Sunday, 28 March 2010

When Time Lords come marching home again...


Doctor Who: The War Games. 1969.
UK. BBC DVD. Region 2.

I never knew Patrick Troughton’s Doctor when I was a kid. I was only one year old when he starred in his last story for the show, The War Games. My earliest memories of Doctor Who are of Jon Pertwee and the Autons as they smashed out of the shop windows as tailor’s dummies.

I grew up with Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker and Peter Davidson as the time lord I knew so it seems strange to me now that, when asked who my favourite doctor was, I invariably say Patrick Troughton.

I first discovered his portrayal as a third party by reading those old Target novelisations as a kid... then in 1981 his Doctor Who story The Kroton’s was shown as part of The Five Faces of Doctor Who show that the BBC ran. I was hooked from that point on and as the other few surviving stories were systematically released onto VHS cassette in the 80s, I borrowed and watched all of the Troughton episodes.

I have just finished watching last years BBC DVD release of The War Games and, considering that it was a quick replacement story which had to last ten episodes and considering it was still being written as the earlier episodes were being shot... it is a testament to the professionalism of the cast and crew that the story hurtles along at a cracking pace and is never treated as anything less worthy of the best efforts from the people involved.

The story was a bit strange in that all three regular actors of the show, Troughton’s Doctor, Frazer Hine’s Jamie and Wendy Padbury’s Zoe all left in the final episode. We finally find out about the Doctor’s people, The TIme Lords and they maroon him on earth with a new face (unseen until Jon Pertwee makes his first appearance in Spearhead from Space - the story with the tailor’s dummies). And he was marooned on earth, of course, because the budgets needed for making alien planet sets was so high and money needed to be saved somehow.

Since this is a story which isn’t usually much of a blip on most people’s Doctor Who lists I was surprised, pleasantly, to learn that this DVD spent some time at number one in the DVD charts when it was released in 2009. A testament, perhaps, to the power of Troughton’s portrayal of The Doctor as a cosmic hobo.

The DVD is an ambitious 3 disc set with the third disc giving the usual full-on extras which the BBC have been licensing for these releases. Included in with the usual extras you would expect are a featurette on Doctor Who composer Dudley Simpson, another looking at the Second Doctor cartoon strips in TV Comic and TV21 and one on the Target novelisations of Malcolme Hulke. So there’s much to sink your sonic screwdriver into with this set and it’s well worth purchasing if you are a fan of the Troughton era of the show.

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