Tuesday 1 May 2012

The War Machines

Programming today is a race between software engineers striving to build bigger and better idiot-proof programs and the Universe trying to produce bigger and better idiots.  So far, the Universe is winning.
- Rich Cook


Me:  When we’re through this, we’ve done Season Three.

Him:  ‘Play all’?

We’re off.  The opening credits look awfully familiar, but only to me, and only for reasons I’m not going to be going into.
None of this means anything.

Me:  It’s a bit different, but otherwise, I’m saying nothing.

The camera pans across London and the TARDIS lands.  It’s a lovely shot, even if some pigeons do get frightened.  Dodo and the Doctor emerge.

Him:  It’s a sad last moment for Dodo there, as it looks like the Doctor’s about to give her a hug and then suck out her brain.

Me:  Sigh.

Him:  Where’s Steven?  Oh, yeah.

Just after our heroes spot some stock-footage of the Post Office Tower, Mr Hartnell fumbles a speech furiously.

Me:  It feels a bit like Bill’s forcing the performance.  It’s really sad.

The Doctor decides to investigate his strange prickling sensation (or ‘pricking sensation’ if one’s trusting the subtitles).  He strides off onto location, followed by Dodo.

Elsewhere a scientist of some sort is staring at a photograph of London Above.  Behind him is a young lady disguised as some sort of confectionery.

Me:  Ah, Polly.  You’ve met her.

Him:  Anneke Wills?

Me:  Indeed.

The Doctor and Dodo suddenly walk in.  They’re being shown around by a gentleman the Him names as ‘Biggles’, for some reason.  Shamefully on my part, because he doesn’t look like an air ace to me, I totally neglect to write down the subsequent referencing.  This will haunt me forever, no doubt.

Him:  How’d they get in?

On being introduced to him, Professor Brett seems to recognise the Doctor.  It gets weirder. 

Me:  What?

Him:  And who’s this ‘Major Green’?

Me:  “Scientific advice, anyone?”

The Doctor explains he been pulled in by the magnetic aroma of what will be revealed to be WOTAN, a machine ten years ahead of its time.  An explanation of why this is is offered.  Telephones and other computers are involved.

Him:  Is this before the internet?

Me:  Yeah.

Him:  I mean, before it was thought of.

Me:  Yeah.

Him:  Remember, people had the internet a long time before – you know – the commoners.

Me:  The who?

Him:  Y’know?  The common folk.  What people like us were thought of back then.  Richer people got the internet first.

Me:  That’s right.  When the military were finished with it they gave it to the aristocracy, and then when they were fed up with Freeserve, we were allowed a shot with it.  After we finished the day’s mulching.

The Doctor’s invited to a press conference and  introduced to Polly, which isn’t a bad start to anyone’s day to be fair.  Well, unless you’re Dodo.

Me:  “This is Cheeky Polly.”

The Doctor, naturally, is suspicious of this infallible machine that can think for itself.  He snorts, then hmmm’s, then turns back to face Professor Brett.  I can’t shake the feeling that there’s a connecting sentence missing that even the Restoration Team won’t be able to patch together.

Me:  “One of us has gone wrong, and I’m fairly sure it’s me.”

The Doctor asks WOTAN a question.  Interestingly, he doesn’t opt for something it might find tricky like, ‘God?’ or perhaps, ‘What is truth?’

The Doctor:  What is the square root of 17,422?

WOTAN dot-matrixes an answer.  The Doctor’s a bit miffed that a calculator can calculate – no good will come of this devilry. 

The Doctor:  131.993.  Yes, that’s near enough.

Dodo has a go.  She asks it what TARDIS stands for.

Dodo:  "Time And Relative Dimensions In Space."

Yes, that’s near enough.

Me:  Hang on.  It knows about the TARDIS.

Dodo starts to stare at stuff.  She’s obviously feeling a bit under the weather.

Me:  “I…  I feel like I’m being written out…”

Him:  Was she written out or did she leave?

Me:  See if you can guess.

Him:  She was written out.

Me:  It’s an interesting leaving scene she gets, that’s for sure.

Dodo gets dumped on Polly, while the Doctor and Professor Brett make up technical-sounding names for bits of the set.

Me:  “And is this the megabyte modem?”

Suddenly, we’re swingin’ – Dodo’s been smuggled by Polly into the Inferno - the Hippest Happeningest Hotbed of Howling Hades that Lahndahn town can offer.  The Cavern being in Liverpool.  Dodo’s introduced to a barmaid so lovely that Yusuf Islam wrote a song about her.1

Oo.  It’s Ben, dressed as a young James Dean Bradfield.

Him:  Ben was a sailor?

Me:  Indeed.

Proving he’s a sailor, Ben gets in a scrap to defend Polly’s honour.

Me:  Quite a good fight.

The Doctor’s frootling around on location in a taxi.  He visits the Royal Scientific Club.

Me:  ‘R.S.C.’  Ha!

In front of a big map showing how computers can be linked together, is a gentleman apparently named Sircharles.  He’s holding a pair of glasses and mentioning dates without any concern for wider continuity.  In four days time every computer in the world will connect up with WOTAN.  As it’s a press conference, members of the press ask questions to help gently shunt the story forward.  Bow ties appear to be cool.   

The Doctor stands to one side, waiting to be cued.  He fills in the time squinting at a tiny Character Options mock up model of WOTAN, looking for continuity errors.

Professor Brett has been delayed by a cold caller trying to flog him double-glazing.  He’s justifiably annoyed, and hangs up.  Before he leaves, Professor Brett has a quick chat with Major (“BIGGLES!”) Green about his encroaching sense of paranoia and unshakable feeling that he’s being spied on.  Major ("BIGGLES!") Green - rather than suggesting that perhaps these aren’t the type of things you’d want someone who’s in charge of the machine that’s about to be in charge of all the computering systems in the world, both military and otherwise, to be exhibiting – laughs it off.  WOTAN SKYNET allows itself a little electronic chuckle in the background.2

Major ("BIGGLES!") Green leaves and WOTAN begins making the air go all concentric in order to hypnotise the Professor.

Professor Brett:  It’s quite ridiculous.

Me:  Damn straight.

Cut back to Kitty the Lovely Barmaid (and the others).  Dodo has a headache.  That can’t be good…

Back at the press conference everyone’s run out of questions.  Luckily, Professor Brett arrives and demands to borrow the bearded Professor Krimpton I forgot to mention earlier.  The Doctor pretends to be Dracula and Sircharles looks bemused at how the whole evening’s become such a shambles.  The two of them decide to hook up and fight crime.2

Story of my life.
Major ("BIGGLES!") Green is performing a quick security check.  It’s quicker than he was expecting as WOTAN takes him over and forces him to call the Inferno.

Kitty the Lovely Barmaid takes the call and hands the phone to Dodo.

Him:  What are A, B and C?

Before you can say “Not worth the paper it’s printed on”, Dodo’s been re-hypnotised.

Me:  She feels compelled to buy double-glazing.

Brett and Krimpton return to see WOTAN.  At this point, the Him makes an interesting observation.

Him:  Two of the Doctor’s companions were called Dorothy.

Me:  That’s right, but I don’t think we should read anything into it.

WOTAN has decided the world cannot progress further with mankind running it. And humanity had better just bow down.

Me:  Krimpton’s in the mire. 


Me:  No-one’ll get that.

Krimpton:  And if we choose not to, I suppose, mankind will be eliminated?

Me:  “Kill all humans!”

The circles are back, and Krimpton’s a believer.

At the Inferno, Kitty the Lovely Barmaid’s looking at vinyl.  Polly notices she’s lost Dodo just as the Doctor arrives.

Kitty the Lovely Barmaid:  Dig your fab gear.

Professor Brett announces that WOTAN needs one more human brain as the fourth member of this unholy bunch arrives.  It’s Dodo.

WOTAN’s so excited it suddenly gains the power of speech.  Bless.

WOTAN:  Doctor, who is required.  Bring him here.


We recap.  WOTAN does it again.

Him:  Uuurgh.  I thought WOTAN never made mistakes?

Me:  It’s only got access to Aaru’s files.

WOTAN’s thoughts on the matter are offered.  It reckons that Leonard Cohen’s got it wrong as far as which cities to begin with when playing Risk 2.0 are concerned, and that everyone should be getting on with building War Machines.

Him:  Why not Scotland?

Me:  Krimpton’s got mad glasses.

Professor Brett fills in the back story, and starts waffling about this bloke, ‘Doctor Who’.  Twice.

Me:  There they go again.

This wakes WOTAN up.

Me:  And again.

The Doctor is blissfully unaware that these nefarious nincompoops keep getting his name wrong, understandably distracted as he is by Kitty the Lovely Barmaid.  Dragging himself back to what passes for ‘reality’ he wonders where can Dodo be?  Oh.  There she is.

Dodo:  I had a call from some old friends.  I just popped along to see them.

Me:  “Friends?  You haven’t got any friends.”

Kitty the Lovely Barmaid locks up the Inferno (now known as ‘The Rock Garden’, fact fans2) and just vanishes out of Doctor Who forever.  It’s awful.

Me:  Foreshadowing there?

Dodo tries to steer the Doctor toward some chloroform, but he ends up in a taxi instead.  The previous occupant, the Tramp (a gentleman of the road) wanders off to find some boxes to lie on.

Me:  Boxes are very much a recurring theme in this story.

Inside the warehouse (and what are the chances of that, eh?) the Tramp stumbles upon the construction of the first of the War Machines.  He’s spotted and runs for it, but far too slow and so he ends up on the front page of the morning newspaper.  Journalists really worked hard back in the Sixties, y’see?

The Doctor and Sircharles have become really quite chummy.  Sircharles shows the Doctor letters of resignation that scientists have started handing in.  Polly turns up, just missing a fluff.  Dodo also turns up, and again tries to steer the Doctor in the general direction of either WOTAN or chloroform.  The Doctor phones Professor Brett.

I should say that we’re actually just watching it.  Mostly because it’s quite different to usual.

The Doctor gets connected to WOTAN, followed by some terrible feedback.  He falls down, recovers and Hartnell forces the performance again.  He just about gets away with it, which is more than can be said for Dodo.  She’s rumbled as an agent of WOTAN in fairly short order and the Doctor sets about dehypnotising her.

The Doctor:  When I’ve counted to 5-

Me:  “Your contract will have expired.”

Him:  Tch.
And that’s Dodo’s lot.  Bad show.
A plane lands and we follow the journey of some boxes through stock footage, the cover of Animals, and finally into the Warehouse of Unexpected Tramp Murder.

Him:  Nineteen minutes ago was the end of Episode One.

Me:  You bored?

Him:  Yeah.

The first of the War Machines is constructed.  A minion is selected to be used as a ‘demonstration of effectiveness’.

Him:  It missed!

WOTAN:  Where is Doctor Who?

Me:  Can’t solve that one with a comma.

Him:  No.

Polly wanders in to see Professor Brett.  Oh dear.

The Doctor and Ben are piecing events together.  The Warehouse is mentioned and Ben leaves to check it out.

Me:  It’s not grabbing me.

Him:  That’s ‘cause it’s boring.

Ben explores the Warehouse.  Before long, things are getting broken and a cliffhanger drags closer.

Him:  How did they work these machines?

Me:  Whips.

Him:  Is there a person inside it?

Me:  I told you: whips.

The War Machine wanders the Warehouse killing boxes.  Suddenly - it sees Ben!



We recap.  Ben’s still in trouble.

The credits do the familiar thing again.

Him:  The Salt Flats?

Me:  I’m saying nothing.

Major (“BIGGLES!”) Green:  Danger!  There is a stranger!

Him:  “Sinister Minister.”

Polly and Ben find each other.  Polly’s possessed and Ben’s still defending her honour.

Polly:  What else did you see?

Him:  Boxes.

Me:  And lots of them.

Polly locks the door.  Ben gets grabbed and then Ben gets dragged.

Elsewhere, the Doctor’s checking his watch.

Me:  Not long now, Bill.

Back in the warehouse, Ben gets spared.

WOTAN’s still scheming.

Major (“BIGGLES!”) Green:  You are a enemy of mechanised evolution.  Nothing must be allowed to prevent the machines taking over.

Me:  Do you think he’s right?

Him:  Well, computers are taking us over.

Me:  Hmmm.

Polly reveals that Ben’s only been spared to help work towards the victory of the War Machines.

Me:  Nice raised eyebrow to match the music.

Back at the top of the Tower.

Me:  There’s a lot of talking going on.

Him:  He’s a hairy man.

Me:  He is.  Hmmm…  I need a shave.  I look like the Devil at the moment.

Him:  You don’t.

Me:  Thanks.

Him:  Meep.


Him:  I didn’t just say ‘meep’.

In the Warehouse, Ben and Polly stack shelves.  Around them blokes are doing stuff.  There’s a meaningful stare from Polly and Ben makes a run for it.

Me:  There’s only enough actual plot for a two-parter in this.

Him:  Like The Sensorites-

Me:  I didn’t like The Sensorites, I have to be honest.

Him:  -which became an eighteen-parter.

The Doctor and Sircharles are just about to run out of brandy when Ben returns.

Me:  Ben’s shouty.

Him:  He’s a sailor, isn’t he?

Me:  He is.

Him:  You wrote that down without including the rest of the conversation.

Me:  I did.  I’m a blackguard.

Sircharles makes a phone call.  To Geneva, I expect.  The Him’s making Evil Dead noises in my ear.  I can’t really blame him.

Him:  Oo.  A truck.  And another one.  I’m guessing that it’s the same truck.  And now they’re getting ready to shoot at some boxes.

The Warehouse building (which is in Covent Garden) is surrounded.

Me:  Thank God this isn’t a recon. I don’t think I’d be able to get through it.

In the army go. 

Major (“BIGGLES!”) Green is listening to Radio Luxembourg.

Him:  Do you think it says ‘Made in Britain’ on the side of one of the War Machines?

Me:  Pride in British manufacture, eh?

Him:  Boxes are killed.

There’s a smoky fight.

Him:  Why were people still watching it at this point?

Me:  It’s like The Poison Sky – it won’t be on forever and the next one might well be a masterpiece, so you’ve got to stick with it.

Him:  You didn’t like The Poison Sky.

Me:  I didn’t.

Him:  Or The Sontaran Stratagem.

Me:  That’s correct.

Him:  So why are you talking about them?

Me:  Just pointing out the series’ consistent inconsistency.

The showdown continues.

Me:  This film’s pristine – it’s beautiful.

Him:  Yeah, it looks good.  Shame the story’s rubbish.

A megaphone is brandished by Sircharles.

Him:  HONK!  Do the Man Yak noise.


The War Machine emerges and sizes up the Doctor.  Here it comes…

Me:  Hartnell looks fantastic.

Iconic Moment #98


Up come the credits.

Me:  “They bought it.  He’s going to steal it.  It’s The War Machines – and everyone’s a loser.”

Him:  It’s The Salt Flats again.

Me:  That’s Read More Books.

Him:  Oh.


Him:  We sang a song called ‘Read More Books’ once.  The infants had written it for an assembly.

Me:  Ha!

In the pub, everyday folk are watching the news.  It’s being read by Kenneth Kendall.

Me:  He was an actual newsreader of the time.

Him:  Is that not the same guy who was on Monty Python?

Me:  No.

A War Machine has broken.

Me:  It’s running Windows, more likely.  Sudden Blue Screen of Death and it’s lights out for WOTAN.


Me:  Shall I just write, “The Doctor wins, Ben and Polly force their way aboard the TARDIS and Season Three finally finishes”?

Him:  Yeah.  And then we can stop watching it.  Do we even see Dodo again?

Me:  No.  She’s been gone for a fortnight now.

Him:  Is that it?

Me:  Yeah.  She’s left.

Him:  That was a terrible goodbye.  This is the one after The Savages isn’t it?

Me:  Yeah.

Him:  He’s losing companions like mad again.

Me:  I know.

There’s some more gorgeous footage.

Me:  That’s so clear.

Humanity’s told to stay indoors.

Ben says something contentious.

Me:  ‘Bird’?  Oh dear.

More lovely footage as a War Machine is trapped in a makeshift boxing ring full of magnetic energy.
"Careful, lads!  If it makes it to the bike we've had it!"

Me:  “I wouldn’t like to meet one of those down a dark alley.”

Hartnell makes a good fist of it.

Me:  It’s desperate.  I feel so sorry for him.

Him:  I’m so bored.

The Doctor and Sircharles congratulate each other on being great.

Him:  It’s almost as bad as The Sensorites.

Me:  It is, isn’t it?

Him:  I can’t do it.

Me:  You got through The Daleks’ Master Plan.

Him:  That wasn’t boring.

Me:  We’re nearly there.

Him:  Has The Three Doctors been yet?

Me:  I reckon that takes place during Reign of Terror, myself.

Him:  When?

Me:  Just after Tegan saves the Doctor.

The Doctor and Sircharles go for a ride.

Him:  What did he say?

Me:  Who cares?

Him:  Are they riding in the War Machine?

Me:  Ha!  No.  They’re in a studio car.

At the Post Office Tower.  Ben bursts in and saves Polly.  The captured and subsequently reprogrammed War Machine we saw earlier follows closely behind.

Me:  It’s awful.

Death and bangs occur.  The scientists are now free from WOTAN’s control.  Which is nice.

Ben and Polly catch up with the Doctor just next to the TARDIS.  Dodo sends her love.

Him:  “Her love?  Uuuurgh!”

Me:  I’m knackered.  You alright?

Him:  Uh huh.  So, is Dodo dead?

Me:  No, she’s convalescing somewhere.

And so, the Doctor wins, Ben and Polly force their way aboard the TARDIS and Season Three finally finishes.

1.  This is a lie.  But it is a very good song.  One day, if you’re good, I’ll tell you why.

2.  This is just a lie.


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