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Recap / Doctor Who S3 E10 "The War Machines"

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"Doctor Who is required- What? His name isn't 'Doctor Who'? Well, it's too late to remind me now! We already used up all the retakes the studio is allowing!" note 

"I dig your fab gear!"
— A nightclub owner likes the Doctor's clothes.

The one where he is actually called "Doctor Who".

Written by Ian Stuart Black. This four-episode serial first aired from June 25 to July 16, 1966.

The TARDIS arrives in contemporary London, and the Doctor and Dodo visit the Post Office Tower, where they meet Professor Brett and his new super-computer WOTAN, which can think for itself and is about to be plugged into a worldwide computer network.

Hmm. Computer that can think for itself... Yeah.

We're just gonna skip to the part where WOTAN hypnotises humans into building the titular War Machines, which turn out to be more than a match for the army. The Doctor uses a magnetic field to capture one, which he then reprograms to destroy WOTAN.

Dodo, having been hypnotised by WOTAN, decides she's had enough adventure. Since she's back in her own time, she decides to stay there. In one of the lamest departure sequences for any companion, she isn't seen after Episode Two and says goodbye to the Doctor in part four via a note, delivered by Polly. The Doctor leaves, but not before Professor Brett's secretary Polly and able seaman Ben Jackson enter the TARDIS while trying to return a missing TARDIS key to the Doctor.

All four episodes of this story exist in the BBC archives. As of now, it's the final complete serial of the First Doctor's run, and the only complete serial (without animated reconstruction) to feature Ben and Polly. It's notable as the first instance of the "Yeti on your loo in Tooting Bec" story which would become increasingly prominent in the Patrick Troughton era and come to define the Jon Pertwee era, with various baddies running around recognisably modern-day London and haunting major London landmarks. It's also notable as taking place on the same day (July 20, 1966) as Ben and Polly's last story, "The Faceless Ones".

The Trope Machines:

  • A.I.-cronym: WOTAN, from Will Operating Thought ANalogue, referring to its purpose as an abstract experiment in AI.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: There's no actual explanation of why WOTAN turned out to be power-hungry and malevolent.
  • All for Nothing: Professor Krimpton fights valiantly to escape WOTAN's influence, but fails and is ultimately killed by the Doctor's War Machine before he can have his mind restored like WOTAN's other victims.
  • Big Bad: WOTAN.
  • Bring News Back: Ben escapes to tell the Doctor and others what WOTAN does.
  • Celebrity Resemblance: When the Doctor arrives at the Inferno club, Polly comments that he "looks a bit like that disc jockey". Presumably she means Jimmy Savile, which makes it a somewhat unfortunate comment now...
  • Character as Himself: For the first three episodes, WOTAN is listed last under the cast as a cast member playing 'himself'.
  • Complaining About Rescues They Don't Like: Ben tells a man to stop hassling Polly, he starts a fist fight with Ben, and Polly complains — though Dodo intervenes on his behalf.
    • Though to be fair, he did tell her "be careful who you encourage" - implying it was her own faultinvoked she was harassed by that fellow.
  • Computer Equals Tape Drive: Not only WOTAN but the War Machines have these — the latter are mounted on the outside where they can easily be damaged by gunfire!
    • Justified in that the story was set in 1966.
  • Damsel in Distress: Mind control effects on two women. (Plus the man who wouldn't leave Polly alone at the nightclub.)
  • Disposable Vagrant: A tramp tries to sleep in an abandoned building, unaware that WOTAN is using it to construct one war machine.
  • Distressed Dude: Most of the mind control victims are men. And Ben gets captured and forced to work without it.
  • The Dulcinea Effect: Ben fights for Polly rather quickly.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Polly is introduced privately pulling a silly face to make fun of her nagging sexist boss, and quickly turning it into a forced smile before looking around. Ben is introduced moping in a bar, beating up a man who sexually harasses Polly, and then blaming Polly for the assault.
  • Fad Super: WOTAN is a 1960s computer that lives in the Post Office Tower, which was then an emblem of the bright and glorious future. It is capable of ringing up other computers to talk to them, a simplification of what we'd now recognise as the Internet, only this was portrayed as having it actually call up the computers to talk to them over the phone in a creepy whispering voice.
  • For Happiness: The bartender asks Polly to help cheer up Ben. Polly comments on how reliably she is called on for such measures.
  • Foreshadowing: Even more impressive because it was unintentional. The Doctor says when near the tower that he gets a feeling that he normally only gets when the Daleks are nearby. Turns out there are Daleks in the area, they're just not involved in the current situation. That serial was still a year away.
  • A Friend in Need: Ben is first persuaded to act when he sees Polly being hassled at the nightclub.
  • Hypno Pendulum: This is how the Doctor mesmerises Dodo, only instead of using a pendulum he swings his hand with the ring on it back and forth in a similar motion.
  • Idiot Ball: Plenty from WOTAN — its hypnotised slaves work like machines until they drop (WOTAN should know that the inefficient humans require regular food and rest) and it tries to take over London by brute military force instead of using its role as an advisor to the government to manipulate events.
  • In Harm's Way: Ben is morose because he's on shore duty.
  • Landmarking the Hidden Base: The Post Office Tower serves as the villains' HQ.
  • Master Computer: WOTAN, which is similar to Skynet but, this being The '60s, it consists of a single Master Computer based in the Post Office Tower in London.
  • Mind Rape: Dodo gets hypnotised by WOTAN, necessitating the First Doctor to hypnotise her back to normal. Since Dodo quits afterwards, only giving a second-hand goodbye through Ben and Polly, some fans speculate (especially in light of the scene that went on between the Tenth Doctor and Donna) that the Doctor actually wiped her memory, or else influenced her to leave for her own perceived safety.
  • Newscaster Cameo: Real-life newsreader Kenneth Kendall plays himself in news reports about the War Machines. Similarly, radio announcer Dwight Wylie reports on a Machine being spotted killing someone.
  • Out-of-Genre Experience: This is a First Doctor story that feels strongly like a Third Doctor story. It is a rare occasion where the First Doctor has an adventure in the Earth of the present (the previous one was "Planet of Giants") and he works together with the military to defeat an evil machine that plans to dominate the humanity.
  • The Power of Friendship: The mind-controlled Polly clearly sees Ben escaping, and says nothing. When someone asks after him, she explains, but when he asks her why, she does not know, and after a moment, starts to remember that he had been her friend.
  • Put on a Bus: Once Dodo is freed from WOTAN's influence, she's removed from the plot. In Episode Two. And in the most perfunctory way possible: the camera just pans right off her onto the Doctor in mid-scene, and she's never seen again; her decision not to return is briefly described second-hand two episodes later.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Midway through production, Jackie Lane's contract expired and producer Innes Lloyd was keen to introduce new companions, hence Dodo's sudden departure. Lloyd later apologised to Lane, saying she was "a victim of circumstance".
    • Jackie Lane got her own revenge when she'd become an agent representing actors who did voiceover work. Lloyd came to her a few years later, asking if she could find him work. She reminded him that he'd sacked her from Doctor Who, and declined to represent him.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: The story focuses on the newly-built and cutting-edge technology of the Post Office Tower, as well as theoretical new concepts like computers all over the world linked together via telephone lines (which of course is presented as the computer ringing people up to talk to them with words).
  • Scooter-Riding Mod: The story features a scene in a nightclub full of mods, although none of the major characters really adopt the style.
  • The '60s: Remember when that computer took over the world?
  • Special Edition Title: The story title, episode number and writer are presented as if they are being typed out by a Sixties computer.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Polly is constantly told to stay out of the computer science and go and make coffee.
  • Tin-Can Robot/Killer Robot: The War Machines.
  • "World's Best" Character: One of the scientists developing WOTAN, who is an artificial intelligence, insists it's the most advanced computer in the world despite it not being the biggest.
  • Worst News Judgement Ever: The death of a tramp makes the front page of The Times. Actual deaths in 1966 included writers Evelyn Waugh and CS Forester, actors Buster Keaton and Montgomery Clift, comedian Lenny Bruce and Captain Cook's 200 year-old tortoise. Their deaths did not make the front page of The Times.
  • You Have Failed Me
  • You Shall Not Pass!: Episode 3 ends with a war machine bearing down on the army and random civilian director-type-people. They all turn and run for cover, but the Doctor stands his ground.