The next-to-last contribution from the Classic Capitiology Team prior to the 50th Anniversary is another momentous story in the history of Doctor Who. Note that we’re not saying it’s a great story (though it did make the top 20 in one of the 50 for 50 Countdown lists) but it’s important as one side of a watershed in the history of the program. Notable for all it’s lasts.
- The last story in black and white.
- The last story in which seasons of Doctor Who measured 40+ episodes a year. From this point seasons would only be 26 episodes a year (with the exception of Season 18).
- The last story of the second Doctor.
- The last story to be this long (and no, the ‘Trial’ season from 1986 was four stories, not one long epic).
The War Games in the abstract is more a solution than a problem. Season six of Doctor Who was troubled with stories falling apart, being shortened and lengthened as needed as well as even being adapted from other programs. The War Games is really a six part story padded (as well as could be expected) out to ten episodes to fill out the season. The working opinion is that only episodes 1, 2, 9, and 10 are essential with parts of middle six needed for plotting and padding. Your mileage may vary.
The extra four episodes afforded the opportunity to see many more characters than one might otherwise see, but the pattern of being caught and reacquired by a different group became tedious at a certain point.
But this was also a story of firsts. The Time Lords are named and seen. The Doctor’s reasons for leaving Gallifrey (still not named) and the fact that he stole the TARDIS are also revealed. Huge mythological drops. And the Time Lords seemed truly large and imposing when they finally appear in the last episode. The foreboding all through the last episode plus, once the Doctor creates and uses the cube he uses to summon the Time Lords, is palpable. Well worth a view even if you can’t go the full route for all ten episodes.
One more story to cap before the 50th. Perhaps the most historic Doctor Who story ever? You be the judge.