on 5 October 2015
Patrick Troughton in my humble opinion is without doubt the best Doctor Who of All Time.
It's such a pity that Patrick decided not to continue playing the Doctor (apart from occasional appearances teamed with later reincarnations of the Doctor.) but he was a fine character actor, even appearing in The Omen (1976) as a doomed defrocked Priest. Before and after Doctor Who he made many film and television appearances.
The War Games DVD is a great story and still packs a punch and has improved with age since I first viewed it way back in 1969, but then again any episode of Doctor Who starring Patrick Troughton is always a joy and pleasure to watch.
on 24 January 2011
The War Games is firmly regarded as a favourite amongst many Doctor Who fans, and the announcement earlier this year of the proposed DVD release was fuelled with much excitement, hype and expectation.
But with so much riding on what could arguably be one of the most important DVD releases from the Classic Series so far, could the BBC / 2|entertain deliver?
The answer, quite simply, is a big resounding YES!
The War Games presents Doctor Who's first and only 10-part adventure. Although a lengthy story, totaling over 4 hours, the storyline, cast, pace and suspense keep you entertained all the way through, and watching in straight succession is by no means a chore.
It contains some of the best villainy in Doctor Who history, with some truly engaging performances from Philip Madoc (The War Lord), Edward Brayshaw (The War Chief), David Garfield (Captain von Weich) and James Bree (Security Chief).
It is also clear from this story that the chemistry-fuelled partnership between Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines and Wendy Padbury was coming to a close, as the adventure marks the end of The Second Doctor's tenure on the show. But what better way to bow out than on the high that this story provides.
The War Games succeeds on so many levels. From the underlying message of War and its consequences, the gripping cliffhangers (which count for some of the best seen in Doctor Who), to the amazing way in which the cast and crew worked together to pull off a thoroughly entertaining piece of Science Fiction Television history.
The DVD package is rounded off with a cavernous collection of Special Features that each compliment and support the story.
The 'Commentary' features Frazer Hines (Actor 'Jamie'), Wendy Padbury (Actor 'Zoe), Philip Madoc (Actor 'The War Lord'), Jane Sherwin (Actor 'Lady Jennifer'), Graham Weston (Actor 'Russell'), Terrance Dicks (Writer) and Derrick Sherwin (Producer). Although, as commentaries go, there are a lot of guests, they are spread out over the 10 episodes, giving balance whilst coming and going fluidly. Terrance and Frazer, in particular, offer some extremely entertaining anecdotes.
'War Zone' looks at the genesis of the story, together with some of the cast and crew's stories from filming. With interviews from Terrance Dicks, James Moran (Writer), Paul Cornell (Writer), Tom Spilsbury (DWM Editor), Graham Weston, Frazer Hines, Wendy Padbury, Jane Sherwin, Bernard Horsfall (Actor 'Time Lord), Derrick Sherwin, David Maloney (Director), Roger Cheveley (Production Designer) and Joseph Lidster (Writer).
Paul Cornell's input in the documentary, is particularly worthy of note, due to his accurate and thought provoking dissection of some of the plot points in the story.
'Shades of Grey' focuses on the limitations and considerations of black and white television. The documentary casts a light on Producing, Designing, Graphic Designing, Performing and Sound Design for monochrome television production and features interviews with Frazer Hines, Wendy Padbury, Jane Sherwin, Terrance Dicks, Derrick Sherwin, Timothy Combe (Director), Roger Cheveley, Bernard Lodge (Graphic Designer) and Brian Hodgson (Sound Designer).
'Now and Then' offers a look at the locations used in The War Games, and compares the locations as they were used 40 years ago, with footage recorded recently. This is quite possibly one of the best Now and Then features produced to date, owing to the accuracy of location positioning coupled with the informative narration and supporting music.
'The Doctor's Composer' gives us a long-overdue and well-presented look at Dudley Simpson's musical contribution to Doctor Who. The documentary provides a chronological look at stories and scenes from the Classic Series that Dudley provided music for, connected with interview footage of Dudley himself.
'Sylvia James - In Conversation', offers a chronological look at the Make-up Designer's work during the Patrick Troughton era of Doctor Who, with clips from episodes as well as stills of her work, as she describes the processes involved.
'Talking about Regeneration' does exactly what it says on the tin! It's a clear, concise, and informative guide to The Doctor's regenerations to date. Featuring interviews with Kate O'Mara (Actor 'The Rani'), Peter Davison (Actor 'The 5th Doctor'), Gareth Roberts (Writer), Rob Shearman (Writer), Joseph Lidster and Clayton Hickman (former DWM Editor).
'Time Zones', kicks off with a neat little CGI sequence, and focuses on the historical truth behind The War Games, with detailed information on some of the major points surrounding the First World War, Roman Warfare and The American Civil War. The feature adds a good grounding behind the story, and includes interviews from Martin Farr (Political Historian), Crispin Swayne (Military Historian), Lindsay Allison-Jones (of Newcastle University) and Susan-Mary Grant (Author).
'Stripped for Action - The Second Doctor', looks at the Second Doctor comics, and how some of the companions and villains changed from the TV episodes to the comic strips, not to mention some of the bizarre storylines. The feature includes contributions from Gary Russell (former DWM Editor), Alan Barnes (former DWM Editor), John Ainsworth (Comics Historian) and Jeremy Bentham (Comics Historian).
'On Target - Malcolm Hulke'; shows us how the cherished Doctor Who Writer got into writing for the show, as well as his impact on some of the other members of the production team associated with the show, such as Terrance Dicks and Gary Russell. The documentary includes interviews with Terrance Dicks, Gary Russell, Alan Barnes, David J Howe (Author) and Chris Achilleos (Illustrator). Terrance Dicks' memories in particular, make up some of the best moments in this feature.
'Devious' is a Fan film that attempts to bridge the 'alleged' gap between The War Games and Spearhead from Space with 'The 2nd and a half Doctor', played by Tony Garner . The film includes scenes recorded with Jon Pertwee (playing The 3rd Doctor) as well as Peter Tuddenham and Hugh Lloyd (playing Time Lords). There's also a commentary option featuring the cast and crew that offers some behind the scenes tidbits, including an explanation of how Jon Pertwee was persuaded to take part.
This feature was a real surprise, and makes a genuinely pleasant and bold (on the BBC's part) addition to the DVD.
The 'Coming Soon Trailer' features a trailer promoting the forthcoming Black Guardian Trilogy DVD box-set. Although it's not one of the best trailers to date, it certainly packs a lot of energy and seems to sell the main plot points. One can't help feeling though, after a release such as The War Games, that the DVD features should also be highlighted in the trailers.
As with previous DVD releases, there are the usual 'Easter Eggs', 'PDF Material', 'Photo Gallery' and 'Production Subtitles' included.
It's easy to get swept away with positive comments when reviewing a DVD like this, especially when it contains a story as successful as The War Games, but the variety and quality of the supporting features are what help to make this package shine with utter brilliance. Well... that and Clayton Hickman's vividly eye-catching cover!
Overall, this is quite clearly, and most definitely the finest Doctor Who DVD release thus far, and will surely take some beating.
on 12 July 2009
As this excellent new release reminds us, Patrick Troughton was rather clearly the finest actor ever to have taken on the role of the Doctor. His closest rivals (and they are close, though in very different ways) are Tom Baker (with his naturally alien looks and flair for humor); Christopher Eccleston (who nicely underplayed the role for a change, and brought a real dignity to it no one else has yet succeeded in doing); and David Tennant (with his hugely entertaining high-energy goofiness). But Troughton had it all - high intelligence which carried through so well in his portrayal (in contrast to several less intelligent-seeming Doctors -- it takes a genius to play a genius, after all), a real knack for triumphantly carrying the viewers past the cheesy special effects and sometimes inept supporting cast, superb comic timing, and above all, a vulnerable, self-effacing loveability seldom if ever matched in the role. (A far cry from Mr. Tennant's demigod, for example, enjoyable as that take on the role is.) We're incredibly lucky to have had all these, and all the other, fine actors play the role, but for me, Troughton is The Doctor. (And he was the personal first choice of several later Doctors, as well). More the pity, then, that most of his work is gone, probably forever. Merely 6 of his complete stories out of 21 remain intact, with two fairly complete (Ice Warriors and Invasion), and Moonbase with 2 of 4 episodes extant (including, fortunately, the final one). Luckily, War Games is the length of 2-1/2 normal stories, so the 6 of 21 ratio is a bit misleading. I hadn't thought much of War Games when I saw it a few years ago in its muddy, poor audio VHS incarnation (the only one available in the US), and would have rated it about in the middle of the Troughton story pack. Seeing it again in BBC's loving restoration calls for a new assessment, and a considerably higher ranking. Troughton himself is wonderful, and the two companions Jamie and Zoe are quite strong (particularly Zoe in this one, very natural and certainly adorable). Standouts in the cast are Philip Madoc, who makes a rather late but fine appearance as the warlord, the actor portraying General Smythe with disturbing villainy, and, best of all, the Dalek-voiced, thick-lensed Head of Security - a memorable performance there, which manages to grow stronger as the episodes unfold. Troughton has some of his finest moments -- donning the silly facegear with Zoe and doing a comic freeze-take; deftly and quietly ruining the oh-so-carefully laid plans of the villains over and over again; and best of all, his breathtaking work in the final episode, moving successively through desperation as he tries repeatedly to escape, resignation when he realizes he can't, high outrage at his treatment by the Time Lords, and of course a very moving farewell to Jamie and Zoe. The vast increase in the clarity of the video (particularly in the studio "taped" sequences) and audio adds immensely to the enjoyment of the tale, and to its appreciation in a more proper perspective than was possible with the shoddy VHS. In terms of the demands of the performance, and his success in meeting them, War Games may well be Troughton's best overall. (I suspect that, if Evil of the Daleks, Fury From the Deep, and above all Enemy of the World had survived, War Games would take its honored place just below them - though Troughton's hysterically funny, frenzied fighting against the rising tide of death-foam as he pounds on the door in Seeds of Death is truly unmatchable). War Games as a story is a bit of a "half full/ half empty" conundrum - yes, it's overlong, but actually it nicely divides into two (perhaps three) overlapping adventures, which naturally flow one into the next -- the War Games episodes proper, then the HQ-based attempt to defeat the aliens, and finally the fateful interaction with the Time Lords back on Gallifrey. This is also the first episode to introduce the rogue Time Lord character who would soon become The Master in the great Jon Pertwee sequences. If you'd like to see how the Doctor should be played, you won't want to miss War Games. (And as the only complete Troughton stories yet to appear on DVD are the lackluster Dominators and hit-and-miss Krotons, this might well be the last excellent Troughton story we'll see on DVD -- though a recreated Ice Warriors would be nice (and a partially animated Moonbase, too, or is that too much to ask for from the network which brought you "wiping"?) Go get it.
on 8 December 2010
..If your attention span consists of say less than 40 mins or so. For those of us who recall those 20-odd minutes of joy and wonder every saturday teatime - this package is unmissable. Sure at 10 episodes it does take some wading through if you fancy viewing in one sitting. But the unfolding events and you can even play 'spot the rising star' in some episodes, there's still plenty to hold your attention. A stash of extras to behold, such a shame that the only surviving Troughton tale left to be released is the dour 'The Krotons'.
on 7 November 2011
It's a great adventure, very modern, with 10 episodes spanning a long but not stretched story: only in the last episode (which in fact is almost an adventure on its own) they seem to have too much time to fill.
The audio and the image is crisp and the extras in disc 3 are extensive and wonderful, specially for somebody who likes to learn about how television in the late 60's (and not just "Doctor Who") was done.
One of the best editions I've seen to date of a classic "Doctor Who" story.
on 19 December 2014
The longest single Doctor Who story and one which holds up very well over 4 decades later. The cast of Troughton's Doctor with Jamie and Zoe are perfectly in accord with one another. The settings are magnificent, from a First World War operations base on the W Front to the Timelords' home planet, seen here for the first time. Some fantastic supporting actors, not least Philip Madoc.
on 10 June 2010
Despite the fact that this story was made in 1969 and on a very restricted budget I found it to be very well done. The storyline was quite gripping and well acted. The black and white film added to the atmosphere of the story. The end of the story where the Doctor has to ask his own people The Time Lords for help was an interesting twist. I enjoyed this DVD.
on 28 November 2013
I love The War games which now means I have seen every regeneration story. I feel over all the episode is brilliant and was constantly glued to the screen throughout the whole 10 parts. The only thing I I dislike about this episode is how Troughton regenerates which is kind of clowny but I do insist you buy it as it is a great episode.
on 29 March 2013
During the 'Doctor Who' VHS era, I mainly focused on the Pertwee and Baker years, the ones that were within my television memory, and largely avoided the 60s output. I think the poor quality of the film prints used put me off, as did lack of info on the actual stories. However, in the DVD era of restored picture quality and special features, I find myself being drawn towards the B&W 'Who' period, finally having the opportunity to see adventures I'd only previously read about and able to view them in the best condition they've been seen in since their initial broadcast. In the case of 'The War Games', it looks as though they've retrieved the original 2-inch videotapes rather than the often-grainy telecine recordings and this makes the viewing experience all the more enjoyable.
The story itself, far from being a plodder, is fast-paced and genuinely epic in scale; even if a lot of what happens was concocted at the eleventh-hour during a marathon writing stint by Terrance Dicks and Malcolm Hulke, it really doesn't show. The opening episode, seemingly taking place on the Western Front in 1917, captures a sense of authentic and unnerving menace rare to 'Who' and isn't really matched again until the first episode of Pertwee's 'Invasion of The Dinosaurs'. Yes, there's plenty of running away from captors and then being recaptured over the ten episodes, but this is to be expected when a story spans such a length, and none of this detracts from an uncomfortable premise, that an alien race has chosen Earth to select its ultimate army from on account of the fact that we've engaged in so many bloody wars ever since we first walked upright.
The supporting cast is superb, especially the villains - in particular Philip Madoc's memorably chilling Warlord; and the sense of time finally running out for the Doctor is palpable throughout the closing episodes; by the time we reach the penultimate cliffhanger, we realise this is one scrape he's not going to get out of. The introduction of the Timelords as God-like figures and the creepily sparse set they inhabit (reminiscent of some 60s BBC2 Beckett production) gives the story a fittingly momentous climax. The scene where the Doc has to say goodbye to Jamie and Zoe is genuinely moving (made all the more effective by not swamping the moment in syrupy strings, as would be done today), whilst Patrick Troughton's own exit as he spiralls out of focus just before the credits roll is one of the most unsettling endings in the show's history. I can't imagine what it must have been like watching this in 1969, seeing not only the Doctor disappear forever but both his companions too. When 'Doctor Who' returned six months later, in colour with a new Doctor and no reassuring faces from the past few years to ease the transition, it must have been like tuning into a completely different programme. As it is, 'The War Games' is an essential addition to the pantheon of landmark 'Who' adventures and, considering how decimated Troughton's tenure is in the archive, it's nothing short of a miracle it has survived intact. Well worth seeing, and a whole disc of special features makes this one of the best bargains on the market. Buy it!
on 23 June 2012
For all great Dr Who fans, please get this DVD, as in my view its goodbye to my second favourite Doctor (Patrick Throughton), my favourite number one male assistant Jamie McCrimmon (Fraser Haines) and my favourite 1960s female Zoe (Wendy Padbury) and hello to another (Jon Pertwee). This swansong from the Patrick Troughton era of Doctor Who sees the Second Doctor faces his own people `The Timelords'. All the main cast shines in this classic 1969 adventure along with all acting glories goes to Philip Madoc (The War Lord), James Bree (The Security Chief), Edward Brayshaw (The War Chief), James Saville (Lt Carstairs), Jane Sherwin (Lady Jane Buckingham), Graham Weston (Sargeant Russell), Noel Coleman (General Smyth), David Garfield (Von Veitch), Rupurt Rees (Captain Ransome), Bernard Horsfall (The Head Timelord) and new coming actor Rudolph Walker (Harper) and Leslie Schofield (Leroy) and many other actors who played different brainwashed soldiers from different time periods and aliens who want to invade time and space.
This is adventure bridges the gap of how the Doctor regenerates from the cosmic hobo to dashing dandy man of action who transforms the series from black and white 1960s intergalactic space adventures to colourful 1970s Quatermass style adventures.
I hope the BBC release the remaining Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker adventures including the "Ambassadors of Death" (1970) as a fitting tribute to Caroline John (Dr Liz Shaw) who sadly passed away this month. And also `The Mind of Evil' (1971), `Terror of the Zygons' (1975), a separate special edition DVD of `Revenge of the Cybermen' (1975) (Similar to DVD edition of `Day of the Daleks'), and bring out an advanced and realistic CGI version of Tom Baker's missing 1979 adventure `Shada'.