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Doctor Who: The War Machines (Story 27)

4.4 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews


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Editorial Reviews

Doctor Who: War Machines, The (DVD)

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, the Doctor and his 'secretary' Dodo gain access to a suite at the top of the tower and meet the driven Professor Brett. His life's work, the thinking computer WOTAN, is about to be linked up in a problem-solving network with many other machines around the world. But the Doctor is concerned. How can WOTAN possibly know the meaning of the word 'TARDIS' and about the Doctor's travels through time and space? What is the strange control that WOTAN can exert over humans via a mere telephone call? Andwhat is the computer's link with the deadly robots being assembled in Covent Garden warehouse?

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Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: William Hartnell, Anneke Wells, Michael Craze, Jackie Lane
  • Directors: Michael Ferguson
  • Writers: Ian Stuart Black
  • Producers: Innes Lloyd
  • Format: Black & White, Subtitled, NTSC
  • Language: English (Mono)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: BBC Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: January 6, 2009
  • Run Time: 95 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B001GJ4U4Q
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #29,700 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
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.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
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.
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I just couldn’t give this 5 stars. The story seemed a bit clunky at times although I did enjoy it. WOTAN was the big disappointment in the story. Even the War Machines were more believable than the self-aware computer was, although it was humorous today seeing tape drives on the War Machines. WOTAN just didn’t come across as even slightly believable to me.

The premise of the story was excellent however, a computer that becomes self-aware and tries to take over the world. The issue was that it was “present day” (1966) and that just didn’t mesh well with reality. Put it 10 years in the future and it would have been a bit more believable even looking back from today. That is a big problem any writer has with present day scenarios as it takes more suspension of disbelief of the audience than a future or past story would.

My least favorite companion of all the Doctors, Dodo, left the show halfway through the story. Polly and Ben joined up in this story although they were more or less “unofficial” until the very end when they entered the TARDIS.

There are a few good extras on the DVD . One is a history of the Post Office Tower which is quite interesting. Another dealt with the restoration of this story. There is also a Then and Now featurette as well as a Blue Peter segment on this story.
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In my opinion this is simply one of the best surviving stories from the Hartnell era. Along with The Daleks, Planet of Giants, Dalek Invasion of Earth, The Space Museum and The Romans. All those stories are perfect in my opinion except perhaps The Dalek Invasion of Earth which I think goes on a tad too long and I really can't stand that monster that attacks Ian near the mines...
But The War Machines is superb Doctor Who at it's best and I heartily agree with a reviewer who said it's almost like the 1st Doctor materializes the TARDIS during the middle of the 3rd Doctor's run of the show.
In fact it gives great credence to the fact that this is indeed the same man/character through the entire 50 year run of the show. If you watch say a Doctor Who themed marathon like they do with Law & Order and you played the best of each Doctor teamed with a military branch or of course UNIT you would get something like this:
The War Machines (1st Doctor), Abominable Snowmen (2nd Doctor), The Mind of Evil (3rd Doctor), Robot (4th Doctor), Resurrection of the Daleks (5th Doctor), Remembrance of the Daleks (7th Doctor), Planet of the Dead (10th Doctor) and The Day of the Doctor (10th/11th Doctors) would all make for a great Doctor/Military Marathon.
And of course the possibilities are endless for Doctor Who Marathons. Companion Marathons, Master Marathons, Deep Space Story Marathons, Mystery Marathons, History Marathons, so forth and so on....
The War Machines is the Doctor's first real venture in teaming up with a military Earth based branch, it also has some very cool 60's era scenes in a nightclub called Inferno which is very appropriate 'cause there is a later 3rd Doctor episode by the same name.
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