Thursday, 25 April 2013

The War Machines

Looking forward this appears to be the last complete story for quite a while. I have two seasons that follow with only one complete story I see. It’s going to be difficult that’s for sure. This is the last story of the third season as it aired but there wasn’t a record break after it – I am unsure when that occurred.

It’s strange to think that Doctor Who went through its first three years and the final story of those three years was the only story to be set in the present (1966). I understand that future adventures may well return to the present more often, or the very near future. Again this was penned by Ian Stuart Black, who wrote two stories in a row, something quite rare. It’s a very different beast to ‘The Savages’ and not blessed with the political thoughtfulness of the previous story. The ideas were passed to Black from Davis as the person originally down to write this story wasn't able.
A War Machine on the London streets.

However, it’s a pretty enjoyable tale, nicely paced with again a lot of location shooting. It features the London Post Office Tower, which had just been completed around the time of filming, as central to the plot. A nice touch, in a story with ideas that resonate today, in a plot line that has been done so many times. What if computers developed a mind of their own and turned on humanity? Of course, in 1966 this was probably a very new and scary concept.

Polly and Dodo at the 'Inferno' disco.

We see a disco in this story which feels very out of place in Doctor Who, at least at this time. There’s something very ‘clunky’ about the production. Maybe it’s because the War Machines themselves, tools and weapons of the evil computer WOTAN, are clunky. They appear to be large cardboard boxes with a couple of pipes and lights added. There are slow and very easy to outrun. The dialogue is clunky too and not delivered with precision at times. William Hartnell struggles at points and is rather marvellous at others.
The Doctor gets serious!

He is the focus of the show this time and has a tough workload – they had almost given him a holiday in ‘The Savages’, where he was unconscious for most of episode three. He’d had two weeks off a couple of stories earlier as well in ‘The Celestial Toymaker’. The strain and workload is really starting to show.
As for clunky dialogue, well lines like ‘C-Day, that’s computer Day’ is an example. WOTAN hisses out lines such as ‘Doctor Who is required’, but despite that faux pas, the biggest issue is the lines being very hard to understand, especially in the final episode.
Ben and Polly follow the Doctor into the TARDIS.

The rest of the cast is an interesting mix. Professor Brent is played by John Harvey and I have to say, as a key player he was poorly cast. He struggles to remember his lines and always looks as if he’s searching his mind for them. They get delivered in a very stilted way and I just don’t believe the performance sadly. We are introduced to Ben (Michael Craze) and Polly (Anneke Wills) in this story, who end up leaving in the TARDIS.
Polly meets Ben when she takes Dodo (Jackie Lane) to the ‘Inferno Nightclub’, the hottest spot in town. Lane has a very clunky line when she says ‘what I’d really like is to go to the hottest nightclub in town’. It is not to be a happy story for Dodo. She was written in at the end of one episode, and written out after only half a story. Why the producer didn’t have the decency to extend the contract for 2 more episodes I don’t know. Dodo was a decent, bubbly companion who suffered for little back story and the production team not caring much about the character. I think she was very hard done by.
In the background, Dodo in on of her last scenes.

‘The War Machines’ features a lot of different locations both exterior and in the studio. They even managed to get a taxi in the studio. There is a very bizarre sequence featuring a tramp (again given some clunky lines: ‘it’s bloomin’ paradise to what I’ve been used to!’) who is killed by the War Machines in a somewhat shocking sequence. I liked the pacing of the story, the use of locations and other elements, yet on the other hand it almost felt like a pilot episode for a new series and everyone didn’t quite know what they were supposed to be doing or where to pitch their performances.
Announcing 'C' day.


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