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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The End of an Era, 4 Feb 2012
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This review is from: Doctor Who - The War Games [DVD] [1969] (DVD)
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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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 14 Dec 2012 13:51:57 GMT
Paolo Sammut says:
Thank you for your review. I have read a few of your Doctor Who reviews now and they are all excellent. Your words would certainly inspire me to buy the dvds/cds if I hadnt already collected them.

In reply to an earlier post on 28 Apr 2013 20:05:56 BDT
Thank you for the kind remarks.

Ben.
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