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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 one with a magic cube. Oh, and the one where the Doctor is executed.

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: First off, they are not in World War I, but rather a facsimile of it, which is limited to a certain area. After reaching and crossing a strange barrier of fog, the Doctor and his companions suddenly find themselves being chased by Roman soldiers, and, after crossing the fog again, soldiers from the American Civil War. Wherever they are, apparently recreates many historical wars throughout human history for some strange purpose; and that is not all. The soldiers of the different wars don't seem to remember how they got to the front lines, and all of the generals from the different eras are apparently in on whatever scheme is going on, having futuristic communication devices hidden in their personal quarters and frequently using strange glasses to hypnotize their subordinates into forgetting and ignoring all of the many historical inconsistencies they come across.

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 recognizes 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 may have meddled in a lot of affairs, but he always done good. The Time Lords concedes that he has a point, but that he must still face punishment for breaking their laws. He is sentenced to exile on Earth, while Jamie and Zoe are returned to their own times, though with their memories altered so they only remember their first adventure with the Doctor. The Doctor is additionally informed that he must change his appearance again... and once the rules of regeneration were later established, these events could be construed as the Doctor's summary execution.

Yay.


The final episode of this adventure is quite significant besides it being Patrick Troughton's farewell after three years and twenty-one stories. 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:

  • 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).
  • Affably Evil: The War Chief is very polite, even when plotting to built a galaxy conquering army.
  • Affectionate Gesture to the Head: The Doctor kisses Zoe on the forehead in part 1.
  • Answer Cut: When the Doctor and Zoe are discussing the advanced communication device hidden in Smythe's office, the Doctor remarks that he wonders what's at the other end of the link. The scene then changes to show the War Room at the other end of the link.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: The aliens have been kidnapping human soldiers from various periods, using time machines. But when the Doctor and his companions (who are among some human soldiers) say they're time travelers, the alien who's questioning them is skeptical, questioning their sanity. (Another alien, though, thinks to himself, "Time travelers I wonder.") It's later explained that the aliens believe that the secret of time travel is known only to the Time Lords, who never get involved, and themselves. (The wondering alien turns out to be the rogue Time Lord who gave them the secret, and so he's quicker to consider the possibility that another Time Lord is on the scene.)
  • Army of the Ages: The War Lord and his people have kidnapped soldiers from all Earth's major wars and set them against each other, planning to winnow them out and use the survivors as an army of conquest.
  • 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 by a sniper 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.
  • Book Ends: The serial begins and ends with the Doctor being put on trial and sentenced to execution.
  • Bound and Gagged: While investigating General Smythe's office, the Doctor's team bind and gag his adjutant using bandages from Lady Jennifer's ambulance.
  • Call-Back
    The Doctor: Jamie, I need to pick this lock.
    Jamie: Oh, with a tuning fork?
    • 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.
  • Comforting Comforter: Jamie, to a sleeping Zoe.
  • Continuity Cavalcade: The Doctor reels off every monster he's faced (in his second incarnation at least) while explaining his actions to the Time Lords.
  • 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!
  • Dastardly Whiplash: The War Chief is a traditionalist, at least as far as his grooming habits go.
  • Downer Ending: Having failed to escape in the TARDIS at the end of the story, the Doctor is sentenced to death by the Time Lords (As in forcing him to use a regeneration), who Jamie and Zoe's memories and send them back to their own time lines with no inkling of the wonderful adventures they had or how much they had learned. Jamie's case, he was a Jacobite rebel being returned to Scotland after the Battle of Culloden.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Two of the Time Lords on the Doctor's tribunal will come back again - one has become Chancellor by "The Three Doctors", and the other Chancellor will become quite important many years (and two lives) later.
  • 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.
  • End of an Era: In addition to being the end of the Troughton era, the story closed the book on the black and white era.
  • Enemy Mine: The Resistance includes soldiers from opposing sides, starting with Jamie and the Redcoat.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": None of the aliens seem to have names — their leader is the War Lord, his lieutenants are the War Chief and the Security Chief, and the scientist who oversees the brainwashing is only ever referred to as "the scientist". It even extends to their home planet, which they all call "the home planet". Their species gets no name at all, unless you count the time the War Chief refers to them as "the aliens" during a conversation with the Doctor. The more junior aliens have names of sorts, but these seem to be pseudonyms adopted to fit into their time zones.
  • 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.
  • Faceless Goons: The War-Lord's goons (presumably of his race). Mask obscuring most of the face, vaguely Nazi-like, near-100% fatality rate, almost no kills - doesn't get more faceless goons than that.
  • Force-Field Door: Used in the Time Lords' detention area in the final episode.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • There are a lot of comments about the SIDRATs being "just like the TARDIS" (because of their travel abilities, the fact that they're bigger on the inside, and, amusingly, from Jamie after the Doctor has trouble controlling one) leading up to the revelation that they're knock-off TARDISes built by a rogue Time Lord.
    • Boy, the Doctor sure seems to work well with the military, doesn't he?
    • Likewise, this rival renegade Time Lord with the Dastardly Whiplash grooming habits and black nehru jacket and the Mind Control powers certainly seems like a character archetype worth seeing again.
  • 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.
  • Grenade Hot Potato: During the attack on the chateau, a grenade comes in through a window, and Jamie throws it out again before it explodes.
  • 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 Lord's 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.
  • High-Class Glass: Captain von Weich's monocle.
  • Humans Are Warriors: The War Chief firmly believes this, so he and the War Lord's people try to create a mighty army out of various warriors and soldiers from human history.
  • 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 Mind Controls 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.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia/Victory-Guided Amnesia: Jamie and Zoe are returned to their respective times and have their memories altered so that they don't remember The Doctor as part of his punishment from the Time Lords.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Right before his regeneration, the Doctor says he's 'quite well known on Earth', referring to the popularity of the show. This was because, when the storyline was going to be the finale of the whole show, the Bolivian Army Ending was going to have the Doctor change his form, so as to comfort the children and assure them that the Doctor was on Earth protecting them from the monsters and could look like anything.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: When Smythe recaptures the Doctor in a late episode, he's so annoyed by the trouble the Doctor's put him to that he decides to have the Doctor shot despite having been ordered to take him alive, and then report to his superiors that the Doctor was shot trying to escape.
  • 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.
  • Nobody Calls Me "Chicken"!: When Villar balks at stepping inside a SIDRAT, one of the other resistance leaders asks him if he's scared, and he immediately insists on going first to prove that he isn't.
  • Not So Different: The War Chief is very insistent of this:
    War Chief: Stealing a TARDIS? Oh, I'm not criticizing you. We are two of a kind.
    Doctor: We most certainly are not!
    War Chief: We were both Time Lords and we both decided to leave our race.
    Doctor: I had reasons of my own.
    War Chief: Just as I had.
    Doctor: Your reasons are only too obvious. Power!
  • 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!: The Doctor's reaction when the War Chief recognises him and again when he's left alone with the resistence who think he's betrayed them.
  • 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.
  • Outside-Context Problem: The story is mostly a story about aliens kidnapping soldiers from various time zones and making them fight each other, until the Doctor is forced to summon the Time Lords to imprison the War Chief, an evil Time Lord and get all of the kidnapped soldiers home. The Time Lords arrive and immediately break the plot, with irreversible consequences.
  • Photographic Memory: Zoe's trained memory, established in earlier stories, becomes plot-relevant when the Security Chief, as part of his interrogation, shows her photographs of all known resistance fighters in an attempt to get her to identify them. She is able to remember all of them, making it possible for Russell's resistance group to contact them and join forces.
  • Ray Gun: The alien guards are armed with them, which have a Death Ray setting and a Stun Gun setting (the latter of which isn't mentioned until after Jamie is shot in a cliffhanger).
  • Reality Has No Subtitles: The German and French soldiers' dialogue is not translated or subtitled. The conversation between Captain von Weich and Lieutenant Lucke in the German dugout in episode three is translated as follows:
    von Weich: Who are these people? What's going on here?
    Lucke: We have here three English civilians, Captain... They told me they come from another time in a spaceship called TARDIS.
    von Weich: They are English spies. We must detain them. I'll speak with the General about it.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Stock Footage: The shot of the TARDIS in space in the final episode is recycled from "The Web of Fear" (some of the web is visible).
  • 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: The Doctor finds himself forced to summon the Time Lords, since he's incapable of solving everything on his own. They appear, sort everything out without much fuss... and mind-wipe his companions, and execute him for being a renegade with a stolen TARDIS.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: The War Lord is extremley irritated by the War Chief and the Security Chief's bickering.
  • Taking You with Me: The Doctor essentially risks this; although he forces the Aliens to end the War Games, he doesn't have the resources to send all the abducted humans back to their own time periods, so he's forced to contact his people, the Time Lords, for help. This results in the Time Lords sentencing him to regeneration and exile, but when he made that decision he had no guarantee that the Time Lords wouldn't condemn him just as harshly as the War Lord's group.
  • 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.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: The War Chief and the Security Chief spend a lot of time arguing with each other. The War Lord even has to tell them to pack it in like he's dealing with squabbling children.
  • Tempting Fate:
    • The Doctor assumes that General Smythe is a reasonable man who will listen to their case. He couldn't be more wrong.
    • As Jamie and Zoe are escorted back to their own time, they tell the Doctor they'll never forget him, which. tragically, the Doctor knows they will.
    • The Doctor also assumes that his punishment from the Time Lords will be little more than a slap on the wrist. Yeah.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Sandwich: When the Doctor and his friends first arrive at Major Barrington's outpost, they're offered a reviving mug of tea each, which they hold through the subsequent conversation and then put down without any of them having drunk any.
  • Trojan Prisoner: After escaping from General Smythe's HQ with Lieutenant Carstairs and Lady Jennifer, the Doctor realizes he needs another look at Smythe's office to find out what's going on, so Carstairs gets him back in by pretending to have recaptured him.
  • 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.
  • We Can Rule Together: The War Chief makes this offer to the Doctor.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: The War Chief tries to come across as one, claiming if the Galaxy is conquered there can be peace.
  • 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.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Lady Jennifer disappears about halfway through after agreeing to see to the resistance's wounded. 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.
  • What the Hell Is That Accent?: Arturo Villar, the leader of the Mexican Resistance movements, sounds more like he is speaking in a comedic Italian accent than anything approaching a Mexican one.
  • White Flag: The Doctor waves a large white handkerchief and claims it as a flag of truce when the War Chief catches him in the transport bay.
  • Why, Thank You, X!: When the Doctor goes back to the conditioning room to steal the deconditioning machine, he finds the scientist working on it. The Doctor leans over his shoulder and makes a suggestion, and the scientist thanks him before realizing it's the wanted fugitive who attacked him earlier.

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