The War Machines

Doctor WhoThe Doctor and Dodo arrive in 1966 London, finding that the city has undergone some changes since they were last there. The Post Office Tower has been completed, and something about it makes the Doctor suspicious. He and Dodo visit the Tower and find that an immense computer called WOTAN has been constructed, and its designers intend for it to take over functions that normally occupy the time of human beings. But WOTAN’s vast artificial intelligence has already decided that it can take over all of humanity’s functions – and those who refuse to follow its orders will be eliminated. But WOTAN also realizes that it requires the Doctor’s expertise – and so it takes control of Dodo and and a secretary named Polly to lure him into a trap.

written by Ian Stuart Black
directed by Michael Ferguson
music not credited

Guest Cast: Alan Curtis (Major Green), John Harvey (Professor Brett), Sandra Bryant (Kitty), Ewan Proctor (Flash), William Mervyn (Sir Charles Summer), John Cater (Professor Krimpton), Ric Felgate (American journalist), John Doye (Interviewer), Desmond Callum-Jones (Worker), Roy Godfrey (Tramp), Gerald Taylor (War Machine operator/voice of WOTAN), John Rolfe (Captain), John Boyd-Brent (Sergeant), Frank Jarvis (Corporal), Robin Dawson (Soldier), Kenneth Kendall (Himself), George Cross (Minister), Edward Colliver (Mechanic), John Slavid (Man in phone box), Dwight Whylie (Announcer), Carl Conway (U.S. Correspondent), Michael Rathbone (Taxi Driver), Eddie David (Worker)

Broadcast from June 25 through July 16, 1966

LogBook entry & review by Earl Green

This tremendously intelligent and often-imitated story is easily the most modern of William’s Hartnell Doctor Who adventures – it could have, with only the most minor of script adjustments, been tailored to any of the later Doctors. It’s a four-parter, we see the Doctor experiencing a premonition of great evil, a huge computer decides that the human race is redundant, and the Doctor lends his support to the government and the military. In other words, expand this story by two episodes, put Jon Pertwee in the lead role, and you have The Green Death. The War Machines is a template for what Doctor Who became in the 70s.

Ben (Michael Craze) and Polly (Anneke Wills) also stumble into the TARDIS at the end of the story to become the first Doctor’s final companions, after Dodo decides to stay on Earth, possibly traumatized after her takeover by WOTAN. Though Polly isn’t a terribly distinctive character in this story, Ben is immediately very likeable and ready for action, and he’s one of my favorite Hartnell companions – but sadly, this is the only story with Ben and Polly which is complete and available on video.

This story features the infamous line, spoken repeatedly throughout by WOTAN’s sinister hissing voice: “Doc-tor WHO is required!” Many fans have panned this show since then simply because of this one amusing flaw that slipped through the fingers of the script editor – after all, we all know that William Hartnell and his successors are known only as the Doctor, never “Doctor Who” – but then again, until Tom Baker’s era, the lead actor of the show was, without fail, credited as Doctor Who. This story has been unjustly maligned for over three decades for this one minor dialogue flub, and it’s time that the overwrought fans gave The War Machines a break and watched it for the truly enjoyable little adventure that it is. And aside from that, didn’t anyone ever wonder how WOTAN knew of the Doctor’s presence and knew what the initials of the TARDIS stand for? It seems that, depending on whether or not you want to attach some retroactive continuity to it, there may have been a lot more going on in The War Machines than anyone suspects…

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