The War Games was written by Terrance Dicks and Malcolm Hulke, and came about after the final running order of the season collapsed. A six part story by Hulke (called "The Imitators") was supposed to be followed by a four part tale, to be written by Derrick Sherwin, that would write out the Second Doctor and his companions, Jamie and Zoe. Troughton had only reluctantly signed up for a third series, and Hines had almost left halfway through Season Six. Padbury was asked if she would like to stay on to help bridge the changeover to the Third Doctor, but elected to go with the others.
With this story, Sherwin finally became the Producer of the series, something he had been doing in all but name for a number of months. Dicks became the new Script Editor - again, something which he had already been doing uncredited.
Having taken on the mantle of producer full time, Sherwin then asked Dicks to devise a ten part adventure that would see out the remainder of the year. Dicks knew that he could not manage this himself in the time allowed, so called upon his one-time landlord Hulke to collaborate with him.
The director chosen was David Maloney, who had impressed the production team and had lately helmed both The Mind Robber and The Krotons. He would be given nine days of location filming.
As the story would need to lead up to a regeneration (still never called this on screen), the Doctor had to fail in some way at the conclusion. Dicks realised that he needed something which was too big for the Doctor to solve on his own. He would need to call for help, and Sherwin agreed that the most likely candidates to do this were his own people. We would finally learn something of the Doctor's background, and of how he had come to be the wanderer in Time and Space.
Dicks and Hulke then devised a plot about a series of War Games, being fought on an alien planet in different time zones. This was a scheme by the aliens to create a super army from the survivors, who would take over the universe. The aliens would be abetted by one of the Doctor's own people, a renegade like the time-meddling Monk who had featured in two Hartnell stories. He would provide the time technology which the aliens needed to lift human soldiers from their terrestrial battlefields to continue fighting on this planet, unaware they were being manipulated.
Having the action take place over multiple war zones would allow for the story to maintain interest over the proposed running time. Maloney asked his son to come up with some ideas for the zones.
The TARDIS first arrives in the middle of the First World War - or at least that is where the Doctor thinks they have landed. The year is stated as 1917, and Lady Jennifer Buckingham, the ambulance driver who picks up the time-travellers, mentions the town of Ypres.
This is a town in Western Belgium, and a number of major campaigns were fought in its vicinity during WWI. The first was in 1914, and the second in 1915, when the first mass use of poison gas was employed by the Germans. The Battle of Passchendaele was the third campaign, from the summer of 1917 into November - so could be the background to the events we see here. However, from July 1917, the Americans were fighting in France and Flanders (the Dutch speaking part of Belgium), and there is no sign of them in this story.
Lady Jennifer is said to be a member of the WRVS - Women's Royal Voluntary Service. This is indeed her uniform, but the WRVS were based solely on the Home Front, and did not see service in the battle zones. By rights Jennifer should be a FANY (of the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry) or a VAD (of the Voluntary Aid Detachment).
The Doctor and his companions are arrested and accused of being spies and deserters. The court martial we see in Episode One does not match with reality. We see a copy of The King's Regulations, but not the Manual of Military Law. The tribunal was composed of impartial members - not the people bringing the charges in the first place. Witnesses were called, and the prisoners were represented. Also, when it came to the verdict, the most junior member of the tribunal gave their decision first, lest they be accused of simply kowtowing to their superiors. When ti came to facing the firing squad, the Doctor should have had a piece of paper pinned over his heart for the soldiers to aim at, and he should have had a medical officer and a padre accompanying him. I suppose we can put this shocking failure to follow protocol down to the baleful influence of General Smythe, as it will transpire that he is one of the aliens behind this scheme, and has the ability to hypnotise the mentally-conditioned humans.
From the 1960's onwards, historians had begun to re-evaluate the events of the First World War. In the past, jingoism had prevailed, but now people were beginning to question the reasons for the war, and its running. The phrase "lions led by donkeys" was coined, summing up the bravery of the soldiers used as pawns by generals and politicians in a war of attrition. 1957 had seen the release of Paths of Glory, directed by Stanley Kubrick and starring Kirk Douglas. In this, a trio of French soldiers are sent to the chateau headquarters of their general to pay for the supposed cowardice of their battalions. The general in question is a bit of a psychopath, who tears up military protocols to secure convictions. At one point he gives the order for a barrage on his own troops - just as Smythe does here. It might deal with an earlier conflict, but the film The Charge of the Light Brigade had only recently been released and it was seen as a comment on all wars, showing incompetent generals leading hapless soldiers into disaster.
Another inspiration behind the WWI sequences of The War Games might well be Oh! What A Lovely War. Even if Dicks never went to see it, Hulke most certainly would have, as it was devised and directed by Joan Littlewood, and we know Hulke was closely associated with left-wing theatre. We are talking about the theatre production here, though the Richard Attenborough film version - not released until after this story began broadcast - would also come to have a link. The play present the war as a seaside entertainment, and is full of songs from the era.
The link to the movie is that the WWI sequences were recorded at the same Brighton rubbish dump where Attenborough had filmed.
Apart from Smythe's obvious hypnotic powers, we still think we are in 1917 Flanders for much of the first two episodes. However, strange things are beginning to make themselves felt. I always assumed that the sniper who saves the Doctor from the firing squad was a German one, but have since noted that it is actually an American Civil War soldier. This isn't very noticeable. Smythe appears and disappears in a big box which makes the same sound as a TARDIS, and has a futuristic TV screen hidden behind his portrait of George V. Then Jamie finds himself in prison with a Redcoat soldier who comes from 1745. This latter event is odd, as 1745 does not feature on the map of the War Zones which the alien commanders have. The Doctor's suspicions are confirmed when the ambulance drives through a bank of fog and he and his companions are confronted by Roman soldiers. It has been noted that such a small contingent of Romans would never have carried an Eagle Standard. The precise event from which they have been taken is not mentioned. In the draft script one of the Romans thinks the ambulance is some "Gaullish" trick - a disguised elephant - suggesting that this is France around the time of Julius Caesar's Gallic campaigns. However, the inclusion of the Roman army was one of Maloney Jnr's ideas, and he suggested that they come from the invasion of Britain under the Emperor Claudius, which commenced in 43 AD.
After a trip back to the 1917 Zone, the action moves to the American Civil War Zone. This internecine conflict between the Southern Confederation of States and the Northern Union of States began in 1861 and lasted for four bloody years. The prime instigation was disagreement over slavery - the South wanting to retain and indeed expand it - but westward expansion also played a role. The individual states which left the Union also argued that it was their right to do so. One of the soldiers claims that they have come from the year 1862.
The Doctor and Zoe use one of the aliens' time machines - a SIDRAT - to travel to their HQ at the heart of the War Zones, where we find out about their scheme and meet the renegade from the Doctor's own people - the self-styled War Chief. The name of those people - the Time Lords - is dropped almost nonchalantly into a conversation between the aliens' Chief Scientist and the Security Chief. In a few year's time, the name of their planet will be mentioned just as casually, although it had already been revealed in an article in a comic some months before.
Jamie and Lady Buckingham, meanwhile, encounter a resistance force, comprising soldiers from all the Zones whose mental conditioning has broken down. In command of this group is Russell, who hails from the Second Boer War (1899 - 1902). The other conflicts which are represented on this planet include the Mexican Civil War of 1910 - 1920, which is presumably where Arturo Villar comes from. Petrov comes from the Russo-Japanese War of 1904 - 1905, or more likely the Crimean War - fought between the Russians and an allied force of British, French and Ottomans between 1853 and 1856. We hear of the 30 Years War Zone - which engulfed much of Europe between 1618 and 1648. This was a series of religious conflicts sparked by the Holy Roman Emperor trying to limit the freedoms of his Protestant citizens. In grew to include as many combatants as there were years of warfare. Like the Roman Zone, we don't know exactly what conflict is taking place in the Greek Zone. Presumably it is one of the conflicts between Athens and the Persians, or perhaps between Athens and Sparta. The Peninsular War was fought between the British under Wellington (with Spanish and Portuguese allies) and the French, under Napoleon Bonaparte. It ran from 1804 to 1814, and one of its most famous battles was a sea one - Trafalgar. Interestingly, the aliens don't seem that interested in sailors for their army, even though their eventual army of conquest would involve the use of spaceships.
The last Zone mentioned is the English Civil War, another campaign deriving from religion and the conflict between the supremacy of the Monarch against that of Parliament.
And then we get to the problem of Private Moor - played by David Troughton. His dad had previously got him a background role as a guard in The Enemy of the World. (That story had also featured Hines' brother Ian as another guard. It should be noted that Sherwin's wife played Lady Jennifer in this story, and the previous producer had seen his wife appear in Tomb of the Cybermen, so nepotism was common at this time). The alien commander supervising both the WWI German forces and the Confederate ones, Von Weich, identifies Moor as coming from the year 1871, but the British army was not involved in any major conflict at this time, and this does not fit with any of the identified Zones. The year given is probably a mistake, and Moor comes from the Crimean War, although it is possible that a number of conflicts have already been resolved prior to the Doctor's arrival - which might explain the 1745 Redcoat Jamie encountered.
There is a rather blatant error in The War Games, where Jamie states more than once that he comes from 1745 - seemingly confirmed by the Doctor - when we know that the Battle of Culloden was fought in 1746, when The Highlanders was set.
Eventually, the Doctor and his companions manage to forge an alliance of the different resistance groups, to make one big effective fighting unit, and the alien HQ is breached. The War Chief has been silly enough to ask the Doctor to join him in usurping the army from the aliens, led by Philip Madoc's War Lord. He's been sparring with the Security Chief, so it comes as no surprise when the latter records this treachery and plays it back to his boss. The Doctor brings the battles in the War Zones to a halt, but then discovers that the SIDRATs which the War Chief supplied have only limited life and can't possibly get everyone back home to their rightful times and places. This is how the Doctor comes to call upon his people to come and help. But before they arrive, he is going to do a runner.
The Time Lords give chase and eventually the TARDIS is brought home. The Time Lords first put the War Lord on trial. Some people like to think that "War Lords" is the name of his race, as though they are somehow equals to the Time Lords in their particular sphere of influence, but this is never stated on screen.
We only see three of the Time Lords, and they seem to have telepathic powers. They appear to condone torture, as they attack the photosensitive War Lord with bright lights. He attempts to escape, showing that at this time Gallifrey has not yet developed its defensive Transduction Barrier - as a SIDRAT full of alien soldiers materialises right next to the trial chamber.
The escape fails, and the War Lord is dematerialised, and his planet imprisoned in a time loop. It is then time for the Doctor to face his trial. We learn that Time Lords "can live forever, barring accidents", but they are content merely to observe the universe. They do not interfere in the affairs of other worlds, and the Doctor was not willing to go along with this. He wanted to get out there and see things for himself, and to meet these other civilisations. In the course of this, he tended to get involved, and over time adopted his crusading role - helping defend weaker races from the hostility of others. He asks for a "thought channel" to demonstrate some of the evils he has fought - summoning up images of Daleks, Cybermen, Ice Warriors, Yeti and, er, Quarks. It could have been worse, including a Kroton, but the costume was too badly damaged. He claims he had only "borrowed" the TARDIS, and this doesn't seem to get included in the charge against him. (That derives from the prologue of the novelisation of the next story).
Jamie and Zoe are sent back to their own times, their memories of the Doctor erased from the point after their first adventure with him. Clare Jenkins is brought back to play Tanya Lernov in a brief sequence showing Zoe back on the Wheel after the TARDIS has left without her, whilst the scenes of Jamie fighting a Redcoat were obviously filmed along with the American Civil War stuff for this story.
The Time Lords take what the Doctor has told them into consideration, and the verdict they pronounce is that he is to be exiled to Earth - a planet for which he has demonstrated a special attachment. In addition, he will be forced to change his appearance - and here we find out that it needn't be a random process. He fails to make a choice, so the Time Lords will select a new appearance for him. And so the Troughton era ends as the 1960's end, along with production of the show in Black and White.
Next time: A new colourful era dawns, with only the TARDIS and the Brigadier to help bridge the gap, in a story that very nearly didn't happen...