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4.6 out of 5 stars
Doctor Who - The War Games [DVD] [1969]
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39 of 39 people found the following review helpful
1969's The War Games is a 10 part British television masterpiece. This story marks the end of Patrick Troughton's tenure on Doctor Who, as well as the end of the 6 year B&W era of the programme. The events of this iconic serial lead to the Doctor's second regeneration and the beginning of a new era of British television. It cannot be overstated enough the importance of this story, we learn so much here that would shape the series for decades to come. Finally, in episode 6 {the 249th broadcast so far} we learn that the Doctor's people are called Time Lords, a piece of knowledge that would have a drastic effect on nearly every Doctor Who story henceforth. In The War Games, Patrick Troughton is looking decidedly tired, after 3 years of heavy production, the signs of a man who was utterly exhausted were beginning to surface. Yet still, he manages to put in an unbelievable performance as the doomed Doctor. Truly inspiring stuff.

Frazer Hines and Wendy Padbury have a fantastic send-off here, as does Pat. They are pivotal to the events of this adventure and are the secondary main force for its success. At 10 episodes, some people could and will be put off, even I had my dubious suspicions about sitting down and watching a solid 4 hours of B&W television. However, to my delight, the story was brilliant and very compelling, it really was quite a pacy affair with a huge quest cast, some fantastic location work and truly emotional performances from all involved. Director David Maloney, who at this point has already directed two stories for Pat's final season, does a remarkable job here. At 10 episodes, this must have appeared extremely daunting, but as ever, David attacks the challenge with passion and vigor, and that for me is one of the reasons The War Games is so successful.

Standout performances here come from Noel Coleman's General Smythe {one of the alien villains}, David Savile's Lt Carstairs {a main member of the rebellion}, David Garfield's Von Weich {a fantastically played alien German / Confederate villain}, Philip Madoc's War Lord {the leader of the villains and the games}, Hubert Ree's Captain Ransom {a good man, mislead}, Edward Brayshaw's Villainous War Chief {the central villain}, Jane Sherwin's Lady Jennifer {a WWI ambulance driver / nurse / resistance fighter}, James Bree's OTT performance as the security chief and of course Bernard Horsfall's role as the leader of the Time Lords. With such a brilliant cast, its not hard to see why The War Games is held in such high esteem within fan circles and indeed casual viewers opinions.

I will admit however, that there is some serious padding in this story. The War Games only has a few minor defects and unfortunately although its length is partly why it is a success, it does pull the story down in some places. For instance, the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe must have been caught, then escaped and then been recaptured about 15 times in the 4 hours and it does wear a bit thin eventually. Not a big problem, but I find that it is like an itch you can't scratch.

Now then, the BBC DVD release is extraordinary, the effort that has been put into this release astounds me. Firstly, the Doctor Who Restoration Team have done an unbelievable job in cleaning up these stories for DVD, as well as the astonishing picture quality, we have Mark Ayres brand new and digitally remastered soundtrack of the serial. Truly high definition quality from this BBC DVD. Secondly, we have the daddy of special features here, the single greatest collection of bonus content that has ever graced any BBC DVD, or any DVD in fact. 4 hours of documentaries are packed into their own disc within this special 3 disc release. The documentaries are as follows.

1.War Zone - {a documentary on the making of The War Games}
2.Shades of Grey - {a feature documentary on Black and White television}
3.Now and Then - {the locations of The War Games, 40 years on}
4.The Doctor's Composer - {part 1 of Dudley Simpson's endless supply of incidental music for Doctor Who}
5.Sylvia James - In Conversation - {a feature on make-up designer Sylvia James work on Doctor Who}
6.Talking About Regeneration - {a very interesting doc about the Doctor's many regenerations}
7.Time Zones - {a look at the wars of The War Games}
8.Stripped for action - {a look at the Second Doctor's comic strips}
9.On Target - Malcolm Hulke - {a feature about the Target novelizations written by Mac Hulke}
10.Devious - {a fan made production that tries to bridge the events between War Games and Spearhead}

So there we have it, over 4 hours of Doctor Who and another 4 hours of special features that would exhaust any fan. This really is a classic Doctor Who serial and deserves its mantle as one of the very best stories Doctor Who ever got away with. The BBC DVD release has ensured that future generations as well as present ones will appreciate Patrick Troughton's grand departure from Doctor Who. Bring on the Pertwee years.

I really could not recommend this story enough, please go and grab yourself a copy now.

Many thanks to all of you who have taken the time to read my reviews, its truly appreciated.

Mr Ben.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 28 July 2014
Epic! That's the word for it. This is an epic action-packed `Doctor Who' adventure!

`The War Games' is the final story of Patrick Troughton's era. I truly was captivated by this non-stop action-packed 10-part story featuring the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe! It's a truly well-crafted story well delivered by writers Terrance Dicks and Malcolm Hulke and director David Maloney.

This DVD is a 3-disc set, with the first five episodes on Disc 1; the second five episodes on Disc 2; and a wealth of special features on Disc 3.

In 1969, producer Derrick Sherwin asked his script editor Terrance Dicks to come up with a 10-part story in 'Doctor Who's sixth season. Terrance took the challenge and with Malcolm Hulke, they came up with `The War Games', a mind-bogglingly clever story that is significant in 'Doctor Who's history.

`The War Games' has the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe in the TARDIS arriving in the First World War. But as the story progresses, things do not seem what they appear as the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe soon realise they're not on Earth and are on a planet where war games run by aliens are conducted.

The concepts running through are bold and the sheer scale in this story is so massive! This is a strong anti-war story that's well told with so many complexities and dramatic plot threads. The horrors of the First World War are brilliantly portrayed as well as the idea of the war-mongering aliens.

This is the last story to feature Patrick Troughton's Doctor, but it's also the last story to feature Frazer Hines and Wendy Padbury as Jamie and Zoe. It's such an emotional and strong-moving swansong for three wonderful characters in the TARDIS!

I've had the DVD cover of this story signed by lovely Wendy Padbury, who gives a wonderful performance as Zoe. Wendy signed the DVD cover at a convention in Newcastle, October 2013. We agreed this was lovely closing story for Patrick Troughton as the Doctor as well as for her and Frazer. I enjoy and have fond memories meeting Wendy at conventions, and even chatted to her in a coffee club with other fans at the Newcastle convention

Zoe is now grown-up by this point in `Doctor Who' as she's no longer the little cheeky girl the Doctor met on the Space Wheel. Zoe wears a long white coat and is more serious than she's ever been. I'm impressed with Wendy's acting as Zoe, especially when she protests to General Smythe giving them an unfair trial and when she and Jamie stood by the Doctor when calling the Time Lords. I feared for Zoe's life when she was being threatened at gunpoint and interrogated by a lie detector.

Jamie too is a seasoned adventurer in the TARDIS having travelled with the Doctor for so long. Frazer Hines gives a wonderful performance and as Jamie is brave and loyal at the Doctor's side. I like the comedy moments Frazer and Patrick sometimes put into the story. Jamie gets left behind with Lady Jennifer and soon joins in with the resistance. Jamie still believes in the Doctor, despite the moment when the Doctor betrays him, Zoe and the resistance members to the war aliens.

Patrick Troughton gives a magnificent performance as the Doctor. Everything Patrick does is mesmerising and enjoyable, especially when he unravels what's going on with the war games and opposing the aliens who are conducting these atrocious activities. I like how he shares adventures with Jamie and Zoe and how he interacts with the War Chief who is one of his people. We get to learn the Doctor is a Time Lord and has to make a hard choice to save the human soldiers of Earth.

The supporting guest cast in this story is so massive! Because of the large scale of the story being 10 episodes, there are so many characters involved in the story that it's such a challenge to find out who's who and at what point they come into the story.

There's Lady Jennifer Buckingham played by Jane Sherwin, who is also the wife of producer Derrick Sherwin. Jane brings a lovely plumy attitude in her performance that is so right for Lady Jennifer and she proves a worthy ally to the Doctor and his friends.

There's also Lieutenant Carstairs, another worthy ally, played by David Saville. I really like his character in this story, who is a true soldier in the First World War fighting for his king and country, until he realises something's not right with the war and he shares this with Lady Jennifer.

There's Noel Coleman as General Smythe, who is an army general in the First World War. Smythe is typical British general who for some strange reason gives the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe an unfair trial as he wants them to be found guilty. Smythe's a war alien and you really want to loathe him.

Smythe's not the only one as there's also David Garfield as Von Weich. Von Weich is another war alien who first is in charge of the German side of the First World War and then in charge of the American Civil War. Von Weich is pretty evil looking and seeming gleeful and relishing in his job.

The main villains of this story include the War Chief played by Edward Brayshaw. The War Chief is mainly in charge of the running of the war games and has knowledge of time travel. It turns out that the War Chief is a renegade Time Lord who's helping the aliens in their conquest of the galaxy.

There's also James Bree as the Security Chief, who is like a Nazi with his round-rimmed spectacles and Himmler-like personality. The Security Chief is a little man obsessed with bringing the War Chief down as he doesn't trust him, especially discovering Zoe, Jamie and the Doctor are time travellers.

Phillip Madoc is in this story, playing the War Lord. Phillip for me is the U-Boat Captain from the `Dad's Army' episode `The Deadly Attachment'. But he's also a great `Doctor Who' villain and this is one of his best. Phillip does quiet menace as he's so in control in his emotions.

There's also Vernon Dobtcheff as the Chief Scientist; Graham Weston as Sergeant Russell and Michael Napier Brown playing Arturo Villar. There's also a small appearance of David Troughton, Patrick Troughton's son as Private Moor who kills Von Weich in the story.

The set design for each of the Time Zones including the First World War and the American Civil War are superb as well as the period costumes for the characters. The design of the alien base looks spectacular as well as the aliens in costume including the security guards with deadly weapons.

Towards the end of the story, the Doctor realises that the problem is too great for him to handle. So with great reluctance, the Doctor has to call his own people - the Time Lords. The Doctor's afraid to do it. But he has to do it in order to save the people of Earth.

Eventually the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe try to escape but the Time Lords hunt them down. The TARDIS is soon brought back to the Doctor's home planet. The Doctor run away anymore and we meet the Time Lords who put them on trial including Bernard Horsfall; Trevor Martin and Clyde Politt.

I like it when the Doctor defends himself against the Time Lords by showing the evils he's fought against including Quarks; Yeti; Ice Warriors; Cybermen and Daleks. The Doctor proves his case although the Time Lords don't seem convinced as they consider the Doctor's sentence.

In the end, we say goodbye to Jamie and Zoe. There's a moving farewell scene as Jamie promises not to forget the Doctor and Zoe asks if they'll meet again. The Doctor knows they will forget him, but the Time Lords reassure him that Jamie and Zoe will only remember their first adventure.

Remember the Tenth Doctor wiping Donna's memory? A similar thing happens as Zoe and Jamie return to their own time and places not remembering the Doctor. Zoe returns to the Space Wheel in 'The Wheel In Space' and Jamie returns to Scotland in 'The Highlanders'.

The Doctor's fate is then decided. The Time Lords decide to send the Doctor to Earth in exile in the 20th century. But the Time Lords have conditioned to force the Doctor to regenerate. The Doctor is outraged and despite being given the choice of what he looks like, the Time Lords become impatient.

They make the decision for him, and soon the Doctor's on his way to regenerate and begin his exile. The Doctor protests as we see him fading away into the void and out of existence, crying. Although we don't actually see Patrick's Doctor regenerating into Jon Pertwee, we know he's on his way.

I enjoyed the special features on this 3-disc DVD set of `The War Games'.

On both Disc 1 and Disc 2, there are audio commentaries for every episode of this 10-part story with Frazer Hines; Wendy Padbury; Phillip Madoc; Jane Sherwin; Graham Weston); writer Terrance Dicks and producer Derrick Sherwin. There are also info-text commentary options to enjoy.

On Disc 3, there a making-of documentary called `War Zone' featuring interviews with cast and crew and interviews with new series writers.

There's also `Shades of Grey' looking at the black-and-white days of `Doctor Who'; a `Now and Then' featurette and `The Doctor's Composer', part one of an interview with Dudley Simpson.

There's `Sylvia James - In Conversation', which is an interview with make-up designer Sylvia James; `Talking About Regeneration' looking at the various regenerations from William Hartnell to David Tennant including interviews with new series writers and actors Kata O'Mara and Peter Davison; and 'Time Zones' where historians give historic details on the various wars featured in `The War Games'.

There's `Stripped For Action - The Second Doctor' which looks at the comic book adventures of the Second Doctor. There's `On Target - Malcolm Hulke' which looks at the huge contribution to the `Doctor Who' Target novelisation range by Malcolm Hulke. There's also `Devious' which is a fan-made film of the story set between `The War Games' and `Spearhead From Space' and features Jon Pertwee himself as the Third Doctor.

There's a photo gallery; PDF material including a `Radio Times Listing'; `BBC Enterprises Sales Literature' and `Original Design Plans of the SIDRAT' and a coming soon trailer of 'The Black Guardian Trilogy' with Peter Davison.

`The War Games' is a truly epic and clever classic story of `Doctor Who' and a tremendous swansong for the `Patrick Troughton' era of `Doctor Who'. This is a great story with the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe depicting the horrors of war and opposing the aliens who embrace war for their own conquests. I truly enjoyed all 10 episodes and found a touching conclusion to the Patrick Troughton years.

The next story for the Doctor is 'World Game'.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 6 July 2009
This 3 disk set contains the entire ten part serial which sees Patrick Troughton bowing out as the Doctor (at least until the 10th anniversary story The Three Doctors). The sound and picture quality are superb having been remastered from the original recordings.

Disks one and two contain The War Games (5 episodes per disk). There is a facinating audio commentary on each episode by various members of the cast and crew including Fraser Hines and Terrance Dicks.

Disk three is packed with probable the best selection of special features to grace a Doctor Who dvd for quite a while. Included is a facinating making of doccumentary, a featurette about the Doctor's various regenerations and a short segment on Malcolm Hulke and the Target book.

The War Games is one of the longest Doctor Who stories and is also one of the best - this dvd is a fitting tribute to Patrick Troughton and well worth buying.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
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.
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44 of 48 people found the following review helpful
on 29 May 2009
A very welcome release it being 2006, (yes 2006!) since the last Troughton release. Naturally it's a little overlong at 10 episodes and sags in the middle (well it is middle aged at 40) but good parts more than compensate. The story never forgets that war is a dirty business, explosions rarely far away
A very atmospheric opening (and special title sequence) as the gang apparently land in Earth's history. There are generals who even by wartime standards seem ruthless-a particularly fine turn by Noel Coleman as General Smythe. A great touch here is by donning eyeware (glasses, monocle) they are then able to hypnotise soldiers.
Soon they find they can step between different times. There is a great deal of movement (always a plus for a long story) but at times it's so back & forth, it's monotonous.
As the Warlords are properly introduced and we discover what's really going on, the story picks up. The main ones are Galactic Nazis ; James Bree is a slimy Goebbels/Himmler type Security Chief and Philip Madoc as a charismatic but scary warlord is a temporal Hitler.
The 2nd renegade Timelord the Doctor encounters, the war Chief is a wonderful creation. A brilliant performance by Rentaghost's Edward Brayshaw, he's a Galactic Arthur Daley who sells, makes or designs for the Warlords a joblot of ringer Tardises, which like fake Rolexes look the part but soon break down. (they also seem to be controlled by fridge magnets!) The cheeky beggar even calls them SIDRATs! (Space In Dimensions Relative And Time?)

Some young bloke called David Troughton plays a bewildered soldier.

Understandably for a man at the end of a tiring run, Patrick Troughton is occasionally on autopilot but remains watchable and where he gets some really good material; recognising the War Chief, playing the villain and defending himself in court, he's magical!
Jamie and Zoe carry welcome humour, Jamie being imprisoned with his mortal enemy (a redcoat) and then giving a stirring speech, prompted by Zoe. Fraser and Wendy are as good as ever.
The trial and events leading up to it ( e.g. a sequence where time seems to slow down) take the story up a gear for the end. Silly bit of cod dialogue as the Warlord says that when the Timelords catch the Doctor he'll wish he'd been shot (being exiled to Earth and becoming Jon Pertwee is better than being shot!). In the trial watch for stage Doctor Trevor Martin.

It's the renegeration that never was as Pertwee had not been cast yet.
If you're not a fan of old 60's shows, you may find it a bit long. If not, it's highly recommended.

2 entertain have made this a 3 disc release, laying on a creeping barrage of extras (sorry I couldn't resist). The Commentary is a pick n' mix commentary as various people drop in and out, occasionally there's repetition but not much. Lots of great moments e.g. Fraser & Wendy recall Mrs. Troughton as the driving force behind PT's departure and Wendy wishes she'd stayed long enough to snog David Tennant! Best of all Jane Sherwin calls Pat the best Doc until David T. and Terrance Dicks rebuts with "I put up a case for Jon & Tom!"

"War Zone" is an excellent and good length making of with many contributors including archive footage of director David Maloney. The genesis of the story, departure of the regular cast & all important aspects of WG are covered. It's well supplemented by a "Now & Then"
look at locations plus "Time Zone" on the historical background to the conflicts featured (don't be eating when they explain what "trenchfoot" is!).
"Shades of Grey" is a muddled but enjoyable look at black & white TV, if you like Z Cars & Compact there are clips to enjoy.

The 2nd Doctor's comic strip stories are covered well despite the short length in "Stripped for Action" e.g. Dalek and Quark stories plus stories set after War Games. "Devious" is a fan film also set after War Games with a new Doctor but we only get the opening and a trailer for the main story plus the entire Pertwee regeneration sequence, worth checking out the commentary, shame there isn't more of the film.

The welcome debut of an ongoing feature "On Target" covers the novelisations of War games co-author Malcom Hulke. A promising debut as Hulke's strengths are explored well.
Make up supremo Sylvia James and uber Composer Dudley Simpson both give charming interviews on their work on 60's Who.

"Talking 'bout Regeneration" does exactly what it says on the tin and sees the best use yet of celebrity fans giving a light hearted look at the regeneration sequences.

It's a shame there's no restoration feature as this is some of the best work yet, I doubt it looked better on 1st broadcast.

If I could rescore for the whole package it would now be a 5.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
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!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
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'.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
The final TV serial to feature Patrick Troughton's incarnation of the nomadic Time Lord sees The Doctor, Highlander Jamie McCrimmon and computer whiz Zoe Heriot appearing slap-bang in the middle of what appears to be the trenches of World War One. Promptly arrested as spies, the trio of time travellers discover that all is not what it seems, and are drawn into a nefarious plot that even involves members of The Doctor's own race...

As well as being the second longest (after The 12 episode Dalek Masterplan) serial until 1986's Trial of a Time Lord, with a whopping ten episodes, this story was ground-breaking in terms of Doctor Who itself; not only was it The Second Doctor's swansong but it was the first to introduce the Time Lords as a race, although there is no mention here of home planet Gallifrey. The serial was one of the last Doctor Who stories to be filmed in black and white, and can be a little slow at times; however it remains a thoughtful and measured entry in the programme's canon, generally quite light but with hindsight subtly protesting about the futility and terror of war, with representations of Earth wars from the American Civil War to World War I. The picture on this DVD is excellent too - the studio-based scenes in particular as crisp and clear, as if they had been filmed yesterday rather than 40 years ago.

In his last outing for four years (he appeared in tenth anniversary serial 'The Three Doctors' in 1973, Patrick Troughton is on fine form; characteristically impish, playful and anti-authority, although also weary and clearly resigned to his eventual fate. There are a host of great character actors in the supporting cast: Troughton's eldest son David makes his first TV appearance as Private Moor, whilst Philip Madoc plays the imperious War Lord and Bernard Horsfall also makes a notable appearance as a Time Lord. Edward Brayshaw also pops up as the scheming War Chief - you may recognise him from later appearances in that other 70s kids' TV favourite, Rentaghost.

I first encountered this story via Malcolm Hulke's superb 1979 Target novelisation, and naturally the late 60s' special effects were never going to do Hulke's and co-writer Terrance Dicks' ambitious and imaginative script justice. Having said that, for its time and budget, this story remains an atmospheric serial, and remains a very watchable slice of Doctor Who, also serving as a good entry point into the 1960s incarnation of the show.

DVD extras are what makes this bumper three disc box set really worth paying for:

Now and Then: A look at some of the locations used in the making of The War Games, these were of particular interest to me as much of the serial was shot on location in Sussex where I grew up - although slightly before my time!

On Target: The first in a series of features on prolific Doctor Who writers, this time it's the turn of Malcolm Hulke, one of the series' most prolific writers.

WarZone: An insightful `making-of' documentary featuring many of the surviving cast and crew, including writer Terrance Dicks, Producer Derrick Sherwin, Bernard Horsfall, Wendy Padbury, and Frazer Hines.

Shades of Grey: short feature which examines how black and white filming shaped the technical and artistic feel of the 1960s Doctor Who serials

The Doctor's Composer: Composer Dudley Simpson, long synonymous with Doctor Who, talks about his contributions to the show during his first few years as part of the crew

Talking about Regeneration: A study of that most intriguing and occasionally controversial aspects of Time Lord physiognomy

Time Zones: A group of historians discuss the many conflicts covered in the serial; slightly random but informative

Devious: An unfinished amateur Doctor film that is set between The War Games and first story to feature the third Doctor `Spearhead from Space'. Starring Jon Pertwee himself, not long before he died, this is pretty impressive stuff all things considered

Stripped for Action: Looks at the many comic strips over the years to feature Troughton's Second Doctor

Sylvia James in Conversation: Doctor Who make-up designer talks about her contributions to The Troughton era

Commentary: This features Frazer Hines (Jamie), Wendy Padbury (Zoe), Philip Madoc (The War Lord), Jane Sherwin (Lady Jennifer Buckingham), Graham Weston (Russell), Terrance Dicks and producer Derrick Sherwin
Photo gallery, Easter Eggs, Coming soon trailer (The Black Guardian Trilogy)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 2 October 2010
Who cares if it's too long? Anything that delays Patrick Troughton's departure is fine by me. Other reviewers have covered the major strengths and weaknesses of this turning-point in Doctor Who history. The one thing that stood out for me, however, was that sense of the 2nd doctor's impending doom. It isn't always successfully conveyed in Doctor Who regeneration stories (apart from this one, only Davison's and Eccleston's really got it right. Tennant's got it right and then overdid it).

In all his 1966-69 adventures there was always a sense of innocent, madcap fun as Troughton fumbled his way out of trouble with Yeti, Ice Warriors, Krotons, Daleks and Cybermen. With 'The War Games', however, the 'Charlie Chaplin in space' days are over. There are no fun monsters or space stations in this story, just mud, guns and big, bad soldiers. Troughton's doctor seems a bit lost in the midst of all these grown-ups and is uncharacteristically serious most of the time. He escapes countless times through the ten episodes but is always recaptured, building up the viewers' sense that, this time, he just isn't going to make it.

Unusually, you don't see the doctor regenerate at the end, but this also seems fitting. Troughton was so great, he thoroughly deserved a good long send-off all to himself. As he swirls away into the dark, as if being washed down a giant plug-hole, a whole era of the show goes with him. When the series returns in 1970 with Jon Pertwee it is a totally different show - harder, more realistic, less innocent. And full of soldiers.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 10 September 2009
Despite growing up as a kid in the 80's with Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoys Doctors I have always had an affection for Patrick Troughton's cosmic hobo portrayal of the Second Doctor. Despite only seeing a handful of his stories, due to many of them now been lost, there is something about the Second Doctors era and Troughton's portrayal. It was a magical time for Doctor Who featuring many stories now quite rightly hailed as classics and featured some of the shows most popular monsters from the Daleks and Cybermen to the introduction of the Ice Warriors and the Yeti.

The War Games is an epic and beautifully made story which serves as a fitting tribute and send off for the Second Doctor and his companions Jamie (played by the outstanding Frazer Hines; a character who appeared with the Second Doctor for almost his entire tenure) and Zoe (the wonderful Wendy Padbury).

As mentioned in other reviews the longer stories tend to receive a lot of padding and can at times drag in places. The War Games at 10 episodes is one of the longest single stories in the shows history yet never feels overlong or padded. Every part of the story seems important and gradly adds new layers to an already rich story. Subtle hints of the full story surrounding the characters and purpose of The War Games and revelations about the Doctor and his own backstory; which at the time it was broadcast must have been both incredibly shocking and exciting, are carefully dropped in to the story early on, but instead of been thrown at the viewer are allowed to develop slowly and organically. These begin as early as the third episode with the appearance and sound of the capsules used to transport the soldiers to the different time zones and continues with subtle dialogue between various characters where for the first time we discover the name of the Doctors race, the Timelords.

The final moments of the penultimate episode still have the power to thrill now and i can only wonder how amazing it must have been to witness the final shocking cliffhanger when we meet the Timelords for the first time, especially following the fear the Doctor shows about facing them again.
Troughton's era and many of his stories were truly epic and it is fitting his swansong is a suitably epic story with the Doctor displaying his wit, intelligence, humour and most fittingly given where he is exiled to, his humanity. He could have left in the TARDIS with his companions and not faced the wrath of the Timelords, but instead takes actions which he knows endanger his own existence to save the soldiers stranded in the War Games time zones. His goodbye to Jamie and Zoe is truly heartbreaking and all three cast member are superb during this scene as they are during the rest of the story.

The extras on the disc are also exceptional and well watching, with the whole third disc packed been devoted to bonus features including The War Zone; a brilliant making of documentary, Second Dcotror Stripped for action, a documentary about the excellent Target books and many many more. Again a fitting tribute to different aspects of the Second Doctors era.

Given just how good and enjoyable this story is only highlights how sad it is that so many stories from this era of Doctor Who are lost forever.
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