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Aug 27, 2008





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.