Episode 6: There is a security coup taking place in Control, but the Security Chief is too busy expounding on his ‘Down with the War Chief’ plan to the head scientist to notice. The Doctor, meanwhile, is rummaging in an industrial sized closet, pushing his way through coats like he’s trying to get to Narnia. He then uses tape and bits of wire to reverse the magnetic field holding the far wall together and eases out one panel to spy on the room on the other side, where prisoners are heaped up in an undignified mass on the floor.
Jamie – stunned, not dead! – has been propped up for the head scientist to scan, and his results are startling. The scientist has him dragged off to the Security Chief for questioning, but is interrupted by the arrival of the War Chief, who scares him into revealing that Jamie is a human being who was never processed, a theoretical impossibility. The War Chief allows Jamie to be taken away and stalks off himself, leaving the scientist to begin reprocessing the other prisoners. A hand neatly inserts itself into his field of vision, gently correcting a minor mistake. The scientist turns around to find the Doctor beaming at him. Hello again!
The Security Chief has begun work on Jamie when the War Chief gatecrashes the interrogation, demanding to know why all this is being conducted behind his back. The Security Chief makes his suspicions clear, but he has no real evidence and the War Chief knows it. “If you accuse me without positive proof, I will crush you,” he growls, punctuating the threat with a fist slam. And as if the Security Chief needed more problems, he just lost his rebels. They are all awake and escaping through the loose panel in the wall. By the time the guards arrive with the two Chiefs, the room is empty. The Security Chief shrilly announces that this can only be the work of a time space machine! The War Chief just takes a look at the wall and coolly points out that there is a hole in it.
Remember the coats? The Doctor has stolen the lot, disguising all the rebels as soldiers from the 1917 zone, complete with gas masks. And yes, he manages to break into the interrogation room to get Jamie, despite everyone knowing there are rebels on the loose, because the War Chief is right: the security in this place sucks. The rebels also reach the landing bay just before the guards do, and the Doctor manages to throw up a force field while he summons up a transport. While the others depart, though, he remains behind with Carstairs and Jamie, sneaking back to steal the processing machine.
But the barn, where the transport reappears, is not so safe as they thought. The general, left under the eye of a nervous and kind of stupid young soldier, managed to talk his way into a retrieval of the evil monocle and has the boy with the gun under his control. When Russel steps out the transport, the general orders young Moore to shoot. It turns into a fist fight, with the general getting hold of a pistol, but before he can fire Moore recovers his senses and shoots first. This is a scene that really doesn’t make much sense (I thought these people couldn’t be hypnotised?) but that doesn’t matter in the fan trivia scheme of things, because the man playing Moore is a young David Troughton – Patrick Troughton’s son. As an older man, he also appeared in the Tennant era story ‘Midnight’.
Back at Control, the War Chief is dissecting all the ways in which the Security Chief is useless. In an almost Dalek-worthy monotone, the Security Chief insists that wherever the rebels go, he will find them. Well, it wouldn’t be too hard just now, the Doctor and co have stuffed the main part of the processing machine into a bag and have collected a few smoke bombs for good measure. They use these to distract the guards on their return to the landing bay, summoning up a transport, but before they can escape the Security Chief locks it down from the outside. He thinks they’ll give up eventually when they realise they’re not going anywhere. The War Chief is a more dynamic thinker. While the Doctor is comfortably insisting that they are totally utterly safe inside the transport, the War Chief is twisting a few crucial keys on the control board (which is essentially a magnet board. It is not easy to take seriously) and suddenly the floor starts to move…
Episode 7: On the point of being crushed by the changing dimensions of the transport, the Doctor has no choice but to open the doors, waving his white hanky as a peace gesture. It is not, however, a very sincere one. Told to surrender, he shouts “I think that’s a perfectly horrid idea!”, throws down another of those extremely useful gas bombs that keep taking the guards by surprise, and dashes forward to snatch a handful of magnets/master circuit rods, before diving back into the restored transport and dematerialising.
It’s the perfect opportunity for the Security Chief to get one up on his rival, but his pleasure is short lived. The War Lord is coming and the War Chief sweeps off to greet him. This evil mastermind turns out to be a brisk man with a neat beard and glasses who doesn’t buy all the talk of ‘temporary difficulties’ for one minute.
The Doctor has set a random course with the transport (confirming his total lack of a sense of direction) and they end up amid some very familiar hills, with a very familiar battalion of Romans bearing down on them. At this point, with their quarry located, the War and Security Chiefs burst out into more bickering over whether or not they should send in guards. The Security Chief shrilly denounces the War Chief, who furiously demands proof – the War Lord, thoroughly fed up with the both of them, commands silence. Hear hear. The Doctor, Carstairs and Jamie end up running back into the 1917 zone, where Zoe leads a rescue party of rebels just a fraction too late. Soldiers surround the glum trio and before you know it they are back in front of General Smythe.
By now they have escaped from pretty much everyone and everywhere, but Smythe took their bamboozlement of him very personally, and he reinstates the Doctor’s date with a firing squad. The execution is interrupted for a second time, however, when the resistance arrives to capture the chateau. Smythe dashes into his office to call on Control for aid, but the War Chief has bigger worries than one incompetent general. He keeps ordering him to deactivate the area control. Smythe is shot before he can obey, and the Doctor discovers a very interesting piece of alien tech…
Well, perhaps everyone else in Control is blundering about wondering what to do next, but the War Lord got that name of his for a reason. While his Chiefs fight over whether it would be better to employ guards or an artillery barrage, he sneers coolly and orders in the regular soldiers to reclaim the chateau. It’s a good plan. The resistance are surrounded, fighting what they know is a losing battle…but the Doctor and Zoe have their hands on the area control now and suddenly all is silent. They have erected a time zone force field around the chateau and none of the processed soldiers can pass through.
The War Lord is not happy. He launches a blistering criticism of both his Chiefs, like an exasperated parent who has discovered the kids have wrecked the house while he was gone. He sends in a transport to the chateau loaded with guards, who seize the processing machine and when the Doctor tries to get it back, take him too. Before anyone can stop them, they return to their transport and disappear.
Episode 8: The Security Chief has been given a golden opportunity to plant his pet theory of the War Chief’s betrayal in the Doctor’s mouth by use of the truth machine he used on Zoe back in Episode 5. The Doctor is foiling him by the amazing technique of keeping his eyes shut. Back at the chateau soldiers have been set up to guard Smythe’s office while Carstairs takes charge, and a good thing too, because another group of guards arrives shortly afterward. They overcome the machine gun fire that greets them, but a bomb hurled into their transport is enough to convince them they’d better leave. Jamie is trying to come up with a way to rescue the Doctor, but Zoe pragmatically insists they stick to the original plan of assembling all resistance groups across the time zones. Little did the Security Chief know when he showed her the faces and names of all the known leaders during her interrogation that she would remember every single one.
In fact, that machine is not doing too well by him at all. With the Doctor refusing point blank to say a word, the Security Chief amps up the power to a dangerous level just in time to be caught by the War Chief, who pulls rank on him to take over the interrogation. He has the Doctor taken to the War Room itself, booting out the controllers so they can talk alone. The atmosphere abruptly changes. They are equals and both know it. Indeed, the War Chief does know the Doctor, despite the different face – he knows that the man wandering around the room poking at things with disapproving curiosity is the Time Lord who stole a TARDIS and ran away from their home planet much like he did himself. Indeed, as the War Chief continues, they are actually alike in so many ways. He brushes off the Doctor’s accusations of mass slaughter, dismissing humanity as the most vicious species of all and therefore the perfect soldiers to use in the construction of an interstellar empire.
The viciousness of humans, or at least their disappointing sexism, is on full display at the chateau. A group of Mexican guerillas have broken in under the cover of darkness but refuse to speak to Zoe, insisting she bring them Russel. The trouble is, Russel is off recruiting. Zoe drags Jamie out of bed to play Grand Male Leader and ends up doing all the talking anyway. She is unqualified awesome at this. “We are free men!” declares the Mexican leader. “You are hunted fugitives!” Zoe tells him. She has a plan.
Meanwhile, the War Chief is still talking. We want the same thing, Doctor! Let’s bring peace to the galaxy…through systematic conquest! This one sided heart-to-heart is interrupted by the War Lord and Security Chief, to whom the War Chief immediately pretends that the Doctor has already agreed to help them.
Zoe’s fast talking and Jamie’s Highland bluster have worked. All resistance fighters are now gathered and, well, fighting, as they try to decide what to do next. With Zoe and Carstairs as the voices of mediation, a plan is agreed upon. The bases in other time zones are attacked in lightning raids to distract Control, drawing out their guards to all different locations, with a background of jolly military music emphasising their success. Unfortunately, the War Chief works it out. The Security Chief, having had a fool made of himself for the umpteenth time, has a solution. Let’s blow up the whole damn place with a neutron bomb! Which puts the Doctor in a very difficult position…
The amalgamated resistance has gathered in the barn of the American Civil War zone when the Doctor contacts them through the hidden communication device. He tells them that he has gained control over the transport system and is sending a machine to collect the leaders. But of course when it arrives and the leaders emerge, Jamie and Zoe among them, guards come pouring out to surround them. The Doctor has turned traitor.
Episode 9: The disillusioned prisoners are shuffled off for processing; the War Chief smugly assures the Doctor that his position in the plan is now secure, but the Doctor is suspicious at all this cosy-making and what starts out as a compliment on the War Chief’s excellent work manufacturing time travel transports turns into an accusation that he’s compromised the lifetime of the time controls. Basically, quite soon these sleek boxes will be just that, useless boxes, and that’s where the Doctor comes in. When the other transports fail, his TARDIS will be the only functioning time machine around. That, the War Chief says, slinging an arm around the Doctor’s shoulders, is when they will rule the galaxy unopposed.
Jamie, Zoe and rather sweetly, Carstairs, are all still trying to protest the Doctor’s innocence. They would find it even harder than it already is if they could see his interview with the War Lord, where he calmly states that he likes to be on the winning side. He offers to fix the processing machines so that they can be used on the captured rebels. The War Lord isn’t entirely buying this change of heart, but he agrees to it. The Security Chief leads him to the processing room where the prisoners are being held, then abandons him there with no guards. And oh dear, the rebels are not very happy with him. Not happy at all.
The War Chief is working on the systematic demolishment of the remaining resistance members in the War Room when the Security Chief returns, and something about the man’s manner makes him suspicious. He stalks out to investigate. Unfortunately for him, the distrust is mutual. The Security Chief has recordings taken in this room played back to him and it isn’t long before he uncovers the War Chief’s rather unwisely grandiose offers of shared galactic conquest.
His other vengeance is interrupted by Jamie, who insists that they listen to what the Doctor has to say. The Doctor tries to explain about the neutron bomb, but the Mexican leader is having none of that (how would he know what a neutron bomb was anyway?) and grabs him by the throat. The War Chief arrives just in time to play rescuer. The Doctor then begins his work ‘processing’ the prisoners, with Jamie as his first trial. Jamie plays along convincingly enough, not needing to fake any bemusement, and the War Chief leaves the Doctor to it. He returns to the War Room, where he intends to punish the Security Chief for his deliberate transgression. That’s when the Security Chief does what he’s been aching to do for eight episodes and orders his rival’s arrest. Ah, righteous triumph! It is so very sweet!
The Doctor does very well with his pretend processing until he comes to the Mexican leader, who – reasonably enough – leaps straight up from the chair to recommence his interrupted strangulation. He’s dragged off the Doctor by Jamie and Russel, who quickly clue him in on the plan. It’s time to take Control. Then Zoe, who is standing lookout, sees the guards and War Chief returning and alerts the others. The guards are easily disarmed. The War Chief grins at the betrayal and explains that he, too, is a prisoner now. They want to go to the War Room? Sure. He’ll lead the way.
The Security Chief begins trying to call the guards back from the time zones, but it’s too late. The resistance breaks into the War Room, guns blazing. During the commotion, the Security Chief tries to slink away across the floor, but before he can escape the War Chief does what he has been aching to do for eight episodes and shoots him dead (with a gun that is promptly confiscated). Russel shows amazing intuition by switching off the alarms on an alien control console. For the time being, at least, they’re in charge. There is, however, one small problem. When the Doctor demands that the War Chief return everyone to their respective times on Earth, he is told that only two transports are left with enough power to make that kind of a journey.
That is when the Doctor makes a fateful decision, and the War Lord freaks out completely. They both know that the only ones who can fix this mess now are the last people in the universe either of them wants to see…While the War Chief screams warnings and threats, the Doctor lays out a series of white squares and, with the force of his concentration, assembles them into a small box. Inside it is a psychic account of what has happened in this place, and a plea for help. While everyone looks on in wonder, though, the War Chief makes a break for it, trying to get to a transport. Unluckily for him, someone else got there first – the War Lord, surrounded by guards. And he’s already heard the Security Chief’s recordings. Even the silver-tongued War Chief can’t talk his way out of this one. He is shot down while trying to escape, and he does not regenerate.
Well, the guards can handle one man. What they can’t handle is an angry gang of rebels, who are frankly better at this sort of thing than they are, and soon the War Lord is being held at gunpoint. The Doctor then sends his message to the Time Lords and tries to get the hell out of there. He even intends to leave Jamie and Zoe behind, to be sent home with everybody else. Jamie and Zoe naturally object to this. They want explanations, and all the Doctor will say is that it’s complicated. He gives in, though, and even agrees to take Carstairs with them back to the 1917 zone so that he can meet up with Lady Jennifer again (ah, wartime romance!), but all this babbling about escape has attracted attention and the other leaders aren’t too happy about Mr Ambush-and-Betrayal running off on them before his theoretical cavalry arrive. The Doctor only escapes alive because Russel intervenes at the last minute, a decent soul to the end. “When the Time Lords get him,” the War Lord says, with bitter satisfaction, “he’ll wish you had killed him.”
The quartet reappear on the same battlefield where they first met and the Doctor, pretty much waving a hand as he goes, runs all out for the TARDIS. Baffled and exasperated, the others say quick goodbyes and follow. Behind them, Carstairs vanishes into thin air. As they run, the Doctor and his companions are suddenly in slow motion, struggling against an invisible barrier. The Time Lords are here. And they don’t intend the Doctor to go anywhere.
Episode 10: Somehow, with Jamie’s strength for support, the Doctor gets them into the TARDIS and quickly dematerialises. There’s no way to avoid his friends’ questions now and finally he explodes with answers. He left his home planet because he was bored, because the Time Lords have all these remarkable powers and never use them, because there was a huge amazing universe on his doorstep all waiting for him to explore it. Jamie wants to know why the Time Lords object to him doing that. “Well,” the Doctor confesses, “it is a fact, Jamie, that I do tend to get involved in things.” Jamie definitely isn’t arguing with that. Case in point: the TARDIS, intended to materialise on the other side of the galaxy, ends up at the bottom of an ocean. As the Doctor insists that they are perfectly safe, water begins to drip onto the console. Panicked, he sends them off into deep space instead. “We may have given them the slip!” he declares. Um…not really. Like the arrival of Marley’s ghost, a disembodied voice echoes inside the TARDIS, ordering him back to the home planet of the Time Lords. When he fails to comply, they take over control completely.
The TARDIS lands. Our first view of the Doctor’s home world is seen on the scanner to a dramatic flourish of music. It is…a corridor. “You have returned to us, Doctor,” states the disembodied voice. “Your travels are over.” Stepping out of the TARDIS, Jamie promptly tries to intimidate a Time Lord, but all the fight has gone out of the Doctor. He follows their guide into a trial room where the War Lord stands under the judgement of three grave-faced men in long robes. They call on the Doctor to give evidence, which he gladly does. The War Lord, seeking to delay the trial, refuses to speak in his own defence – until the psychic pressure of the judges forces him, screaming, to his knees. From a man who has been totally together since his first appearance in the story, this is unnerving, as is the calm of the judges as they continue to observe him. They wanted him to talk; he talks. He rants. He blames the War Chief, he blames the Doctor, he refuses to recognise the authority of this court. Meanwhile, two technicians meddling with the TARDIS emerge to find one of the War Chief’s transports has appeared outside. The guards that spill out shoot them on sight and continue on to the court room. They take the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe as hostages and are allowed to leave by the judges, who remain unruffled throughout.
Ushering his prisoners into the TARDIS, the War Lord commands the Doctor to take them away. The Doctor blathers away sorrowfully about how the directional control doesn’t really work and he can’t promise anything and Jamie, Zoe, close your eyes! A flash of brilliant light blinds the guards and the trio flee the TARDIS. When the War Lord follows with his guards, he comes face to face with the stony-faced judges. Also, a force field. He has been found guilty, and his sentence is to be dematerialised…or in other words, execution by vanishment. It’s all terribly, terribly civilised.
The Doctor is led back to the trial room to defend himself against his own charges, which he does with passion. While the other Time Lords stand calmly by, encased in the ice of their own inaction, he has been out there fighting evil. Quarks! Yeti! Ice Warriors, Cybermen, Daleks! Yes, he has interfered, and he’s furious that his own people never did. It’s passionate and fantastic and the Time Lords just aren’t interested.
Later, one of the judges goes to collect Jamie and Zoe, explaining that he will send them back to their own times and places. He does not intend to allow them a goodbye, but falls to the power of a tearful Zoe and allows them to join the Doctor, who is flopped on the floor of the trial room playing a glum game of cards with himself. They are expected to say their farewells through a force field – no one ever said the Time Lords were good at sensitivity – and it takes a bit more sorrow on Zoe’s part to get rid of that, but once it is taken down he forgets to replace it and Jamie and Zoe talk the Doctor into one more escape attempt, though he knows really that it is hopeless. They are caught in the landing bay. This time, it is a final goodbye, and it is all the more heartbreaking because while his friends promise never to forget him, the Doctor knows they will. The Time Lords will see to that. Jamie and Zoe will get to keep their first adventure with him, and everything else will be as if it never happened.
Back in the trial room, he watches Zoe, puzzled and uncertain, turn to look over her shoulder as she finds herself back on the space station where she first met the Doctor. He watches Jamie wake up on Scottish soil and bounce straight up to go chase a Redcoat, sword brandished high. Then the Doctor turns around to receive his own sentence.
The Time Lords considered what he had to say and have decided that if he wants to fight evil, he can. Since he likes Earth so much, he can stay there and defend it. What he won’t be able to do is leave: the TARDIS will grounded, making him an exile. The Doctor is appalled. “One primitive planet! One century in time!” They then offer him a series of new faces to choose from for his forced regeneration (one of which is startlingly similar to that of David Tennant) and he’s appalled by those too, rejecting every one he sees. Our last sight of this Doctor is of him spinning away into darkness, face twisted into wild contortions, wailing “No! No! NO!”
The Verdict: Everyone still there? No one got lost back around Episode 3? Good, well done! The War Games is a marathon, one of the longest stories in Doctor Who history, but in my opinion it is also one of the best. It is the last story of the Doctor as played by Patrick Troughton. Where Hartnell’s Doctor was a cantankerous loner, Troughton’s is a cheerfully erratic adventurer who uses chatter to hide fierce intelligence. He wants to be underestimated. His relationship with his companions is also completely different – Jamie and Zoe clearly love him, for all his exasperating habits, and he has an avuncular affection for them. This Doctor is fond of company, and specifically, of humans. In fact, he ends his second life by essentially sacrificing himself to the unforgiving law of the Time Lords in order to save hundreds – if not thousands – of human lives.
And, speaking of which, Time Lords! Aren’t they fantastic? By this point in the series we have met another of the Doctor’s people before (i.e. the Meddling Monk, who was on Team Harold in the Battle of Hastings) but the War Chief beats him hollow on the spectrum of historical vandalism. There was a reputed plan during the Pertwee era to reveal the Master as the Doctor’s brother; personally, I would so much rather think that the brotherhood was between the Master and the War Chief. They are both fast-talking manipulators, grandiose schemers, complete with snarky repartee and impressive facial hair. It makes SENSE they’d be related!
But with the end of The War Games comes the end of an era. The new Doctor will be a very different man again – the stylish, the sophisticated, the trapped-on-Earth-and-really-not-happy-about-it Jon Pertwee. Join me next month for his very first story, when strange things fall from the sky and plastic goes feral. You will never look at a shop window dummy the same away again…