Patrick Troughton's tenure as the Second Doctor comes to an end with this epic 10-part Doctor Who
serial from 1969, which finds him at crossed swords with both a diabolical race of aliens and his own race, the Time Lords. The Doctor's problems begin when he and companions Jamie (Frazier Hines) and Zoe (Wendy Padbury) materialize on a planet where soldiers from Earth's past have been brought to fight in a battle of supremacy in order to build a super fighting force for aliens with galactic conquest in mind. In order to stop their plan, the Doctor is forced to call on the Time Lords for help--and in doing so, he must face both trial for stealing the TARDIS and possible regeneration. Historically significant in the history of Doctor Who
as the final appearance of Troughton in the role, as well as for the first episode to mention the Time Lords by name and the concept of the Doctor's regeneration, The War Games
is distinguished by the quality of its clever scripting (by Terrance Dicks and Malcolm Hulke), which changed the direction of the series for the entirety of Jon Pertwee's term as the Third Doctor and part of Tom Baker's Fourth Doctor story arc.
The DVD presentation of The War Games celebrates the importance of the serial in Who history with a three-disc set that covers nearly every aspect of its production and the Doctor's place in pop culture during the time of its broadcast. Chief among the extras is a commentary track featuring Hines, Padbury, Dicks, and costars Philip Madoc, Jane Sherwin, and Graham Weston; all are featured, along with a host of additional performances and crew, in both the 36-minute "War Zone" featurette, which discusses the making of the serial and Troughton's departure, and "Shades of Grey," which examines the effect of monochrome television on early episodes such as this one. "Talking About Regeneration" discusses the Doctor's changing appearance through talks with Fifth Doctor Peter Davison, among others, while "On Target--Malcolm Hulke" kicks off a series on coauthor Hulke's imaginative Doctor Who novelizations. There's also another installment of "Stripped for Action," which covers the Doctor's adventures in comic form, as well as interviews with composer Dudley Simpson and makeup artist Sylvia James, return visits to the serial's exterior locations, and the usual subtitle production notes, promotional trailers, Radio Times PDF, and gallery of photos. Only "Devious," an amateur film made by fans, fails to live up to the quality of the other material. The Easter Egg-curious will also find treasures on all three discs, including behind-the-scenes audio, a test reel of special effects animation, and an amusing rendition of the Doctor's plea before the Time Lords as enacted by cheeky sock puppets. --Paul Gaita