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07 – The War Games

Hello everyone, the Historian here, and I am running out of fun things to say about this fantastic final story! So, let’s cut to the chase, and get to the episode!

This episode first aired 31 May 1969.


H = Historian
K = Ketina
R = Ronelyn
Sp = Spoo
MS = Minispoo
M = MisterMother
P = Photobug
A = Altair

K: It IS called a SIDRAT! (just Side-rat, not Sidrat)

P: I got no deads this week!

M: So Carstairs continues to be awesome, the actor playing him. The practiced way of the way he re-holstered his pistol without looking was so much better than what we’ve seen in Doctor Who.

Sp: Anywhere in Doctor Who.

M: And also his French was also better than the French soldier’s French.

K: They were both still speaking high school French.

M: But Carstairs pronunciation was better. And the other person who’s awesome, but scary, was the War Lord.

H: Philip Madoc! He’s always awesome in Doctor Who, even in the Krotons.

R: Very modern actor.

K: I loved his beard. I don’t generally like beards, but the War Lord’s beard was almost as good as the War Chief’s beard.

M: The Security Chief and the War Chief were chewing scenery from other shows, and in contrast the War Lord was subtle. It just gave you a chill.

Sp: The War Lord had the quiet authority that you would expect him to have, not only just from that actor’s good work, but in stark contrast to all of the scenery chewing of the other two. You really felt like a grown up arrived.

R: “Settle, kids! Settle.” I was tempted during the shouting match of the two chiefs “oh, just kiss!”

H: Not the only one. All that being said, not a whole heck of a lot was accomplished in this episode, really.

R: What?

P: They finally killed that dude.

M: Establishing the safe zone. And Smythe got his comeuppance.

H: But the ultimate effect, plotwise, is we end up almost where we started. The machine’s recaptured. The Doctor’s recaptured. Basically, Jamie and Carstairs are free, and the safe zone has been established.

M: It’s like any of the long stories in that respect. They swapped who’s been captured a few times.

R: Remarkably similar, in fact, to World War I, where territory is traded over the course of the day, but by evening everybody is back in the same trench they started from.

P: Those that survived.

H: So, basically, what I meant was this is definitely the seventh episode of a ten-parter of a story that needed to be stretched 10 parts. But it was still a lot of fun.

R: I disagree.

Sp: And yet last week’s was still much more expendable than this weeks. The acting was better in this one.

K: This one introduced the War Lord. He was worth it.

M: And they off’d Smythe. This is obviously the end of act two and the setup for act three.

H: Which is what we said last week.

M: And it stretched into this week.

R: But my point is, there’s a big difference between past stories where they stretched it by saying “okay, now everybody taaallllkkk sllllloooowwweeerrr” and this where they found stuff to have actually happen. “Oh crap, we’ve gotta go get the machine. Oh crap, now we have to find some place safe to setup the machine.”

Sp: Okay, fine fine. The chicken and the fox come with us over here. Now we take the chicken back and pick up the wheat. Now we take the alligator.

K: There was no alligator in that riddle.

Sp: That’s why it’s filler.

H: But my point is that, it’s like we’re on a tread mill in this episode. We end up where we started, and knowing how this story was written. And we can see that in this and the last episode. They needed to delay until they could get to the next bit.

R: But my point is that they found good stuff to do to fill the time, rather than pointless exposition, or just not letting anything happen this week. They said “At the end of this week we have to be at this point, so let’s find a longer way of getting to that point.”

H: And let’s pad it out with more bickering like we had last week. But, Ronelyn, I don’t think we’re on opposite sides here. We’re both saying they clearly did some padding and it was fun, but I’m saying it seemed clear that this was plot on a treadmill padding, and you’re saying “yeah, but it was fun.”

M: I’m on Ronelyn’s side. I wouldn’t call it padding. Padding is when there’s really nothing going on, and the audience is in serious danger of getting bored.

K: I don’t think it was on a treadmill. While the Doctor was recaptured, 5 other important things happened to advance the plot (Jamie and Carstairs getting away, made secret safe base, killing Smythe, and most important introducing the War Lord and having him take over control the project). I felt like it was 6 steps forward, one step back.

H: I disagree.

<discussion of difference between stretching the plot and padding.>

K: I think this discussion is funny, because usually it’s usually the rest of us who have issues with the stories being stretched out.

M: I don’t care how the sausage is made, as long as it’s tasty sausage, and this is tasty.

A: Mmm… sausage.

Sp: Mister Mother and I are appreciating this story, I think, from the same perspective…

P: Me too.

K: And me.

H: I’m not saying I’m not enjoying it.

Sp: Which is the episode as it is, with no other real world knowledge of what the episode or the story or the season was “supposed” to be. I am not coming at this story thinking “originally the writers wanted to do a 4-parter and a 6-parter but were told to do a 10-parter and had to fix it.” I do not see the seams, so I do not care.

P: I kind of see a nice story. I think you’re diving into meta when you’re saying “it’s clear that it’s a 10 parter, blah blah blah.”

H: But every time we see a long story someone says it’s padded in the middle, blah blah blah. And I feel like I’m being attacking for finally agreeing with you.

K: We’re used to stories being stretched. We don’t mind this time because it’s so good!

Sp: We only have 4 episodes of the Project left. We have to get our licks in somewhere.

H: We hang out almost every week. You can verbally abuse me any time you want.

M: I think the moral is that the sniping is contagious.

Sp: Somebody hand me some glasses. I gotta sit someone down!

H: <looks at Spoo with glasses on> “The episode is a little padded”

Sp: <struggles to resist mind control> “Noooo” Seriously, a little padding is to be expected at our age.

K: I think Cz is the only one not a little padded around here.

H: So, Zoe showed that she was a leader of men in this episode. She gathered the resistance people who she knew together and had them ready to come to the Doctor’s aid.

M: And then was immediately pushed to the side when the men showed up.

H: She was the project manager.

K: <gives him a look>

H: She was the project manager of the army.

Sp: She was the sheep dog. She herded the troops. Nip nip, arf arf.

K: She wasn’t no bitch though.

Sp: No.

R: And speaking of pushed aside, Jamie has big brass balls.

Sp: “This little egg thing has been sitting on the ground has been sitting on the ground for 15 seconds. I better pick it up and throw it out the window.”

R: “This is the little thing everybody is afraid of, I guess I should get rid of it.”

P: I thought he was going to throw the invading trooper on the grenade.

<NSFW discussion of Jamie’s awesomeness>

P: The Australian censors have the transcript of that.

<discussion of historical accuracy of the grenade that was used>

K: It was a French grenade.

M: It was actually a bomb de terre. <reference to the movie The Corsican Brothers>

K: So it really was called a SIDRAT.

H: Which I’ve been keeping my mouth shut about the entire time. And the fact that you guys came up with that on your own, I thought was beautiful. And makes me appreciate how awesome this group is.

MS: It was awesome. That’s my job here. Saying that.

Sp: I do remember you appreciating the SIDRAT controls.

MS: They totally looked like child’s stickers. It’s like the Doctor was actually using magic, and the real thing is those were just stickers, and they just pretended they did this magical thing. That could have happened.

M: It was Time Lord mind magic, and the stickers were just props to fool the aliens.

P: Okay, how do you control a TARDIS / SIDRAT, with controls that are not in the machine?

H: I don’t know, I’m not a Time Lord.

K: They may later address that in the Deadly Assassin. Or some other later episode.

H: The third Doctor used to complain about it all the time.

Sp: And then there’s plot.

M: It all makes sense in the context of the story. It’s a controlled experiment, and the SIDRAT is basically on rails.

K: So, are we ready for final thoughts?

A: I’ve been enjoying it.

MS: I already said it was awesome, so yeah. <goes back to video game>

P: It was good to see the reintroduction of the poorly named Time Barrier. It’s most of a mind conversion deterrent.

K: Well, it was a foggy thing.

H: “Deploy the foggy thing!”

Sp: <bad southern accent> “I say here!”

H: No, that’s the Fog Horn thing.

Sp: <bad southern accent> “They ain’t gonna be able to get into this chateau thing. It’ll cause more confusion than a mouse at a burlesque show. That’s a joke, son.”

P: So, we’re impervious from attack, unless of course they’ll use their soldiers, which they will because they’re no longer inside of the realm of the game.

M: <interrupts by looking up Loony Tunes on his phone, which interrupts Photobug’s train of thought big time>

P: Yeah, this train is a time machine that one goes backwards and forwards, I’m sorry.

H: It’s on a rail!

P: I’m a hobo… So they’re whole line of defense breaks down. Now the brain washed soldiers can’t get through to them, but the base soldiers now can with their tiny triangle guns. Also, this is the first time, in a long time, that they haven’t ended the episode with “he dead.”

R: Now he just doomed.

P: “He captured” just does not flow off the tongue. Let’s see, what else? It was good to see our evil leader getting his come uppance. And I was kind of surprised that the Doctor didn’t see how the glasses worked, because Smythe put them on, brain washed the guy, and then took them off. And I can’t see how the actors could see anything while wearing them. Or hurled. Or actually now needed to wear glasses after filming this.

H: We don’t have any evidence that the Doctor doesn’t know how the glasses work. He might know, but there’s nothing he could do at that point.

P: But he should have plucked them off the body. Just to get the XP!

Sp: <gamer accent> “I could sell these. They must be worth at least 5 or 6 hundred gold pieces.”

<apparently gamers sound like Jimmy Stewart. Instead of… I don’t know… us?>

K: Anything else?

P: There certainly was a lot of childish bickering going on with the underlings in the War Center.

K: The Chief’s weren’t really underlings. They were middle-lings.

P: It’s interesting to see the War Lord smugly chide them and say I’ll just take over, since I’ll be better at this. And then, unbelievably the scene cut away so we couldn’t hear the plan. What a terrible filming.

K: Spoilers!

MS: The two underlings, they were bickering back and forth and managing the stuff, so they were kind of the micromanager bots from the Lego Movie. Like making sure… I don’t know where I was going with that, but I had a vision there.

P: Mind block there.

K: So, moving on.

<introductory chorus for Mister Mother>

M: Okay then. Ahhhh. Hey that effect where they came out of the time barrier was really neat. That was the one thing I remember noting that we hadn’t brought up yet.

R: Yeah. The echo in the time barrier was really well done.

M: Everything around that effect was well done.

<the Historian reminds Mister Mother how to do final thoughts. Mister Mother is not impressed. Laughter ensues as I type this. And once again, we break the Historian.>

Sp: <sings> I broke him.

K: Okay. Anything else, Mister Stoic.

M: If I wasn’t still feeling a residual buzz right now, I might be sad. The biggest thing I noticed about this episode was how clearly… they pad <laughs> the <giggle> story. Sorry, I couldn’t keep a straight face.

H: I hate you all.

M: This was really good. There’s a continual evolution of the story telling and everything else, and maybe because this is the last story of the Project, but I’m really cognizant of how far along we’ve seen of the staging and story telling have come. And it, even though this is a Troughton story, feels more like the Doctor Who that I remember as a kid, starting out with Pertwee and Baker. This feels more like those stories than where we started.

H: I think you’re absolutely correct.

Sp: The moment when the Doctor was explaining that he had turned the chateau into a safe base of operations was the such a triumphant moment it really felt like it needed some sort of music swell, or something. It just seemed to bring the whole story to another level.

H: Paging Murry Gold!

Sp: And I kind of like that sort of thing, even if it was done to death at the end of 10s run.

H: I just hate when it obscures the dialog.

Sp: <thinks>

P: We haven’t covered them not being waffle iron cooked in the squishing SIDRAT.

H: Yeah. One thing we can say is that they didn’t cheat to get out of this cliff hanger. It made perfect sense.

Sp: And actually, that moment also felt like a bit of transition into “Who as we know it,” because I think we could probably rattle off about four or five different Doctors who could pull off the “I surrender” smoke bomb kind of move that Troughton did.

H: But not as well as Troughton did it.

Sp: I love Patrick Troughton. It was adorable. So yeah. I think my thing to end on is that this story overall, and this episode specifically, really does feel like that overall transition into modern Who.

R: “Contact has been made.”

H: No, not until 1976.

M: And when you say “Modern Who?”

Sp: I don’t mean Nu Who. I mean Modern Who. I mean “Our” Who <i.e. basically the Pertwee to McCoy era, and for some just the Tom Baker era.>

H: I’d argue that we’ve been transitioning to that over the last 1-2 seasons. This is sort of the completion of the transition.

M: That’s sort of what I’ve been saying.

Sp: Agrees.

P: Why, when under orders to kill the Doctor, didn’t they just kill the Doctor?

Sp: Asked every Doctor Who villain over the course of 35 seasons.

H: The actual orders by the Security Chief were capture or destroy. It was Smythe who took it on himself to just kill him. So this time they have an excuse. This time!

P: They were one hand grenade away, but the Scott stepped in.

H: Rrronelyn?

R: I just have one thing to say <Troughton accent> “I’m in your base, stealing your knobs.”

Sp: <giggles> War Chief “hax, hax.” Claiming the Doctor is cheating in an online game.

R: Totes nawt.

M: randomstringofletters pretending to be hip to the lingo.

Sp: I would like to note that Ronelyn had more to say, but her mom came into the room and kicked her off Xbox LIVE.

K: My turn, Ronelyn?

R: Yeah, I’m done.

K: You guys covered more than everything, and as usual, I’m sick of typing. So, I’ll just say, this has been fun, and I’m looking forward to next week.

M: There was also the scene when they were having a little picnic when the SIDRAT was waiting to land.

H: And the Doctor picks up a picks up a piece of fruit just as it lands. I wish we could see more of those moments – so much of Troughton is lost. I love that we’ve done the Project, and I love watching all the recons, but I think I’m actually more bitter about all of the episodes being missing now than I was before the Project.

<Historian rambles about Phil Morris for a while… bitterly.>


As Ketina might succinctly put it, another one down, more next week! Until then, I remain

THE HISTORIAN

NEXT WEEK: THE WAR GAMES EPISODE EIGHT