Monday 28 March 2011

126 The War Machines: Part Four

EPISODE: The War Machines: Part Four
TRANSMITTED: 16 July 1966
WRITER: Ian Stuart Black & Kit Pedler
DIRECTOR: Michael Ferguson
PRODUCER: Innes Lloyd
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who: The War Machines

Something a little different today, I'm joined by two guest commentators. Well I say today but I don't think it's any secret that I've got a tinsy bit ahead with my viewing, so it's actually the evening of March 3rd that I'm writing this. With me are my wife, Liz, and a friend from university, Matthew Peacock Phd. Liz met me when she read my profile on an online Christian Dating Agency, spotted I watched Doctor Who and emailed me to ask if Tom Baker was my favourite Doctor. Matthew meanwhile was at RHBNC with me (see The Savages) and has sat through many an episode of Doctor Who with me, including an "all fourteen episodes of Trial of a Timelord in the same day" marathon. That's seven hours of both our lives we won't see again in a curry. Matthew had nothing to do with the 1991 Kingswood Boog fire. Thankfully our food is of far better quality tonight: We've had a curry! I had a Chicken Tikka Dansak, Liz a Chicken Korma and Matt a Lamb Tapelli. The other two have never seen the War Machines before so while they catch up I follow Dan Hall's Twitter feed to find out which new stories are being announced on DVD today.

So what do you think of it so far:

Liz is enjoying this, it may change her opinion on B&W stories. Matthew on the other hand.....

On come the titles....

Liz: That really looks like a bum crack at the beginning

Gonna be a long 25 minutes folks....

Black background on the special War Machines captions this week as the Machine rolls out into the street.

Matt: Those Machines are terrifying if you have ocd as it knocks your neatly stacked boxes over! Couldn't you just hit it with something?

The Doctor brings the machine under his control.... Um what happened there? <>>checks internet<<> apparently the War Machine stops because it wasn't completely programmed yet! Cut to a news broadcast in a pub and it's Kenneth Kendall! Real life person in Doctor Who as himself! Other War machines are activated in London.

Matt: Isn't that the same one?

Yes it is, they only built one prop. The Doctor analyses the captured machine and works out there might be 11 others in London, we then see War Machine Nine being voice tested.

Liz: Knock over boxes

War Machine 9 fires it's gun.

Matt: that was rude

Major Green is brought for questioning by the army but doesn't remember anything.

Matt: Can't they just de-hypnotise him? Make him back to normal.

I think he's in shock and genuinely doesn't remember. A War Machine is reported on the loose by the public. Radio announcements are made ordering them to stay indoors. Ben meanwhile is worrying about Polly. Matt & Liz however are still busy having a laugh at the War Machines expense:

Matt: No Bicycle can stand against him. It can push over medium sized objects!

The Doctor wants to paralyse the system of the second machine. Polly arrives at the Post Office tower to see WOTAN, saying she allowed a prisoner to escape. It's arranged that roads will be close to herd the War Machine into a trap with generating cables to form an electric field.

Matt meanwhile is still not happy with the manner of Dodo's leaving in episode 2!

Oooh, guess who we've just seen as a soldier? It's future comedian and star of Runaround & Eastenders Mike Reid! He's not the last Landlord of the Queen Vic to appear in the series as we'll see. And there's a few more walk ons/extras in the show that have gone on to bigger and better to come as well.

The Doctor traps the War Machine and deactivates it. He then reprograms the machine to attach WOTAN in the Post Office tower. Ben, still worried about Polly, dashes off ahead of the machine as it travels to the tower.

Matt loves the back projection behind the War Machine and says it reminds him of Sir Digby Chicken Cesaer, but with a robot.

Ben sneaks in to tower and rescues a struggling Polly, who's still under Wotan's control. The War Machine arrives and tries to destroy WOTAN, who is defended by Krimpton and Brett.

Much giggling here from Matt: "Don't grab his rod" he yells at Krimpton. Ooops, too late, he's dead.

Is that a very brief first appearance by the piece of music "Space Adventure" by Martin Slavin I hear then? It'll be back shortly. Brett is released from WOTAN's control.

The Doctor waits outside the Tardis for Dodo. Ben & Polly arrive bringing word from Dodo that she's feeling better and staying in London. They make their farewells with the Doctor going into Tardis. However Ben & Polly remember they have Dodo's key and using it to unlock the door they follow him inside to return it just as the Tardis dematerialises....

Matt: Here's her key, I've got her wallet too, that's what Bender would do!

Both of my guests seem to enjoy the story, and Liz is willing to watch more Black & White Doctor Who with me. I tell her the next one I've got on Video is Tenth Planet and she collapses in a pile of giggles. She's tried to watch Tenth Planet before. She and I have contrasting opinions on it, especially on the monster's voices!

After the big battle in the previous episode, this one is a little bit of an anti climax, but it does involve the Doctor flexing his brain muscles to save the day. Lots of good location filming again in this episode, a feature of the whole story. It's one of my favourite Hartnell tales, but at it's heart it's not really a typical Hartnell story (is there one?) and feels almost like a template for a Pertwee story in more ways than one. We'll come back to which my fave Hartnell story is in eight episodes time when we finish his reign. not just for completeness sake but because one of the two remaining stories is another serious contender for my favourite First Doctor tale, and if anything I've been looking forward to tackling that one more than this.

I noted at the top of the story we were watching on DVD, and indeed we have been for the whole story. Sadly this is the last surviving complete Hartnell/First Doctor story and indeed the last complete Doctor Who story existing for some time. No complete story remains from Season Four, though as we shall see it looks like the BBC did try to retain one only to have the crucial final episode go walkabout. The next complete story on film is The Tomb of The Cybermen at the start of Season Five, which in turn is the only complete story from that season, and that was only recovered in 1992 after a near twenty year absence from the BBC archives. Following that the next story we have every episode of is The Dominators at the start of series SIX and from there on things get a lot better.

The War Machines was novelised in 1989 by Ian Stuart Black. It was released on video in June 1997, with some unfortunate duplication problems. Despite being complete a Soundtrack CD, with narration by Anneke Wills was issued in 2007 with Doctor Who: The War Machines DVD following on 25th August 2008. The DVD is £6.47 at Amazon at the time of writing so there's really no excuse to own the last complete Hartnell story. There's two stories to go, and they form the start of Doctor Who's fourth season.

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