Recap / Doctor Who S6 E7 "The War Games"

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"All these evils I have fought, while you have done nothing but observe! True, I am guilty of interference. Just as you are guilty of failing to use your great powers to help those in need!"
The Doctor defends himself before the Time Lords.

The Doctor, Jamie and Zoe land in the middle of no-man's land during World War I - or so it seems. They're taken prisoner and tried as spies, with the Doctor sentenced to execution.

Once they manage to escape, (and get captured again, and escape again, and...) they find out a couple of things are out of place: the soldiers don't seem to remember how they got to the front lines, there's a futuristic communications device in the General's quarters, and a redcoat of all people is thrown into a cell with Jamie - one who thinks he's still fighting the highlanders.

It turns out that a race known only as "The Aliens" have kidnapped a number of soldiers from Earth's history, brainwashed them and set them to fighting replicas of their own wars. The survivors will be made into an army capable of conquering the galaxy. They are aided by the War Chief, whom the Doctor recognises as being one of his own race, and who has provided the Aliens with Sidrats for transport purposes. However, the War Chief plans to double-cross the Aliens and seize power himself.

The Doctor and friends manage to gather a band of human resistance fighters (who were able to shake off the control of the Aliens and were wreaking havoc) to stop the wargames. The War Chief tries to get the Doctor to help him, but fails, and is shot by the Aliens' commander as repayment for his treachery.

However, the Doctor can't return all the surviving soldiers to their right places, so he calls on his own people, the Time Lords, for help.

They arrive and the Doctor is instantly put on trial for violating one of the Time Lords' prime directives - noninterference in other races' history. The Doctor argues that he has always done good, but to no avail. He is sentenced to exile on Earth, while Jamie and Zoe are returned to their own times, just before they met the Doctor, with their memories wiped. The Doctor is additionally informed that he must change his appearance again... and once the rules of regeneration were later established, these events can be construed as the Doctor's summary execution.

Yay.


The final episode of this adventure is quite significant. As well as ushering in a new Doctor, and a new era in the show with budget-dictated Earthbound exile, this was the first time that the Doctor's race had been named, and that the reason for the Doctor's fugitive status had been explored. This is also the only time during the show's initial run that the Doctor and all of his companions changed at the same time. It wouldn't happen again for another forty years.note 

Immediately after this episode aired, a series of official comics was released in TV Comic, exploring the idea of the Second Doctor's execution pending a while longer; living on Earth as well as running errands for the Time Lords with Jamie and a fully functional TARDIS, before eventually being forced to regenerate. Although the canonicity of these comics (as well as later Doctor Who Expanded Universe material based on the same idea) is still debatable, the official BBC policy nowadays holds that "The Three Doctors", "The Five Doctors" and "The Two Doctors" would most logically take place in this "Season 6B" from Two's perspective.

With 10 parts totaling about 4 hours run time, this is the second longest serial (third if you count Season 23 as one whole) behind The Daleks' Master Plan.

Tropes

  • Adaptation Expansion: The novelisation adds things to the story:
    • The original theft of the TARDIS becomes an additional charge at the Doctor's trial.
    • The Doctor describes how the First World War was fought to Jamie.
    • The Doctor threatens a military chauffeur in the 1917 zone with three months' imprisonment.
    • Two deserters in the 1917 zone from opposing armies, George Brown and Willi Muller, comment on events.
    • In the Roman time zone, charioteer Drusus Gracchus and his friend Brurus Sullas witness the disappearance of the ambulance, and plan for a sacrifice to Mars, the God of War.
    • An additional scene features an exchange between Smythe and an alien disguised as Count Vladimir Chainikof, a Russian officer from the Crimean War.
    • The Doctor explains to Zoe how the American Civil War started over the legality of slavery in the Southern states. It is mentioned that by Zoe's time, the United States no longer exist.
    • The Doctor and Zoe meet two female soldiers from the Spanish Civil War.
    • An additional scene features the Doctor telling a guard in the underground city that he is a German spy from the Franco-Prussian War.
    • A line is added where the Doctor pleads to the Resistance men to not kill Smythe.
    • A scene is added with Jeremy Carstairs asking the Doctor if the war ended in 1917 before he fades away. The Doctor says he cannot tell him, but concedes that both sides lose in war.
    • The Time Lords chase the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe to a paradise planet.
    • A stray samurai knight from ancient Japan appears.
    • When captured by the Time Lords the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe consider stealing another TARDIS.
  • The Aesthetics of Technology: This story subverts the usual Billions of Buttons control panels by having the SIDRATs controlled with oddly-shaped fridge magnets. In a way, it somewhat foreshadows the touch-screens of the iPad and smart-phones (specifically, how one can touch, drag, and manipulate the icons on a screen).
  • Affectionate Gesture to the Head: The Doctor kisses Zoe on the forehead in part 1.
  • All There in the Manual: According to the novelisation, SIDRAT is an acronym for Space and Inter-time Directional Robot All-purpose Transporter. They're also powered by green crystals.
    • The War Lords state that survivors from the Games are selected and kept in storage for a future war of galactic conquest.
    • Backstory is added to the sentry in the Crimean War Zone, a Russian soldier named Petrov Ilavich.
    • The Confederate Soldier in the American Civil War Zone is named Private Cornelius Lanier of the 2nd Virginia Battalion.
    • The Time Lords are ruled by an invisible judge who finds the Doctor endearing and wished he could have stayed on Gallifrey to "liven the place up no end".
  • All There Is to Know About "The Crying Game": It's the end of an era in many ways, and the first appearance of the Time Lords... but that's only at the end of a very long story which explores a war mystery and a conspiracy. Unfortunately, it now tends to be seen as loads of episodes of messing around before the Time Lords show up.
  • American Civil War: One of the war zones.
  • Army of the Ages
  • As You Know: Defied in the fifth episode. The chief scientist reminds the Doctor that the recruits, one of whom the Doctor was posing as, already know what the 'great plan' of the War Chief is. The Doctor doesn't bother asking him for specifics since it would blow his cover.
  • Back for the Finale: In part 10, Claire Jenkins briefly returns as Tanya from The Wheel in Space, welcoming Zoe back as the latter returns to her own time.
  • Bait and Switch: The Time Lords offer the Doctor a Hope Spot, by saying that they've accepted his plea that there is still evil that needs to be fought and he has a part to play in that. Then they inform him he's going to be exiled to 20th century Earth for as long as they deem proper, his knowledge of how to operate the TARDIS will taken from him, and he will be executed to trigger a forced regeneration.
  • Bait-and-Switch Gunshot: Twice. The first time is during the Doctor's execution (a member of the firing squad is shot instead), the second is when the commander of the American civil war wants to shoot a rebel (he is shot by a half-brainwashed member).
  • Bandito: Arturo Villar.
  • Bang Bang BANG: The usual opening of a Troughton episode plays... his face melts into "DOCTOR WHO", and then, with thunderous and overwhelming clattering, the title cards appear, interspersed with Stock Footage of World War I machine guns in action.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: The Doctor has been convicted of espionage in wartime and has escaped from prison. He is not in uniform, or even a proper suit, and he has a gaping hole in the knee of his trousers, and yet manages to bluff the prison commander for a solid chunk of time just by knowing what to say and shouting loudly.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Jamie and Zoe make it out alive. The Games are shut down. The War Lord and his cronies are killed. The War Chief seemingly dies. But, as the Doctor watches the Time Lords return Jamie and Zoe to their own times, promising they'll never forget him, he sighs in surrender, knowing they will. The Doctor is executed for his various crimes, sent in exile to earth, and stripped of his knowledge of time travel. The final scene of the Second Doctor's tenure is him tumbling into seemingly eternal darkness, screaming in horror as the Time Lords punish him.
  • Bolivian Army Ending
  • Book Ends: The serial begins and ends with the Doctor's execution.
  • Call Back
    Doctor: Jamie, I need to pick this lock.
    • During the Doctor's trial by the Time Lords, he shows them some of the most dangerous monsters he has been fighting, among them the Cybermen, Daleks, Ice Warriors and Yeti.
  • Cool vs. Awesome: British army versus Union army! A Roman century chasing a British ambulance! Union and Confederate troops versus Mexican Revolutionaries! All of them versus Aliens and Steve Jobs!
  • Comforting Comforter: Jamie, to a sleeping Zoe.
  • Dastardly Whiplash: The War Chief is a traditionalist, at least as far as his grooming habits go.
  • Downer Ending
  • Early Installment Weirdness: When told he must sacrifice one regeneration, the Doctor's only concern is what he'll look like in his next life. This looks very strange to those who watched "The End of Time", where David Tennant's Doctor fears his imminent death and considers regeneration a close approximation of death. Unless he's stalling for time...
    • Character Development. Coupled with the fact that at least the Time Lords and the potential for rescue still existed when Two was forced to regenerate and exiled.
    • And the Doctor was only on his second body, as opposed to his thirteenth.
  • Enemy Mine: The Resistance includes soldiers from opposing sides, starting with Jamie and the Redcoat.
  • Evil Counterpart: The War Chief is a Time Lord scientist who stole a Tardis and is serving as scientific adviser to a military program, and is trying to keep things at the base steady while hostile aliens surround it and attempt to penetrate its defenses.
  • Foreshadowing:
  • Four Eyes, Zero Soul: All of the aliens exert their Mind Control by using glasses.
  • From Bad to Worse: The TARDIS lands in World War I. And then it gets worse.
  • Glasses Pull: How General Smythe exerts Mind Control over his inferiors. His German/Confederate equivalent uses a Monocle Pull.
  • Godzilla Threshold: When it becomes clear that, despite having brought the Games to a screeching halt, the Doctor cannot actually fix the situation that has resolved all on his own, he's forced to call upon the Time Lords to sort things out and to punish the guilty. Including himself.
  • Grand Finale: For the Patrick Troughton era, as well as DW in black and white.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: At every level of the exercise. The guards at the prison let Jamie and the Redcoat prisoner escape because of a fake tussle, and almost let the Doctor talk his way right into their corridors and then right back out. Later, a pair of the War Lords' guards seemingly fail to notice the Doctor directly in front of them as he's sneaking down a hall.
  • Ham-to-Ham Combat: Put the security chief and the War Chief in one room. Watch as they argue and completely devour the scenery.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The Doctor uses these exact words (almost) of the scientist whom he turns the processing machine on.
  • Insignificant Little Blue Planet - Lampshaded by the Time Lords.
  • Kangaroo Court: During the court-martial, the Doctor is allowed to question the witnesses, but they aren't allowed to answer. When this doesn't convince the two other jury members, Smythe just MindControls them.
  • Large Ham: A few characters get moments. The Security Chief would be a Ham if he ever figured out that he wasn't a Dalek. Villar is a textbook Ham.
  • Mind Control
  • Mistaken for Spies: systematically, by every single group of people they meet.
    • Including the Aliens' Security Chief - who is half-right. (The Doctor is not working with the War Chief, but he IS a member of his race.)
  • Mook Horror Show: If you squint a little, this is a Base Under Siege story with the Doctor and the humans as the monsters.
  • Mysterious Past: As befitting his role in the story, the War Chief has a mysterious past involving the circumstances of his leaving Gallifrey and how he knows the Doctor. Amongst the intriguing clues, he recognizes the Doctor immediately on sight, and is also familiar with the Doctor's professional work on Gallifrey. Later Expanded Universe works suggest either Everyone Went to School Together or else he's actually the first appearance of the Master.
  • The Nth Doctor: Played with. We see several possible faces for the Doctor to take, complete with his objections to them, and we see him maybe begin to regenerate, but the actual change from Troughton to Pertwee never happens onscreen.
  • Oh Crap!
  • Our Doors Are Different: The Security Chief's door is designed to evoke a guillotine blade.
    • The SIDRATs' doors slide outward rather than to one side.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: The Time Lords, guardians of history. They sort out the troubles with the Games and return the survivors to their correct times with Laser-Guided Amnesia to keep the events secret. Sure, they also find the Doctor guilty of meddling in the affairs of the less advanced races, but they basically give him parole and community service... except it's played with due to the Time Lords executing him prior to said community service. Also, considering we see in this serial how dangerous a renegade Time Lord can be, their non-interference except for very important events makes sense.
  • Refuge in Audacity: The Doctor pretends to be a prison inspector from the ministry.
  • Sdrawkcab Name: SIDRAT. The novelisation gives us a backronym: They're Sidereal Interdimensional Robot All-purpose Transporters.
  • Shoddy Knockoff Product: In-Universe, SIDRATs to TARDISes.
  • Slouch of Villainy: The War Lord. The War Chief tries to imitate it.
  • The Starscream: The War Chief plans to overthrow the War Lord. He is Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves.
  • Starter Villain: Smythe acts as the main antagonist for the first few episodes before his superiors reveal themselves.
  • Stay in the Kitchen:
    Jamie: Lady Jennifer I don't think you should come.
    Lady Jennifer: Because I'm a woman?
    Jamie: Yea... No! Err... Well, in a way yes.
    • Arturo refuses to listen to anything Zoe says and mocks Jamie for "listening to a woman".
  • Stock Episode Titles: 14 uses.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: The story is seemingly set in World War I, so yes. Also, the Doctor "picks a lock" this way.
  • Summon Bigger Fish
  • Tap on the Head: Zoe takes out the sergeant with a vase of flowers. Unlike most uses, however, the Doctor checks to make sure he's okay afterwards. Jamie also knocks out a few soldiers this way.
  • Values Dissonance: In-story, between the soldiers from each different time zone.
  • The Walls Are Closing In: Done to the occupants of a SIDRAT (including the Doctor).
  • Trrrilling Rrrs: The Mexican characters do this constantly, and the War Chief does so too every now and then.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: The War Chief tries to come across as one, claiming if the Galaxy is conquered there can be peace.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Lady Jennifer disappears about halfway through. Later, Lieutenant Carstairs says he wants to look for her, but he disappears (in a more literal sense) before he can. Word of God on the DVD commentary says that when they returned to Earth, he did find her. And married her.
  • Wham Episode: The Doctor's race is named for the first time; he's executed and exiled to Earth. The next season will start with a completely different cast (except for a previous guest star promoted to full cast member), a different premise, a more fleshed out backstory for the character, and in colour.
  • World War I: "The War Games" appears to open here, but things are not how they seem.
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