Doctor Who: BBC New Series Adventures - Winner Takes All

Christopher Morley continues his journey through the range of Ninth Doctor New Series Adventures with Winner Takes All...

Shades of The War Games abound throughout our next New Series Adventure for the Ninth Doctor. Warfare has of course moved on in the years since the Second's trip into the War Zones, and the former Time War soldier finds himself dealing with an unusual method of military recruitment! The Quevvils are at loggerheads with the Mantodeans, & they need soldiers...

But how to get them? Thinking laterally, they use computer games- if you were to be told that the new gaming craze in Winner Takes All bears the title of Death To Mantodeans, with its best players conscripted into war service on a world a million miles from their own, doubtless you'd be able to guess exactly where this is going.

Much like their conditioned forebears from across time fighting replicas of the battles throughout history from which they'd been taken at the behest of the War Lords in a sense,  the Doctor must once more play games without frontiers, this time quite literally.

The Doctor & Rose materialise back in the familiar environs of the Powell Estate, allowing them to nip in & check on her mum & Mickey, who's just got his hands on a new games console with money given to him by Jackie after a decent win on a new scratch-card doing the rounds. No prizes for guessing the game that comes as part of the package! Bad Wolf is among those Mickey already has, alongside the more recognisably based in reality Gran Turismo & Resident Evil. He doesn't even realise he's a soldier in a war he can't possibly fathom...

"They're at war with these other things called Mantodeans, like giant praying mantises sort of thing, and they send you off on a mission to infiltrate the enemy stronghold''. The simple human mind can't make sense of the technicalities of it, but in the hands of a Time Lord it becomes a piece of cake. But as Smith points out to the game's newest player- ''You do this stuff for real! What's so exciting about playing a game?''.

After several years of real-time battles with aliens the answer may surprise you. ''Yeah, well, the thing about games as opposed to real life is, one, you're honing your reflexes, right? Two, you're practising strategic thinking, and three, you've usually got a cup of tea & a packet of Hob-Nobs at hand''. It seems a fondness for tea is among the still-developing post-Time War Doctor's new habits & quirks! ''Don't tell me England's got a tea-restriction law these days. If it has, I'll probably have to take down the government. Again.''. You might also remember his line about having ''pushed boxes at the Boston Tea Party''?

With his thoughts diverted to the game, he sends his companion to the shops for vital provisions. ''There's some cash in my pocket. Go and get us some milk and biscuits, will you, Rose?'' Mickey's score on Death To Mantodeans is then beaten comfortably, with the Doctor kicked out of his flat for daring to challenge his male pride. ''No challenge for a mind like mine''. Somebody should probably tell him that there's such thing as a bad winner? Mind you, its not that he isn't used to having a part to play in such matters-
DOCTOR: Oh, lots of impossible things happen when you pass through time.
BUCKINGHAM: Time? But no one can alter time.
DOCTOR: Look, it is 1917 where we are now on this map. Where we were attacked by the Romans it is two thousand years ago.
CARSTAIRS: But surely, Doctor...
DOCTOR: Surely before we met the Romans we passed through a mist didn't we? A gas you called it. Now, supposing this mist is a barrier between different time zones?
ZOE: I see. So we went off the edge of this map and into a different time zone.
DOCTOR: Yes. What we need is a map which covers all the time zones. I'm afraid we shall have to get back to General Smythe's headquarters, to the chateau.
JAMIE: Well how are we going to get back there?
DOCTOR: Well, that's easy. You will take us!
Of course that was a sort of living virtual reality, much like that he's now playing through. After all ''He'd known maniacs who played human chess-real chess, not symbolic- and that was bad enough, making a knight stick a lance through a castle, making a bishop decapitate a pawn''. In essence that's what the Quevvils are doing here, too. ''Using humans to do their dirty work- or, rather,worse, tricking humans into doing it. Using their greed. Playing on their desire to get a free lunch''. Again, much like the War Lords & their manipulation of soldiers from across time who didn'trealise the Doctor was not their real enemy...
LÜCKE: For the last time, what is your name?
DOCTOR: Why don't you just call me Doctor?
LÜCKE: That is not a name. I want your full name.
DOCTOR: Oh, very well. Doctor John Smith.
LÜCKE: Good. Now we are getting somewhere. What are you doing behind our lines?
DOCTOR: Well, we were lost, you see.
LÜCKE: So, you are lost. And very conveniently you find your way through our lines.
DOCTOR: I realise this must seem rather strange.
LÜCKE: I find it both strange and suspicious.
DOCTOR: But I can assure you we're quite harmless.
LÜCKE: Three people dressed in civilian clothes trying to infiltrate through our lines. Admit it, you are spies.
DOCTOR: No, no, no, we are not spies.
LÜCKE: Then tell me where you came from before you were picked up by that ambulance.
DOCTOR: Well, you see, that's rather difficult to explain.
LÜCKE: Everything seems to be difficult for you to explain. I advise you to tell me the truth. Now!
And once things get going it will become more than a game, as the Doctor orders the Quevvils to stop considering all this as one. ''People are dying!''. But he has a plan to stop that. '' I'm gonna try and home in on this Mantodean stronghold. Rescue anyone still in there. Then find where they're holding the people ready to play the game. Rescue them. Persuade the Quevvils not to do this any more. When we don't succeed, do something clever which means they can't do it whether they want to or not''.

A school of thought later masterfully applied in the process of rescuing Rose from the Daleks. '''Cause this is what I'm gonna do: I'm gonna rescue her! I'm gonna save Rose Tyler from the middle of the Dalek fleet, and then I'm gonna save the Earth, and then, just to finish off, I'm gonna wipe every last stinking Dalek out of the sky!''.

What a guy. ''Yeah! And doesn't that scare you to death?''

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