Thursday, September 15, 2005

'The War Machines'

4 episodes

How strange, again. For the first time, I'd forgotten to read up on a missing serial before continuing onto the next surviving one - in this case, 'The Savages', which fell between this and 'The Gunfighters' - so I was surprised from the off, as Steven did not make an appearance: it seems that he too had departed the TARDIS at the end of the previous adventure, which is a shame as Peter Purves put in a string of fine performances. Then, I thought I'd accidentally put a UNIT-years story into the VCR by mistake - basically, 'The War Machines' uncannily preempts the early-1970s style of Doctor Who, in all but the presence of the First Doctor instead of the Third. Set in contemporary London, the Doctor is immediately seen as a kind of quasi-Establishment figure who wanders in and straightaway has the ear of scientists, Government ministers and the like - totally at odds with his prior depiction as an mysterious interplanetary loner. This is infamously the one story where the Doctor is referred to as 'Doctor Who' onscreen, several times by the supercomputer WOTAN and also by the machine's creator Professor Brett - I have to say that it's always a pet hate of mine when he's called that, in print, comment or in the credits of the new series, as the original series at least had started crediting him as 'The Doctor' from his fifth incarnation onwards.

Anyway, the plot is that WOTAN takes on a life of its own and tries to take over the world for machines. It achieves sentience late one evening, brainwashes its first victims minutes later and instructs them to find suitable sites in central London to secretly construct war machines, has a warehouse with full assembly line up and running by about 2am (so secret, the components all come in packing cases with the WOTAN 'W' logo on them) and is rolling out the machines by morning. Quite the schedule!! That these fearsome creations subsequently spend little time actually causing havoc, and more time looking for stacks of boxes to crash through impressively, is neither here nor there... The spirit of the Swinging Sixties is alive and well in Polly and Ben, who between them keep the plot moving after the disappearance of Dodo halfway through: she is hypnotised by WOTAN and turns rather creepy until cured by the Doctor, who then packs her off "to the country" for a couple of days' rest - and we never see her again!! At the end Polly and Ben just tell the Doctor she has decided to stay in London - I said before that these companions were dropping like flies, didn't I? - so her character 'finale' takes place offscreen. This was surely the most ignominious departure for a companion ever, I'm certain... The two then inadvertently stow away aboard the TARDIS, and we have two new companions.

Oh, did I forget to say what happened in the plot? Well, the Doctor basically spends the whole story striding around ordering people about, and in the end this works as with the aid of some soldiers and an electromagnetic field he captures and reprogrammes a War Machine, somehow gets it to the top of the (then brand new) Post Office Tower where WOTAN is located, and uses it to destroy the computer. That's it. Incidentally, I couldn't help thinking it was a bit rude of him not to drop in on Ian and Barbara to see how they'd been getting on for the last year or so since they returned from their interstellar wandering. Still, there we are...


Episodes watched: 86
Episodes still to watch: 636

A massive 20 episodes covered today, so I've managed to slash my deficit to a mere 4 behind the six-a-day schedule now!

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