Friday 25 March 2011

123 The War Machines: Part One

EPISODE: The War Machines: Part One
TRANSMITTED: 25 June 1966
WRITER: Ian Stuart Black & Kit Pedler
DIRECTOR: Michael Ferguson
PRODUCER: Innes Lloyd
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who: The War Machines

We're back on DVD! When I started writing this Blog there were two Hartnell stories I was really looking forward to doing. This is the first of them.

Straight from the off this is different. Instead of the usual captions over the pictures we've got some groovy computer like serial name graphics after the titles followed by a lovely tracking shot of London, taken from the top of Centre Point Tower in central London located over Tottenham Court Road Tube station. If you're a science fiction fan you'll have been there because most of London's comic and science fiction book shops are located in it's vicinity. The tracking shot's a great little touch as it's reminiscent of the shot used in An Unearthly Child when the Tardis leaves London. We pan down to Bedford Square where the Tardis materialises. The Doctor hangs an "Out of Order" sign on the Tardis to prevent Policemen trying to gain entry. They go to The Post Office Tower, like Centerpoint newly completed in 1966 when this story is filmed & set, where the Doctor feels an alien presence, similar to the pricking sensation he gets when Daleks are near (and has never mentioned before!) The Doctor & Dodo are taken to Professor Brett by Major Green (does the Doctor already know Green? Or did he bluff his way into the Post Office Tower?) and are shown Brett's new computer WOTAN which will be announced at a press conference later that day. The Doctor & Dodo test WOTAN, who tells Dodo via teleprinter what the word TARDIS means. While in the room with WOTAN Dodo starts to feel a little odd and can hear an odd electronic buzzing noise. Brett's secretary Polly looks after her and takes her to the Inferno nightclub. Bar lady Kitty introduces Polly to sailor Ben Jackson. He's miserable because his hip has sailed for the West Indies leaving him behind on a shore posting. Ben saves Polly from a man in the club giving her hustle. Doctor takes a taxi to the Scientific club for the press conference announcing C-day, when all computers will be linked to WOTAN via telephone. The Doctor is worried by some of the things he's hearing. Sir Charles Summer, giving the press conference, is concerned that Professor Brett has not arrived. He is still in the office at the Post Office Tower with WOTAN. Brett tells Major Green that he thinks he's being watched. When Green leaves Brett hears a hypnotic electric tone and falls under the control of an unseen force. In the club Dodo has headache again and feels she can hear a high pitched hum. Brett arrives at the Press conference speaking very stiffly and demands to speak with his colleague Professor Krimpton. Green, checking on the security for WOTAN, hears the same hypnotic tone and falls under the same influence as Brett. He calls Dodo at the Inferno Club and she too is hypnotised. Brett brings Krimpton to WOTAN who explains that he now serves WOTAN who is going to take over the world. Green enters and Krimpton, after resisting, falls under the influence revealed to be coming from WOTAN. Ben & Polly realise Dodo is missing as the Doctor arrives at the Nightclub. Brett explains a special human brain is needed to serve WOTAN. Dodo enters and WOTAN explains that DOCTOR WHO IS REQUIRED - BRING HIM HERE!

Wow. That was fantastic stuff. We've spent three years worth of episodes wandering time and the universe with the Doctor and finally, as we near the end of the Hartnell era, do we come back to the London of now for a prolonged visit. We've had one story set in contemporary England, but the Tardis crew were miniaturised for that, and a couple of brief visits during The Dalek Masterplan & The Massacre. We've dealt with a menace in London before, but that was two hundred years into the future. Here in 1960's London, the Doctor slots straight in, making you wonder if he spent some time meeting people during his previous stay in 1963, prior to An Unearthly Child, and also making you think how long was he here for then? Certainly long enough to register his Granddaughter at the local school. Yet it look so odd and alien to see Hartnell wandering round London, emphasised by the scene where he enters the Inferno Club, descending the stairs becaped with everyone in the club looking about a third of Hartnell's age and being mistaken for "that disc jockey", presumably Jimmy Savile. The threat isn't made 100% obvious till the closing moments of the episode when WOTAN speaks for the first time giving some suspense to proceedings.

I've repeatedly said that producer Innes Lloyd and script editor Gerry Davies were saddled with several stories which began life under the previous regime. This is the first story 100% down to them. An early decision was to set more stories on contemporary Earth. Wanting to ground the series more in reality and scientific fact they tried to recruit a scientific advisor for the show. The man they settled on was Doctor Christopher "Kit" Peddler of the University of London. One of the questions Davies asked his candidates was "What would happen if the Post Office Tower took over?", the Tower being newly completed and in the news. Peddler came up with the idea of the computer in the tower controlling Robotic agents, and the concept of it being linked to other computers by Telephone. Wiklipedia's History of the Internet confirms work was in progress at the time into connecting computers by telephone making this aspect of the story reflect contemporary cutting edge research and predating the Terminator's Skynet by Eighteen years. At the time of writing no computer connected to the internet has yet attempted to take over the world.

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