Doctor Who #250: The War Games Part 5

"When I came to your people I was promised efficiency and cooperation. Without the knowledge I have, this complete venture would have been impossible!"TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired May 16 1969.

IN THIS ONE... Zoe gets interrogated, the Doctor frees Carstairs, and Jamie gets some rebels aboard a TARDIS, destination control center.

REVIEW: Unfortunately, there's a bit of a dip right in the middle of The War Games. It's not a bad episode, it's just fairly standard shuffling of where each character is. Zoe is captured, but then rescued. Carstairs is deprogrammed and rejoins the Doctor. Lady Jennifer is sent off to the rebel base to nurse some guys back up to health. And Jamie brings his team to the control center, where his friends are. A lot of what happens is a pay-off of things established in the previous episode, like the Doctor using the mind control machine against the aliens, and rebels coming together from different time zones. It's actually odd that though we're told there are various resistance cells the Doctor hopes to bring together as one army, the one cell we see is composed of soldiers from all over the zones. Looks like his plan is already on the way and he doesn't know it.

That said, there are a great many things to enjoy in the episode. It introduces a paranoid rival for the War Chief in the Security Chief, whom James Bree is playing with a bizarre speaking voice. He's got super-spectacles that bore right into your head (a cool prop), and has to prompt answers from Zoe in a parody of a bored teacher (clicking with the idea that this is a kind of university). And how cool is his office with the hypnotic wall decoration? When he hears Zoe talk about time travel, he immediately jumps to the conclusion that the War Chief, a traitor to his own people (the plot thickens), has his own agents in play to betray THEM. This is a much more watchable and natural conflict than the more physical in-fighting between the various resistance members.

I also want to mention the cool psychedelic overlays that represent the effects of the aliens' disruptor weapons because it is a very effective way to represent energy weapons in-camera as the show's tech level. They tried similar things back in Tomb of the Cybermen, but it hasn't really made a comeback until now. Looks good, and helps makes the cliffhanger sequence exciting, as the resistance spilling out of the troop TARDIS is ambushed by rubber-suited guards. One imagines that the weapons aren't lethal given that Jamie is among the fallen.

THEORIES: So should we mention that the War Chief is wearing Zephon's medallion (from The Daleks' Master Plan)? I really want to because he indicates that it somehow represents his incredible knowledge, like a badge of office. Zephon was master of a galaxy, and the War Chief could hold the same office in another time. He's certainly power-hungry enough to have him seek that kind of thing. Or perhaps, Zephon's medallion is meant to represent some knowledge-based honor the War Chief shares.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - The standard in this story is quite high, so any episode that doesn't quite reach that level is going to seem a bit disappointing.

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