens communication with the center-zone. The War Chief demands they be brought in immediately, but Smythe tells him that The Doctor is already dead.
The War Chief deems this acceptable (which it SO isn’t!) and asks that Smythe bring in the re-processing machine.
Smythe pulls an “Oh shit” and races out to ask Jamie and Carstairs where The Doctor hid the machine. They say only The Doctor knew. And now he’s about to get shot.
He races to the window and gunfire starts. He pulls out his gun and starts a one-man grandstand against the invading forces. All this despite the many other guards in the room.
So The Resistance manages to take the chateau and Smythe locks himself in his office, trying to get transportation out of there. The War Chief says they’re still scrambling SIDRATs and Smythe’s job now is to deactivate the area controls, lest they fall into enemy hands.
And then Smythe gets shot dead by a bullet that in no way could have hit him. It’s really quite funny.
The War Chief, Security Chief, and War Lord start freaking out because the resistance have taken over a very strategic area. There’s some arguments, but The War Lord gets the last word, saying they take the troops they have and they rush the chateau and take it that way, proving a test to the troops and no waste of guards with swirly whirly guns.
The attack commences and The Doctor comes up with a brilliant plan and, with some help from Zoe and some bought time by the resistance (and a great couple of action scenes), manages to scrunch the time zone mists to just around the chateau, meaning all the resistance group is protected from attacks by brainwashed troops.
The War Chief and The Security Chief bicker some more, leading to The War Lord taking complete command over the situation.
The Doctor and the resistance start to set to work de-programming the brainwashed soldiers, but just as The Doctor starts to lose his patience with the fact that no one’s giving him any breathing room cuz they only have one machine and he’ll need to make more—
A SIDRAT appears in the office, causing everyone to take cover.
Two guards burst out of the machine, accompanied by the Security Chief and start spraying the room with swirly whirly guns.
Somehow, the de-processor got left in the middle of the room. The Doctor runs out and grabs it, but he, himself, gets grabbed in the process and dragged back to the SIDRAT and The Security Chief manages to get away with his guards and the de-processor and The Doctor.
The Doctor is brought back to the no zone center place and interrogated by the Security Chief’s giant truth helmet while The War Lord ships off the de-programmer unit for mass production back on his home planet.
Unfortunately for the Security Chief, not only will The Doctor not admit to being sent there by The War Chief, but the mind probe won’t work on The Doctor, so he’s not saying much at all.
In the chateau, the resistance bunkers down by placing a machine gun in Smythe’s office and prepares to contact the other leaders of the resistance using the information Zoe memorized during her interrogation back in episode five.
Interestingly enough, she knows not only the names of all the resistance leaders, but THE LOCATIONS OF ALL THEIR CAMPS. If the Security Chief managed to transmit that to her, why doesn’t the War Chief et al go out and take them out?
Lunacy, I tell you.
After an attempted SIDRAT siege of the chateau (starring a daring grenade move by Carstairs), several resistance folk set out to go track down some resistance leaders, and they leave Jamie in charge, which, in a way, brings his character full circle.
Also, The Doctor is refusing to answer to any questions by the Security Chief. And by “any questions” I mean “The Security Chief’s continued demands that The Doctor admit to being brought here by the treacherous War Chief as part of a Time Lord conspiracy.”
Seriously, bro. Give it a rest, yeah?
The War Chief walks in on the proceedings, watching as The Security Chief demands (for the three hundredth time) The Doctor to admit he is a Time Lord agent. The War Chief laughs at The Security Chief, outing The Doctor as a Time Lord, and saying the truth helmet won’t work if The Doctor doesn’t want it to.
And that’s a huge flaw in that design. Why would the Time Lords ever want the helmet to work on them? Couldn’t they just say “no” every time?
The War Chief demands the Security Chief allow him to question The Doctor, but the Security Chief protests. The War Chief then reminds the Security Chief that he is the Security Chief’s superior.
Okay, this is just getting more and more ridiculous. If dude like the security chief was clowning around and sewing sedition like this (and BLATANTLY), I’d kill his ass. Or fire him. One of the two. But come on. That The War Chief puts up with this is nothing short of hysterical. GROW SOME BALLS, ROGUE TIME LORD.
And this is our first youtube of this half of the blog. The War Chief brings The Doctor into the War Room and closes the door and what we get is… Breathtaking. This scene kicked my ass the first time I saw it and it still kicks my ass now. It’s so… stunning. Troughton gives a genius bit of moments as The Doctor, and the way he plays it is just so well crafted.
Yeah. It’s just so good.
The War Chief attempts to convince The War Lord and the Security Chief that The Doctor can be trusted and that he is on their side. They agree, but he’ll need to prove himself first.
In the chateau, a bunch of [ninja] Mexicans sneak in and take the randomly sleeping everyone by surprise (haven’t you all heard of shifts and sentries?!). They’re led by Arturo Villa, who demands to see the leader guy of the operation.
Zoe heads into Smythe’s office (where Jamie is sleeping) and manages to persuade him to dress up like a war general and put on a show for Villa.
And somehow this works by Zoe being really persuasive and talking through Jamie. And then they manage to bring a bunch of resistance leaders to the chateau in order to plan a large unified strike on the main center no-zone place.
They all agree to meet in the Civil War barn (crikey, it’s like they have two sets for this whole story) while all the other resistance groups hit various strategic communication points throughout multiple war zones pulling more and more security away from the no-zone center complex and out into the war zones proper.
Apparently, through all of this, they manage to either take out or distract all the guards so their travel to the Civil War Zone is fast and easy.
The Security Chief tells The War Chief and The War Lord about the multiple simultaneous attacks and the fact that now there are very few guards left as he sent most out to cover the situation.
Okay, this guy should get fired cuz that’s just a boneheaded move. Can you imagine? He played right into their hands, as The War Chief is all too quick to point out. And then, when The War Lord asks him what his plan of attack is now that he knows that their attack will come from the Civil War Zone, the Security Chief proposes to Neutron bomb the place.
Good god. It’s like he’s hired to be horrible at his job.
The War Lord opts for a different approach: give The Doctor an opportunity to show off his loyalty.
The Doctor gets on the communication device for the Civil War barn and tells Jamie and Zoe that he got control of a SIDRAT and he’s sending it down to them. Now, all they need is to just send a few select leaders and men to meet with The Doctor and plan the next step.
And then they fall for it.
And then The Doctor sells them out and everyone is captured.
The resistance is carted away and The War Chief and The Security Chief congratulate The Doctor on a job well done. The Security Chief goes off to go gossip or whatever with The War Lord, leaving The Doctor and The War Chief behind.
The War Chief is most pleased with The Doctor’s change of loyalties, but The Doctor has questions about why The War Chief needs him. He comes to the realization that these TARDISes aren’t like normal TARDISes. They have dimensional flexibility and operate on remote control, which isn’t possible unless you cut into the life of the supposedly-limitless-if-used-properly time control units.
The Doctor realizes that The War Chief cut into the life of his TARDISes, meaning he’s going to need more before too long. And that’s why The War Chief wants to team up with him.
The War Lord questions The Doctor, who insists loyalty to the War Games’ cause, but he’s still not convinced. He orders The Doctor to fix the processing machine and use it on his “friends”.
The Doctor is left alone with the resistance leaders and ordered to program the machine. Also, apparently they can spare no guards because the Security Chief is not a fiscally responsible person and, thusly, didn’t plan ahead.
The War Chief and The Security Chief argue a bit more. And then The War Chief leaves, leaving The Security Chief to play back a sneak recording he made of The War Chief and The Doctor conversing. Through this, he learns of The War Chief’s treachery and The Doctor’s hand in helping him.
The Doctor, after some fighting with the resistance, begins to “re-process” everyone, but really everyone’s just fake acting. It’s really a foolproof plan, and I love watching Jamie pretend he’s mindwashed when he oh so very clearly isn’t.
The best part about it, though, is when Arturo Villa attempts to kill The Doctor after the thing doesn’t work. Like you’d be sad about that? Doesn’t he want to not be brainwashed?
And then The Security Chief orders his guards to drag The War Chief away and join up with The Doctor so they can both get locked up in cells.
But The Doctor and the resistance manage to subdue The War Chief’s guards and get him to join their side, at least temporarily and then everyone assaults the War Room, with The War Chief getting a total kill shot on The Security Chief.
So now that a good portion of everyone have been shut down, The Doctor demands The War Chief shut down the situation at once. The War Chief offers The Doctor salvation in just taking a SIDRAT and getting out of there, but The Doctor will have none of it.
And that’s when The War Chief informs The Doctor that there are only two SIDRATS left with enough life in them to transport what equates to tens or possibly hundreds of thousands of soldiers.
So now what? The Doctor has run out of options.
The War Chief shuts down all war operations, but there’s still nothing The Doctor can do.
And this brings us to our second youtube which is, and I’m sorry to say it, very long and extensive. But trust me when I tell you it’s epic and totally worth it. I’d blog some of it, but that doesn’t do justice to Troughton, the end of the War Chief, the sadism and ruthlessness of The War Lord, and what is possibly one of the best cliffhangers we’ve had so far.
Because really, imagine being a kid and watching this story for the first time, reeling from the events, learning about the Time Lords, getting all excited at the prospect of seeing what they’re like, not being able to wait to see what happens… and then getting to this ending.
See what I mean?
Funny sidenote, Carstairs wanted to go see Lady Jennifer, but she disappeared way back in episode five. Hilarious. They wrote that chick out four episodes back, man. Move on.
Disclaimer: in terms of sheer episodes/parts that we’ve watched so far, this is the biggest stand out. It’s almost an epilogue in its stand-alone-ness while still being a wonderful tour-de-force of wrapping up not just the whole storyline, but also Troughton’s entire era.
We come back with time slowed to a near standstill, the unseen force of The Time Lords descending, and The Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe desperately reaching to get into The TARDIS.
And this interests me because of what happens next. Does this mean, as The Doctor suggests, they are already beaten? You can assume that because of The Time Lord control over The TARDIS. Maybe if they had been a bit faster they could have gotten away, and then we wouldn’t be talking about this.
But no. This is how it is meant to happen.
The three of them manage to break into the TARDIS, barely able to crawl on their hands and knees. The Doctor manages to use the TARDIS to shut out the sluggish-time forcefield and then powers her up, and before they know it, they’ve dematerialized.
The Doctor explains to them how he left The Time Lords, how he was bored of his people’s inaction despite their god-like capabilities, their refusal to do anything except sit around and gather knowledge
And we all know, that’s just not The Doctor’s style. It’s all about exploration and getting involved, and he doesn’t want to deal with them admonishing him for his “style”, so he sets the coordinates for the farthest planet he can find.
But the TARDIS starts to malfunction. It drops into the sea and water leaks in despite its impregnable outer hull. It flies into space where it gets trapped in a web. A voice comes over the speakers, ordering The Doctor to return home with The TARDIS.
And The Doctor continues to run, trying to get out… But The Time Lords get them, and drag them back to the Time Lords’ home planet. Jamie tries to encourage The Doctor that they should try to get away again, but The Doctor, defeated, tells them it’s over and they won’t get away this time.
And this. This is why this story is so good. Troughton NAILS this. It’s almost hard to watch, but every time we see The Doctor he doesn’t give up. He gets a plan. He goes out and does the thing and he saves the day and he gets away and he lives to have another adventure.
But not this time.
They are greeted by a Time Lord and brought up some stairs and to a court room where they find the War Lord on trial for his crimes against the galaxy. The Time Lords present their case and tell The War Lord to speak out in his defense.
And when he doesn’t, they force him to, mentally torturing him until he talks.
Goodness that’s so dark.
So The War Lord talks. And talks and talks, speaking about high authorities and no regrets and the ends justifying the means.
As this is going on, a couple of Time Lords who are fiddling with The Doctor’s TARDIS hear a SIDRAT dematerialize and a crack team of War Lord guards jump out, ready to commando mission to rescue The War Lord. They kill the mechanic Time Lords and race for the court room.
The War Lord is found guilty, but then his men show up to rescue him. He flips the Time Lords the bird and walks out with The Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe as hostages.
They’re carted into the TARDIS, and The War Lord demands he be taken to his home planet, where The Doctor will make him more TARDISes for his armies. The Doctor manages to flood the TARDIS with light (let’s call it psychic light cuz that sounds cooler and seems to affect them on a mental level) and he, Jamie, and Zoe get out of there-
Right into the arms of waiting Time Lords.
The Time Lords place The War Lord in a forcefield and explain the punishment: his planet will be placed in an impregnable forcefield forever and The War Lord and his accomplices will be erased from time.
Guh that’s so dark.
Jamie and Zoe are placed under a forcefield and left behind as The Doctor is brought before the court and made to stand trial.
The Time Lords accuse The Doctor of intervention, and asks him to mount his defense, which The Doctor does by showing off examples of the enemies his faced, from Dominators to the Yeti to the Ice Warriors to the Cybermen to the Daleks, saying that if he hadn’t fought these villains and monsters people would have died and lives would be lost.
The Time Lords call a recess to weigh The Doctor’s defense, and while they’re there, one of the Time Lords goes to Jamie and Zoe, telling them he needs to take them home.
But they can’t go. Not yet. Not without seeing The Doctor. And The Time Lords, in their first display of compassion, grant the two companions their wish.
And this… this is the last youtube. Again, it takes us to the end of the episode, and whereas the last one was epic, this one is just… poignant and heartbreaking and really just guts you. I feel for them, being separated, I mean. And The Doctor’s loss of his life, one of his precious regenerations…
It’s really a downer ending, a huge downer, which is rare for a show, and on the other side of the youtube we’ll talk about why it works so well.
And their final scene together breaks me.
Yeah. Damn. Pretty much.
Final Thoughts?: I think it's safe to say that this is one of the best Doctor Who stories of all time, and certainly it goes down as one of the best of the classic serials..
I know that goes without saying, but I'm telling you that of the stories I've so far gone through this year this is easily the best one. It's everything and anything I could want out of a Doctor Who story. It's epic, it's involved, it's powerful, it's moving, it's gripping, it's important, it's legendary, and it's an absolute must-see for any Doctor Who fans, be they into the classic stuff or not.
But more than anything, it's game-changing. It's important for last stories to be really good and really impactful. If you don't care about The Doctor in the end, it didn't do its job. There are some stories for which this works, and there are others for which it does not.
Because in the regeneration stories, The Doctor doesn't win. He never wins. I mean, he beats the bad guys and foils their plot, but he does it at the cost of his own life.
In "The War Games", I find it even more tragic, because even though The Doctor manages to save the day and stop the presses and make the fighting stop, he cannot save everyone. He loses big time because he doesn't fix the problem. He knows the risks of calling in The Time Lords, but he does it anyways, and you can tell that he knows it's worth it, even if he is caught.
And it really does everything right, if you ask me. The meeting between The Doctor and The War Chief is everything the meeting between The Doctor and the Meddling Monk should've been. The Time Lords aren't shown as rainbow people, but as vicious and pitiless Gods who judge from on high. The departure of the companions is heartfelt and genuine, right down to when this incarnation says to Jamie, his longest friend, who's been there for all but one adventure "Goodbye Jamie", and you know he means it.
What I really love about this is that they so could've blown the ending, but they really went for broke and really brought an entire era, one that I personally enjoy immensely, to a stunningly epic ending that doesn't disappoint. This is the sorta story that I would give to new fans coming into the classic series and tell them it's four hours of an awesome time and a truly emotional and satisfying ending.
And this story becomes this TARDIS crew's legacy. This story becomes his legacy. And they couldn't ask for anything better.
Next Time!: 4th Doctor! Weird UNIT shenanigans! A King Kong Robot! And Crazy Oligarch Fascists! We follow up our regeneration story with Tom Baker's post-regeneration story "Robot!" Coming next Tuesday!