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The War Games

Video review by Murray Jackson

From memory, the first time I saw The War Games I was watching it with Jon Preddle at a friend's house (a lady who seemed to have access to a lot of pirate Who).

The quality was shocking with the picture jumping all over the place however we persevered, after all, these were amongst Troughton's last moments as the Doctor and this story was pivotal to the whole saga as it informed us of the Doctor's origin.

We watched Episodes 1, 9 and 10 which were all she had at the time and I remember thinking to myself that there must be a fair bit of padding if there were really seven other episodes between episodes 1 and 9.

Happily there are times where life is not so predictable. I was wrong. There is a helluva lot of padding between episodes 1 and 9. I'm not saying it's boring to watch but I fell asleep three times trying to watch it all in one go.

Thankfully, with The War Games being released on two separate tapes it comes in two, shall we say, meal-size rather than bite-size chunks. Thus if you're the lazy type you'll be far less likely to watch the whole thing in one go as you would if it were on one gi-normous tape, the reason for this being you won't want to be bothered getting up and changing tapes once you're comfortable.

Both tapes are neatly packaged with a nice Alister Pearson illustration on the front, however, my one complaint with these double tape releases is, for value of money I feel the buyer should get two different illustrations. Maybe I'm just picky.

The tapes are sold as one package so don't expect to purchase each separately. The most confusing thing about them is the price. These double packs retail anywhere between $72.95 (Marbecks records) or $89.90 (Mark 1 comics). The point is, shop around before purchasing those of you lucky enough to have a choice of several vendors. $89.90 is a steep price when you consider that the same shop sells single tapes at $42.95 each. Back to the subject in hand.

The print quality isn't bad when you consider this story is now some 23 years old but the plot itself isn't marvellous.

As I mentioned, it is padded out to make ten episodes with long periods of not a whole lot happening and too much of the Doctor and friends escaping, being captured, escaping, being captured (you get the idea), but it does have its moments.

Basically, the Doctor and friends land on a planet where a race of aliens have captured and brainwashed soldiers from different periods of Earth's history. These soldiers are faced off against their enemies with the idea that the survivors will become the aliens personal invincible army.

The Doctor stumbles upon their plot and with the help of some resistance fighters tries to upset the evil War Lord's plan. However, the task proves to great for him and he has to call on his own people, the Time Lords, to intervene. Thus we learn the Doctor is a Time Lord and that he has been on the run from his own people since stealing the TARDIS. Forcing him into exile on Earth, the Time Lords alter his appearance by bringing on his second regeneration.

An interesting facet of this story is that one of the cast is none other then Troughton's own son, David, in what must have been one of his first television appearances. David returned a few years later to appear as King Peladon in The Curse of Peladon. One of his more recent appearances has been as the caddish Bob 'call me Robert' Buzzard in A Very Peculiar Practice.

Well, there you have it, The War Games, a rather uninspiring story in a rather uninspiring last season for one of the show's best-loved Doctors. It would have made a much better four-parter.

This item appeared in TSV 29 (July 1992).

Index nodes: The War Games