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 TDP 68:  The War Machines





The War Machines is a serial in the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in 4 weekly parts from June 25 to July 16, 1966. This serial is the first appearance of Michael Craze and Anneke Wills as the companions Ben Jackson and Polly, as well as marking the departure of Jackie Lane as Dodo Chaplet. It should not be confused with the Second Doctor story The War Games.



When the TARDIS lands in London near the Post Office Tower, the Doctor is unsettled by it. There the Doctor and Dodo meet Professor Brett, the creator of WOTAN (Will Operating Thought ANalogue), an advanced computer that even knows what TARDIS stands for. On C-Day, WOTAN will be linked to other major computers to take them over, including those of the White House, Cape Kennedy and the Royal Navy.

WOTAN begins to have its own agenda and takes control of Professor Brett through a hypnotic beeping noise. WOTAN's hypnotic influence is exerted over many humans including Dodo until the Doctor breaks her out of it. He subsequently arranges for her to be sent to the country house of Sir Charles Summer, leader of the Royal Scientific Club, who has come to the aid of the Doctor.

WOTAN uses its hypnotised workforce in a secret warehouse near Covent Garden to construct an army of War Machines to take over the world. Major Green, the chief of security at the Post Office Tower, has been programmed to oversee the construction of the War Machines. He ensures that any intruders are dealt with and all humans continue working on the project until they drop. Polly, Professor Brett's secretary, is one such production line convert, though a friend of hers, Royal Navy Able Seaman Ben Jackson, evades the production line. He seeks out the Doctor, whom he met through Dodo before her conditioning, and helps flesh out what is known about the threat of WOTAN and the War Machines.

The Doctor alerts the army to the warehouse production factory, but their weapons are somehow disabled when they go to confront the War Machines. He knows WOTAN is behind the plot too, but can do nothing as humans cannot enter the Tower through the strong hypnotic beams being emitted. Given scientific and political support, the Doctor manages to capture a War Machine using an electromagnetic trap. He changes its programming and then uses it to enter the Post Office Tower and destroy WOTAN. This ends the threat and immediately releases the human slaves from the hypnosis.

Ben and Polly, the two "fab" young people the Doctor has befriended during the adventure, meet him at the TARDIS to explain that they visited Dodo, who has revealed that she has decided to stay in London. The Doctor thanks them and heads into the Police Box - followed by Ben and Polly, who enter the TARDIS with the intent to return Dodo's key to the old man. They are then suddenly whisked off into time and space...


Naming issues

WOTAN is pronounced "Votan" – as, it is explained, the Norse god sometimes was. It stands, though, for Will Operating Thought ANalogue, which is indicative of its ability to connect to the human brain.

WOTAN refers to the Doctor as "Doctor Who" – the only time the character is ever given this name within the series' narrative (though he is often credited as such in the end titles). While there is nothing in the series that directly contradicts it, many fans see this as an error and several theories have tried to account for it, one noting that WOTAN may have been misinformed, since it also described the Doctor as "human". WOTAN also manages to discern the meaning of the acronym TARDIS; how it manages to do so is not explained.

[edit] Destination Earth

This serial is the first in the series to be completely set on a contemporary Earth. The previous landings of the TARDIS in the 1960s were either brief (the Empire State Building sequence from The Chase, several landings during The Daleks' Master Plan, the stop over on Wimbledon Common in The Massacre of St Bartholomew's Eve) or exceptional (Planet of Giants, where the TARDIS crew were shrunk down to the size of insects and could not fully interact with present day humans). Here, for the first time, we see the Doctor take a leading role in the protection of the planet, which becomes a regular theme for the series from here on.

The decision to set more episodes on present-day Earth was taken because the producers felt that the audience was becoming bored with the purely historical episodes that had been a major element of the show to date. As a result, this story marks the beginning of the turn away from historical stories. The next two historical stories, "The Smugglers" (which immediately follows "The War Machines") and Season 4's "The Highlanders", were to be the last historical stories until Season 19's "Black Orchid".

[edit] Synchronicity

The episode appears to be set on 20 July 1966 - Ben and Polly leave the Doctor in the Second Doctor story The Faceless Ones set in London on the same date (see the Chronology). However, the days of the week mentioned in The War Machines mean it cannot be 1966 if they're the same in Doctor Who continuity as in the 'real' world.

Curiously, at the start of the latter serial, the Doctor comments that he feels the same sensation as he felt when the Daleks were around. While this appears to be intended to equate the War Machines and WOTAN to the Daleks, it is interesting to note that the events of the serial are revealed later in the series to happen contemporaneously with the Second Doctor serial The Evil of the Daleks.

The Past Doctor Adventures novel The Time Travellers by Simon Guerrier is set in an alternate reality where the Doctor had not been around to stop WOTAN. The villain is never referred to by name, only as "the Machine", and while he was overthrown thousands were left insane by his mind-control and Britain was reduced to a technologically backward dictatorship.

A later serial that also foreshadows the internet is The Green Death, which features a very similar computer villain. The Face of Evil also sees the Doctor encountering another such being (this time having been linked with his own brain rather than that of a human) and commenting on how familiar the threat has become.


Serial details by episode:
Episode Broadcast Date Run Time (mm:ss) Viewers (in millions) Archive
"Episode 1" 25 June 1966 24:01 5.4 16mm t/r
"Episode 2" 2 July 1966 24:00 4.7 16mm t/r
"Episode 3" 9 July 1966 23:58 5.3 16mm t/r
"Episode 4" 16 July 1966 23:11 5.5 16mm t/r
Source: Error: Production Code not specified.

Working titles for this story included The Computers.[1].

The idea for this story came about when Kit Pedler was being interviewed for a position as science advisor to the series. The producers asked all of the interviewees what would happen if the recently-built Post Office Tower somehow took over. Pedler suggested that it would be the work of a rogue computer that communicated with the outside world by means of the telephone system. The producers liked this suggestion and not only offered Pedler the job but developed the idea into a script (one of the few to feature a 'Story Idea by' credit).

Only one War Machine prop was actually constructed; the production team changed the numbers, to represent the different machines.

The titling style of each episode in this serial differs from the standard titles of other serials. Instead of a title overlay, after the "Doctor Who" logo has faded, the screen shifts to a solid background containing four inversely-coloured rectangles aligned down the left-hand side (reminiscent to an old-style computer punch card). The title, one word at a time, scrolls upwards - "THE", "WAR", "MACH", "INES" - with a final flash displaying the complete title on two lines. Another flash reveals the writer, the next flash reveals the word "EPISODE", and the final flash shows the actual episode number. All of the lettering displayed in this titling sequence is shown in a retro-computer font. Each of the four episodes' title sequences have slight variations to them.


  • Michael Craze provided the voice of a policeman heard in Episode four.
  • WOTAN received a credit as "And WOTAN" at the end of the first three episodes, the only time a fictional character was credited as itself in the series.
  • Jackie Lane's contract expired midway through production of this story. She does not appear again after episode two; Dodo's off-screen departure is relayed to the Doctor by Polly.
  • This is the last William Hartnell era serial, and the only serial featuring Anneke Wills and Michael Craze, to exist in its entirety.

Missing episodes

Aside from its soundtrack (recorded off-air by fans), this serial was lost in the junk of episodes in the 1970s. The master videotapes for the story were the last of those starring William Hartnell to be junked, surviving until 1974.[2] The 16mm film telerecording copies held by BBC Enterprises were also the last of their kind to be destroyed, surviving until 1978, shortly before the junking of material was halted by the intervention of fan Ian Levine.[3]

In 1978, a collector in Australia provided a copy of episode 2. Later in 1984 copies of all four episodes were returned from Nigeria. Episodes 2, 3 and 4 all had cuts to them, but most have been restored due to a combination of the other copy of episode 2, material used in a promotional item on the BBC's Blue Peter and censored clips from Australia. Some of the restored footage did not have its accompanying soundtrack, and so the missing sound was restored from the off-air recordings.

To date, only episodes 3 and 4, do not exist in their entirety as was originally intended. Episode 3 is missing a visual brief bit of dialogue with Krimpton talking. This was replaced in the VHS release with a combination of a shot of WOTAN with the accompanied dialogue from the off-air recordings. Episode 3 is also missing around 59 seconds worth of the battle in the warehouse. Episode 4 is missing only a small amount of material. The first instance occurs with the man in the telephone box. Part of the continuing closeup of the man talking on the telephone is missing, but this was compensated on the VHS release by continuing in audio-only over the top of the beginning of the high shot of the phone box. There are also two lines of dialogue missing when Polly reports back to WOTAN. This scene, however, has not been re-instated for the VHS release as it was felt that there wouldn't be enough visual material to drop into the gap.

The DVD release will have all of the episodes in their entirety.

Commercial releases

The serial was released on VHS in 1997, with an item from Blue Peter and a BBC1 "globe ident" (from the first part of the story) as extras. A DVD issue has been announced for August 25th 2008.

Also, in 2007, an audio CD of the serial's soundtrack, with linking narration by and bonus interview with Anneke Wills, was released.

In print

Doctor Who book
Book cover
The War Machines
Series Target novelisations
Release number 136
Writer Ian Stuart Black
Publisher Target Books
Cover artist Alister Pearson and Graeme Wey
ISBN 0 426 20332 1
Release date 16 February 1989
Preceded by Delta and the Bannermen
Followed by Dragonfire

A novelisation of this serial, written by Ian Stuart Black, was published by Target Books in February 1989.

Direct download: TDP_68_WARMACHINES.mp3
Category:podcast -- posted at: 12:33pm UTC

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Category:Information -- posted at: 11:08am UTC

Dont worry the TDP hasnt gone anywhere. I've just been busy with other projects that have taken up a lot of time and other things. There will be at least one TDP later next week.regardsTin Dog
Category:Information -- posted at: 12:25pm UTC

 TDP 67:  Trial of a Time Lord 1 - 4 Mysterious Planet The Mysterious Planet is a serial in the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in four weekly parts from September 6 to September 27, 1986. It is part of the larger narrative known as The Trial of a Time Lord, encompassing the whole of the 23rd season.



The TARDIS materialises in a corridor, and the Doctor steps out bewildered and alone. He walks into a room, where it is revealed that he is being put on trial for conduct unbecoming a Time Lord. The Inquisitor notes that the Doctor has been on trial previously, and the Valeyard states that he will argue that the Doctor was shown too much leniency on that occasion. The Valeyard opens the case by using the Matrix to show the Doctor's involvement on the planet Ravolox.

The Doctor and Peri arrive on Ravolox, which is virtually identical to Earth. He tells Peri that the official records state that the planet was devastated by a fireball, but they note that the forest they are walking through suggests otherwise. They are seen by Sabalom Glitz and Dibber, who attempt to shoot the Doctor; but he moves off just in time. Glitz and Dibber discuss their plan to destroy the "L3 robot" by sabotaging its light conversion system, which has been turned into a totem by a primitive tribe on the planet.

The Doctor and Peri find an apparently abandoned building and explore it. Peri discovers a sign saying "Marble Arch" — a London Underground sign, which means that they are on Earth. Peri begins to mourn for her planet.

The Doctor asks what the relevance of this is, then asks why Peri is not with him on the station. The Valeyard answers that she is where the Doctor left her, and states that the Doctor's evident temporary amnesia - a side-effect of being taken out of time - should soon pass.

The Doctor goes into the complex alone because Peri is upset, but she is captured by two masked figures. Meanwhile, Glitz and Dibber are brought before Katryca, Queen of the tribe. Glitz claims that the totem attracted the fireball that devastated Ravolox, and asks for it to be taken down. The Queen tells him that others have asked for the totem to be dismantled, and none have succeeded. Glitz and Dibber draw out their guns, but they are overpowered and locked up.

The Doctor finds an underground complex, but is caught. He is accused of spying, and sentenced to be stoned. The Doctor tries to block the rocks with his umbrella, but is knocked unconscious.

The Valeyard proposes that the inquiry into the Doctor's activities should become a full blown trial, with the penalty being the termination of his life.

Other officials arrive and break up the stoning. The Doctor is still breathing, but before he can be killed, Merdeen receives a message from the Immortal stating that he wishes to question the Doctor. The Immortal, revealed to be a huge humanoid robot, commands its two assistants to release the service robot.

Peri is brought before Katryca, who informs Peri that as there are few women, she will need to take many husbands. She is then put in the same prison as Glitz and Dibber. They tell Peri their plan to destroy the Robot. They are taken back to Katryca, who tells them that Glitz will be sacrificed because of his attempt to destroy the great totem.

The Doctor is taken to the Immortal, who introduces itself as Drathro. He commands that the Doctor work with the two assistants. The Doctor identifies the problem, and tries to leave in order to fix it, but Drathro does not allow him to leave, as his instructions were to maintain an underground system. The Doctor electrifies the robot and his assistants, and escapes. Drathro sends the service robot to track down the Doctor. Meanwhile, Peri, Glitz and Dibber overpower the guards and escape. Dibber remains behind to plant a bomb on the Black Light converter, whilst they go to the underground complex.

In Marb Station, Merdeen tells Balazar that there has been no fire for hundreds of years, and that he should leave the complex. They encounter the Doctor, and Merdeen implores him to help Balazar escape. Peri, Glitz and Dibber, pursued by tribesmen, find the Doctor, and they flee into the Marb Station, but are trapped between the tribe and the service robot. The tribesmen shoot at the service robot and disable it. The Doctor tries to re-enter the underground complex, but the tribesmen insist they all return to the village. There, The Doctor is brought before Katryca, but she is unimpressed with his explanation of the true nature of the Totem, and puts them all back in the prison cell. Glitz confirms that the planet is actually Earth.

Drathro reactivates the service robot, and send it to the village. It breaks into the building with the Doctor, stuns him and takes him away. The tribesmen disable the service robot, and decide to attack the Immortal's castle to steal his technology. Peri rescues the Doctor from the service robot, and they set off to the underground complex to stop Katryca and disable the black light system. Katryca and tribesmen arrive at the Castle, where they are confronted by Drathro,. He electrocutes Katryca, and dismisses the rest of the tribe.

The Doctor enters Drathro's domain, promising to help repair the black light system. However, he determines it to be beyond repair, and tells Drathro that he must shut down the Black Light System to prevent a massive explosion. Drathro refuses to allow that as it would mean its own destruction. The Doctor pleads with him, saying that the explosion could destroy the entire universe, but that only makes Drathro determined to allow what he thinks is a unique event.

Balazar and Peri plead with Merdeen to help them, noting that he would die if the converter exploded. Glitz and Dibber arrive and follow them into the Castle through a food chute. Drathro attempts to kill by turning on the food processing system, but Dibber shoots him through the wall. Glitz tells Drathro that they have black light on their ship, and offers to take the robot to the Andromeda Galaxy. Drathro agrees, and leaves with Glitz and Dibber.

The Doctor realises that the black light system has already begun to self-destruct, and that all he can do is prevent it starting a chain reaction. The system explodes, but the blast only destroys the Castle, and as a result Drathro collapses. The Doctor and Peri leave Merdeen and Balazar to take the remaining inhabitants to a new life on the surface.

The Doctor announces to the court that he has saved the Universe, and starts to present his defence. The Valeyard warns the Doctor that he has more evidence to come, and that the Court will demand the Doctor's life at the end.


  • The reason why Earth has become Ravalox, as well as the reasons for the Fireball, are explained in The Ultimate Foe, the final part of the Season.
  • The relationship between the Sixth Doctor and Peri is less abrasive in this story than in the previous season. Both Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant wanted to show how travelling together had made their characters less combative and argumentative. Both this and the changes in their appearances, particularly Peri's hairstyle and mode of dress suggest a long gap between this story and their previous on-screen appearance in Revelation of the Daleks and allowing for "unseen" adventures in the spin-off media to be placed there.
  • Early in Part One, the Doctor appears to be about to reveal his surname for the first and only time in the entire series (but see The War Machines, and further discussion in "Doctor who?").
  • The Inquisitor and the Valeyard reference the events of The War Games.
  • The Doctor's claim that he cannot be on trial as he is Lord President and the Inquisitor's explanation that he had been removed were reportedly added to the script after Colin Baker noticed the apparent plot hole.
  • Recovering from unconsciousness, the Doctor briefly slips back into the personality of one of his previous selves, allowing Colin Baker to do an impersonation of Jon Pertwee. He even uses the phrase, "Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow."
  • In this serial, the First Law of Time refers to the well-documented Time Lord policy of non-interference, as opposed to specifically forbidding a Time Lord meeting a past or future incarnation and therefore interfering with his own history, as stated in earlier serials.


The details available for each episode of this story are outlined in the table below[1][2][3].

Episode Broadcast Date Run Time Ratings
"Part One" 06 Sep 1986 24'57" 4.9m
"Part Two" 13 Sep 1986 24'44" 4.9m
"Part Three" 20 Sep 1986 24'18" 3.9m
"Part Four" 27 Sep 1986 24'20" 3.7m


In February 1985, the BBC announced that the planned twenty-third season of Doctor Who had been canceled. After vocal protests by the press and Doctor Who fans (including a charity single, Doctor in Distress), the BBC announced that the progamme was merely on "hiatus", and would return in September 1986. Several stories which had been planned or commissioned for the original Season 23 were abandoned in favour of an overarching "trial" theme, reflecting the fact that the programme itself was on trial at the BBC.[4]

This story was the last complete Doctor Who story written by Robert Holmes. Its plot is similar to Holmes' first contribution to Doctor Who, The Krotons. In both stories, an alien machine subjugates a humanoid civilization and forces its brightest young people into its service.[5]

[edit] Casting

The actor playing Merdeen, Tom Chadbon, had previously appeared in the 1979 Fourth Doctor serial City of Death.


The opening model shot of the Time Lord Space Station where the trial is held throughout the season was the most expensive model shot from the classic series run (costing more than £8,000).[6] The sequence depicts the Time Lord Space Station orbiting in space then dragging the TARDIS inside via the use of a tractor beam.

From this serial onwards, all location work would be recorded on Outside Broadcast (OB) tape instead of 16mm film. This practice would continue until the end of the series. The only footage shot on film for this episode was the opening special effects shot of the TARDIS. The BBC had been encouraging the replacement of film cameras with OB cameras since the early 1980s on the grounds that they were cheaper, and mixed with studio-shot material better. John Nathan-Turner had actually wanted to switch to OB shooting as early as Peter Davison's first season in 1982, but met with resistance from the directors working on the show at the time.


Dominic Glynn was hired to score the music for The Mysterious Planet, and John Nathan-Turner offered him the chance to rearrange the opening title music. His new score for the opening theme was the shortest lived, lasting this season alone (not counting the unused 1973 version by Delia Derbyshire and Paddy Kingsland). Some saw it as an improvement on the Peter Howell version, while others criticized it for being "too quiet" or "not scary enough". It has since been used on the majority of the Big Finish Productions audio plays featuring Colin Baker as the Sixth Doctor.

Commercial releases

In October 1993, this story was released on VHS as part of the three-tape The Trial of a Time Lord set. A DVD release is due in 2008, similarly boxed with the other stories in The Trial of a Time Lord season.

In print

Doctor Who book
Book cover
The Mysterious Planet
Series Target novelisations
Release number 127
Writer Terrance Dicks
Publisher Target Books
Cover artist Tony Masero
ISBN 0 426 20319 4
Release date 19th November 1987 (Hardback)

21st April 1988 (Paperback)

Preceded by The Time Meddler
Followed by Time and the Rani

A novelisation of this serial, written by Terrance Dicks, was published by Target Books in November 1987.

External links


Target novelisation

Direct download: TDP_67_Trial_1_Mysterious_Planet.mp3
Category:podcast -- posted at: 11:40am UTC