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Doctor Who: The War Machines (Story 27)
Doctor Who The War Machines
Story 27
Actors: William Hartnell, Anneke Wells, Michael Craze, Jackie Lane
Director: Michael Ferguson
Genres: Television, Cult Movies
NR     2009     1hr 35min

London, 1966. The TARDIS materialises in the shadow of the newly-completed Post Office Tower, and the Doctor senses a strange energy in the air. He instinctively knows that evil is at work nearby. Posing as a scientist, th...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: William Hartnell, Anneke Wells, Michael Craze, Jackie Lane
Director: Michael Ferguson
Creators: Innes Lloyd, Ian Stuart Black
Genres: Television, Cult Movies
Sub-Genres: Science Fiction, Sci-Fi & Fantasy
Studio: BBC Video / Warner Bros.
Format: DVD - Black and White - Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 01/06/2009
Original Release Date: 01/01/2008
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2008
Release Year: 2009
Run Time: 1hr 35min
Screens: Black and White
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 28
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

A change of course
John Liosatos | Crook County, IL United States | 12/07/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Doctor Who altered its course with The War Machines. Rather than travelling to a distant planet to meet strange-looking aliens, or to Earth's past to encounter a significant historical figure, War Machines is set in comtemporary London, the swinging mid-60s, and it shows! For the very first time in the series' young history, the Doctor and his companion(s) face a modern-day threat, the first time, that is, when they are large enough to interact with the rest of the characters, unlike Planet of The Giants.

As Professor Brett states, WOTAN is ten years ahead of its time. Well, maybe not ten. Perhaps only five years, which would put it smack down in the beginning of the Pertwee Years, right next to a simlar story, Mind of Evil, about a machine taking over people's minds. If anything, The War Machines foreshadows the Third Doctor's era. Hartnell dabbles with electronic gadgets, works with the military (not UNIT yet, but very UNIT-like), and endures incompetent politicians to prevent a menace from taking over the world. Sound familiar? The Pertwee Years four years early. In fact, if you re-hash this script and use it toward another popular 60s TV program, The Avengers, it would feel right at home. I anticipated John Steed and Emma Peel to show up on my TV screen at any minute.

Incidentally, the notion expressed that Doctor Who finally has taken its intended form with The War Machines is about as bogus the Doctor's background being changed during the McCoy years to be something more than a timelord. The intended course in any series is how it originates, not how it becomes. The originators of any series always deserve the "intended course" label. This is not to say that the new direction of the show is bad, but let's not claim that this is where Sidney Newman & Verity Lambert envisioned Doctor Who going.

Basically, The War Machines steers Doctor Who in a new direction, a very subtle foreboding of the early 70s, worth every one of the four stars I gave it. However this story could have been a five-star beauty. How you ask? Where have you gone Ian & Barbara. The Doctor may as well have been companion-less. Dodo barely features at all, disappearing somewhere in episode two, never to be seen again. We are given the revelation at the end that she has decided to stay in London, and bids the Doctor goodbye by relaying a message through the new companions, Ben & Polly. As the Doctor says, that's gratitude for you, not even showing the decency to see the Doctor off personally after being given the experience of her life. Dodo should have gotten a more substantial exit. As for the aforementioned new companions, Ben & Polly fit in with the swinging 60s era, and Polly is pleasing to the eye, however they are no Ian & Barbara. In retrospect, War Machines could have been the perfect swan song for Ian & Barbara. I can just see them telling the Doctor that "we have decided to remain here" at the end of this story, fate having steered the Tardis back in their own time finally. An opportunity sadly lost...
Nicely Restored early Doctor Who Story
Nancy A. Fox | West Covina, CA USA | 01/14/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)

"This is an enjoyable story from the William Hartnell era of Doctor Who. The Doctor and his companion, Dodo, land in 1960s London shortly after the completion of the Post Office Tower. A brand new thinking computer system, called WOTAN, is housed in the tower. The computer can think for itself, and it decides that humanity is not properly intelligent to be in control of the Earth. WOTAN takes over men's minds by means of hypnotism, and has them create powerful war machines in select locations throughout London, and the war machines will be used to attack London and bring London, then England, then the entire world under WOTAN's control.

The story seems rather dated to modern sensibilities. The war machines themselves are especially laughable in today's world of microchips, and mini computers. These huge machines are portable computers, complete with 1960s era computer tape reels, and rather pointless weapons. However, to 1960s youth (and we must remember that Doctor Who was a children's show) these machines must have appeared quite frightening. If you're familiar with later era Doctor Who shows, the war machines look a lot like the cleaners from Paradise Towers in the Sylvester McCoy era.

This story was missing entirely from the BBC archives by the mid 1970s, but through the diligence of fans it has been restored. There is a short documentary narrated by Anneke Wills that explains how the story was pieced back together. The other extras that are on the DVD include: excerpts from the BBC children's program, Blue Peter, that shows the Post Office Tower (or GPO Tower as it was known) being built, plus an appearance by a war machine touting the upcoming new Doctor Who Adventure, a brief then and now feature showing locations used for the story as they exist today, and a short documentary about the GPO Tower narrated by the former Post Master General. There is also commentary by actress Anneke Wills, who played Polly and director Michael Ferguson, plus information text. It's not overly heavy on extras, but the ones that are there are quite interesting. The quality of the picture is excellent thanks to the restoration team's efforts.

While William Hartnell is not my favorite Doctor, but I did enjoy the story. The computer taking control of its creators would be used again throughout the original run of Doctor Who, such as the Pertwee story The Green Death. The War Machines proceeds at a nice pace, and gives a fascinating view of English society in the mid-1960s. This is also a significant story regarding the Doctor's companions. First it is the last story to feature his companion Dodo, although they really did a lousy job writing her out of the series. Second this story features the first appearance of new companions Ben and Polly. Third, I believe this is the only complete story existing featuring Ben and Polly."
An older version of "The Terminator" & "I, Robot"
Jero Briggs | 01/22/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I recently bought this one on DVD and loved it. My favorite stories to watch are usually in between Seasons 3-18 of the original series. This one ended season 3. My first William Hartnell story that I bought was on VHS and it was "The Tenth Planet" which came shortly after this one and introduced the Cybermen. It was also William Hartnell's last story and the first to feature a regeneration. I loved it too. That's why I decided to give this one a try since the story idea of this one came from the same writer who wrote "The Tenth Planet". And I do not regret it.

This one is like an early version of "The Terminator" and "I, Robot". The Doctor and Dodo arrive in 1966 London and meet WOTAN - a newly constructed super computer that can think for itself, created to solve many of man's problems. But when WOTAN decides that humans are inferior beings that need more than just guidance, it starts making plans to conquer mankind itself. Somehow it is able to control people's minds, and starts using them to build war machines for its conquest. Soon London starts to get overrun by these machines and they seem to be indestructable with WOTAN in total control. Now the Doctor seems to be mankind's only hope once again.

It does have some faults though which is why I gave it four stars instead of five. This is the only one in the series that actually refers to the Doctor as "Doctor Who". The writer clearly made an error because he is just supposed to be referred to as "The Doctor". Unless he actually introduces himself as "Doctor Who" (as an alias name like John Smith), he usually just goes by "The Doctor". And I didn't hear him introduce himself as "Doctor Who" at any time during this story. Another thing that bothered me was the epic battle in Episode 3 in which many of the soldiers' guns jammed. I doubt that so many guns would jam all at the same time, especially when they're supposed be issued to the military. Another thing was Dodo's departure. She disappears from the story after Episode 2, and when its time for her and the Doctor to leave at the end, she sends Ben and Polly to say goodbye to the Doctor for her so you don't even get to see her at the end - not even for a goodbye. Although Ben and Polly's premiere was handled well.

In all, it was a pretty good and exciting story that tells about the internet age several decades before it even had begun. Highly recommended!"