Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Dr Who: The War Games: DVD Review

Dr Who: The War Games: DVD Review

Doctor Who - The War Games
Cast: Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines, Wendy Padbury
Rating: PG
Released by Roadshow Entertainment and the BBC

A seminal release in the Doctor Who back catalogue, The War Games represents a seismic shift in the early days of the show itself (but more on that later).
Patrick Troughton's Second Doctor, along with his companions Jamie (Hines) and wunderkind Zoe (Padbury) find themselves back in the middle of the trenches when the TARDIS delivers them into 1917.
Arrested, the trio find themselves tried as deserters and sentenced to death - however, the Doctor soon realizes that he is out of his depth and may have to commit an unthinkable act which will change him forever...
The War Games is an epic on many scales - the ten part black and white serial sits at mammoth four hours of Whoey goodness (and thankfully doesn't see any real lulls throughout) and sees stellar performances from the main trio who are about to exit and a myriad of supporting characters.
And as is befitting the story, this latest release is a three disc behemoth which is superlative and a real treasure trove for long term fans of the show - and contains enough for the casual viewer to understand why fans are so passionate.
The War Games signified an end to the black and white era of Doctor Who in 1969 - and also saw the first introduction of a back story and race (The Time Lords) for the errant time traveler; as well as the revelation of where he came from. In terms of the show's history itself, it's a gem and demonstrated how the show could endlessly reinvent itself (which has served it well as it enters its 47th year)
The depth of extras on this release has seen it gifted an entire disc with the beautifully remastered story split over 2 discs - some of the highlights include a look at the Second Doctor's comic strips, behind the scenes of the production, as well as some nice fan based extras (including a fan tribute to bridge the gap between Patrick Troughton leaving the show and Jon Pertwee taking over in 1970)
This is an essential release for any fan of the show and as they ready themselves to bid farewell to the latest incarnation in the form of David Tennant, it serves as a reminder of why the show really blazed its trail back in the times of a lack of special effects and budgetary confines.
Extras: A mammoth amount - War Zone - cast and crew recall the making of Patrick Troughton's epic swansong; Shades of Grey - just how did the technical and artistic constraints of monochrome television conspire to effect the unique look and feel of early productions? Now and Then - the ongoing series visits the locations of 'The War Games' forty years on; The Doctor's Composer - prolific composer Dudley Simpson looks back at his first five years of work on Doctor Who; Sylvia James - In Conversation - make-up designer Sylvia James talks about her work on Patrick Troughton's Doctor Who stories; Talking About Regeneration - the concept of regenerating a show's main character into an entirely new physical form proved to be both a lifesaver for the show and an increasingly important part of its mythos. This feature explores the ideas involved and takes a closer look at each of the Doctor's regenerations; Time Zones - historians discuss the reality behind the various time zones featured in 'The War Games'. With political historian Dr. Martin Farr, military historian Crispin Swayne, Newcastle University's Lindsay Allison-Jones and author Prof. Susan-Mary Grant; Stripped for Action - The Second Doctor - the continuing series of features focussing on the Doctor's comic strip adventures looks at the Second Doctor; On Target - Malcolm Hulke - the first in a series of features on the Target range of TV story novelizations looks at the work of writer Malcolm Hulke; Devious - for over a decade, a group of friends on England's south coast met on weekends to shoot an amateur Doctor Who film - 'Devious' - which takes place between the events of Patrick Troughton's swansong 'The War Games' and Jon Pertwee's introduction in 'Spearhead from Space', and features their own previously unknown incarnation of the Doctor. To segue back into 'Spearhead', the team decided to put up the money to employ Jon Pertwee for a day - in what was to become his last ever appearance as the Third Doctor.

Rating: (For Dr Who fans) 10/10 - for non scarf waving members of Earth, 8/10

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