The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Friday, 21 August 2009

It Ain't 1918


After about two weeks, we’ve finally got to the end of The War Games DVD. It’s one of those stories that works best if you limit yourself to no more than one episode in a sitting. Like The Web Planet, which has rather risen in my estimation, just because I adore the eerie, moonlike, dreamlike out-there-ness of it.

That said, we watched the last three episodes in one go, because the cliff-hanger to episode eight is just ridiculously marvellous and after that it’s all totally fantastic, one brilliant scene after another. And this time I didn’t cry at the Doctor saying goodbye to Jamie and Zoe. No, I didn’t.

The story works rather like 24, in that it’s all about the gradual reveal of a big plan, with us meeting villains, and then the villain’s boss, and then the villain’s boss’s boss and so on up the chain of command. In the case of The War Games, a succession of great British character actors with increasingly odd glasses and ornate facial topiary.

My favourite is the War Chief, played by Mr Meaker from Rentaghost. He’s always on the brink of a nervous breakdown. Paranoid. Tetchy. Never comfortably seated. And he has a special bell that sounds whenever he walks into a room surrounded by armed guards. I want a special bell.

Of course there’s padding, though it’s padding of the good sort – fights and arguments and people being held at gunpoint, rather than, oh, people arguing about directions or telling bizarre anecdotes about purple ponies. And it’s full of vivid, clearly-drawn characters; Lieutenant Carstairs, Lady Jennifer, General Smythe, Captain Von Weich, even down to the individual soldiers and scientists. And in great Terrance Dicks tradition, it follows the maxim that if all else fails – in walks a Mexican bandit.

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