March 18, 2010

The First Great Time War

In all the hullaballoo with the impending arrival of Matt Smith as Doctor Who (in "Series Fnarg", as the Three Who Rule would say), it's hard to believe a time when Doctor Who wasn't announced with immense media hype. In fact, even though there was a four hour buildup towards David Tennant's regeneration (due to the specials), only once in the classic series' history did it approach epic proportions - not just in terms of regeneration, but also in terms of nailing down some key questions.

And that story was Patrick Troughton's swan song, the ten part story The War Games.

Simply in terms of overall packaging and content, this is simply impressive: two discs worth of one of the better paced stories of the era (Trust me - I would rather watch all of these episodes than the four Tennant specials back to back) with a third of bonus featurettes and extras. If one didn't know better, one could swear this reissue was done by Criterion - here's to the Restoration Team for cleaning up the story, making it sparkle, and for all involved in putting together one heck of a release. (This is one of those stories you really want to watch twice - once for the story, and the second time for the production notes).

Now, you're probably wondering, "Gordon, isn't this just nine episodes of running around with the Time Lords coming in at episode ten?" And the answer Surprisingly, this is one of the first times the whole dichotomy of the show (a man travelling in a police box that's a space ship which is bigger on the inside than the outside) comes to play - it is, quite simply, the start of a war story that heads into much bigger stakes. It's a historical tale mixed with science fiction and interpersonal scheming that has a nice, pop art sheen to it. It's well acted, full of great plot twists and turns, and most importantly - minimal (if any) padding.

Now, the big thing about this story is the "introduction of the Time Lords"...and quite frankly, it's handled rather well. In fact, it's easy to see why Russell T. Davies cribbed a little bit by having the Time Lords as the big bad in The End of Time - here, we get some suggestion that the Time Lords are a race who are content on observing...but who also have a darker undertone. It asks as many questions as it answers, and was as much a game-changer as Tennant's recent swan song.

And the final goodbyes between Troughton, Frasier Hines, and Wendy Padbury in episode ten - simply heartbreaking.

Trust me - this is the best few hours you'll ever spend. You simply must see this.

Doctor Who:The War Games (DVD)The War Games

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