It's 1966, and London's brand-new Post Office Tower looms
over the Doctor and Dodo as they step from the TARDIS. When
the Doctor meets Professor Brett, creator of a new, super-intelligent
computer called WOTAN, he is intrigued to hear of a plan to
link all the major computers of the world. But WOTAN secretly
believes humans to be inferior to machines, and already has
a number of staff under hypnotic control. It plans the widespread
construction of War Machines, large armoured computers bent
on taking over the world. With the help of two new companions
- sailor Ben Jackson and Brett's secretary, Polly - the Doctor
races against time to break WOTAN's power. If he can't, the
end of humanity is in sight...
Rather like Professor Brett's (John Harvey) notion of connecting
all the world's computers in Episode One, or the Doctor (William
Hartnell) closing an immobilising circuit around a War Machine
in Episode Four, the release of this story on CD completes
a run of 1960s Doctor Who soundtracks, ranging right
from Galaxy 4 to The
Wheel in Space.
Though I would have preferred a DVD release, I am also pleased
to finally hear the complete soundtrack to this story. The
1997 video release, though very nearly complete, is missing
just over a minute of visual footage, including a short dialogue
scene between Polly (Anneke Wills) and Professors Brett and
Krimpton (John Cater). All of this material is present on
this double CD.
In whichever medium you enjoy The War Machines, there's
no denying that it is ahead of its time. Kit Pedlar's idea
(fleshed out into full scripts by Ian Stuart Black) of a worldwide
network of computers obviously predicts the internet, as narrator
Wills and sound guru Mark Ayres discuss in an interview at
the end of the second disc. The notion of a governing computer
that decides the world would be a better place without human
beings, and so builds an army of killer machines to wipe us
out, is like a lower-tech version of Skynet from the Terminator
movies. The War Machines themselves become a more potent menace
on audio than on TV, owing to the fact that we can't see how
clunky they look.
This is also a pivotal tale in terms of Who mythology.
For the very first time, the TARDIS touches down in contemporary
London for an entire adventure, and the Doctor works with
the authorities, including the military, to defeat an invading
menace. This is the template for the UNIT years to come.
The series also embraces the swinging '60s for the first time,
with the introduction of Polly and scenes set in the Inferno
The other new companion, Ben (Michael Craze) is the first
regular to be allowed to exhibit a distinctive regional accent
(cockney). The show's previous producer, John Wiles, had attempted
such a thing before with the creation of Dodo Chaplet (Jackie
Lane), but he was overruled by his superiors, resulting in
Dodo's notoriously inconsistent accent. This time around,
due to a change of regime at the BBC, producer Innes Lloyd
faced no such objections to the introduction of a cockney
Unfortunately, Dodo is written out in a rather ignominious
fashion. She disappears after the first two episodes of this
four-part adventure and is thereafter referred to only in
dialogue. Ben and Polly would ultimately be written out in
a similar manner, appearing in only a single pre-filmed insert
during the final four episodes of the six-part The
Despite such clumsy instances of story-telling, this serial
is surprisingly adult, as Wills remarks upon in her interview
with Ayres. Polly is confronted by an aggressive suitor in
the Inferno Club. Later on, numerous dead victims of the War
Machines are described lying around here, there and everywhere.
Listen out, too, for sound effects that may be familiar from
their use in several 1960s Bond films.
This WOTAN story certainly gets my vote.