Monday 21 October 2013

"I've never seen such an incredible bunch" - The War Games

It is appropriate that in the last Second Doctor story, ending the black and white period of Doctor Who, Patrick Troughton gives an absolutely stellar performance. Whether pretending to be an official, manipulating the gullible alien scientist, fleeing in terror or acting the clown before the Time Lords, Troughton displays complete brilliance.

The War Games is a story that fans will always celebrate, after all it is the story in which we first learn of Dr. Who's people the Time Lords and his reasons for abandoning his kind. The fine scripting, the clever blending of historical with science fiction and the impressive acting within this serial are rightly praised. Yet The War Games is let down by the excessive length that was inflicted on it for production reasons. While the extra episodes does allow an interesting exploration of the tense and fractious relationships among the aliens and create a sense of constant peril and chaos for the TARDIS crew, the overall result is a repetitive and seemingly never-ending run of capture and escape routines. It would have worked so much better in six episodes, though this was sadly not an option at the time.

I know it is not the most important detail, but I do wonder if Lady Jennifer Buckingham's hair is authentic for the period. Her hairstyle does look a little modern for 1917. Of course, I could be wrong about that.

The unnamed aliens in The War Games look human, but they definitely have an alien quality to them. David Bree, who plays the Security Chief, gives his character a distinctive slow protracted form of speech. It was also a great decision to cast the Time Lord War Chief as somebody who looks physically distinct to the other alien characters. While the War Chief is handsome, suave and charismatic, the other aliens are pudgy, bald and pasty-faced. They are stereotypical bureaucrats. The best of them is of course Philip Madoc as the War Lord. He is absolutely fantastic. Instead of playing the character with bluster, he is cool and quiet, exhibiting a constant menace. He even smiles when he threatens people. With his scruffy beard, his spectacles and palour, he looks every inch a psychotic. Echoing the Nuremburg Trials, he remains defiant before the Time Lords, refusing even to acknowledge their authority. His terrified cry of 'No! No! No!' as he fades out of existence is a nice end for him.

The other alien who really stands out, even more so than General Smyth, is the fake German officer, Von Weich. He seems to take great delight in putting on different accents, switching from being a German officer, to a Confederate and then to a 19th century British officer. Von Weich must have been so disappointed that there was no Second World War zone and therefore no opportunity to play a Waffen SS officer or a Soviet commissar! This makes a really interesting point about the theatricality of military authority. After all military authority is largely about dressing up and speaking in a certain tone of voice. Also highly effective is the scene where Von Weich and Smyth move about their model soldiers and talk about how they will kill off each others troops. War truly is a game to these people.

The War Chief, the first character ever to be identified as a Time Lord, is very nicely developed. He is a much more complex and interesting character than the Master ever was. It might have been nice if he was an earlier incarnation of the Master, though this is clearly contradicted by the novels, which identify him as Magnus, yet another one of Borusa's errant pupils.

The Time Lords are pretty impressive here, with their incredible power. They are aloof and mysterious. It is unfortunate that they are less effectively used in other stories, though many of the later developments with the Time Lords were not without interest. It is amusing to watch the Doctor clowning around in the court room, dismissing all the faces he is offered, though it is hard not to be bothered by his lack of concern about the Time Lords erasing his companions' memories. It's hard not to laugh at the fact that when attempting to show his people the terrible things in some corners of the universe, he shows them the Quarks. Though admittedly, the Quarks proved themselves in the comics to be resourceful opponents; taking control of domestic robots, making use of a giant wasp and stealing racing cars. Interestingly, he seems to expect the Time Lords to be relatively lenient with him. He predicts that as a punishment, the Time Lords will make him listen to a 'long boring speech.' There is no implication that he would face the same treatment as the War Lord. His terror at capture by his people must have been a terror of losing his freedom.

We know of course, that Dr. Who does not immediately change his appearance after this story. There is a gap between The War Games and Spearhead from Space, referred to by fans as Season 6B. This is shown by two stories, The Five Doctors, in which the Second Doctor is aware of Zoe's departure and The Two Doctors, in which he and Jamie are working for the Time Lords, despite his having no dealings with them during the Troughton era. It seems that after his trial, the Doctor was given limited freedom to travel in the TARDIS, in return for performing missions on the Time Lord's behalf. Season 6B was first revealed in the TV Comic, where the Second Doctor is exiled to Earth before the Time Lords can change his appearance. He takes up residence in the luxurious Carlton Grange Hotel, which remarkably makes it into the newspaper headlines. In a series of stories, the exiled time traveller tangles with criminals and alien invaders, as well as becoming a panelist on a television show. Finally, he is captured by the Time Lords' scarecrow servants, who force him to regenerate. It is logical to conclude that the other TV Comic Second Doctor stories take place in Season 6B, as they do not fit anywhere else in the Second Doctor era. It would seem that some time during this period, Dr. Who was reunited with his grandchildren, John and Gillian. It also seems that Jamie took a break from travelling with the Doctor and temporarily resided in a castle in modern day Scotland. It is possible that other adventures happened in this period, such as Dr. Who's first contest with Fenric and perhaps his first encounter with Lady Peinforte. We have no way of knowing how long Season 6B lasted. Given discrepancies in the Doctor's age, it may have lasted as long as a century.


  1. Sorry, but I have to disagree on more than one count. Firstly, the length. The War Games is perfectly paced. I love the way the story keeps revealing bigger and bigger threats. First the Great War is enough, than Smythe, then the War Chief, leading up to the Doctor's own people posing the biggest threat of all. It is strange to think this may have been much shorter. It would have lost a lot of to-quality material.

    Next, the dreaded Season 6B. Aaaargh. There is nothing in either the Five Doctors or the Two Doctors that suggests a Season 6B. Quite the contrary. I suggest you try and track down Robert Holmes' own novelisation of the Two Doctors. Also TV Comic explicitly has the Doctor going directly from his trial to the Hotel. He was Earthbound without a working TARDIS, and actually trying to hide from the Time Lords."Season 6B" was created in the 1990's by people from a totally different era, people who don't understand Doctor Who as it was, people who think stupid stuff like the Master and the War Chief being two separate characters.

    Again, go back to the actual source material, written by the actual writers at the time. As far as "Magnus" this name has been used for the Master in comics and novels, and well as identified as the Master in interview by none other than Gary Russell. By "contradicted by novels", you no doubt mean one single novel..."Divided Loyalties", and specifically a chapter entitled 'DREAMING', where the Doctor falls asleep, has a nightmare, then wakes up, and even talks about the weird nightmare he just had. The one where he never graduated the Academy, never took the TARDIS, and never left Gallifrey. Why do people fixate on this ONE singular element from a chapter clearly called "DREAMING", and insist it is absolute gospel canon, yet a) ignore every other aspect of the exact same dream, b)ignore every other source which contradicts this, and c)not then accept every dream sequence or hallucination as a literal depiction?

    1. Thanks for your comment.

      "There is nothing in either the Five Doctors or the Two Doctors that suggests a Season 6B. Quite the contrary."

      So how would you explain the Second Doctor's peculiar knowledge in The Five Doctors?

      The Two Dpctors novelisation is a valid source, but one needs to look at other sources in establishing an history of the Doctor.

      "Also TV Comic explicitly has the Doctor going directly from his trial to the Hotel. He was Earthbound without a working TARDIS, and actually trying to hide from the Time Lords."

      Clearly there are two stages to Season 6B. In the first stage he has limited freedom and can travel in the TARDIS. The Time Lords then end that freedom and capture him. He then takes up residence at the Carlton Grange.

      "stupid stuff like the Master and the War Chief being two separate characters."

      I'm very startled that you think it stupid to suggest that the Master and the War Chief are two different characters. Not a single line in the television series suggests that they are.

      What is more., Dr. Who's description of the Master as a 'bungler' in Terrror of the Autons indicates that the Master has a criminal history that is known to the Doctor. This contrasts with his unfamiliarity with the War Chief, even if they did know each other a long time ago. That would actually not be a problem is Season 6B were correct. If it were, then the War Chief would have time to become the Master and establish his bungling criminal career. Yet you rule out Season 6B, so obviously not.

      "By "contradicted by novels", you no doubt mean one single novel..."Divided Loyalties""

      It would also contradict Terrance Dicks' Timewyrm: Exodus. In that story, we find out that the War Chief had a failed regeneration and returned to working for the 'War Lords.' Of course, you could come up with a clever war of making the failed regenerated War Chief of Timewyrm: Exodus the Master, but it seems simpler to conclude that these are two different Time Lords.

      It would probably also be difficult to fit The Dark Path with its Master origin with the Master being the War Chief.

  2. I loved this story. I remember reading the Target novel and being incredibly frustrated that I couldn't see the story myself. It sent my imagination wild and I even built a Lego model of the War Zones. At drama school I even acted out Patrick Troughton's trial scene from the novel.

  3. First there is nothing in The War Games, Spearhead From Space, or any of the TV Comics from Action In Exile to The Night Walkers that even hints at any sort of "Time Lord missions". This is what I meant earlier about people from a future era trying to retcon earlier eras of which they know little.

    Now, the "peculiar knowledge" from TFD actually works AGAINST any "Season 6B" First, in The Three Doctors the Second Doctor is taken out of his own timestream. He meets his Third self. The Third Doctor is living in exile on Earth without a working TARDIS, and with his memory swiss-cheesed. He is a Time Lord patsy carrying out missions for them(so why would they need to have the Second Doctor carrying out SECRET missions, when the Third does it somehwat openly in Curse of Peladon, Colony in Space, The Mutants etc.?), the Third Doctor is working with the Brigadier and Benton who are both not much older than they were in The Invasion. Jamie and Zoe are never mentioned. What do you think he would guess has happened? On more than one occasion the Second and Third Doctors make "Contact!" sharing their knowledge. The Second Doctor is returned to his own timestream at the end...

    ...however in The Five Doctors the Second Doctor not only recognises the Third Doctor, but also mentions Omega to the Brigadier. So, he remembers EVERYTHING from The Three Doctors. And, most importantly, his "peculiar knowledge" is NOT what happened in The War Games Episode 10! In The Five Doctors the Second Doctor states that the Time Lords erased ALL memory of him "So how do you know who we are?" In The War games the Second Doctor guesses that the Time Lords will erase all memory of him from Jamie and Zoe But the Time Lords tell him that they WILL remember him, but just their first adventures. We then immediately see Zoe back on the Wheel(in space), and she talks about the Doctor and Jamie! So, the Second Doctor's comments in The Five Doctors can not be a memory of The War Games. They are the educated(and inaccurate) guess of someone from BEFORE The War Games who can however remember the events of The Three Doctors..

    1. Well he wouldn't be on a Time Lord mission after Action in Exile, because by that stage he had been sent to Earth, his temporary freedom revoked.

      The Second Doctor is making a guess? But he sounds pretty confident about being correct when he points it out to the ghost of Zoe. He has seen companions depart before in various ways.

      It's an explanation, but I think Season 6B is an equally good one and satisfies more than one continuity point.

      Just out of interest, do you consider the TV Comic material canon? Because if you do and you dismiss Season 6B, you are going to have difficulty with the Second Doctor material.

      Do you also not consider World Game to be canon?

    2. But if we're going by "one continuity point", then isn't the whole Season 6B thing based on that? And however confident the Second Doctor sounds, the point is that what he says is NOT what he was told in The War Games. And the SAME person wrote The Five Doctors and co-wrote The War Games.

      Again, there is nothing in Action In Exile that even hints at any narrative gap between the end of The War Games and the Doctor arriving at the Hotel. Quite the contrary.

      As for canon. Ideally, everything would be canon. And everything should be regarded as such, up to a point. The problems come in when two sources are utterly incompatable. As an example, the well-known UNIT Dating. Here, it's all canon, but clearly there is something wrong. As you stated elsewhere, the original Production Team explicitly stated those stories were set in the 80's. Later, Mawdryn Undead contradicted that, and Eric Sward himself stated that the Mawdryn Undead dating was a mistake. However, it's still canon.

      When Hulke/Dicks wrote The War Games it was as the absolute last Second Doctor story ever. The TV Comic places stories where the Doctor has been exiled to Eartyh, but has not yet had his appearance changed. It never even hints at "Time Lord missions". The people who wrote Spearhead From Space, The Three Doctors, The Five Doctors, and The Two Doctors did not do so at the time believing in a Season 6B.

      In 1995 a group of people(the same who insist that the UNIT stories take place from 1969-1973) came up with Season 6B. This however shows only a clear lack of understanding of Troughton Era Doctor Who on their part(the same way that dating the UNIT stories to the early 70's shows a clear lack of understanding of Pertwee Era Doctor Who on their part). Subsequent stories have advanced the 1969-73 UNIT dating, just as subsequent stories have advanced the Season 6B position. Is it canon? Yes. But it is obvious that it was never the original intention of the people who actually oversaw the transition from Troughton to Pertwee to have a decades-long secretive era where the Second Doctor is working for the CIA(the CIA wouldn't even be created until 1976!)

      Ultimately, it all comes down to people who weren't there looking at everything pre-their Era as being a single entity called "The Past". Apparently there are people who legitimately believe that Sydney Newman and Verity Lambert created a "Series Bible" in 1963 which mentioned regeneration, Gallifrey and the CIA! Why? Because everything before they started watching blends together.

      Did ANYONE watching Terror of the Zygons in 1975 think that it was taking place two years in the past, and the the female Prime Minister was supposed to be Shirley Williams? Of course not, that is absurd! Did anyone watching Spearhead From Space in 1970 think that over 50 years had passed for The Doctor between the end of The War Games and the start of Sperhead, where he carried out secret missions for the CIA, armed with a Stattenheim Remote Control?

    3. I think to an extent, we are talking past each other.

      Your emphasis seems to be on what the authors intended and what viewers at the time would have understood.

      I think you are to some extent right in your conclusions, though I'm not so sure about your convinction that a link between the Master and the War Chief was intended.

      I don't think anybody except the writers of the TV Comic, who did not have that much interest in continuity themselves, intended a Season 6B.

      On the other hand what I am doing is creating an abstract chronology of events. I'm treating the stories as fictional historical texts and trying to piece together 'what really happened.'

      As you point out, Verity Lambert and Sydney Newman had no Doctor Who bible with regeneration and Gallifrey. To create a history f the character, we have to ignore to a large extent what the writers intended at the time and read later events into earlier stories.

      A lot of people, like Phil Sandifer can't stand that approach, but I'm a fan who feels this is an interesting and enjoyable exercise.

    4. Sorry if it didn't come out entirely as planned.

      My point is that I actually love creating chronologies myself. I have spent probably far too much time trying to fit all the various Doctor's adventures into one single chronology. Or the Master. Or the Daleks or Cybermen..

      The problem is that there are things that just don't fit together properly. This is not just because certain later authors either misunderstood or were ignorant of earlier details(perfectly understandable), but also because certain people like Paul Cornell and Gary Russell actually set out to write things that didn't fit with what had gone before.

      When it comes down to it, we can accept everything as being one story, but we have to make choices which information is correct, and which is wrong. Like if you're studying real history, and have two conflicting accounts of one event, written by different people.

      I have always chosen to go with that which is closet to the source. So I'll take Derrick Sherwin and Jon Pertwee's words on UNIT Dating over that of Cornell, Topping and Day. And I'll take Hulke and Holmes' information on the War Chief/Master over that of some random Wikipedia editor.

      The point was not so much that Season 6B ''could not'' have happened. It is that the people who actually wrote the Second Doctor material(both for television and for comics) never set out to feature a Season 6B, nor even hint at it. And the "proof" of Season 6B(The Five Doctors) actually works against such a thing.

      Ultimately, if there was a Season 6B, The Five Doctors was not part of it. Robert Holmes never intended The Two Doctors to be part of it. And if there was a Season 6B, it would be best if there were no mentions of Rassilon, the CIA, Stattenheim Remote Controls or anything else that came years or even decades after The War Games from a creative standpoint.

  4. "There was a peculiar relationship between The Master and The Doctor:one felt that the Master wouldn't really have liked to eliminate the see The Doctor was the only person like him at the time in the whole universe, a renegade Time Lord and in a funny sort of way they were partners in crime." Malcolm Hulke, writer of The War Games, in an interview on his time writing for Doctor Who.

    David A. Mcintee has stated that there is nothing in The Dark Path that there is nothing in The Dark Path that makes it impossible for The Master and The War Chief to be one and the same. And he should know,a s he wrote it! He has also stated(on Gallifrey Base) that he himself believes them to be one and the same! Lastly, The Dark Path establishes that the name 'Koschei' is a NEW alias for The Master. The Doctor explicitly does not recognise the name, as he has never heard it before. Which further establishes that the sequence in Divided Loyalties is a non-literal dream(the Chapter is of course called 'DREAMING' in capital letters).

    There are nods and winks in the tv show, such as The Doctor stating in Terror of the Autons that he has recently seen the Master's hypnotism, but some people were able to offer resistance, or in Frontier in Space where the Doctor tells Jo of the events of The War Games and the eavesdropping Master nods along and smiles, of in Mark of the Rani where the Master says he is going to create a army of Earthmen but he must first prevent the Doctor from alerting the Tiem Lords, or The Sound fo drums where he speaks of his "call to war", or the eerie parallels between the end of The War Games and the end of The End Of Time. Compare also The War Chief's speech about "means to an end" from The War Games episode 7 to the Master's "bringing peace" speech from Colony In Space episode 6.

    Again, read the Target Books of Colony in Space('Doomsday Weapon'), The War Games and Terror of the Autons. The first two written by Malcolm Hulke, the third by Terrance Dicks(the two people who actually wrote The War Games).

    Or read RTD's comments about the history of The Master when he brought him back fro Series 3 of The New Series.

    Lastly, Tiemwyrm:Exodus One does wonder how the War Chief could work for the War Lords, if the War lords were erased from ever having existed, but ignoring that, it's simple. Read Legacy Of The Daleks. In this story the Eighth(Mcgann) Doctor meets the Delgado Master. The book ends with the Delgado Master becoming the Pratt Master of The Deadly Assassin. So if the Eighth Doctor can meet a Master from the Third/Fourth Doctor's Eras out-of-sequence, why can't the Seventh Doctor meet a Master from between The War Games and Terror of The Autons? In fact, in one of his "exile" TV Comics(so after The War Games) the Second Doctor says he is 500 years old. In Time and The Rani the Doctor is 953 years old. He turns 1000 in the Virgin Books. However, The War Chief says he went straight from the War Games to the Aliens' planet, to 20th Century Earth. Considerably less than 500 years! The Doctor even mentions that Kriegslieter wasn't the problem, he knew how that would end. And Kriegslieter's last mention has him regenerating.

    1. You accuse me of reading back future ideas into an earlier era, yet I really can't help thinking that you are doing the same with your identification of the Master and the War Chief.

      I really don't see any strong evidence from that era that this idea was intended.

      I understand why people would make that connection and I think it actually is a better origin for the Master than what we got in The Dark Path.

      Of the novelisations you mention, I have only read The War Games. I don't recall any connections identified, but it was a long time since I read it.

      Maybe reading the Terror of the Autons novel might change my mind, but as I see it the weak link in the theory is Terrance Dicks. He co-created the War Chief and was script editor when the Master was introduced. I have never seen him give any indication that he thought the War Chief was the Master. If anybody could be expected to espouse that theory, he would. He does not appear to me to have done.

    2. Well, read the novel of Terror of the Autons written by Terrance Dicks. He was also Editor for the Target Books range, and would have edited the other novelisations.

      And again, up until the 1990's (ie. more than 20 years) there was never any need for a "Master origin story". Everyone knew the Master's origin. In fact, the Dark Path was commissioned after The TV Movie, after the BBC had told Virgin that their licence was about to expire, but before it actually did. Part of the US TV show's plan was to further explore the youth of the Doctor and the Master(that never happened as the series was never picked up). And, even the pre-story quotes state something mean-spirited about Eric Roberts' character!

      However, Mcintee himself has now gone on record stating that the War Chief and the Master are one and the same.

    3. What did RTD say on the matter? I'm quite interested to know.

    4. Did he say anything? i have absolutely no idea.