Doctor Who #248: The War Games Part 3

"Everything seems to be difficult for you to explain."TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired May 2 1969.

IN THIS ONE... The Doctor gets a map of the Time Zones and runs for the center, getting as far as the American Civil War Zone when he hops aboard a war TARDIS.

REVIEW: The War Games continues to throw in references to its past while forging its future. Some of the references are very recent - Jamie mentions the tuning fork from The Space Pirates, a strange line my watching everything in the right order has explained - to the things we now take for granted, like the Doctor's John Smith alias and the sonic screwdriver. At the same time, we have Zoe jumping into Jamie's lap in a German trench, innocently done, but just enough to make us wonder what might have been beyond the pair's final tale. And looking truly ahead, there's the clash of seeing a mod future set in the middle of all those historical set pieces, and the first appearance of the War Chief, a character who will turn out to be a Time Lord (but I shouldn't get ahead of myself).

There's so much variety in this episode! The Roman Legion, obviously depleted by warfare (cough, cough), with their mouths comically open as the Doctor and his friends vanish into thin air. The trusty World War I zone, with all the characters we've come to know, and now their German counterparts, including a Smythe's with his creepy monocle. It's also a good occasion for the Doctor to do a little MacGyverism, and extend a fuse with the wick from a broken candle. The America Civil War zone, complete with horses and falling trees. And the strange futuristic set, where everyone seems to wear a visor or play with a huge game of Risk on a glass table. Director David Maloney, as if intent on making up for The Krotons, makes it all very exciting, and even throws in some coolness like the shot from under the table.

And we're definitely heading towards the reveal of the Time Lords even if the words haven't yet been spoken. There's a troop carrier TARDIS, apparent interference with the TARDIS' translation circuit (unmentioned, but easy to explain if Time Lord tech is involved), and a world divided into different war Zones, not unlike... the Death Zone on Gallifrey? The premise of the story keeps changing every episode, much to my delight.

THEORIES: Maloney breaks the format at one point, letting us hear the War Chief's thoughts. I'm going to use this as a retroactively relevant moment that hints at his status as a Time Lord. How? Well, The Trial of a Time Lord has the Matrix - a combination computer databank/Gallifreyan hive mind - show the Doctor's adventures. The inference is that it recreates events based on data collected by the TARDISes themselves, through their telepathic circuits. We might wonder if the Matrix isn't the thing that's actually creating these episodes for us. The fact that we hear a man's thoughts, just this once, is meta-proof enough that he is not only telepathic, but has a special connection to TARDIS technology. Who else but a Time Lord? Why doesn't the TARDIS let us hear the thoughts of its own bonded Time Lord? Well, the Doctor talks enough as it is, wouldn't you agree?

REWATCHABILITY: High - So full of great bits, both old and new, and immensely fascinating for fans of the show's entire run. The War Games keep on giving.

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