The War Machines

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027 – The War Machines
Doctor Who serial
War Machines.jpg
A War Machine
Cast
Others
Production
Writer Ian Stuart Black
Kit Pedler (idea)
Director Michael Ferguson
Script editor Gerry Davis
Producer Innes Lloyd
Executive producer(s) None
Incidental music composer Stock music
Production code BB
Series Season 3
Length 4 episodes, 25 minutes each (material missing from parts 3-4)
Date started 25 June 1966
Date ended 16 July 1966
Chronology
← Preceded by Followed by →
The Savages The Smugglers

The War Machines is the ninth and final serial of the third season in the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in 4 weekly parts from 25 June to 16 July 1966. This serial marks the departure of Jackie Lane as Dodo Chaplet and also the first appearance of Michael Craze and Anneke Wills as new pending companions Ben Jackson and Polly. It is also the only complete serial to actually feature Anneke Wills and Michael Craze, and the final complete serial from the William Hartnell era.

Plot[edit]

The TARDIS lands in London, near the Post Office Tower. The Doctor is unsettled by a sensation of a strange energy nearby. Visiting the newly completed Tower, the Doctor and Dodo meet Professor Brett, the creator of WOTAN (Will Operating Thought ANalogue), an advanced problem-solving computer that thinks for itself. Curiously, WOTAN even knows what the word 'TARDIS' stands for. In four days' time, on C-Day, WOTAN will be linked to other major computers to take them over, including those of the White House, Cape Kennedy and the Royal Navy.

Dodo goes with Polly, Brett's secretary, to the local Inferno nightclub, where they meet Able Seaman Ben Jackson, while the Doctor attends a Royal Scientific Club meeting about WOTAN, led by Sir Charles Summer. Before Brett can depart the GPO Tower for the meeting, he is hypnotised by a humming noise emitted by WOTAN. He then fetches Krimpton, an electronics colleague, from the meeting and takes him to WOTAN, who is likewise possessed by the computer. Major Green, the chief of security in the Tower, is also taken over, and sends WOTAN's control signals to Dodo at the nightclub via telephone. Going to the tower, WOTAN tells her "Doctor Who is required. Bring him here."

WOTAN has concluded that mankind cannot develop the world any further, and intends to take over using an army of War Machines - mobile computers like itself. Using its hypnotic control, WOTAN enlists a workforce to construct 12 War Machines around London, which is the first capital to become controlled. One of these machines is built in a warehouse in Covent Garden, close to the Inferno nightclub. Dodo, the Doctor, Ben and Polly leave for Sir Charles' residence, where the Doctor has been invited to stay, in a taxi that drops off a tramp by the nightclub. Looking for a place to sleep, the tramp discovers Brett and a workforce building Machine 3 in the warehouse. The tramp is caught, and killed when he tries to escape.

The next day, Dodo manages to get the Doctor to telephone Brett at the GPO Tower, and he is nearly possessed by WOTAN. Thinking the Doctor is now controlled, Dodo gives herself away by revealing that the War Machines are being "constructed in strategic points in London". The Doctor breaks WOTAN's hypnotic control over her, and she is sent to stay with Sir Charles' wife in the country to recover.

When Polly fails to show up to a luncheon with Ben, the Doctor sends the lad to investigate the area around the nightclub, after reading about the death of the tramp in the newspaper. Ben also discovers the War Machine in the warehouse, now fully assembled and being tested under Major Green's supervision. Ben is detected by the Machine, and caught by the now hypnotised Polly. However, Ben is spared when Polly states that "WOTAN requires all the slave labour we can find". While working with the others, Ben learns that the 12 War Machines are to attack at noon the next day. He escapes, although seen yet not stopped by Polly, and alerts the Doctor and Sir Charles. Polly is sent back to the Tower to be punished by WOTAN.

Under Sir Charles' instruction, an army taskforce investigates the warehouse, but their weapons are somehow disabled by the War Machine. They are forced to retreat, but when Doctor stands defiantly before the Machine as it emerges from the warehouse, it stops - it had not been completely programmed. With the deactivation of Machine 3, the workmen, including Major Green, are released from its control. Examining the Machine's programming, the Doctor learns that the 11 others have been built across London, and are meant to attack at noon today. Soon after, there are reports of another War Machine - Machine 9 - taking to the streets, having gone rogue while it was being tested. With the help of the army, the Doctor traps the Machine in an electromagnetic forcefield - paralysing it - and reprogrammes it to destroy WOTAN. Ben goes to the GPO Tower ahead of Machine 9, and drags Polly out of the WOTAN room as the Machine enters and attacks the immobile computer. Krimpton is killed, but WOTAN is destroyed before it can give the order for the other 10 War Machines to commence their attack - and Brett and all the others who have been hypnotised return to normal.

Ben and Polly meet the Doctor at the TARDIS, to explain that Dodo has decided to stay in London. The Doctor thanks them and heads into the police box - followed by Ben and Polly, who enter the TARDIS with the intent to return Dodo's key, which the Doctor dropped earlier. They are then suddenly whisked off into time and space...

Continuity[edit]

WOTAN refers to the Doctor as "Doctor Who" – the only time the character is ever given this name within the series' narrative (though he was credited as such in the end titles from the start of Season 1 until the end of Season 18 of the classic series, and then again in Series 1 of the new series). WOTAN also manages to discern the meaning of the acronym TARDIS. This serial is the only time during the black-and-white era of the series when the crew of the TARDIS is completely replaced, with the Doctor being the only continuing character. This serial marks the last appearance of the St. John Ambulance emblem on the TARDIS' exterior door until the Eleventh Doctor's tenure begins in 2010's "The Eleventh Hour".

The story appears to end on 20 July 1966 - the date given in dialogue for the Second Doctor story The Faceless Ones, also set in London, where Ben states that that is the same date as when he and Polly joined the TARDIS.

The Past Doctor Adventures novel The Time Travellers by Simon Guerrier is set in an alternative reality where the Doctor had not been around to stop WOTAN. The villain is never referred to by name, only as "the Machine", and while he was overthrown thousands were left insane by his mind-control and Britain was reduced to a technologically backward dictatorship.

In the 2013 Big Finish Productions release, Persuasion, the Doctor makes reference to this story. At one point, the Doctor tells Will Arrowsmith to go to the Computer Room but '...don't touch the box marked WOTAN'.

The decision to set more episodes on present-day Earth was taken because the producers felt that the audience was becoming bored with the purely historical episodes that had been a major element of the show to date. As a result, this story marks the beginning of the turn away from historical stories. The next two historical stories, The Smugglers (which immediately follows The War Machines) and Season 4's The Highlanders, were to be the last purely historical stories until Season 19's Black Orchid.[1][2]

Production[edit]

Working titles for this story included The Computers.[3] The idea for this story came about when Kit Pedler was being interviewed for a position as science adviser to the series. The producers asked all of the interviewees what would happen if the recently built Post Office Tower somehow took over. Pedler suggested that it would be the work of a rogue computer that communicated with the outside world by means of the telephone system. The producers liked this suggestion and not only offered Pedler the job but developed the idea into a script (one of the few to feature a 'Story Idea by' credit). Pat Dunlop was then hired to write a full set of teleplays from Pedler's idea, but quit after becoming busy with other work, and the teleplays were subsequently done by Ian Stuart Black, who had also written the previous serial, The Savages.[3]

Only one War Machine prop was actually constructed; the production team changed the numbers, to represent the different machines.

The titling style of each episode in this serial differs from the standard titles of other serials. Instead of a title overlay, after the "Doctor Who" logo has faded, the screen shifts to a solid background containing four inversely coloured rectangles aligned down the left-hand side (reminiscent to an old-style computer punch card). The title, one word at a time, scrolls upwards - "THE", "WAR", "MACH", "INES" - with a final flash displaying the complete title on two lines. Another flash reveals the writer, the next flash reveals the word "EPISODE", and the final flash shows the actual episode number. All of the lettering displayed in this titling sequence is shown in a retro-computer font. Each of the four episodes' title sequences have slight variations to them.

Casting[edit]

Sandra Bryant appeared in The Macra Terror, as did John Harvey. John Rolfe later played Sam in The Moonbase and Fell in The Green Death. Frank Jarvis later played Ankh in Underworld and Skart in The Power of Kroll.

Michael Craze provided the voice of a policeman heard in Episode four. WOTAN received a credit as "And WOTAN" at the end of the first three episodes, the only time a fictional character was credited as itself in the series. Jackie Lane's contract expired midway through production of this story. She does not appear again after episode two; Dodo's off-screen departure is relayed to the Doctor by Polly.

Missing episodes[edit]

Aside from its soundtrack (recorded off-air by fans), this serial was lost in the junk of episodes in the 1970s. The master videotapes for the story were the last of those starring William Hartnell to be junked, surviving until 1974.[4] The 16mm film telerecording copies held by BBC Enterprises were also the last of their kind to be destroyed, surviving until 1978, shortly before the junking of material was halted by the intervention of fan Ian Levine.[5] In 1978, a collector in Australia provided a copy of episode 2. Later in 1984 copies of all four episodes were returned from Nigeria. Episodes 2, 3 and 4 all had cuts to them, but most have been restored due to a combination of the other copy of episode 2, material used in a promotional item on the BBC's Blue Peter and censored clips from Australia. Some of the restored footage did not have its accompanying soundtrack, and so the missing sound was restored from the off-air recordings. The War Machines is the last surviving complete serial from the William Hartnell era; the following serial (The Smugglers) is entirely missing, while Hartnell's final serial (The Tenth Planet) is missing episode 4.[6] This serial is also the only one featuring Michael Craze and Anneke Wills as Ben and Polly that is complete.

To date, only episodes 3 and 4 do not exist in their entirety as was originally intended. Episode 3 is missing a visual brief bit of dialogue with Krimpton talking. This was replaced in the VHS release with a combination of a shot of WOTAN with the accompanied dialogue from the off-air recordings. Episode 3 is also missing around 59 seconds worth of the battle in the warehouse. Episode 4 is missing only a small amount of material. The first instance occurs with the man in the telephone box. Part of the continuing close-up of the man talking on the telephone is missing, but this was compensated on the VHS release by continuing in audio-only over the top of the beginning of the high shot of the phone box. There are also two lines of dialogue missing when Polly reports back to WOTAN. This scene, however, has not been re-instated for the VHS release as it was felt that there wouldn't be enough visual material to drop into the gap. The DVD release has all of the episodes recreated and restored to their original length, as well as a 9-minute documentary showing how the episodes were reconstructed from all the disparate sources.

Broadcast and reception[edit]

Serial details by episode
Episode Broadcast date Run time Viewers
(in millions)
Archive
"Episode 1" 25 June 1966 (1966-06-25) 24:01 5.4 16mm t/r
"Episode 2" 2 July 1966 (1966-07-02) 24:00 4.7 16mm t/r
"Episode 3" 9 July 1966 (1966-07-09) 23:58 5.3 16mm t/r
"Episode 4" 16 July 1966 (1966-07-16) 23:11 5.5 16mm t/r
[3][7][8]

In 2009, Patrick Mulkern of Radio Times praised the contemporary edge taken with The War Machines, though he wrote that the plot was "mechanical" with several improbabilities.[9] DVD Talk's J. Doyle Wallis gave The War Machines three out of five stars, calling it "serviceable" with Wotan and its henchmen lacking depth.[10] Den of Geek also gave the story three stars, highlighting Hartnell's performance and opining that the story "holds up well", though there were some plot holes.[11] Arnold T Blumburg of IGN rated the story 7 out of 10, noting that the concept had aged but it was entertaining. However, he criticised Dodo's departure and, while the serial did showcase Hartnell well, he sometimes seemed lost in the setting.[12] The A.V. Club reviewer Christopher Bahn, on the other hand, described the plot as "pretty good if not a classic, with an appealing B-movie sensibility—this feels like a better, if equally cheaply made, version of the kind of movie featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000." However, he criticised the abrupt departure of Dodo.[13] Johnathan Wilkins of Dreamwatch gave the serial a score of 9 out of 10, calling it "something of a forgotten masterpiece", mostly due to Hartnell's performance. However, he noted that the War Machines themselves were "too dull" and "boxy".[14] In 2013, Ben Lawrence of The Daily Telegraph named The War Machines as one of the top ten Doctor Who stories set in the contemporary time.[15]

Commercial releases[edit]

In print[edit]

The War Machines
Doctor Who The War Machines.jpg
Author Ian Stuart Black
Cover artist Alister Pearson and Graeme Wey
Series Doctor Who book:
Target novelisations
Release number
136
Publisher Target Books
Publication date
16 February 1989
ISBN 0-426-20332-1

A novelisation of this serial, written by Ian Stuart Black, was published by Target Books in February 1989.

Home media[edit]

The serial was released on VHS in 1997, with an item from Blue Peter and a BBC1 "globe ident" (from the first part of the story) as extras. A Region 2 DVD issue was released on 25 August 2008; the Region 1 DVD was released on 6 January 2009. With the advance in technology since the original VHS release, the sections, which were missing from it, have been reinstated using the audio and appropriate visual material. Also, in 2007, an audio CD of the serial's soundtrack, with linking narration by and bonus interview with Anneke Wills, was released.[16]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Howe, David J.; Walker, Stephen James (1998). "The Highlanders: Analysis". Doctor Who: The Television Companion. London: BBC Worldwide. p. 114. ISBN 0-563-40588-0. Retrieved 7 March 2011. 
  2. ^ Howe, David J.; Walker, Stephen James (1998). "Black Orchid: Analysis". Doctor Who: The Television Companion. London: BBC Worldwide. p. 416. ISBN 0-563-40588-0. Retrieved 7 March 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c Sullivan, Shannon (2007-07-05). "The War Machines". A Brief History of Time Travel. Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  4. ^ Pixley, Andrew (June 2005). "No Further Interest". Nothing at the End of the Lane — The Magazine of Doctor Who Research and Restoration (2): 38–43. 
  5. ^ Bignell, Richard (June 2005). "Withdrawn, De-accessioned and Junked". Nothing at the End of the Lane — The Magazine of Doctor Who Research and Restoration (2): 44–49. 
  6. ^ http://www.sfx.co.uk/2013/10/17/doctor-who-the-tenth-planet-review/
  7. ^ Shaun Lyon et al. (2007-03-31). "The War Machines". Outpost Gallifrey. Archived from the original on 2008-05-30. Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  8. ^ "The War Machines". Doctor Who Reference Guide. Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  9. ^ Mulkern, Patrick (30 March 2009). "Doctor Who: The War Machines". Radio Times. Retrieved 9 January 2013. 
  10. ^ Wallis, J Doyle (3 March 2009). "Doctor Who: War Machines". DVD Talk. Retrieved 9 February 2013. 
  11. ^ "Doctor Who: The War Machines DVD Review". Den of Geek. 24 September 2008. Retrieved 9 February 2013. 
  12. ^ Blumburg, Arnold T (6 January 2009). "Doctor Who - The War Machines DVD Review". IGN. Retrieved 9 February 2013. 
  13. ^ Bahn, Christopher (29 April 2012). "The War Machines". Retrieved 9 February 2013. 
  14. ^ Wilkins, Johnathan (21 August 2008). "Doctor Who: The War Machines". Dreamwatch. Archived from the original on 26 February 2012. Retrieved 9 February 2013. 
  15. ^ Lawrence, Ben (30 March 2013). "Doctor Who: the 10 best contemporary tales". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 21 April 2013. 
  16. ^ "Doctor Who: The War Machines (TV soundtrack)". Big Finish Productions. Retrieved 23 November 2012. 

External links[edit]

Reviews[edit]

Target novelisation[edit]