Doctor Who #249: The War Games Part 4

"Passed a reception area, living quarters, lecture rooms - it's just like a university."TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired May 9 1969.

IN THIS ONE... While Jamie fights for his life in the American Civil War Zone, the Doctor and Zoe infiltrate an alien training center.

REVIEW: As soon as the Doctor enters the troop-carrying space-time machine, the Doctor fears his people may be involved. (He could be fearing the Daleks too, but did you notice the roundels on the shower curtains?) The moment when he and the War Chief come face to face and seem to recognize each other (at least as members of each other's race) is a moment not unlike our realization that the Meddling Monk has a TARDIS, but made much more exciting as both of them stand shocked. As we'll find out, both are outlaws, and probably thinks the other will haul him in. Speaking of audience foreknowledge, who else thinks the Doctor acted exactly as he did during the mind control presentation when he was at the Academy? Taking the floor and contradicting all his teachers? Yeah, I'm sure he did.

The revelations keep coming, though their method of delivery is a bit awkward this time around. It's a bit much that the Doctor and Zoe walk into a classroom just in time to hear a massive bit of exposition about what these aliens are up to (though their reasons remain to be explained - the writers are pacing themselves). The set design is interesting and alien, especially those control panels that seem to work with fridge magnets. That's really original. I'm less enamored of the loud alarms they use. The various pieces of eye wear could be seen as silly, but again, they add to that alienness, required to make these otherwise-human characters. They certainly make for easy disguises. And Carstairs gets reprocessed and starts pointing fingers at the Doctor and Zoe, like something out of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, though it seems like Zoe should know not to trust him after that. I guess they needed a cliffhanger.

Meanwhile, Jamie has been separated from the group and is hanging with Lady Jennifer in the American Civil War for a bit of violent action on location and bad American accents. Unfortunately, it feels a bit tedious to me, with lots of shooting and bouncy revolutionary music. Jamie does meet up with a member of the 5% of humans who can't be mind controlled, and it's perfect that the first of these is a black man fighting on the side of the Yankees. I was also impressed that the Rebs weren't played as villains, much like the Germans in the previous episode. The War Games is playing fair with history, and showing a balanced look at the Soldier with a capital "S", fighting a war not of his choosing. Interesting that Smythe and his counterpart seem to be leading the armies in each zone. It adds to the universality of war. I can feel Malcolm Hulke behind these elements.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - I have issues with the sound design, and the Civil War seems to go on too long, but the episode still has lots to love, and I hope more than a few kids made their own visors at the time.

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