Reviewing Who – The War Games, Episodes 1-5

Doctor: Patrick Troughton

Companions: Frazer Hines, Wendy Padbury

Script writers: Terrance Dicks and Malcolm Hulke

Producer: Derrick Sherwin

Director: David Maloney

Originally aired: 19th April 1969-21st June 1969

Episode 1: Out into a military wasteland step the new TARDIS crew – the Second Doctor in his ragbag frock coat, Jamie from the 18th century Scottish highlands, and mathematical girl genius Zoe from the future. They trudge off happily through mud and barbed wire, and they don’t try running back even when bombs start to fall. Fortunately for them, a well-dressed nurse with a cut glass British accent appears as unexpectedly as a TARDIS to give them a lift in her ambulance. They are captured by German soldiers, but it isn’t long before the British take it back and drive it to their base in the trenches. This is the point when the Doctor thinks maybe they’d better make a run for it, but when he almost gets shot, he is forced to abandon that idea. Making matters worse, the major in charge interprets this as a run for enemy lines and telephones General Smythe at headquarters. Smythe orders them to be sent over for questioning, then enters his private office, snarling at a subordinate who tries to follow him inside with a nice cup of tea. When the man has been safely evicted, Smythe opens a secret panel behind a portrait to reveal some sort of telecommunications device that most certainly doesn’t belong in his time period and begins to report. “Smythe. 1917, British sector.” Oh, most definitely something fishy going on here…

Back in the trenches, Jamie is throwing a strop, not wanting to be sent anywhere. With all these soldiers around, however, he hasn’t much choice, and shortly afterwards the TARDIS trio find themselves being marched into HQ – a rather battered but still beautiful old chateau. The Doctor optimistically predicts a rapid solution, but when a captain called Ransome goes looking for the general, he finds the office empty. The prisoners are marched off to a cell instead. Meanwhile the nurse, Lady Jennifer, and the soldier who recaptured the ambulance, Lieutenant Carstairs, are sharing a cup of tea and a chat. But something is wrong. She can’t remember the location of her hospital; he can’t remember how long he’s been at war. A telephone call demands their presence at HQ for the trial of the prisoners, who are having their own rather dejected chat in their solid stone cell. The Doctor is still talking of temporary misunderstandings, but his hope that Smythe will turn out to be a “very nice chap” are proven wrong the moment the general steps out of his office, where he’s stopped by the puzzled Ransome. Drawing out a pair of small, scary glasses, Smythe hypnotises the man into forgetting his curious absence.

The TARDIS crew are then brought in and Smythe does the same thing during the court martial, convincing both Ransome and the major from the trenches that Jamie is a deserter, Zoe a spy, and the Doctor their dangerous ringleader. Jamie is dragged off kicking and shouting to a military prison, and the Doctor taken back to his cell to await execution. Zoe is about to be sent to join him when Lady Jennifer intervenes, insisting that the poor girl remain under her eye instead. The major and Ransome seem quite amenable to this, addressing their dangerous spy as ‘my dear’ and letting her nap right outside the general’s office. Well, what do they think was going to happen? The moment Lady Jennifer is asleep, Zoe is up and in Smythe’s office, searching for the keys. She finds them…and also the communications device. She hurries down to free the Doctor, but it’s too late – they don’t even manage to get out of the cell before Ransome arrives to lead them to the firing squad. While Zoe watches on in horror, they open fire.

Episode 2: Only the shots aren’t coming from the firing squad. A sniper takes out one of Ransome’s men and the execution turns into a melee, allowing Zoe to free the Doctor and run away. Ransome then tries to inform Smythe, but when he enters the general’s office he hears a sound that is oddly like the TARDIS, while a door emerges where there should be no door…Smythe angrily whips out his glasses and hypnotises Ransome again, before disappearing through the door. In the military prison, meanwhile, Jamie is given a cell mate in the unexpected form of a Redcoat from his own time. Initially distrustful, they end up working together, faking a fight to lure in the guards and escape. But Jamie’s not the only one with a plot. The Doctor has forced his way into the prison masquerading as an examiner from the war office, Zoe playing his secretary, and throws a magnificent hissy fit. The commandant’s day gets just that bit worse when a telephone call informs him that two prisoners have escaped.

Jamie’s success does not last long. They have not gone far before the Redcoat gets shot in the leg and Jamie is dragged off to see the commandant. Seeing the Doctor, Jamie tries to talk; the Doctor quickly blusters over him, but the commandant has finally had enough and tries to call HQ. Quiet little Zoe puts paid to that with a well judged vase to the head. They turn to go – and Ransome appears in the doorway with a group of soldiers. It’s back to the chateau and a cell.

But Lady Jennifer is putting the pieces together. Present at the military trial as a witness who was not, in fact, allowed to state what she had witnessed, she is putting Ransome’s inexplicable satisfaction with it together with the memory loss both she and Carstairs have experienced. Carstairs suspects a German gas. While Lady Jennifer uses her competent charm to distract Ransome with much sympathetic listening on the subject of paperwork – and then sends him on a wild goose chase as far from the chateau as she can – Carstairs sneaks the prisoners from their cell and goes with them to Smythe’s office to check Zoe’s story about the telecommunications device. Neither he or Lady Jennifer can see anything there. As the Doctor insists they concentrate, though, it fades into view. Unfortunately, the man on the other end can also see them. And that man is General Smythe…

At this point Jamie is all for going back to the TARDIS, but the Doctor and Zoe insist on staying to help, and together with Carstairs and Lady Jennifer escape in the ambulance. Smythe tries to stop them with a barrage, but then they drive into a strange mist, and neither Lady Jennifer or Carstairs can go on. The Doctor blithely elbows his way to the steering wheel. When the mist clears, they have stopped alongside a river, surrounded by hills. The battlefield is nowhere in sight. Only the chariots of some very angry Romans…

Episode 3: The ambulance starts in the nick of time and reverses into 1917, leaving the charging Romans gaping at an empty space on the road. The Doctor realises that what they really need is a map to cover all the time zones, and that means going back to raid Smythe’s office. Again. But it’s not as if the chateau is guarded or anything. Carstairs manages to sneak in quite comfortably, draws a gun on poor old Ransome and the Doctor bounds past to search the empty office, quickly discovering a rather promising safe. Carstairs, who doesn’t know the Doctor very well yet, jokes that the only thing that will open it is dynamite. A few minutes later the lock is stuffed full of explosives and a fuse is lit. Somehow a map is drawn unscathed from the resulting wreckage and when the Doctor and Zoe examine it, they learn that at the centre of all the marked zones is an unlabelled space. That, the Doctor decides, is where they need to go.

Returning to the battlefield in the ambulance, they are promptly captured by Germans and taken down into the trenches for interrogation. The German major comes up with the not entirely original idea that he is dealing with spies, and demands the truth…so that is precisely what the Doctor gives, backing up his story by sonicking the screws out of the major’s revolver (yes, one of the few incidents when he uses the sonic screwdriver ON ACTUAL SCREWS). The major is in a state of baffled belief when a German general joins them and yanks him aside. And oh dear, out comes a monocle. When the major returns to the Doctor and his companions he is convinced, all over again, that they are spies, and is fully prepared to carry out the general’s orders that they be shot. But the Doctor still has his sonic. He repeats his display with the revolver and while the major is marvelling, tosses the gun to Jamie. They’re leaving now, ta.

In Central Control, Smythe respectfully greets the arrival of a man with sideburns almost as impressive as his own, and tells him about the crazy people who have been causing so much trouble. The only thing is, Sideburns Guy doesn’t find the idea of their being time travellers at all implausible. It is at this point that the German general makes contact to inform them that the prisoners have escaped.


So the quintet are back in their ambulance, trundling across the mist into the time zone of the American Civil War, where they are promptly shot at. Carstairs nobly remains behind to hold off their attackers with his revolver, but it’s a pointless gesture really because not far down the road the ambulance runs out of petrol anyway and the remaining four are forced to flee on foot. Meanwhile, back at Central Control, the German and British generals are planning their next manoeuvres on a glass map. The war must go on, after all. They talk in terms of tests and cheating, as if the lives at stake are pixels in a training program. It is a chilling insight into what these zones are for. They are interrupted by Sideburns, when it is learned that Carstairs was caught. He is being brought in for reprocessing, and even without the sinister music, you just know that’s not good.

The Doctor and his friends take refuge in an abandoned barn for the night, but have to hide when sounds like those of a TARDIS alert them to the materialisation of a sleek black box. American soldiers come marching blankly out, and when they seem to be gone, the Doctor cannot resist taking a look. Only the soldiers are not gone after all. As gunfire breaks out, he and Zoe take cover in the black box. It disappears, whisking them to who knows where…leaving Jamie and Lady Jennifer behind.

Episode 4: The Doctor and Zoe are inside the box, which is suspiciously similar to how the TARDIS would look had it been designed by an interior decorator who really preferred plastic sheeting to walls. Or, conceivably, never finished the paint job. Anyway, it has the Doctor worried. They stumble across a legion of Romans frozen in a hypnotic trance and quickly hide behind more semi-transparent plastic sheeting when the transport stops, awakening the soldiers, who march out into their own war zone. Zoe wants the Doctor to figure out a way to get back to Jamie, but he is determined to continue on to the transport’s ultimate destination. Though, actually, Jamie could use a hand. He and Lady Jennifer have been captured by American soldiers and branded, wouldn’t you just know it, as spies. They are tied up but the soldiers are promptly attacked and leave the prisoners behind in their escape. The Southerners who take the barn are happy to release Jamie and Jennifer, but then their general arrives and it is the same man who commanded the Germans in the 1917 zone, in a new uniform, mangling another accent and wishing he was in a James Bond film instead. He hypnotises a gentlemanly subordinate with the evil power of the monocle and Jamie and Jennifer are tied up all over again.

Meanwhile, in Control, a scientist wearing a deeply impractical white visor over half his face is being berated by Sideburns Guy about recent failures in mental processing. The five percent who resist the treatment are running amok, and a great deal is riding on the development of a more effective processing technique. The German/American general makes contact in the middle of this conversation, reporting Jamie and Jennifer’s capture. He has soldiers searching the surrounding area for the Doctor and Zoe, little realising that they have just arrived at Control and stolen themselves a pair of useless white glasses each, which is apparently all the disguise they need to wander unnoticed around what seems to be some sort of training facility. Fashion trends from across the different time zones have caught on here. For once, the Doctor kind of fits in.

Jamie and Jennifer are trying to explain that they really ARE NOT spies when a man who is an actual spy appears behind them, cutting them free and providing cover fire while they escape. He is captured himself, but when the general tries the old monocle trick, it doesn’t work. Say hello to Mr Five Percent! Outside, Jamie and Jennifer get split up. Pursued by a soldier on horseback, Jamie whacks him one with a branch and nabs the horse.

Back at Control, the Doctor and Zoe have been apprehended by a guard, but their brilliant disguises do not fail them. He is only ushering them into a lecture, where the scientist involved in reprocessing is explaining to a group of students about the difficulties involved in removing people from their proper world and time zone. As an example, he produces Carstairs and demonstrates how the machine works on him while the Doctor and Zoe watch on, horrified. They are even more horrified when the brainwashed Carstairs singles them out as German spies. Anyone else would choose this moment to panic – the Doctor instead bounds up, all bravado, to critique the scientist’s work. This works rather well until Sideburns Guy sweeps in to check on progress and recognises him. The Doctor and Zoe flee.

Are Jamie and Jennifer doing any better? Not really. They are together now, on the plus side, but on the downside they are back in the same barn, tied up (AGAIN) with their failed rescuer. The general has only just begun waving a gun at them when the barn is stormed by resistance fighters. In the ensuing shootout, the tables are turned, and it is the general who is tied up. Only dear old Jamie intervenes to stop the rebels killing him, and…well, what is the pattern of this episode? Can you possibly guess?

The Doctor and Zoe have separated, running in opposite directions while Sideburns Guy – now introduced as the War Chief – barks commands to security. Zoe runs into Carstairs, who has freed himself during the commotion, and her delighted relief turns to shock as she finds a pistol pointed at her chest.

Episode 5: Before Carstairs can shoot, however, the scientist intervenes. Though the lieutenant keeps mumbling “she is a spy…she must die…” like a concussed rapper, he eventually lowers the gun. In the barn, the rebels are getting, well, rebellious, and one Redcoat takes matters into his own hands by trying to shoot the general. This leads to a brawl with Mr Five Percent that is only interrupted when their leader Russel arrives to drag them apart with a firm scolding, like a heavily armed and world weary babysitter. Jamie catches the sneaky general as he opens a concealed communications box and triumphantly calls the others over to see.

Zoe, meanwhile, is being interrogated by a man in a hideous techno hat. She is answering his answers truthfully, if against her will, but the things she says are dismissed as being impossible, most especially the Doctor. Ah, if only they knew! The Doctor has stumbled across the scientist from the lecture, in the middle of correcting Carstairs’ processing, and breezes in confidently to interfere. He claims that it was Zoe the guards were after, and he was only trying to help catch her. Being a very helpful person generally, may he assist in this fascinating scientific work? With a mixture of charming flattery and bullying cheerfulness, he manages to remain present during the complete deprocessing of Carstairs, and together the two of them trap the scientist in the thrall of his own machine.

While all this is going on, the War Chief and Zoe’s interrogater, the Security Chief, are discussing the results of her questioning, and the Security Chief is lying through his teeth, pretending that she belongs in 1917. The War Chief is feeling irritable with him and when an emergency alert comes in from the American Civil War zone, drags him off to deal with it. They leave literally seconds before the Doctor and Carstairs arrive. The Doctor barrels straight in under the bewildered gaze of a totally incompetent guard, haranguing him about ungentlemanly behaviour towards innocent young girls, then Carstairs knocks the poor bloke out and the Doctor revives Zoe with a waft of smelling salts. She explains about the headset, and the pictures she saw of soldiers from the resistance. With those images recorded in her photographic memory, the Doctor is already coming up with a plan for the resistance, but they’ve got plans of their own. When a transport box arrives in the barn in response to the general’s emergency alert, Jamie’s story of time travel machines is proved true, and despite the superior weaponry of the guards that emerge they are overpowered by angry rebels. Leaving Lady Jennifer behind to tend the wounded, Jamie, Russel and a group of the other ‘five percent’ soldiers return to Control in the emptied transport.

The Chiefs are still sniping at each other, oblivious to the complete failure of their guards. The War Chief implies he’s not even of this world, and they should be feeling more grateful that he’s there. “Without the knowledge I have, this complete venture would be impossible!” he declares. He then orders the Security Chief to return to his interrogation before the girl escapes…but oh dear, it’s a little late for that. Finding Zoe gone, the Security Chief then runs into the scientist and frees him from the processing machine. Instead of telling the War Chief, like the scientist suggests, he insists on keeping the matter a secret. These are no ordinary rebels. If the War Chief could betray his own people in bringing his technology to this world, who’s to say he couldn’t turn traitor again?

The distrust goes both ways. With the transport failing to report before its return, the War Chief bypasses security altogether and orders an interception himself. The Doctor, Zoe and Carstairs – hidden in the landing bay as they wait to steal a transport – mistake this for an honour guard, but then the transport opens and the rebels emerge, Jamie among them. It’s an ambush, and the rebels walk straight into it.


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