Monday, July 27, 2009

ZZ1 - The War Games 1

Looking back at Episode One of this, in this day and age, it is difficult to watch the scenes set in the trenches and in General Smythe's office without immediately thinking of 1989's Blackadder Goes Forth. The makers of the later programme must have watched The War Games as inspiration, or were, at the very least, channeling it when they made the sets. Even Major Barrington could be mistaken at a distance for Captain Blackadder, and Smythe is one bushy mustache away from resembling General Melchett.

What would appear to the be theme of the story is set up right from the get-go when The Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe are captured (more-or-less) by Lady Jennifer, then again by the Germans, and then, seconds later, my Lieutenant Carstairs and his men, before they're taken back to the English camp where they're held captive yet again. That's a lot of capturing in a few short minutes (a further escape and re-capture occurs before the end of the episode), but none of these events feel forced, at least. Anyone popping up out of nowhere into the middle of a war zone would be treated with no less suspicion.

What I love about this episode is how quickly the stakes are raised when General Smythe first switches on the futuristic TV screen in his 1917 office. An older story, especially one of this mammoth length, would have at least waited until the cliffhanger for episode one, if not longer, to reveal the twist. What starts out as an apparent historical is now moving into territory that Doctor Who has never waded into before...

Speaking of the cliffhanger, what a fantastic ending to Episode One! Guns fire, The Doctor all looks pretty legit to me, although keen observers will note that the "Fire!" order is never given. Perhaps, in a further nod to the future, the same leader of the execution squad in Blackadder was called into service here, too?



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