Manufacturer: BBC DVD / 2|Entertain
Written By: Terrance Dicks & Malcolm Hulke
Release Date: 6th July 2009
Reviewed by: Doctor Who Online
Review Posted: 14th July 2009
The War Games is firmly regarded as a favourite amongst many Doctor Who fans, and the announcement earlier this year of the proposed DVD release was fuelled with much excitement, hype and expectation.
But with so much riding on what could arguably be one of the most important DVD releases from the Classic Series so far, could the BBC / 2|entertain deliver?
The answer, quite simply, is a big resounding YES!
The War Games presents Doctor Who's first and only 10-part adventure. Although a lengthy story, totaling over 4 hours, the storyline, cast, pace and suspense keep you entertained all the way through, and watching in straight succession is by no means a chore.
It contains some of the best villainy in Doctor Who history, with some truly engaging performances from Philip Madoc (The War Lord), Edward Brayshaw (The War Chief), David Garfield (Captain von Weich) and James Bree (Security Chief).
It is also clear from this story that the chemistry-fuelled partnership between Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines and Wendy Padbury was coming to a close, as the adventure marks the end of The Second Doctor's tenure on the show. But what better way to bow out than on the high that this story provides.
The War Games succeeds on so many levels. From the underlying message of War and its consequences, the gripping cliffhangers (which count for some of the best seen in Doctor Who), to the amazing way in which the cast and crew worked together to pull off a thoroughly entertaining piece of Science Fiction Television history.
The DVD package is rounded off with a cavernous collection of Special Features that each compliment and support the story.
The 'Commentary' features Frazer Hines (Actor 'Jamie'), Wendy Padbury (Actor 'Zoe), Philip Madoc (Actor 'The War Lord'), Jane Sherwin (Actor 'Lady Jennifer'), Graham Weston (Actor 'Russell'), Terrance Dicks (Writer) and Derrick Sherwin (Producer). Although, as commentaries go, there are a lot of guests, they are spread out over the 10 episodes, giving balance whilst coming and going fluidly. Terrance and Frazer, in particular, offer some extremely entertaining anecdotes.
'War Zone' looks at the genesis of the story, together with some of the cast and crew's stories from filming. With interviews from Terrance Dicks, James Moran (Writer), Paul Cornell (Writer), Tom Spilsbury (DWM Editor), Graham Weston, Frazer Hines, Wendy Padbury, Jane Sherwin, Bernard Horsfall (Actor 'Time Lord), Derrick Sherwin, David Maloney (Director), Roger Cheveley (Production Designer) and Joseph Lidster (Writer).
Paul Cornell's input in the documentary, is particularly worthy of note, due to his accurate and thought provoking dissection of some of the plot points in the story.
'Shades of Grey' focuses on the limitations and considerations of black and white television. The documentary casts a light on Producing, Designing, Graphic Designing, Performing and Sound Design for monochrome television production and features interviews with Frazer Hines, Wendy Padbury, Jane Sherwin, Terrance Dicks, Derrick Sherwin, Timothy Combe (Director), Roger Cheveley, Bernard Lodge (Graphic Designer) and Brian Hodgson (Sound Designer).
'Now and Then' offers a look at the locations used in The War Games, and compares the locations as they were used 40 years ago, with footage recorded recently. This is quite possibly one of the best Now and Then features produced to date, owing to the accuracy of location positioning coupled with the informative narration and supporting music.
'The Doctor's Composer' gives us a long-overdue and well-presented look at Dudley Simpson's musical contribution to Doctor Who. The documentary provides a chronological look at stories and scenes from the Classic Series that Dudley provided music for, connected with interview footage of Dudley himself.
'Sylvia James - In Conversation', offers a chronological look at the Make-up Designer's work during the Patrick Troughton era of Doctor Who, with clips from episodes as well as stills of her work, as she describes the processes involved.
'Talking about Regeneration' does exactly what it says on the tin! It's a clear, concise, and informative guide to The Doctor's regenerations to date. Featuring interviews with Kate O'Mara (Actor 'The Rani'), Peter Davison (Actor 'The 5th Doctor'), Gareth Roberts (Writer), Rob Shearman (Writer), Joseph Lidster and Clayton Hickman (former DWM Editor).
'Time Zones', kicks off with a neat little CGI sequence, and focuses on the historical truth behind The War Games, with detailed information on some of the major points surrounding the First World War, Roman Warfare and The American Civil War. The feature adds a good grounding behind the story, and includes interviews from Martin Farr (Political Historian), Crispin Swayne (Military Historian), Lindsay Allison-Jones (of Newcastle University) and Susan-Mary Grant (Author).
'Stripped for Action - The Second Doctor', looks at the Second Doctor comics, and how some of the companions and villains changed from the TV episodes to the comic strips, not to mention some of the bizarre storylines. The feature includes contributions from Gary Russell (former DWM Editor), Alan Barnes (former DWM Editor), John Ainsworth (Comics Historian) and Jeremy Bentham (Comics Historian).
'On Target - Malcolm Hulke'; shows us how the cherished Doctor Who Writer got into writing for the show, as well as his impact on some of the other members of the production team associated with the show, such as Terrance Dicks and Gary Russell. The documentary includes interviews with Terrance Dicks, Gary Russell, Alan Barnes, David J Howe (Author) and Chris Achilleos (Illustrator). Terrance Dicks' memories in particular, make up some of the best moments in this feature.
'Devious' is a Fan film that attempts to bridge the 'alleged' gap between The War Games and Spearhead from Space with 'The 2nd and a half Doctor', played by Tony Garner . The film includes scenes recorded with Jon Pertwee (playing The 3rd Doctor) as well as Peter Tuddenham and Hugh Lloyd (playing Time Lords). There's also a commentary option featuring the cast and crew that offers some behind the scenes tidbits, including an explanation of how Jon Pertwee was persuaded to take part.
This feature was a real surprise, and makes a genuinely pleasant and bold (on the BBC's part) addition to the DVD.
The 'Coming Soon Trailer' features a trailer promoting the forthcoming Black Guardian Trilogy DVD box-set. Although it's not one of the best trailers to date, it certainly packs a lot of energy and seems to sell the main plot points. One can't help feeling though, after a release such as The War Games, that the DVD features should also be highlighted in the trailers.
As with previous DVD releases, there are the usual 'Easter Eggs', 'PDF Material', 'Photo Gallery' and 'Production Subtitles' included.
It's easy to get swept away with positive comments when reviewing a DVD like this, especially when it contains a story as successful as The War Games, but the variety and quality of the supporting features are what help to make this package shine with utter brilliance. Well... that and Clayton Hickman's vividly eye-catching cover!
Overall, this is quite clearly, and most definitely the finest Doctor Who DVD release thus far, and will surely take some beating.