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on 4 February 2012
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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on 13 August 2016
The final story for season 6, the final story to be produced in black and white and the final story of The Second Doctor (of course he would come back for anniversary specials and what not) this story marks the end of an era for Doctor Who and it does so with a bang! This is the second longest story in Doctor Who's run with ten parts and coming behind the 14 part Trial of a Time Lord. The plot seems like the usual Doctor Who formula at first but soon changes into something more. The Doctor, Jamie and Zoe arrive in what they believe to Earth during WW1 but soon realize that what surrounds them are different time zones from different wars in Earth history all be controlled by a race who's name we actually never find out and a renegade Time Lord called The War Chief! With the situation getting worse and worse by the minute the Doctor must seek help from the ones he fears the most, his own people, the Time Lords. As this is an extremely long serial I expected at least half of the episodes would be just filler as this has happened before with stories that came before this one (to name a few The Sensorites and the God awful The Web Planet....) However I was so wrong. Only two of these episodes are actually filler just to tie over some of the stuff the Doctor and company are planning but every other episode is emotional and action packed! One particular episode which stands out the most is the final one as by the time it comes around the problem has been dealt with but the Doctor still has to face trial for his crimes. Its awesome and heart breaking and truly one of the best moments from the classic era! The War Games sees the end of a lot of things with Doctor Who but paves the way for a new era with a new Doctor, new monsters and the same old Doctor Who fun that you've grown accustomed to! I would recommended this to any Doctor Who fan and is a must watch for any classic fanatics out there!
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on 2 September 2013
I understand a script had fallen through, leaving a gap, and that the solution was to write a ten episode long yarn to plug the breech.

Ten episodes is a *lot* of story - 220 minutes of narrative - that's like a big feature film, about the same running time as Avatar - 3 ½ hours of continuous cause and effect, and if you've got a feature film budget, you're fine - the battles of the Somme and Gettysburg will occupy 20 minutes each, with another 20 mins for the final battle in the aliens' HQ... James Mason as the Security Chief, Anthony Quinn as the War Chief, Laurence Olivier as the War Lord... It might work - if you cut an hour off it. Episode Six is particularly pointless.

There's the problem, the yarn often wears dangerously thin, and that's even with two writers doing their damnedest to work every possible bit of texture into it; the story is actually very good - even if there isn't quite enough of it - and it's very well acted; Noel Coleman is particularly chilling as General Smythe, and David Garfield little less so as his German opposite number - when he's not moonlighting in the War Between the States. There is an implicit analogy with boys playing with toy soldiers.

It's with the `War is Hell' stuff that the story works best; once we get in among the oddly bespectacled aliens it all gets less sure of itself, partly because the design looks (mostly) cheap, and partly because new ideas get fewer and further between (though Vernon Dobtcheff is doing sterling service), the bitching between the Security and War Chiefs is badly realised (how badly can you say `What a stupid fool you are'?) James Bree is employing an acting style that must be all his own, and Edward Brayford is not very much better (...and now the award for the renegade Time Lord with the stupidest facial hair...) every so often we cut from the carnage of war to these two - Julian and Sandy's evil twins. The War Lord is Phillip Madoc, and beautifully understated evil; he lifts every scene he's in, sometimes against stiff competition from the other two.

The Resistance does feel like `Oh goodness, we need another bit of padding just to get us through the next twenty five minutes', and Artauro Villar the comedy Mexican bandit is a fine substitute for meaningful content. The Resistance have just switched from fighting other humans to fighting aliens; at no point does any Resistance fighter stop and say `This war thing - it's *all* bollocks isn't it? Let's stop fighting'. Even the Dr, with his `We must get you all home' means `Back to the war you came from'. In terms of anti-war polemic, Blackadder Goes Forth does a much better job.

That is the real problem with The War Games; it's not actually very interested in war - brainwashing, yes, just so long as it's thoroughly abstract - but the issues of war - why did all those men put on uniforms in the first place, how can the generals waste people with such godlike detachment, why (indeed) do the aliens want to take over the universe? Why did *their* guards join up? These questions never get considered, still less the practicalities of the `ultimate army' - how do you expect a British Tommy to fight alongside a Roman Legionary?

In the end, instead of reason we get deus ex machina, albeit done with a certain style - the box trick is really very neat - though understated is still clearly the new magnificent - some re-dressed scenery, a little dry ice, and three blokes on a platform. They have force fields - obviously so powerful that they don't need spectacle. It's easy to wonder if the BBC were conserving money on a show they were about to cancel.

The regeneration scene? `We're going to change your appearance so you won't get embarrassed on Earth?' No, come on, that's silly, and the series of ink drawings (I'm sure one of them is Louis Armstrong and another is Stan Laurel) is a bit silly too, and the problem with silliness is when you're being silly about a part of the story that in fact *is* quite silly but is meant to be taken seriously (you might as well make a joke about Daleks not being able to climb stairs).

It is at least three episodes too long, and it needs more war, less nonsense, but ultimately it's a very good piece of Who. A milestone. Mentions in dispatches for Webb, Walker and Troughton (jnr).

And that tall Time Lord has `dodgy' written all over him; bad lot, bet you.
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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.
RMM
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on 2 May 2018
The last story featuring Patrick Troughton, the last of the 60's, the last black and white story, and the one where the Doctors background is finally revealed. Although this story does drag on a bit, it is still very watchable, and as a part of the series history, is a must have for fans of the show, who remember the original series. A very pleasant viewing experience was had watching this DVD.
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HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERon 14 August 2009
The war games was, as many have remarked already, Patrick Troughton's final regular appearance as the Doctor. It also marked the departure of Frazier Hines and Wendy Padbury as Jamie and Zoe, the final Doctor Who to be filmed in black and white and the last space adventure for some time to come.

The plot is pretty inventive. The Doctor and his companions land in what appears to be world war one. They soon find that all is not as it seems, as they encounter Romans, unionists and confederates from the American civil war and soldiers from the Napoleonic wars. Without giving too much away there is a nasty alien presence behind things, with a dastardly evil scheme. There is a lot of running around; a few quite well drawn additional characters topped off by an excellent a final showdown between the Doctor and the aliens. But the Doctor needs help to defeat the villains, leading to a final episode with some great revelations that added a great deal to Who Lore.

The cast give it their all. Patrick Troughton, by all accounts now quite weary of the heavy filming schedule puts in a particularly spirited performance. Frazier Hines and Wendy Padbury put in some of the better performances from their time in the series. And all the guest cast seem to have a sense of the occasion and pitch their performances just right. Special mention must go to Philip Madoc as the War Lord, Edward Brayshaw as the mysterious War Chief and Noel Coleman as the unnerving General Smythe. The story and final twists are pretty good, and the special effects are excellent for their time. My only problem is with the length of the story. It's a bit too thin to be spread over 10 episodes. It does sag somewhat in the middle with a few episodes of running around, being captured, escaping and being captured for no apparent reason other than to fill up the time. So only four stars for the story.

The disks are the usual excellent standard from 2Entertain. The picture and sound quality are good and have been nicely restored (a vast improvement on my old fuzzy VHS!) The production note subtitles are informative and well worth a read. The story is spread over two disks and there is a third disk stuffed full of extras. Especially interesting to me was the documentary looking at the locations used for filming comparing then and now, and the fan film showing the regeneration into Jon Pertwee.

An excellent set. Full marks for DVD quality and extras. An entertaining and ultimately interesting story, docked a star as it sags so much in the middle. Of definite interest to any Who fan, whichever your favourite Doctor is.
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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.
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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.
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on 19 May 2018
:-)
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on 4 February 2009
It was a story I hadn't seen or simply don't remember as I was probably too young to remember but I watched this great Dr religiously as a child. The show scared the pants off me but I still loved it. Still do!! I thought it probably could have been edited back a bit origionally as some of the scenes became a bit unneccessary and tedious. 10 parts to a story is something I thought didn't happen. They were usually 4 or 6 parts. Nevertheless it was a wonderful trip back in time both in real time and the story itself and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
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