The War Games

Doctor WhoThe TARDIS brings the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe to a World War I battlefield, but upon closer examination they find that the battlegrounds have been recreated on an alien planet. For the next several episodes, the Doctor and company wander through various different simulated wars in Earth history, finally discovering the alien War Lords at the heart of a plot to create an all-powerful army from the most powerful ranks of Earth history’s greatest military forces. Left with the task of stopping the War Lords, as well as returning all of the abducted Earth soldiers to their native times and places, the Doctor reluctantly summons the help of his own people, the Time Lords – and in so doing draws their attention to him as well. After dealing with the War Lords, the Time Lords put the Doctor on trial, the verdict of which will cost him another of his precious lives.

written by Malcolm Hulke & Terrance Dicks
directed by David Maloney
music by Dudley Simpson

Guest Cast: Jane Sherwin (Lady Buckingham), David Savile (Carstairs), John Livesly, Bernard Davies (German Soldiers), Terence Bayler (Barrington), Brian Forster (Willis), Noel Coleman (General Smythe), Hubert Rees (Captain Ransom), Esmond Webb (Burns), Richard Steele (Gorton), Peter Stanton (Chauffeur), Pat Gorman (Policeman), Tony McEwan (Redcoat), David Valla (Crane), Gregg Palmer (Lucke), David Garfield (Von Weich), Edward Brayshaw (War Chief), Philip Madoc (War Lord), James Bree (Security Chief), Bill Hutchinson (Thompson), Terry Adams (Riley), Leslie Schofield (Leroy), Vernon Dobtcheff (Scientist), Rudolph Walker (Harper), John Atterbury, Charles Pemberton (Aliens), Michael Lynch (Spencer), Graham Weston (Russell), David Troughton (Moor), Peter Craze (Du Pont), Michael Napier-Brown (Villar), Stephen Hubay (Petrov), Bernard Horsfall, Trevor Martin, Clyde Pollitt (Time Lords), Clare Jenkins (Tanya), Freddie Wilson (Quark), John Levene (Yeti), Tony Harwood (Ice Warrior), Roy Pearce (Cyberman), Robert Jewell (Dalek)

Broadcast from April 19 through June 21, 1969

LogBook entry & review by Earl Green

Oh, the pain. This torturously long dose of Doctor Who – the third longest-running story in the show’s history – is about eight parts too long. This was necessitated by the failure of another scriptwriter to complete his assignment, leaving the producers of the show with no choice but to keep extending The War Games week after week.

The worst part about The War Games is that it’s really a clever story. A clever story that could have been told in four parts rather than ten – I’d even accept an argument for stretching it out to six. But ten is just way too much. I’ll even go out on a limb and admit that I’ve never made it through The War Games in its entirety in a single sitting – I usually get two parts into the show and then get a strong urge to zip straight through to part eight, where things start to get interesting and the Time Lords enter the picture. The Time Lords are given a very interesting treatment here, seen as almost all-powerful. The War Games also supports my long-standing rule that there are good Doctor Who stories, and there are stories which are important to the show’s fictional history and real-life production history, but seldom are there stories which are both. The Caves of Androzani, the first half-hour of An Unearthly Child, and some of Planet Of The Spiders are rare examples of good stories which are also vital to any student of the history of Doctor Who on television. Sadly, however, for all of its importance (and the last two episodes are really very, very good), The War Games is something I’d recommend only to those interested in that study, because it’s far too long for anything even resembling casual viewing.