Monday, September 26, 2005

'The War Games' episode X

THE WAR GAMES continued

And so it ends - 'The War Games', the Patrick Troughton era, the Sixties era, Doctor Who in black-and-white... The Doctor, Jamie and Zoe manage to gain the TARDIS and make their bid for freedom, but despite the Doctor's most valiant efforts to dodge the dubious justice of his people, they are drawn inexorably to his home planet. The Doctor does a good job here of setting out the truisms which are to become widely accepted facts - the Time Lords forbid intervention in temporal affairs, preferring to sit outside these matters and only observe, while he found this far too restrictive when there are so very many worlds and times to explore, so long ago he just stole away... He notes later that the Time Lords "like making speeches", too; the difference between his endless restlessness and their inert, impassive bureaucracy becomes very clear during this episode, and you could in many ways call it a neat template of the years to come. Watching these stories in order, though, it is easy to almost put out of your mind all thar came after and accept it as if it were new; and, although these programmes were made long before anyone ever thought in 'story arcs', it is extraordinary to suddenly find so much information coming out of the woodwork as if it had been waiting there, carefully buried, to be found all along, sfter holding out for six years of almost totally opaque mystery up to this point.

The War Lord is on trial, and despite his flat refusal to acknowledge the authority of the Time Lords' court and a spirited defence, and even the intervention of his fetish-suited guards and an escape bid using the Doctor's TARDIS, he is found guilty of heinous crimes against those he took out of time and those he would have used them against, and he is dematerialised and himself removed from history as if he had never existed. The Time Lords then turn their attention to the Doctor, who mounts his own impassioned defence of his action in defending innocents against the likes of the Quarks, Yeti, Ice Warriors, Cybermen and Daleks (all of whom we glimpse in action) and indicts the Time Lords for their own lack of action where he believes it is needed. The Time Lord quality of self-righteousness is much in evidence as neither side is willing to change its views, and eventually, following a last-ditch attempt by Jamie and Victoria to spring him from captivity, the Time Lords sentence the Doctor to exile on his frequent destination Earth in the 20th century, without the use of his TARDIS - and in a new body with a new face. For his companions there is only a return to their old lives at the moment they left them, their memories of their adventures gone - so we see Zoe return to the Wheel and Jamie to the Highlands, and there is a real sadness is not only their goodbyes but in seeing all their growth and change in their travels with the Doctor undone, especially Jamie after his never-to-be-equalled three-year stint in the TARDIS. Amusingly, the Doctor rejects all the new visages the Time Lords offer him; their patience runs out, and the last we see of the Second Doctor is him spinning off into a void, his features contorting; no matter how much he may fight it, he is about to change once again...

As I say, watching all the episodes in order you really get the feeling like you're 'discovering' things without being aware of the future history of the programme, and for a second time I found it a wrench to say goodbye to a Doctor who I had come to take for granted. After all these years, it's been great to finally familiarise myself with Patrick Troughton's Doctor, the funny, energetic, wildly anarchic prototype of so much that would define the character in decades to come. I only ever saw him play his famous recorder once, though...


Episodes watched: 145
Episodes still to watch: 577

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