Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Doctor Who #252: The War Games Part 7

"His ingenuity could ruin everything!"TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired May 31 1969.

IN THIS ONE... We finally meet the War Lord and the Doctor is captured after setting up a resistance stronghold in the 1917 chateau.

REVIEW: This episode marks the arrival - finally! - of the War Lord, as played by an unrecognizable Philip Madoc whose last baddie, in The Krotons, didn't even get a concluding scene. He's brilliant here because he's so cool and collected, almost lizard-like, and suave and amused at the simplest sadistic thought. The bad guys are all interesting in their way because war, to them, really is a game, one that hides a deeper agenda. We don't yet know why the War Lord and War Chief are doing what they're doing, but it's entertaining seeing their agenda possibly at odds (the entertaining Security Chief completes that triangle). General Smythe makes a comeback (did I hear him exclaim "Jesus!" at one point!?) and lies about the Doctor having been killed just so he can have his revenge for his previous embarrassment. They make delicious villains because even though they are united in their common plan, they act on personal impulse and agenda.

These "officers" stand in stark contrast to the enlisted me and resistance fighters who have to actually fight this war. The action in these sections is mostly exciting (aside from the slowest grenade in all reality), but violent. There's a brutal moment, for example, when a German soldier gets the nasty end of a bayonet. It's not shown, but Zoe's reaction, looking down in shame that her allies are up to their elbows in blood, is more powerful. War isn't pretty, even if the program can't quite show it. The Doctor's brand of action is much less violent, of course, so he's left to throw smoke bombs like some kind of ninja tramp, and putting up a field of time mists around the chateau, even if it doesn't stop the baddies from re-capturing him, feels like the kind of thing he does today, as opposed to the less time-savvy 60s era.

I won't call it perfect though. In addition to that embarrassing grenade choreography, one of my pet peeves is invoked, i.e. a French character that simply can't speak French. I'm not blaming the actor so much as the writing, which has illogical moments like a Frenchman not recognizing the word "resistance". Voyons! Oh, and the troop-carrying TARDIS has a name and it is SIDRAT. An absurd palindrome, right? (See Theories.)

THEORIES: If TARDIS is an acronym, then what does SIDRAT mean? More to the point, perhaps, is why there's even a connection with a name apparently created by Susan. I can attempt answers to both questions. The use of the word TARDIS now used not as the ship's proper name, but to refer to all Time Lord space-time machines probably means it is a proper Gallifreyan word, untranslatable. Susan, as a teenager in love with contemporary London, would have made a game of turning it into an English-language acronym. We don't know anything about the Gallifreyan language, so reverse spelling might be part of their grammar or syntax, indicating in this case a TARDIS with limited function. Or the aliens' natural language might have reversed the acronym, which telepathic circuits are translating as the palindrome SIDRAT.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - Small blemishes aside, this is another cracking episode, in large part thanks to Madoc's fascinating portrayal of the War Lord.


idiotbrigade said...

Warlord with those glasses kind of looks like Steve Jobs. Which would explain A LOT about our own timeline continuity and the evils therein.

iScrewdriver. TARDiOS.

jheaton said...

I seem to recall that the Target novelization of The War Games answered the question of what SIDRAT stood for, but I no longer have that one so I can't verify that.

Siskoid said...

I reveal it under VERSIONS in Part 10's review! Stay tuned!