Doctor Who – The War Machines

I’m way behind with my Doctor Who DVD reviews, it seems. And as there are going to be loads of classic series releases this year[1], I’d better start catching up now, before I’m buried in the things. And don’t think I’ve forgotten about the Complete Fourth Series DVD set – it’s on my pile!

Anyway, back to the backlog for this one that was released in August. It’s that comparative rarity – a black and white story from the days of the First Doctor, William Hartnell. It was first shown in summer 1966, and is set in what was then contemporary, and is now sort of historic, London. Events centre around the then shiny and new Post Office Tower (or the Dark Tower, as I generally refer to it[2]). And something nasty is lurking in the tower[4] – WOTAN, a super computer which quite naturally has Ideas about running the world, stopping people being themselves, and quite generally being a bit annoying. It has some quite nasty robots to help it get its way (those would be the War Machines, then), and seems unstoppable…

Quite apart from the interesting locations, the story sees the off-screen departure of one companion (Dodo) and the arrival of two new ones (Ben and Polly). It also sees the only on-screen reference to the Doctor as “Doctor Who”, but that was by WOTAN, so it was probably just a computer error. :smile: As with all stories of the period, it’s constrained by the budget and the brutal filming schedule (the series was on for most of the year in those days, so there was little time…), but if you accept it for what it is, there’s a lot to enjoy. Hartnell was at his best, and the new companions are moderately believable.

There’s a nice collection of extras, too.

Now and then – the ever-popular look at how the locations have changed. I’ve been around that part of London many times, and much of it is quite unchanged…

Blue Peter – lots of Post Office Tower clips, from Val Singleton showing off new stamps showing the tower and Christopher Trace visiting it to a War Machine visiting the studio

One Foot in the Past – a clip from the much-missed architectural show, featuring Tony Benn talking about the history of the Tower, and showing that the long-closed revolving restaurant still works.

And more – the usual production subtitles, photo galleries and other bits

[1] Including a couple I’m quite excited about :bouncy: :bouncy:
[2] Except when I’m being extra geeky[3] and call it Barad Dûr, of course
[3] OK, so that’s most of the time…
[4] Much the same as today, really…