Monday, July 30, 2012

Doctor Who #251: The War Games Part 6

"You don't trust me. But if you question my loyalty tell the War Lord, but I warn you be absolutely sure of your suspicions because if you accuse me without proof, I shall crush you!"TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired May 24 1969.

IN THIS ONE... Time Lords get mentioned for the first time. Patrick Troughton's son David appears for the first time. And the War Chief threatens to crush at least four people.

REVIEW: Yes, the War Chief's people (and thus the Doctor's) are named, and they are Time Lords. In a story that features a War Lord, it sounds like they sort of pulled it out of thin air, but no matter the nomenclature's origin, how exciting is that after 6 years of near-total mystery! It's also possibly the first mention that a TARDIS' exterior is impervious to attacks (though Jamie's line could be sarcasm because the Doctor's often tried to protect the TARDIS from damage, and it spun apart at least once on his shift). Speaking of TARDIS shenanigans, the War Chief pulls the same dimension-collapsing trick on a TARDIS the Doctor did in The Meddling Monk, except with people in it! A fine cliffhanger that uses the world of Doctor Who to good effect, and well realized too.

Terrence Dicks' skills as a writer are very much on display. He uses what has been established in this story and before to build the action most logically. He's very good at structure and plot (if not at dialog - which sounds fine, but is never particularly witty). So Zoe knows the names and locations of all the rebels because she has total recall of course. The Doctor and the rebels can lead a successful gas attack because gas masks are part of the WWI equipment sent, of course. The Doctor finds that the wall panels are magnetically sealed, and that too makes sense given that their control panels are basically magnetized shapes. And the paranoia that keeps the villains from working together is completely believable because from their plans, they actually are untrustworthy individuals. If there's a problem in the structure, it's in the scenes featuring David Troughton as the Redcoat soldier Moor (his first of several roles in Doctor Who, and yes, son of Patrick) and Von Weich. Sure, it may be important to tie up that particular loose end (Von Weiss buys the farm), but it seems like there's a whole thread devoted to this minor plot point, giving Moor about as much screen time as any of the regulars. A nice thing to do for a family member? Or a bit of padding to give the regulars a breather during the taping?

There are a couple of new overlay effects here that are pretty cool, like a person's brain over his head when he is scanned (the rectangular bars meant to represent Jamie's unprocessed mind are less successful however), and a cool force field as well. The guards in their wetsuits, forgivable until now, become goofier and goofier the more we see of them, especially when there's a modicum of acting involved. Surely the most minor of complaints.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - There's the question of why David Troughton gets a spotlight in this episode, but otherwise, the revelations, neat effects and well-plotted elements keep on coming.


Martin Gray said...

If you ever get he chance, check out David Troughton on Andrew Davis' BBC comedy drama A Very Peculiar Practice - he's superb. The whole show is great, mind.

Siskoid said...

Not so obvious from where I'm standing geographically, but I'll try to find it!

LiamKav said...

I have only just twigged that "Time Lord" might have been derived from "War Lord". It always was a bit of an odd name for a race/species, but it does lead to some delightful oddness of language - "you look human" "you look Time Lord".

john-amend-all said...

This isn't the first time the sonic's done something other than screw or unscrew; it got used to burn through concrete in the last episode of The Dominators.

Siskoid said...

Did it? Oh Dominators, I'm so trying to forget you.