Time for a history lesson, of sorts, as we revisit the Battle of Waterloo! Only there's a rather big detail that the history book on the shelf which documents the various accounts of the tussle between Admiral Nelson & Napoleon Bonaparte on June 18, 1815 missed out- the Doctor was there, too! That's according to Terrance Dicks's Second Doctor novel World Game - the first in his Players trilogy, followed by Players ( featuring both the Sixth & Second Doctors, reprinted as part of the reissue series marking fifty glorious years of Who) & Endgame ( with the Eighth Doctor).
But just who are the Players? A splinter group of Immortals who like nothing more than to meddle with history for their own amusement, the Doctor first encounters them as part of his first post-War Games mission for the Celestial Intervention Agency. All of which ties in rather neatly with the idea of Season 6B! Put simply, its the idea that his sentence of enforced regeneration wasn't carried out straight away in return for a spell working for the CIA. They give him a Type 97 TARDIS- an upgrade on his trusted Type 40- and some psychic paper, marking possibly the only time a Past Doctor Adventures novel has referenced New-Who. Of course the Ninth Doctor uses it for the first time on screen in The End Of The World.
Sent to stop a potential radically different course for the Anglo-French barney, the Doctor & his temporary companion the Time Lady Serenadellatrovella ( Serena for short) must prevent the Players from bumping off both Nelson & the Duke of Wellington on the eve of battle to hand victory to the Emperor of the French.
How would they have done it? Issuing false orders to reinforcements from Prussia, under the command of one Marshal Blucher! At one stage that's exactly what happens, though the Second is able to negate that particular time-line by travelling into it & stopping the Duke's death. Had it been allowed to proceed the Players would have persuaded Napoleon to continue his marches toward conquest, putting a strain on his armies & causing the collapse of those territories he'd already won.
But take a second look at the cover of the book. Why is the Doctor dressed exactly like the enemy, who had also appeared briefly in The Reign Of Terror?..
...He's spying for Britain, & everybody's fooled by the ambitious gambit! It comes at a cost, though- Serena is killed by a musket ball tearing through both of her hearts, leaving her unable to regenerate. The stress of the whole sorry business turns the Doctor's hair grey- his next mission will lead nicely into The Two Doctors...........alongside his Sixth self, just like in Players.
By then time will have progressed, with the Players looking to jam a rather large foot into the door of the Second World War. To that end they've manipulated Joachim von Ribbentrop ( Nazi Germany's Foreign Minister) & Wallis Simpson ( the mistress King Edward VIII would abdicate the throne of England for) into assisting in a plot to coerce the King into creating a British government more sympathetic to the Third Reich. Its up to Six & Peri Brown with the assistance of Winston Churchill to ensure Edward vacates the throne! (Interestingly enough Timewyrm- Exodus takes the Doctor's next self & Ace into an alternate time-line during which the Nazis won the exact same war, with Edward VIII still King & Wallis as his Queen presiding over a country which has signed a treaty with the German invaders, establishing Britain as a protectorate of the Reich.)
But back to Waterloo we go for The Curse Of Davros !
The history book on the shelf is always repeating itself. But this time its the Sixth Doctor who finds himself thrust into the battle as Davros seeks to use Napoleon's ' genius for war' to his/the Daleks' gain. He's perfected a form of mental transference & intends to forge an alliance, by which means he can then replace Bonaparte's mind with that of a Dalek & use the strategic talent of France's greatest military mind as a battle computer.
The constant mind-swapping also allows for Colin Baker to portray Davros for a time, switching roles with Terry Molloy! Ultimately the battle reaches its fated conclusion as Napoleon learns of the plan & deliberately sets out to lose the battle, preserving his own mind & ensuring Abba won't have to rewrite one of their biggest hits several years later.
After all we mustn't forget that indeed ' at Waterloo, Napoleon did surrender'- as he's reminded by the Doctor's companion Flip Jackson, who admittedly doesn't have the best grasp of actual history. Sadly no reference is made to the 1974 hit in the earlier World Game, so we're deprived of the pleasure of imagining the Second Doctor having a bash at it on his beloved recorder!
'John Smith' gave a lesson on it during his teaching career at Farringham School For Boys - the Battle of Waterloo that is, not the ABBA single...
"The only thing sadder than a battle lost is a battle won."The Duke of Wellington himself once said that, and does so again to the Doctor. The Fourth will reflect on how right he was in The Eight Doctors, during a segment in which he receives blood from the man he'll become in four selves time as that very same chap saves him from bleeding to death.
Ans so, as we near the end of our history lesson, and whilst we're with the Eighth Doctor let's wrap up the Players trilogy with Endgame. Waterloo just a distant memory, the action has shifted to the Cold War. An organisation known only as TIGHTROPE have enlisted the Time Lord to help against the Players once more. As you might expect references are made to their previous two appearances, & this book is also part of the ' Earth Arc'- with the Doctor stranded on our little planet & suffering from amnesia just as he had in the TV film.
You may recall a previous Earth Arc with the Third Doctor. Without a working dematerialisation circuit for the TARDIS he found found himself stuck on Earth in the early 1970s. As the Doctor had first hand knowledge of Waterloo maybe he took the time to assist Benny and Bjorn with the lyrics for the song later voted the best Eurovision Song Contest entry of all time (according to the results of a poll for the competition's fiftieth anniversary)...