An Adventure that Changed Everything

Certain episodes of Doctor Who change the way we see the Doctor, altering the course of the show completely, and few have been more significant than episode ten of The War Games, first broadcast on this day – 21 June – in 1969.

The episode clarified for the very first time exactly why the Doctor left his home planet and gave us much more information about his own people than ever before. He explained the Time Lords were immensely powerful and technologically advanced but chose to use their abilities simply to observe, operating a strict policy of non-intervention. But the Doctor revealed that wasn’t enough for him… ‘With a whole galaxy to explore? Millions of planets, aeons of time, countless civilisations to meet?’ Of course he had to roam the universe and when he was put on trial, he was passionate in his own defence about combatting injustice: ‘While you have been content merely to observe the evil in the galaxy,’ he told the Time Lords, ‘I have been fighting against it!’

Episode 10 of the adventure was the first time we saw the Doctor return to Gallifrey, although the planet remained unnamed until The Time Warrior. The War Games was also the first time we encountered Time Lords in their home world environment and we saw what a cold race they were. In fact the episode also featured the departure of two companions, Zoe and Jamie, who were both returned to a point in time before they ever chose to travel with the Doctor. Heart-breakingly, almost all their memories of their recent adventures were wiped by the Time Lords. ‘Yes, very efficient,’ the Doctor sarcastically remarked.

Perhaps most significantly, it was the end of the Second Doctor’s era. The Time Lords forced him to regenerate and exiled him to Earth, paving the way for the Third Doctor’s era. We now knew why the Doctor has chosen to leave his own people and knew more about them than ever before. Because of events in episode ten of The War Games, the next time the TARDIS appeared on our screens we would have a new Doctor who would need new companions… One era ended with passion, heartbreak and the Second Doctor at his magnificent best. But a new era was about to begin…

You can watch the Doctor’s touching farewell to Jamie and Zoe or many other scenes from the adventure by exploring The War Games. You can also see a gallery from the end of the Second Doctor’s era or check out the story that followed it – the debut of the Third Doctor and the deadly Autons in the brilliant Spearhead from Space.