Season 6 – Story 50
“This Doctor will die” – the War Chief
Thousands of soldiers from throughout history have been brainwashed and transported to another world where they must fight until an elite force is created. Humanoid Aliens governed by the War Lord believe that “man is the most vicious species of all” and can be used to conquer the galaxy. Overseeing the scheme is the War Chief – one of the Doctor’s own race. A resistance force of de-processed soldiers seizes the Alien War Centre, but the Doctor needs to call upon the Time Lords to send everyone home.
Jamie and Zoe are also returned to their original time streams, while the Doctor stands trial for breaking the Time Lords’ cardinal rule of non-interference in the affairs of other worlds. His bold defence strikes a chord, and the tribunal sentences him to exile on 20th-century Earth – without the secrets of the Tardis and with a completely new face…
Episode 1 – Saturday 19 April 1969
Episode 2 – Saturday 26 April 1969
Episode 3 – Saturday 3 May 1969
Episode 4 – Saturday 10 May 1969
Episode 5 – Saturday 17 May 1969
Episode 6 – Saturday 24 May 1969
Episode 7 – Saturday 31 May 1969
Episode 8 – Saturday 7 June 1969
Episode 9 – Saturday 14 June 1969
Episode 10 – Saturday 21 June 1969
Location filming: March/April 1969 at Sheepcote rubbish tip, Brighton; Seven Sisters Country Park, Birling Manor Farm and various other locations in East Sussex
Filming: April 1969 at Ealing Studios
Studio recording: April 1969 in TC4 (eps 1-3), May 1969 in TC4 (ep 4), in TC8 (eps 5, 6 & 8) and in TC1 (ep 7), June 1969 in TC6 (ep 9) and in TC8 (ep 10)
Doctor Who – Patrick Troughton
Jamie McCrimmon – Frazer Hines
Zoe Heriot – Wendy Padbury
Lt Carstairs – David Savile
Lady Jennifer Buckingham – Jane Sherwin
General Smythe – Noel Coleman
Von Weich – David Garfield
The War Chief – Edward Brayshaw
The Security Chief – James Bree
The War Lord – Philip Madoc
Major Barrington – Terence Bayler
Sgt Willis – Brian Forster
Captain Ransom – Hubert Rees
Sgt Major Burns – Esmond Webb
Commandant Gorton – Richard Steele
Lt Crane – David Valla
Lt Lucke – Gregg Palmer
Sgt Thompson – Bill Hutchinson
Corporal Riley – Terry Adams
Alien scientist – Vernon Dobtcheff
Leroy – Leslie Schofield
Harper – Rudolph Walker
Spencer – Michael Lynch
Russell – Graham Weston
Private Moor – David Troughton
Du Pont – Peter Craze
Arturo Villar – Michael Napier-Brown
Petrov – Stephen Hubay
Time Lords – Bernard Horsfall, Trevor Martin, Clyde Pollitt
Tanya Lernov – Clare Jenkins
Quark – Freddie Wilson
Yeti – John Levene
Ice Warrior – Tony Harwood
Cyberman – Roy Pearce
Dalek – Robert Jewell
Writers – Terrance Dicks, Malcolm Hulke
Designer – Roger Cheveley
Incidental music – Dudley Simpson
Script editor – Terrance Dicks
Producer – Derrick Sherwin
Director – David Maloney
RT Review by Patrick Mulkern
“It was all so long ago,” complained Patrick Troughton, testily, when I had the honour of meeting him in 1984. Even then his memories of playing the second Doctor were fading. He remained fond of his time on Doctor Who, but it wasn’t quite the favourite role of his career. (He once told me in a letter dated 1980 that it was Quilp.)
Now a staggering 40 years have passed since he whirled into oblivion from the Time Lord trial room, but we can enjoy his epic last stand on the BBC’s crisply restored DVD. The ten episodes perhaps work best digested in two or three chunks, so it’s easy to imagine viewers’ impatience in 1969 as the serial sprawled across two-and-a-half months. Ratings peaked at 6.3m (ep 2), troughed at 3.5m (ep 8), but were at a respectable 5m for the finale.
The War Games was a ten-week march into the unknown for script editor Terrance Dicks and his buddy Malcolm Hulke, called to arms after two other projects collapsed. And it’s a monumental achievement. Their flexible format sustains interest and gradually ups the ante with new battlegrounds, soldiers and villains. It’s a Boys’ Own story, as Aliens in Nehru suits and dodgy specs play soldiers for real. Given the context, almost every character is male. Lady Jennifer (played by Jane Sherwin, wife of producer Derrick) is a welcome sight, though you may wonder why the Aliens saw fit to draft a non-military woman into their War Zones.
The scripts are rich in detail, yet many specifics are dispensed with. These “War Games” occur on an unnamed world run by unnamed Aliens from a nameless “Home Planet”, in collusion with another alien, whom we only know by his job description, “War Chief”. But, crucially, he’s a Time Lord. At last, the Doctor’s own race is given a name, and an air of omnipotence, courtesy of Derrick Sherwin.
The words “Time Lords” first appeared in print in RT’s introductory feature for The War Games (below) and are uttered for the very first time, casually by an Alien scientist, in episode six. (Listen carefully, too, for the single naming of the War Chief’s travel machines: Sidrat is Tardis backwards.)
Of the five villains on parade the War Chief is top dog for me. Edward Brayshaw, slightly fey but magnetic and with sharply angular stubble, pitches his performance one notch below Abanazar. The moment when he and the Doctor recognise each other across a crowded room is electrifying. (“Run, Zoe. Run!” “Stop them!“) A drip feed of information ends in a revelatory exchange in episode eight. “You may have changed your appearance but I know who you are,” says the War Chief. The Doctor confirms that they “were both Time Lords”, that he himself stole a Tardis and “had every right to leave”.
The Alien bad guys are all excellently played and distinct from one another. You have to loathe Smythe and Von Weich, the callous 1917 Zone commanders. The Security Chief (James Bree) minces around as if his knickers are too tight, delivering every line in strangulated nasal tones. Philip Madoc is like steel wrapped in velvet as the War Lord, menacingly calm, with a great comb-forward and stubble.
As if to compensate for the perceived disaster of The Krotons (his previous Who), director David Maloney doesn’t put a foot wrong. His studio work is tightly directed with fluid camera moves and precise compositions. Episode nine, where the main plot wraps up and time catches up with the Doctor, is one of the most exciting of the 1960s.
The impact of the majestic tenth episode has barely diminished with the passage of time. A huge Tardis set is pressed into service and, in another first, thrillingly, we see intruders (the War Lord and his guards) enter the control room. Questions that have persisted since 1963 are answered. The Doctor talks candidly to his companions about his origins then actually arrives on his home planet. Tantalisingly, this world remains unnamed and we see little of it (minimalist slabs, mirrors and rostra). The Time Lords are at their most god-like, mentally conjuring force fields and dematerialising the Aliens from existence.
At his trial the Doctor gives a spirited defence, explaining it’s his duty to interfere in the affairs of other planets. He demands a “thought channel” to illustrate – in a blast of nostalgia – a Quark, Yeti, Ice Warrior, Cyberman and Dalek. But there’s also a tear-jerking parting of the ways. Rather like Donna Noble in 2008, Jamie and Zoe must leave with memories of their travels erased. Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines and Wendy Padbury – a perfect team – all decided to quit the series together.
Then the verdict: sad and final, but fittingly funny. The Doctor will be exiled to Earth (“Stop! You’re making me giddy”) and his appearance must change (“I’ve never seen such an incredible bunch,” he says of the choices). No attempt was made to show a transformation, even though Jon Pertwee had been cast on 21 May, the day before episode seven was recorded. The BBC held a press call for Pertwee on 17 June – after RT had gone to press with its “Exit the Doctor and his demons” feature (21-27 June 1969, below), which was left sounding unnecessarily coy: “Who this actor will be we are not telling.”
So the mighty Trought – face blacked out – vanished into the void. It was the end of the second Doctor, the close of the black-and-white era, and a satisfying if open-ended conclusion to 60s Doctor Who. In 1969, the teatime slot was filled by a sparkling new sci-fi series from America – as BBC1 viewers got their first taste of Star Trek.
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Radio Times archive material
After a dearth of RT coverage in 1969, The War Games garnered two features, one at its launch and one rounding off 1960s Doctor Who.
One RT reader in July 1969 was concerned that the Tardis would be no more.
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[Available on BBC DVD]