Doctor Who 1969: The War Games

1969 – the year of the first man on the moon.

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This is… The 10-episode serial which says goodbye to the Sixties.

Thoughts:

Serial ZZ, (The War Games), has a certain alphabetic finality.

There’s a mirror between the first five serials of Doctor Who ordered as 26 episodes by the BBC – Serial A to Serial E – and the last five serials of the Sixties which formed its last production block – Serial VV to Serial ZZ, which is that they both reflect the story-types of their time.

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picWhile the first five serials had all three of the original strands planned for the programme, “human beings in other times, or in far space, or in unusual physical states”, these last five Sixties serials would focus more on the concerns of the Troughton era – the glamour of London, another monster that wasn’t the Daleks, a space-base, another space-base, though The War Games would show “other times” but in its own way.

The uncertainty of the scripts Bryant-as-producer era that Terrance Dicks mentioned (see Doctor Who 1968 and eight-part Serial VV The Invasion) continued even with Dicks as the new story editor, (now “script editor”).

After the advice of The Enemy of the World‘s director Barry Letts, this block would would have fewer episodes planned within its weeks. There would still be weeks with a studio videotaping of an episode at their end, with rehersals, but for this block the film inserts (location filming and Ealing Studios filming) would have their own week, a week by itself before the weeks of the serial’s studio VT – instead of interrupting reherals for other serials.

Despite this smoothing of the waters for the good ship Doctor Who, it was stormy progress still thanks to Serials WW, XX, YY, and ZZ being in flux.

At one point, Serial WW was to be the frankly mind-boggling “The Prison In Space” – Robert Holmes’s The Krotons was brought forward from its YY slot instead, and his skill at delivering usable scripts meant YY was now Holmes’s The Space Pirates.

Serial XX – The Seeds of Death by Brian Hayles, a serial reshaped by Terrance Dicks, who would also be scripting ZZ in tandem with Malcolm Hulke.

Hulke was to written the original six-part ZZ, Derrick Sherwin the final four-part serial AAA – the ten-part The War Games was then decided upon however.

Over half, then, of this final Sixties 34-episode production block would be the episodes of The Invasion and The War Games, and this latter story would be longest serial since the twelve-part The Daleks’ Master Plan of 1965.

Broadcasts: 10 episodes on 10 Saturdays of April, May, and June 1969, 17:15 on BBC1.

Continuity notes:

We see the Doctor’s people, “the Time Lords”.

A change of appearance but not “regeneration” said quite yet.

The message-cube sent to fellow Time Lords is very The Doctor’s Wife.

World of Fandom: If the Doctor is sent to Earth with a new appearance as soon as he’s reunited with the Time Lords what is The Two Doctors all about? “Season 6B”, that’s what.

The 2009 DWM readers’ poll of 200 stories – ranking: #29.

Product:

On Doctor Who: The War Games DVD.

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(The War Games on bbc.co.uk/programmes/)

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Next Wednesday – Doctor Who 1970…

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