Serial ZZ:
The War Games


The Doctor, Jamie and Zoe believe the TARDIS has brought them back to Earth, in the midst of World War One. But it soon becomes apparent that they are nowhere of the sort. In fact, a race of aliens has been kidnapping soldiers from various points in the Earth's history and transporting them to another planet, with the intention of using them to form the greatest army the universe has ever seen. At the helm of this plot is the War Chief, a renegade Time Lord like the Doctor. To stop him, the Doctor may be forced to call upon his own people and give up his wandering in time and space forever.


During the summer of 1968, the latter stages of Doctor Who's sixth season began to take shape. The penultimate story, designated with the production code Serial ZZ, would be six episodes long. At first, this was probably going to be a third Yeti adventure from Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln, entitled “The Laird Of McCrimmon”. When a dispute arose between the two writers and the Doctor Who production office, it appears that Malcolm Hulke's “The Impersonators” took its place. In 1967, Hulke had co-written The Faceless Ones with David Ellis, and he was also a good friend of assistant story editor Terrance Dicks. Following “The Impersonators”, the season would conclude with a four-part serial, designated Serial AAA, by story editor Derrick Sherwin. At the same time, Sherwin was assuming more and more of producer Peter Bryant's duties, while Bryant worked on Special Project Air.

By late summer, Patrick Troughton decided that he would be leaving Doctor Who at the end of Season Six, and so these would be the Second Doctor's final adventures. On November 4th, Troughton's contract was extended to include Sherwin's serial. By this stage, it was known that Frazer Hines would be leaving Doctor Who at the same time, but Bryant and Sherwin hoped to persuade Wendy Padbury to remain for Season Seven. The new year would not only see Doctor Who broadcast in colour for the first time, but would also feature a revamped format, in which the Doctor was marooned on modern-day Earth. Sherwin had already written The Invasion at the start of the recording block as a pilot for this approach, and his next serial would establish the new status quo.

The War Games would shed light on the Doctor's origins by introducing his own people, the Time Lords

Unfortunately, Bryant and Sherwin disliked Hulke's work on “The Impersonators” and, by mid-November, it seems that Sherwin's story had also run into problems. Instead, it was decided to merge both slots into a mammoth ten-episode Serial ZZ -- the longest story attempted by Doctor Who since the twelve-part The Daleks' Master Plan in 1965. “The Impersonators” was formally abandoned on December 30th but, by this time, Hulke had already been asked to collaborate with Dicks on the new season finale. Called The War Games, it was commissioned on December 23rd; the same day, Dicks was granted permission to work on the story as a staff contribution. In addition to setting up the new format for Season Seven, Sherwin suggested that The War Games should shed light on the Doctor's origins by introducing his own people, the Time Lords.

With production due to begin in less than three months, Dicks and Hulke worked extremely quickly on The War Games. They took the unusual step of writing the first five episodes and then the concluding installment; this provided them with a target to work towards in developing the remaining scripts. The writers were concerned that a ten-part serial could easily lose momentum, and so the notion of the different Zones was developed to help keep The War Games from becoming moribund. In early 1969, Wendy Padbury decided to leave Doctor Who alongside Troughton and Hines at the conclusion of The War Games, meaning that an entirely new regular cast would be needed for Season Seven. She was contracted for her final serial on January 20th.

In developing their scripts, Dicks and Hulke worked closely with the director assigned to The War Games. This was David Maloney, who had recently completed work on The Krotons. It was Maloney who suggested that the alien mesmerism should be visually represented by the officers donning their spectacles; Dicks and Hulke had originally envisaged them as speaking in an “alien voice” instead. It was also Maloney who came up with the sequence in which the Doctor sent his plea to the Time Lords in a small box, and who suggested war settings which would be interesting to the viewers based on advice from his young son.

Despite the haste with which Dicks and Hulke assembled their scripts, only a few minor changes wound up being necessary. In Episode Five, Zoe originally misidentified the meaning of TARDIS as “Time And Relative Dimensional Intergalactic Ship”. Von Weich was to have been shot trying to escape at the end of the same installment, and Jennifer Buckingham was present when Jamie and the others were ambushed. By the time Episode Six was delivered, however, it had already been decided that Jennifer would not appear in the second half of the story. In Episode Seven, Smythe's aide was initially a new character called Sergeant Wilkins; only latterly was the decision made to bring back Sergeant Major Burns from the first part of the story.

In Episode 9, the Doctor defined the Time Lords as being the leaders of his race

The script for Episode Eight implied that the alien race controlling the Zones was collectively called the War Lords -- an identification not made in the completed programme -- and also included a line of dialogue in which the Doctor asserted that there were multiple time-travelling civilisations. In Episode Nine, the Doctor defined the Time Lords as being the leaders of his race. Episode Ten included a prominent role for an unseen Time Lord judge, most of whose dialogue was later allocated to the First Time Lord. The means of the time travellers' last-ditch attempt to escape from their sentence was also different: rather than verbally duping the Time Lord into switching off the force field, the Doctor and Jamie took advantage of a weakening of the barrier near the floor to push Zoe through, enabling her to disable it.

Because of the length of The War Games, two weeks of pre-filming were necessary -- double the usual length. This meant that arrangements had to be made to ensure that the regular cast were not needed in the studio for the final episode of the preceding serial, The Space Pirates, since the recording dates would overlap. Location work for The War Games began at the Sheepcote Valley rubbish tip in Brighton, East Sussex. From March 23rd to 26th, this venue posed as the No Man's Land. Maloney was able to take advantage of the fact that the same location had recently been used for Richard Attenborough's World War One comedy Oh! What A Lovely War, which had just been released to theatres. Amongst the actors joining The War Games at this point was Derrick Sherwin's wife, Jane Sherwin, playing Lady Jennifer Buckingham; she had been cast at Maloney's suggestion. On the last day at Sheepcote Valley, the Episode Ten scene in which Jamie was returned to the Scottish Highlands was also recorded.

On March 27th, the material involving the Roman chariot was filmed at the Seven Sisters Country Park at Exceat, an abandoned village near Seaford, East Sussex. On the 28th, a trail near Underhill Lane in Clayton, West Sussex was the locale for the Episode Four scenes in which Jamie and Jennifer were captured by Confederate soldiers. After a day off, work resumed on March 30th at Westdean, East Sussex, where roadway scenes were filmed on Eastbourne Waterboard Road and The Lane (also known as the Westdean and Church Only road). More such material was completed the next day, at High Park Farm in Stanmer, East Sussex, and then back at the Underhill Lane bridle path. Finally, on April 1st, Birling Manor Farm in East Dean, West Sussex was the setting of material in the chateau courtyard, the prison and the Crimean Zone. April 3rd was spent filming effects shots at the BBC Television Film Studios in Ealing, London. This work included the sequence of the Doctor's face on the Time Lord screen -- splitting up, spiralling and eventually fading away -- which would conclude the Troughton era.

Studio recording for The War Games began on April 11th at BBC Television Centre Studio 4 in White City, London. The first four parts followed the usual Doctor Who production pattern of being taped on consecutive Fridays. Amongst the characters referred to -- but not seen -- in Episode One was Major Ellis, whom Hulke had named after his collaborator on The Faceless Ones. This installment would be the first for which Sherwin received a producer's credit; with Dicks having co-authored the serial, no script editor would be listed. Starting with Episode Five, the recording day was shifted back to Thursdays, which meant that it went before the cameras on May 8th. With Episode Six, The War Games was shuffled between a variety of studios, starting with TC8. The role of Private Moor in this installment appears to have been written expressly for Patrick Troughton's son, David, who had previously appeared, uncredited, in The Enemy Of The World.

Meanwhile, Bryant and Sherwin were attempting to find a new actor to play the Doctor, and felt that a performer with a strong comedy background would be most suitable. They originally considered Ron Moody, whom they suggested could play the Doctor in the manner of his Fagin, from the 1960 West End musical Oliver! and its 1968 film adaptation. However, Moody was not interested in committing himself to a children's series; he would later confess to regretting this decision. Also under consideration was John Le Mesurier, who was then appearing in Dad's Army. Meanwhile, BBC Head of Drama Shaun Sutton approached Stratford Johns, who was best known for playing Charlie Barlow in Z Cars and Softly Softly: Task Force. Johns declined, fearing that the production of Doctor Who would be too strenuous.

On May 21st, Jon Pertwee agreed to a contract to play the Third Doctor

Bryant was then contacted by Richard Stone, the agent for character actor Jon Pertwee, who was well known from programmes such as the long-running radio comedy The Navy Lark. Although Pertwee's first wife, Jean Marsh, had appeared in Doctor Who in 1965's The Crusade, it was Tenniel Evans, his colleague from The Navy Lark, who encouraged Pertwee to inquire about playing the new Doctor. Stone was more dubious about the idea, but was surprised to learn that Pertwee sat immediately behind Moody on Bryant's shortlist. On May 21st, following a meeting with Sutton, Pertwee agreed to a contract for Doctor Who's seventh season, ensuring that he would appear in at least twenty-one episodes as the Third Doctor.

The next day, The War Games Episode Seven was taped in TC1. Another Doctor Who family connection was in evidence during this recording, since Maloney had cast Peter Craze as Du Pont. Craze's elder brother, Michael, had played the Doctor's companion Ben Jackson in 1966 and 1967; the younger Craze had also appeared in 1965's The Space Museum. As the War Lord, Maloney cast Philip Madoc, whom he had also hired to play Eelek in The Krotons. To disguise the fact that he had only recently appeared in Doctor Who, Madoc quickly grew a beard and wore thick pebble glasses. The War Games continued to bounce between studios for its final three installments: Episode Nine was recorded in TC6, while the eighth and tenth parts were back in TC8.

For Episode Ten, taped on June 12th, Clare Jenkins reprised her role as Tanya Lernov, from The Wheel In Space, appearing in the scene where Zoe was transported home by the Time Lords. Several monsters also made cameo appearances, including a Dalek, a Cyberman, an Ice Warrior, a Yeti and a Quark; a Kroton was intended to be seen, but the costume had already fallen into a state of disrepair. Inside the Yeti outfit was John Levene, who had recently played Corporal Benton in The Invasion; he had also been a Yeti in 1968's The Web Of Fear. Unusually, Episode Ten made use of clips from past Doctor Who serials. During the Doctor's unsuccessful flight from the Time Lords, the TARDIS materialising on the sea was from the first part of 1968's Fury From The Deep, while the TARDIS hanging in space had originally appeared in the opening installment of The Web Of Fear. An establishing shot of Space Station W3 from the first episode of The Wheel In Space was also used. The completion of The War Games brought both Season Six and the sixth production block to an end; for the first time, no serials would be recorded and held over to start the next season.

Despite the length of The War Games, there were few disruptions to its broadcast pattern. The only exception came on May 10th, when Episode Four was followed not just by the usual news update and Here's Lucy episode but, in between, by a report on the Daily Mail Trans-Atlantic Air Race, which commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of the first trans-Atlantic air crossing, from Newfoundland to Ireland, by John Alcock and Arthur Brown. On June 17th, the BBC announced to the press that Jon Pertwee would be playing the Third Doctor, although the start of the next season would be delayed from late summer until January 1970. Four days later, The War Games Episode Ten was broadcast, drawing the Patrick Troughton era of Doctor Who to a close.

  • Doctor Who Magazine #232, 22nd November 1995, “Archive: The War Games” by Andrew Pixley, Marvel Comics UK Ltd.
  • Doctor Who Magazine Special Edition #4, 4th June 2003, “Paradise Lost” by Andrew Pixley, Panini Publishing Ltd.
  • Doctor Who: The Complete History #14, 2018, “Story 50: The War Games”, edited by John Ainsworth, Hachette Partworks Ltd.
  • Doctor Who: The Handbook: The Second Doctor by David J Howe, Mark Stammers and Stephen James Walker (1997), Virgin Publishing.
  • Doctor Who: The Sixties by David J Howe, Mark Stammers and Stephen James Walker (1992), Virgin Publishing.

Original Transmission
Episode 1
Date 19th Apr 1969
Time 5.15pm
Duration 25'00"
Viewers (more) 5.5m (88th)
· BBC1 5.5m
Appreciation 55%
Episode 2
Date 26th Apr 1969
Time 5.15pm
Duration 25'00"
Viewers (more) 6.3m (68th)
· BBC1 6.3m
Appreciation 54%
Episode 3
Date 3rd May 1969
Time 5.15pm
Duration 24'30"
Viewers (more) 5.1m (81st)
· BBC1 5.1m
Appreciation 53%
Episode 4
Date 10th May 1969
Time 5.16pm
Duration 24'30"
Viewers (more) 5.7m (63rd)
· BBC1 5.7m
Appreciation 50%
Episode 5
Date 17th May 1969
Time 5.15pm
Duration 24'30"
Viewers (more) 5.1m (87th)
· BBC1 5.1m
Appreciation 53%
Episode 6
Date 24th May 1969
Time 5.15pm
Duration 22'53"
Viewers (more) 4.2m (91st)
· BBC1 4.2m
Appreciation 53%
Episode 7
Date 31st May 1969
Time 5.16pm
Duration 22'28"
Viewers (more) 4.9m (83rd)
· BBC1 4.9m
Appreciation 53%
Episode 8
Date 7th Jun 1969
Time 5.15pm
Duration 24'37"
Viewers (more) 3.5m (96th)
· BBC1 3.5m
Appreciation 53%
Episode 9
Date 14th Jun 1969
Time 5.15pm
Duration 24'34"
Viewers (more) 4.1m (91st)
· BBC1 4.1m
Appreciation 57%
Episode 10
Date 21st Jun 1969
Time 5.15pm
Duration 24'23"
Viewers (more) 5.0m (66th)
· BBC1 5.0m
Appreciation 58%

Dr Who
Patrick Troughton (bio)
Frazer Hines (bio)
Wendy Padbury (bio)
Lady Jennifer Buckingham
Jane Sherwin
German Soldiers
John Livesey
Bernard Davies
Lieutenant Carstairs
David Savile
Major Barrington
Terence Bayler
Sergeant Willis
Brian Forster
General Smythe
Noel Coleman
Captain Ransom
Hubert Rees
Sgt Major Burns
Esmond Webb
Tony McEwan
Commandant Gorton
Richard Steele
Military Chauffeur
Peter Stanton
Military Policeman
Pat Gorman
Lieut Crane
David Valla
Lieut Lucke
Gregg Palmer
Von Weich
David Garfield
War Chief
Edward Brayshaw
Sgt Thompson
Bill Hutchinson
Corporal Riley
Terry Adams
Leslie Schofield
Vernon Dobtcheff
Rudolph Walker
Alien Guard
John Atterbury
Michael Lynch
Graham Weston
Security Chief
James Bree
Alien Technician
Charles Pemberton
David Troughton
War Lord
Philip Madoc
Du Pont
Peter Craze
Arturo Villar
Michael Napier-Brown
Stephen Hubay
First Time Lord
Bernard Horsfall
Second Time Lord
Trevor Martin
Third Time Lord
Clyde Pollitt
Clare Jenkins

Written by
Terrance Dicks (bio) and
Malcolm Hulke (bio)
Directed by
David Maloney (bio)

Title Music by
Ron Grainer and
the BBC Radiophonic Workshop
Incidental Music by
Dudley Simpson
Special Sound by
Brian Hodgson, BBC Radiophonic Workshop
Special Effects designed by
Michaeljohn Harris
Fight Arranger
Peter Diamond
Arthur Howell
Nick Bullen
Sylvia James
Howard King
John Staple
Film Cameraman
Alan Jonas
Film Editor
Chris Hayden
Roger Cheveley
Derrick Sherwin (bio)

Updated 22nd July 2020