THIS STORY TAKES
BETWEEN THE TV
STORIES "THE WAR
GAMES" AND "THE TWO
OFFICIAL BBC 'PAST
RELEASED IN OCTOBER
The Doctor has been
captured and put on
trial by his own
people, accused of
their greatest crime:
interfering with the
affairs of other
peoples and planets.
He is sentenced to
exile on Earth. That
much is history.
But now the truth can
be told – the Doctor
does not go straight
into exile. Firs the
Time Lords have a
task for him. From the
trenches of the Great
War to the terrors of
the French Revolution,
the Doctor finds
himself on a mission
he does not want,
with a companion he
does not like, his life
threatened at every
Will the Doctor
survive to serve his
Or will this
adventure prove to be
Right from the off, the title World Game put me very much in the mind of The War Games; a feeling only intensified by Black Sheep’s striking cover artwork. Whether or not this was a deliberate ploy on the part of author Terrance Dicks I have no idea, but in any event the links between the second Doctor’s televised swansong and this novel are not only plentiful but fundamental. World Game does not merely pick up where The War Games left off - it skips back a scene or two and rewrites the ending!
At the end of The War Games, Patrick Troughton’s second Doctor was seen being sentenced by the Time Lord Lords to an enforced regeneration and a period of exile on twentieth-century Earth. However, subsequent stories – most notably Dicks’ own 1999 novel, Players – have suggested that following his trial, the Doctor did not go straight into exile
but was put to work for Gallifrey’s Celestial Intervention Agency, who gave him limited freedom in exchange for his carrying out certain missions for them. World Game takes this premise – often referred to as ‘Season 6B Theory’ by fans – and takes it one step further, positing that at his trial, the Doctor was actually sentenced to death by his people; a sentence that was swiftly commuted by the Celestial Intervention Agency in exchange for the Doctor’s help.
Now I am not sure why Dicks had to rewrite the end of The War Games as, in my view, this death sentence does not really add anything to the mix. I suppose the reasoning behind it must be that the Doctor needed to be ‘forced’ into working for the Celestial Intervention Agency, but I think that he would have felt ‘forced’ to work for them in any event given that the alternative was exile. Nevertheless, I still have to concede that the opening and closing chapters of the novel set on Gallifrey do lend this story a certain something. Whilst Dicks’ portrayal of Gallifrey may lack the grandeur of Parkin’s or Platt’s, there is still a fannish thrill to be found in reading about the Doctor getting hold of his Stattenheim remote control and being sent off on his mission to Space Station Camera in his old TARDIS…
However, what really sets World Game apart is the fact that it focuses on an unexplored part of the Doctor’s life. Fair dues, the novel is bookended with an overabundance of continuity references – everything from the ninth Doctor’s psychic paper to the nonsense about Victoria studying Graphology – but what is in between is all new and, to be fair, refreshingly different. The Doctor is sent on his first mission with a new companion (pardon me, a new supervisor), the ambitious (and, by the sounds of things, hot) Time Lady Serena, in a new, fully-functional Type 97 TARDIS. It truly does feel like new ground – it is a pity that it could not have lasted for more than one story, really.
The relationship between the Doctor and Serena is doubtless one of the strongest elements of the novel. For a while, they cannot stand the sight of each other, but little by little they develop a deep respect and even affection for one another. And then, just as it is all beginning to sound a bit cliché, Serena is killed. And then the Doctor goes berserk.
Now I have to take my hat off to Dicks – I really did not see it coming at all. Nor could have foreseen the Doctor’s uncharacteristically violent reaction. Reading the passage, I could really imagine Troughton, hands outstretched, trying to the throttle the Countess. Absolutely brilliant writing.
World Game has some other surprisingly harrowing moments too. Dicks takes the curious route of showing us what would happen if the baddies win - the Doctor and Serena fast-forward fifty years to visit post-apocalyptic Europe, where they find a ramshackle collection of warring city states created as a result of the Grand Design of the Players. It may not quite fit with the Time Lords’ code of conduct, but it makes for some damned interesting reading.
“You have no purpose. None at all. You do evil just for the fun of it. Death and destruction,
slaughter and suffering, poverty and starvation – all to keep you amused.”
The novel’s plot, however, is not really any different to that of either Players or Endgame; indeed, all Dicks appears to have done is change the names of the Players’ pieces. This time around the Players are manipulating Wellington, Nelson, and particularly Napoleon for their own conflicting ends.
Just like before though, Dicks appears to have really done his research – he may even have dug a bit further than the Boys’ Book of Bonaparte! The whole novel is satiated with enlightening and insightful titbits about the period which really shine through spectacularly in characters such as Tallyrand, who on balance I think I enjoyed reading about the most. Nevertheless, the same old formula is rather disappointing given that this is the final (or first, depending on how you look at it!) book in Dicks’ Players trilogy. I was at least hoping for some sort of reveal concerning the Players’ origins.
There are also some segments that will really make the more discerning reader cringe. Chapter four, Replay, certainly lives up to its name, recounting a chapter almost word for word from Players! Hell, BBC Books even squeeze in a footnote advertising Players onto the bottom of page 46! And what’s more, the story is littered with bizarre and apparently
arbitrary appearances of creatures like Vampires and Raston Warrior Robots, which for me spoiled the historical feel of the story somewhat. And just when I did not think that it could get any worse - “no no, not the mind probe!” – Dicks really went for broke in the cheese stakes, suggesting that this adventure was so laborious for the Doctor that it sent his hair grey! Cue The Two Doctors...
Believe it or not though, I actually found World Game to be unremittingly rewarding. Even the horrendously cheesy moments that I have outlined above for the most part made me feel nostalgic as opposed to patronised. In fact, deep down inside me somewhere I would love
to see Dicks’ regularly bashing out lightweight novels about the second Doctor’s post-
World Game adventures but, sadly, one of the drawbacks of having an exciting new television series is that the door will almost inevitably be closed to such possibilities.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2006
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
Terrance Dicks’ 2005 novel World Game crystallised the already-popular theory that following his trial at the end of The War Games, the second Doctor’s sentence was suspended whilst he carried out a number of top secret missions for Gallifrey’s Celestial Intervention Agency. Following World Game, the Doctor was reunited with Jamie – memories duly restored – who would aid him in his missions, including the one depicted in The Two Doctors.
At some point thereafter, the Time Lords’ sentence was carried out: the Doctor was forcibly regenerated and then exiled to 20th century Earth, and Jamie was returned to his native time and place, his memories of his TARDIS travels erased. It has never been stated whether or not the Doctor remembered his post-War Games employment beyond his enforced regeneration, though this seems unlikely given the sixth Doctor’s ignorance of events demonstrated in The Two Doctors and the agency’s need for the utmost discretion.
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