It always feels like a special occasion when a serial from Patrick Troughton’s era of Doctor Who is released on DVD, since so little of his time as the central character even exists anymore. It’s of course a huge shame that any Who stories were junked, but the Troughton era was hit particularly hard, and only six of its stories exist in their complete forms (although the release of “The Invasion” a few years ago, with animation providing the visuals for Episodes One and Four, helps to bump the total up to seven). Troughton’s Doctor had a true sense of the magic of the universe about him, an attribute which trickled into his stories as well. On his watch, the series started shedding its “for kids only” formula, and began churning out some truly memorable sci-fi yarns.
This DVD release seems doubly special since “The War Games” was not only the last story of his era, but it was also the last Who story of the ‘60s, as well as the last to be shot in black and white. Clocking in at over four hours in length and spanning a whopping ten episodes, “The War Games” is truly something special – although the one aspect that makes it particularly noteworthy hasn’t even been mentioned yet. We’ll get there in due course, however, so hang tight.
The Doctor (Troughton) and his companions Jamie (Frazer Hines), the Scottish Highlander from the past, and Zoe (Wendy Padbury), the girl genius from the future, arrive smack in what appears to be the middle of World War I. “Appears” is the key word here, and over the course of several episodes of being captured, shot at, captured again, threatened, caught once more, escaping (several times), and loads of running around, they discover they aren’t on Earth at all, but rather an unnamed alien planet. A group of human-looking aliens have kidnapped groups of soldiers from numerous eras of human history and sectioned them off into separate zones, so that they believe they are still on Earth, fighting their respective wars. What is the aliens’ eventual plan? Well, despite having ten episodes in which to explore that issue, the mechanics of it remain fairly glossed over, but the idea seems to be to put together a “super army” for conquest purposes.
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