The War Games

This article is about the Doctor Who serial. For other uses, see War Game.
050 The War Games
Doctor Who serial

The Doctor, Jamie and Lieutenant Carstairs are caught by English soldiers during World War I
Directed by David Maloney
Written by Terrance Dicks and Malcolm Hulke
Script editor Terrance Dicks (uncredited)
Produced by Derrick Sherwin
Executive producer(s) None
Incidental music composer Dudley Simpson
Production code ZZ
Series Season 6
Length 10 episodes, 25 minutes each
Date started 19 April 1969
Date ended 21 June 1969
← Preceded by Followed by →
The Space Pirates Spearhead from Space

The War Games is the seventh and final serial of the sixth season of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which originally aired in ten weekly parts from 19 April to 21 June 1969. It was the last regular appearance of Patrick Troughton as the Second Doctor and it is the last serial to be recorded in black and white. It is also the last regular to feature Wendy Padbury and Frazer Hines as companions Zoe Heriot and Jamie McCrimmon. It is also the story where the Doctor's race, the Time Lords, are revealed.


On an alien planet the Doctor uncovers a diabolical plot to conquer the galaxy, with brainwashed soldiers abducted from Earth forced to fight in simulated environments, reflecting the periods in history whence they were taken. The aliens' aim is to produce a super army from the survivors; to this end, they have been aided by a renegade from the Doctor's own race of the Time Lords, calling himself the War Chief.

Joining forces with rebel soldiers, who have broken their conditioning, the Doctor and his companions foil the plan and stop the fighting. The War Chief is apparently killed when the War Lord realises he has been plotting against him. But the Doctor admits he needs the help of the Time Lords to return the soldiers to their own times, but in asking, risks capture for his own past crimes, including the theft of the TARDIS. After sending the message he and his companions attempt to evade capture, but are caught.

Having returned the soldiers to Earth, the Time Lords place the War Lord on trial and dematerialise him. They erase Zoe and Jamie's memories of travelling with the Doctor, and return them to the point in time just as they entered the TARDIS. They then place the Doctor on trial for stealing the TARDIS and breaking the rule of non-interference. The Doctor presents a spirited defence, citing his many battles against the evils of the universe. Accepting this defence, the Time Lords announce that his punishment is exile to Earth. The operation of the TARDIS is wiped from his memory and his next regeneration is imposed as the Second Doctor complains defiantly.


The Second Doctor's appearance in Terrance Dicks' BBC Books Eighth Doctor Adventures novel, The Eight Doctors, occurs during this story. A flashback in Terrance Dicks' BBC books Past Doctor Adventures novel Players depicts the Second Doctor encountering Carstairs and Lady Jennifer during the real First World War with their memories of this serial erased by the Time Lords. The subsequent novel World Game elaborates on this flashback by looking at the circumstances that led to the Time Lords offering the Doctor a pardon and his known sentence of regeneration and exile in exchange for helping them deal with various problems that they could not be officially involved in (his original sentence would have been execution).

The time machines designed by the War Chief and used by the War Lords are called SIDRATs (and pronounced "side-rat") an inversion of the name TARDIS. This name is used only once on-screen during the serial, and then merely in passing,[1] the expanded acronym is revealed to stand for "Space and Inter-Dimensional Robot All-purpose Transporter" in the 1979 novelisation by Malcolm Hulke. It is repeated in the Virgin New Adventures novel Timewyrm: Exodus by Terrance Dicks, which forms a sequel to The War Games.

For the first time, this serial names the Doctor's race as the "Time Lords". His reasons for leaving and the fact that he stole the TARDIS are also revealed (although other aspects of his backstory remain a mystery). Again the concept of regeneration is presented but not named in this serial, following The Tenth Planet/The Power of the Daleks. The Time Lords refer to the process as a change of appearance. The process was eventually named in Planet of the Spiders, then retroactively attributed to the earlier two changes. In the first episode, the Second Doctor kisses Zoe on the forehead.[2] This display of platonic affection is the first time that the Doctor kisses one of his companions.

In the final episode, the Time Lords wipe Zoe's mind and return her to the Wheel, where she encounters Tanya Lernov, a character from The Wheel in Space. A set from The Wheel in Space was rebuilt and actress Clare Jenkins (Tanya) rehired for this one scene.[3] The Big Finish Productions audio drama Fear of the Daleks shows an older Zoe having detailed dreams of her adventures with the Doctor, suspecting that something is blocking her memory, and seeing a psychiatric counsellor in an effort to understand the "dreams". This is further explored in the later audio Legend of the Cybermen, in which Zoe carries out tests and learns that she has aged two years, concluding that she spent that time with the Doctor.

Episode 10 is the final episode of Doctor Who to be produced in black and white.

Additionally, while The War Games never depicted the Doctor's regeneration itself, it was later depicted in TV Comic, which depicted the exiled Doctor's exploits on Earth, before, in a comic entitled The Nightwalkers, showing the Doctor dragged in to the TARDIS by animated scarecrows, allowing his change of appearance to take place.[4] The Second Doctor's regeneration was also depicted in Devious, a fan-produced film starring Jon Pertwee in his last appearance as the Third Doctor.[5]


As the TARDIS crew try to escape the Time Lords in episode 10, brief clips from The Web of Fear and Fury from the Deep are used[6] to show the TARDIS in locations supposedly out of the Time Lords' reach. A model shot from episode 1 of The Wheel in Space is used after Zoe is sent back to her own time and place by the Time Lords. Since this episode is missing, the shot sampled in The War Games is the only known surviving footage from this episode. Similarly, the shot sampled from Fury from the Deep is from episode 1 of that serial (which is also missing) and the shot sampled is also the only surviving footage from that episode.

Cast notes

Patrick Troughton's eldest son David made his second appearance in Doctor Who in episode six of this story as Private Moor, having first appeared in The Enemy of the World.[7] He subsequently appeared as King Peladon in The Curse of Peladon in 1972, and then as Professor Hobbes in "Midnight" in 2008.

Jane Sherwin who played Lady Jennifer Buckingham was producer Derrick Sherwin's wife.[8]

Terence Bayler had previously played Yendom in The Ark. Hubert Rees had previously appeared in Fury from the Deep and would return for The Seeds of Doom. Edward Brayshaw had previously played Leon Colbert in The Reign of Terror. James Bree later played Nefred in Full Circle and the Keeper of the Matrix in The Ultimate Foe. Leslie Schofield later played Calib in The Face of Evil. Peter Craze had previously played Dako in The Space Museum and would appear again as Costa in Nightmare of Eden. David Savile would later appear as Winser in The Claws of Axos and as Colonel Crichton in The Five Doctors.

Philip Madoc had previously appeared in The Krotons as Eelek, and the film Daleks – Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D. as Dalek collaborator, Brockley. He would go on to play Doctor Solon in The Brain of Morbius and Fenner in The Power of Kroll. Bernard Horsfall (First Time Lord) had previously appeared as Lemuel Gulliver in The Mind Robber, and would subsequently play Taron in Planet of the Daleks and Chancellor Goth in The Deadly Assassin. In 2003 he appeared in Davros, a Doctor Who audio drama produced by Big Finish Productions. Vernon Dobtcheff later played Shamur in the Fifth Doctor audio drama The Children of Seth.[9]

Broadcast and reception

Serial details by episode
EpisodeBroadcast dateRun timeViewers
(in millions)
"Episode One" 19 April 1969 (1969-04-19) 25:00 5.5 16mm t/r
"Episode Two" 26 April 1969 (1969-04-26) 25:00 6.3 16mm t/r
"Episode Three" 3 May 1969 (1969-05-03) 24:30 5.1 16mm t/r
"Episode Four" 10 May 1969 (1969-05-10) 23:30 5.7 16mm t/r
"Episode Five" 17 May 1969 (1969-05-17) 24:30 5.1 16mm t/r
"Episode Six" 24 May 1969 (1969-05-24) 22:53 4.2 16mm t/r
"Episode Seven" 31 May 1969 (1969-05-31) 22:28 4.9 16mm t/r
"Episode Eight" 7 June 1969 (1969-06-07) 24:37 3.5 16mm t/r
"Episode Nine" 14 June 1969 (1969-06-14) 24:34 4.1 16mm t/r
"Episode Ten" 21 June 1969 (1969-06-21) 24:23 5.0 16mm t/r

The BBC's Audience Research Report showed that The War Games was received positively, though not enthusiastically, by viewers.[13]

Paul Cornell, Martin Day, and Keith Topping wrote of the serial in The Discontinuity Guide (1995), "It might be six episodes too long, but The War Games is pivotal in the history of Doctor Who. The introduction of the Time Lords ... sees the series lose some of its mystery, but gain a new focus."[14] In The Television Companion (1998), David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker stated that the serial "gets off to a cracking start", though they noted that "A commonly expressed view is that, after this strong beginning, the story becomes dull and repetitive, picking up again only in the closing stages when the Time Lords are introduced."[13] They praised the design work of the different war zones, the dialogue, and the conclusion.[13] In 2009, Radio Times reviewer Patrick Mulkern was positive towards the detailed scripts and the various villains, especially the War Chief.[15] The A.V. Club reviewer praised the way the serial subverted viewers' expectations of a typical historical story. He noted that there was padding to fill the running time, but felt that it was done well and that it worked better than in The Dalek Invasion of Earth.[16] He also wrote positively of Madoc's War Lord and Jamie and Zoe's departure, and said that the story purposefully "doesn't resolve neatly or satisfyingly".[17] Alasdair Wilkins of io9 praised Troughton's performance and the way that it was structured to "constantly [expand] the story's scope", though he admitted there was still padding.[18] In a 2010 article, Charlie Jane Anders of the same site listed the cliffhanger to the ninth episode — in which the Doctor is forced to summon the Time Lords — as one of the greatest Doctor Who cliffhangers ever.[19]

A viewing of The War Games, and in particular the character of Jamie McCrimmon, inspired author Diana Gabaldon to set her Outlander series in Jacobite Scotland, and to name its protagonist "Jamie".[20]

Commercial releases

In print

Doctor Who and the War Games
Author Malcolm Hulke
Cover artist John Geary
Series Doctor Who book:
Target novelisations
Release number
Publisher Target Books
Publication date
25 September 1979
ISBN 0-426-20082-9

A novelisation of this serial, written by Malcolm Hulke, was published by Target Books in September 1979, entitled Doctor Who and The War Games.

In January 2011, an audiobook of the novelisation was released, read by David Troughton.[21]

Home media

The front cover of the UK version of the DVD.

This serial was released in the UK in February 1990 in a two-tape set in episodic form. It was re-released in remastered format in September 2002. Since this VHS re-release, better quality film prints of the story were located at the BFI, and were used for the DVD release which occurred on 6 July 2009.[22]

The "Regenerations" box set, released on 24 June 2013,[23] contains The War Games; the serial was released with no special features.


  1. Cornell, Paul, Martin Day, & Keith Topping, Doctor Who: The Discontinuity Guide, Virgin Books, 1995, p. 104; episode 7 timecode 3:05 "...While the Sidrat is still moving..."
  2. "Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide". Retrieved 2010-01-10.
  3. Wood, Tat; Lawrence Miles (2006). About Time 2: The Unauthorized Guide to Doctor Who: 1966–1969, Seasons 4 to 6. Des Moines, Iowa: Mad Norwegian Press. ISBN 0-9759446-1-4.
  4. Hearn, Marcus (24 October 2013). Doctor Who:The Vault. London: BBC Books. p. 65. ISBN 1849905819.
  5. Niall Boyce (2009). Doctor Who: The War Games (Media notes). London: BBC Worldwide. BBCDVD1800.
  6. Howe, David J.; Walker, Stephen James (1998). "The War Games: Things to watch out for...". Doctor Who: The Television Companion. London: BBC Worldwide. p. 173. ISBN 0-563-40588-0. Retrieved 21 October 2010.
  9. "Doctor Who: The Lost Stories - The Children of Seth". Big Finish. Retrieved 2011-03-08.
  10. Shaun Lyon; et al. (2007-03-31). "The War Games". Outpost Gallifrey. Archived from the original on 2008-05-03. Retrieved 2008-08-31.
  11. "The War Games". Doctor Who Reference Guide. Retrieved 2008-08-31.
  12. Sullivan, Shannon (2005-05-12). "The War Games". A Brief History of Time Travel. Retrieved 2008-08-31.
  13. 1 2 3 Howe, David J & Walker, Stephen James (1998). Doctor Who: The Television Companion (1st ed.). London: BBC Books. ISBN 978-0-563-40588-7.
  14. Cornell, Paul; Day, Martin; Topping, Keith (1995). "The War Games". The Discontinuity Guide. London: Virgin Books. ISBN 0-426-20442-5.
  15. Mulkern, Patrick (7 September 2009). "Doctor Who: The War Games". Radio Times. Retrieved 26 March 2013.
  16. Bahn, Christopher (20 November 2011). "The War Games (Episodes 1-5)". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 26 March 2013.
  17. Bahn, Christopher (4 December 2011). "The War Games (Episodes 6-10)". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 26 March 2013.
  18. Wilkins, Alasdair (1 January 2010). "Ranking the Regenerations of Doctor Who". io9. Retrieved 26 March 2013.
  19. Anders, Charlie Jane (31 August 2010). "Greatest Doctor Who Cliffhangers Of All Time!". io9. Retrieved 26 March 2013.
  20. Gabaldon, Diana. "FAQ: About the Books". Retrieved 20 August 2014.
  21. "Doctor Who and the War Games (classic novel)". Big Finish Productions. Retrieved 23 November 2012.
  22. "The War Games". 2009-05-20. Retrieved 2013-10-09.
  23. "Doctor Who: Regeneration [DVD]: William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, Paul McGann, Christopher Ecclestone, David Tennant, Matt Smith: Film & TV". Retrieved 2013-10-09.
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Target novelisation

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