This is an episode all about negotiating alliances. Again, the theme is explored in parallel with Zoe organising the various resistance groups into an army while in the central control the War Chief tries to tempt the Doctor into joining with him, as the truth behind the aliens’ plans becomes clear.
This is a fantastic episode for Jamie and Zoe. Jamie is left in charge at the 1917 chateau while Russell travels to the various time zones to parley with the resistance leaders. When Russell tells him this, Jamie looks firstly awed, then delighted that he’s finally being given some real responsibility. Hines also gets a final bit of comedy business, dressing up as if he’s a bandit king, complete with an ammo belt and an army cap, to impress the volatile Mexican resistance leader Arturo Villar that he’s a man to be trusted. Meanwhile, Padbury plays Zoe as the brains of the operation, not taking Villar’s ‘rather primitive ideas’ about women to heart but cracking on and keeping the men focused on the plan and feeding them the right lines. There’s a lovely scene where Jamie, who’s long recognised Zoe’s worth, has to defend it:
VILLAR: Why do you let a woman speak for you?
JAMIE: Well, why not? Only if she’s right, of course.
ZOE: And I am.
While all of this is fun, and the little montage of resistance attacks on alien communications centres is neatly done, the real meat of the episode is back in central control, where the revelations are staring to come thick and fast and the War Chief tries to tempt the Doctor to betray his friends. We’re given confirmation that the War Chief and the Doctor know one another, plus a timely reminder that Troughton is not the first Doctor: ‘You may have changed your appearance but I know who you are.’ This leads into a cryptic, intriguing exchange:
DOCTOR: I had every right to leave
WAR CHIEF: Stealing a TARDIS? Oh, I’m not criticising you. We are two of a kind.
The aliens, it seems, are going to use the super-army from the war games to conquer time and space, and in so doing invent the names for half the villains in Star Wars: ‘We a going to bring a New Order to the galaxy, one united Galactic Empire.’ This all sounds like the Monk’s spurious motives to change history to bring peace.
But the War Chief has his own, greater plans beyond the Monk’s avarice. He wants power, and intends to take over as Supreme Galactic Ruler – with the Doctor at his side. This all sounds exactly like something the Master would do, and it’s interesting to see the seeds of Season Eight in this Episode Eight: two Time Lords with an ambiguous relationship, one who wants to see the universe, the other who wants to rule it.
The episode ends with the suggestion that the Doctor has been tempted by the proposition, to betray his friends – the disappointment on Jamie and Zoe’s face as he appears to side with the War Chief is a future echo of Jo’s occasional looks of horror when her Doctor seems set to join with the Master. Just as The Invasion pilots the backdrop for the next Doctor’s adventures, so The War Games sets up their central hero/villain relationship.
Next episode: The War Games – Episode Nine