5 December 2018: It Takes You Away review added.
26 November 2018: The Witchfinders review added.
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THE WAR GAMES
"Just like the TARDIS, eh?"
At the beginning of this, we wondered how on Earth (tee hee) they were going to make the story stretch to ten episodes. But although there's a little bit of repetitious backwarding and forwarding, it stands up to the long format very well. It's an excellent adventure, not only for its place in history with the introduction of the Time Lords, but also for the impact of the premise. The war scenes, especially the World War I scenes, are genuinely chilling, and the whole thing powerfully underlines the horror and futility of war. Not a bad achievement for a Saturday teatime children's programme.
This one's all in the details, so let's get to them...
MORAL: War. It's not very nice.
In finding themselves supposedly in the early twentieth century, the Doctor says "We're back in history, Jamie", which is an odd statement. We don't know what the Doctor thinks of as the present, and we know World War I is the future for Jamie, which means this makes sense only from the point of view of the TV viewer.
WHATEVER YOU SAY
The Doctor is revoltingly cringeingly submissive in this, rubbing his hands at times in his best Uriah Heep impersonation. Ugh. Where's your dignity, man?
We love the fact that Zoe's wearing a trenchcoat in a trench.
I'VE GOT A FEELING
When Zoe searches the office for the keys, she goes almost straight to the picture and the pillow. How does she know?
YES JAMIE, THAT IS A BIG ONE
We're not sure about the scene where the Doctor is fiddling with Jamie's sporran. What were they trying to tell us?
We have to admit that we were gobsmacked at the sight of the sonic screwdriver unscrewing something sonically.
Carstairs volunteers to hold off the Germans so that the rest of the party can escape to the American Civil War zone. This is a pretty stupid plan, as he doesn't seem to be able to do anything that he couldn't do from the ambulance, but more to the point, we're pretty shocked at the Doctor's callousness at leaving him behind. So much for the figure of myth to whom every life is sacred.
As the TARDIS-type thing arrives for the first time in the Civil War zone, they make the most pathetic attempt at concealing themselves we've ever seen. We've heard of hiding in plain view, but this is ridiculous.
WHAT DOES THAT REMIND ME OF?
Zoe and Jamie seem unnecessarily thick about making the connection between the TARDIS and these other boxes bigger on the inside than the outside which materialise out of nowhere with a distinctive noise. Duh! Also, the Doctor refers to it as "one of those things". Really, Doctor, as if you didn't know.
JUST PLAY ALONG
When Lady Jennifer explains to Jamie that they're in the middle of the American Civil War, Jamie goes "Aaaah!" as if all becomes clear. Quite a feat considering when he was born.
Those eyeshades with the slits and crosses are seriously creepy. And so are the security guys' outfits.
BUT DON'T LET THAT BOTHER YOU
When Zoe meets Carstairs again, she's happy to see him, despite the fact that she knows he's been brainwashed. Oops.
Back at the World War I zone, the Doctor and Jamie are very gung-ho ("We dealt with those all right, didn't we?") considering one of their party has just been killed. Ah well, such is war, we suppose.
We note that the evil German dude has the standard Doctor Who Bad Guy Scar running down through his eye (see Inferno, Ribos Operation, etc). Looks very good on Nick Courtney, though, but then, what doesn't?
NO TIME LIKE THE PRESENT
Interesting wars they picked for the zones, doncha think? They're all nice and safely in the past - nothing controversial like the Vietnam War.
We love the fridge magnet controls for the TARDISes.
HAVEN'T WE MET SOMEWHERE BEFORE?
Ooh, look, there's Pat's son David as Moor! Isn't that sweet.
IN THE CLUB STYLE
When someone speaks in French, the Doctor doesn't understand it. TARDIS translation circuits having an off day?
There's Philip Madoc, famed submarine commander in Dad's Army and Who regular, again! And he does an excellent job as the War Lord, underplaying it to great effect.
HOME PLANET SWEET HOME PLANET
Love the realistic way the baddies refer to "the home planet". Too busy trying to take over the universe to think of a proper name, obviously.
SHOT THROUGH THE HEARTS AND YOU'RE TO BLAME
Why doesn't the War Chief regenerate when he's killed?
Carstairs goes back to the 1917 zone to find Lady Jennifer - but she's actually in the American Civil War zone. Maybe all that processing has scrambled his brains.
WHO WERE THOSE MASKED MEN?
If the bad guys are "as if they've never been", how can Jamie remember them to say "that's got rid of them"?
The Time Lords accuse the Doctor of interfering. But isn't that exactly what they've just done with the baddies?
AND IT WAS ALL A DREAM
What's the logic of wiping the memories of the companions? Particularly when they're arbitrarily allowed to remember their first adventure with the Doctor.
2(B) OR NOT 2(B)?
Of course, we'd heard for years about the Doctor's "forced regeneration", but when we actually saw it, we were surprised at how different it was from what we'd been imagining. In fact, was he regenerated at all? Regeneration is never mentioned by either side, and we think a case can be made for saying that all the Time Lords did was change the Doctor's appearance. Controversial, eh?