Top critical review
The Time Lords catch up with the Doctor
on 31 March 2016
The original onscreen version of this is a pretty important Doctor Who story. It introduces the Doctor’s own people (aside from a couple appearances by the Monk), it confirms information originally given about the Doctor in ‘AN Unearthly Child’ and establishes regeneration as a regular norm for him. All three of these have become cornerstones to the Doctor’s own personal story and to the programme’s development. Therefore it is interesting to see how this momentous story is novelised.
The Target novelisations are generally fairly short books as a rule. The novelisation of ‘The Dalek’s Masterplan’ (a twelve part serial, thirteen if you count ‘Mission to the Unknown’) was spread over two volumes whereas ‘The Trial of a Time Lord’ (fourteen episodes) was easily and understandably split into its four sections. ‘The War Games’ doesn’t receive such liberal treatment though and is confined to one volume. Although it is one of the larger Target books it is still faced with the problems of trying to pack in ten episodes.
Oddly this lack of space has both positive and negative connotations. The pacing is definitely improved. However, nothing feels like it has been omitted; at least nothing vital to the plot. The televised version did seem to have quite a lot of scenes involving running around and being captured which acted to pad out the middle episodes. And it is much of this that has gone or been rendered more concise.
However, similar treatment has also been undergone by the more interesting sequences of the story unfortunately. The latter stages increasingly feel rushed and the Doctor’s trial seems particularly short. Oddly enough it receives just as much attention in the novelisation of ‘Spearhead from Space’.
None of the characters are developed from that seen onscreen, although the author does provide some names and a bit of personality to a couple of Romans and invents a few incidental characters from different time/war zones.
Sadly the War Chief isn’t expanded upon nor are his relationships with the Doctor, the War Lord or the Security Chief. In, fact the rivalry between the War Chief and the Security Chief feels reduced, especially the snide bitchiness between them.
Whereas Hulke infused the Silurians with so much detail in his novelisation of ;’The Silurians’ (retitled ‘The Cave Monsters’) there is no more information given about the aliens in ‘The War Games’. The species still doesn’t even get a name. Confusingly periods of the book appear to indicate that they are collectively known as War Lords and the beginning suggests the onscreen War Lord should be called the Chief War Lord. This idea isn’t adhered to and the War Lord is generally referred to as such.
The novelisation does finally reveal what the acronym for SIDRAT stands for and offers an explanation for how they are different to Tardises.