Doctor Who: The War Games - World War One - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Doctor Who: The War Games - World War One

Chris Morley Wants You!

Having started with a look back at the British Empire, or at least Doctor Who's version of it, we can now begin to, in a sense, warm up for the extensively covered Second World War by looking to the First such conflict. In a neat nod to the lovingly pinched overall title of our series here, the Second Doctor initially believes he, Jamie & Zoe have been dumped into the trenches of World War One at the outset of The War Games.....
ZOE: Where are we? Earth?
DOCTOR: Well, it looks like it, Zoe. Come on.
ZOE: What's this stuff?
JAMIE: Aye, wee spikes.
DOCTOR: Barbed wire, Jamie. It's filthy stuff. I thought so.
Of course, history tells us far more than wee spikes were at play the first time Britain & Germany were at loggerheads! But the first recorded case of a good man going to war, well before his Eleventh incarnation snaffled himself a story of his own by that very name marks a turning point in that it's the first story to abide by Black Orchid rules. As what we might have considered a maiden showing of good old British pluck under fire is revealed to be part of the machinations of the War Lords, aided by the War Chief as they plan to assemble an army made up of history's best soldiers drawn from the sadly all too many conflicts which have stained recorded history.

How do they decide who makes the grade? Lump them all together & let them have at it! Until, that is, a certain peacekeeper puts a spanner in the works & calls in the Time Lords who promptly arrange for a court martial of sorts and sentence of enforced regeneration for the man who was trying to do the right thing in the first place...........there's gratitude for you.

Talking of regeneration...

Both the Twelfth and the First are nearing regeneration, or rejuvenation in the case of the First, when they encounter a confused and injured First World War British captain, displaced from December 1914 while in a gun-point stalemate with a German soldier. The Captain would eventually reveal himself to be Archibald Hamish Lethbridge-Stewart, the ancestor of the Doctor's frequent ally and lifelong friend the Brigadier.

After the Doctors returned Captain Lethbridge-Stewart to his own timeline they watched on as soldiers on both sides began singing "Silent Night". The Twelfth Doctor explains to the First that he deliberately shifted the Captain's timeline to the start of the Christmas truce, to ensure his life would be spared. He best make a quick exit then, as not to encounter another of his former selves...

In the IDW comic book, the Ninth refereed the 1914 football match between British and German troops that took place during the Christmas Truce. The story goes here that a German football finds its way into British territory, with the Doctor challenging the Germans to a game to get it back!

The United Kingdom had joined the conflict four months earlier at the end of August 1914, the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, Archduke of Austria, the turning point leading to war. In the aftermath of the death, Austria made demands of Serbia, homeland of Gavrilo Princip who carried out the killing in Sarajevo in June of the same year. The Serbs in turn rejected these and so the Austrians prepared to invade. Their German allies attacked the French, who'd thrown their lot in with the Serbs, as had Russia. To get at what they really wanted out of all this, which is to say Alsace-Lorraine, the Germans had to get through Belgium - with whom our boys had a treaty.

Fast forward a bit from the Doctor's point of view and he's now a Hulton College housemaster, human to boot, helping to instruct the boys under his care in the art of war.....supervising machine gun training.
ROCASTLE: Cease fire!
DOCTOR: Good day to you, Headmaster.
ROCASTLE: Your crew's on fine form today, Mister Smith.
HUTCHINSON: Excuse me, Headmaster. We could do a lot better. Latimer's being deliberately shoddy.
LATIMER: I'm trying my best.
ROCASTLE: You need to be better than the best. Those targets are tribesmen from the dark continent.
LATIMER: That's exactly the problem, sir. They only have spears.
ROCASTLE: Oh, dear me. Latimer takes it upon himself to make us realise how wrong we all are. I hope, Latimer, that one day you may have a just and proper war in which to prove yourself. Now, resume firing.
Of course Latimer will one day become an honest Tommy, though whether war by any means can ever be deemed either just or proper is a matter for debate - of the sort John Smith has with the woman he'll come to love. Having lost her first husband at Spion Kop during the Boer War, you can perhaps understand her contempt for the military.

What might have shocked viewers more accustomed to the Doctor's utter distaste for such institutions is Smith's stance here, insisting that such discipline was good for a boy, though something of his true self does shine through.
“I'll admit mankind doesn't need warfare and bloodshed to prove itself. Everyday life can provide honour and valour, and let's hope that from now on this, this country can find its heroes in smaller places. “
Alas, he's later to be proven wrong by the history books. But in the very next breath it seems he just might be one of those heroes after all, a bit of skill with a cricket ball enabling him to save a baby from being crushed under the full weight of a piano!

And had David Tennant not departed the series, the graphic novel The Dalek Project would have had the Tenth Doctor returning for heroism more befitting his true nature in stopping his oldest foes learning how to become even more ruthlessly efficient by learning from British & German forces circa 1917.

It had to be looked at again, though, not least due to the change of Doctor. There was also the small matter of more than a few similarities to a certain story from Matt Smith's first series..........
They have no lot in our labour of the day time.
They sleep beyond England's foam.
They went with songs to the battle
They were young, straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted.
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
Fittingly, our trusty SIDRAT will soon be taking us to examine the perhaps surprising background behind a foe many of the Doctor's faces have seen before their respective falls as part of a glimpse into the Second World War, New-Who having once again proven itself adept at handling the oft-forgotten human side of war, even if those ruddy aliens still have to get a look in!

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