Saturday, 25 June 2016

123 The War Machines: Episode One

EPISODE: The War Machines: Episode One
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 25 June 1966
WRITER: Ian Stuart Black & Kit Pedler
DIRECTOR: Michael Ferguson
PRODUCER: Innes Lloyd
RATINGS: 5.4 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who: The War Machines


We're back on DVD! When I started writing this Blog there were two Hartnell stories I was really looking forward to doing. This is the first of them.

vlcsnap-2015-03-19-10h09m08s205 The Tardis lands in Bedford Square in Central London with the Doctor hanging an "Out of Order" sign on the door to prevent Policemen trying to gain entry. The Doctor & Dodo go to The Post Office Tower where the Doctor feels an alien presence, which he describes as similar to the pricking sensation he gets when Daleks are near. The Doctor & Dodo are taken to Professor Brett by Major Green and are shown Brett's new computer WOTAN which will be announced at a press conference later that day. The Doctor & Dodo test WOTAN, who tells Dodo via teleprinter what the word TARDIS means. While in the room with WOTAN Dodo starts to feel a little odd and can hear an odd electronic buzzing noise. Brett's secretary Polly looks after her and takes her to the Inferno nightclub. Bar lady Kitty introduces Polly to sailor Ben Jackson. He's miserable because his hip has sailed for the West Indies leaving him behind on a shore posting. Ben saves Polly from a man in the club giving her hustle. Doctor takes a taxi to the Scientific club for the press conference announcing C-day, when all computers will be linked to WOTAN via telephone. The Doctor is worried by some of the things he's hearing. Sir Charles Summer, giving the press conference, is concerned that Professor Brett has not arrived. He is still in the office at the Post Office Tower with WOTAN. Brett tells Major Green that he thinks he's being watched. When Green leaves Brett hears a hypnotic electric tone and falls under the control of an unseen force. In the club Dodo has headache again and feels she can hear a high pitched hum. Brett arrives at the Press conference speaking very stiffly and demands to speak with his colleague Professor Krimpton. Green, checking on the security for WOTAN, hears the same hypnotic tone and falls under the same influence as Brett. He calls Dodo at the Inferno Club and she too is hypnotised. Brett brings Krimpton to WOTAN who explains that he now serves WOTAN who is going to take over the world. Green enters and Krimpton, after resisting, falls under the influence revealed to be coming from WOTAN. Ben & Polly realise Dodo is missing as the Doctor arrives at the Nightclub. Brett explains a special human brain is needed to serve WOTAN. Dodo enters and WOTAN explains that DOCTOR WHO IS REQUIRED - BRING HIM HERE!

Wow. That was fantastic stuff.

We've spent three years worth of episodes wandering time and the universe with the Doctor and finally, as we near the end of the Hartnell era, do we come back to the London of now for a prolonged visit. We've had one story set in contemporary England, but the Tardis crew were miniaturised for that, and a couple of brief visits during The Dalek Masterplan & The Massacre. We've dealt with a menace in London before, but that was two hundred years into the future. Here in 1960's London, the Doctor slots straight in, making you wonder if he spent some time meeting people during his previous stay in 1963, prior to An Unearthly Child, and also making you think how long was he here for then? Certainly long enough to register his Granddaughter at the local school.

vlcsnap-2015-03-19-17h26m27s154Yet it looks so odd and alien to see Hartnell wandering round London, very much emphasised by the scene where he enters the Inferno Club, with him descending the stairs be-caped, while everyone else in the club looks about a third of Hartnell's age.

The Doctor is then mistaken for "that disc jockey", presumably Jimmy Savile!

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Straight from the off this story is a bit different. Instead of the usual captions over the pictures we've got some groovy computer like serial name graphics after the titles.

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Then we're straight into the largest location shoot the series has attempted so far starting with a lovely tracking shot of London, taken from the top of Centre Point Tower in central London located over Tottenham Court Road Tube station. If you're a science fiction fan you'll have been there because most of London's comic and science fiction book shops are located in it's vicinity. The tracking shot's a great little touch as it's reminiscent of the shot used in An Unearthly Child when the Tardis leaves London. We start looking east, down High Holborn and pan clockwiswe over the British Museum to finally pan down to Bedford Square where the Tardis materialises.

I had great problems with the above screen captures: I wanted to put the High Holborn shot on the left, because you saw it first. Yet the pan shot is too the left so I had to swap them so they made geographical sense!

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We then see the Doctor walking down Conway Street where he catches sight of The Post Office Tower, like Centerpoint newly completed in 1966 when this story is filmed & set. The Post Office Tower is the one location they would like to have filmed at for this story and couldn't: at the time it came under the auspices of the Official Secrets Act which prevented filming there.

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DOCTOR: So that's it!
DODO: What? Oh, the tower. It's finished!
DOCTOR: Isn't that interesting. Very interesting.
DODO: It's great, isn't it. Stephen would have liked it here.
DOCTOR: You know there's something alien about that tower. I can sense it.
DODO: Smells okay to me. Good old London smoke.
DOCTOR: I can feel it's got something sort of powerful. It's. Look at my skin. Look at that. I've got that pricking sensation again, the same. Just as I had when I saw the Daleks, those Daleks were near.
So how come he's never mentioned the prickling sensation when the Daleks are near before ????

Actually it might not be the Post Office Tower causing this. As we'll learn in a year's time there is an occasional Dalek presence in London at this time!

DODO: Daleks? Who are they?
DOCTOR: Oh, er, yes, of course, you, er, you didn't meet them, did you, child? No. No, and I pray that you never will. I really must investigate it.
Almost a tiny bit of foreshadowing there! Dodo leaves this story and becomes the first Doctor Who companion NOT to meet the Daleks. The others who don't are Zoe, Liz Shaw, Leela, K-9, Romana 1, Adric, Nyssa and Mel.

Once we get to the tower the Doctor & Dodo are taken to Professor Brett by Major Green

GREEN: Professor Brett.
BRETT: Ah, Doctor! I understand from Major Green you're a specialist in computer development.
So three options here: The first is The Doctor has just bluffed his way past Major Green who is either providing security or being some sort of government liaison. It's not clear which but either role should have prevented a stranger turning up on the doorstep and demanding access to a project like this! Another is that The Doctor has some sort of scientific credentials in this era that would allow Green to let him past. Possible, but Brett hasn't previously heard of him and neither, bar the introduction he receives from Brett, has Sir Charles. The third, and most intriguing, option is that the Doctor has met Major Green before and is trusted by him. So what was the Doctor getting up to in London in 1963?

It's in the Post Office tower that we meet the computer which will form the heart of this story's problem and a young lady destined to be one of the Doctor's next companions:

vlcsnap-2015-03-20-21h39m42s86 BRETT: Look, this is my secretary, Polly.
DODO: Hello, Polly.
POLLY: How do you do.
BRETT: Now Polly's pretty smart, a cracking typist, right? (Polly pulls a face) Also rather a cheeky one at times. Well now this machine, which I call WOTAN.
DOCTOR: You call what?
BRETT: "Vo tan." Spelt W O T A N. Will Operating Thought ANalogue.
DOCTOR: Oh, yes, yes, quite so.
BRETT: Well now, WOTAN can not only think faster than Polly or myself, it can also type faster.
DODO: True?
POLLY: Afraid so, and it never makes mistakes, wretched thing!
DOCTOR: Are you seriously telling me, sir, that you have invented a machine that can think?
DOCTOR: And never makes mistakes?
BRETT: Never.
Of course it then promptly makes a mistake:
DOCTOR: I take it that I speak into here.
BRETT: Yes, that's right, Doctor.
DOCTOR: Er, what is the square route of 17422?
BRETT: Correct?
DOCTOR: One moment please. 131 point 993. Yes, that's near enough. Yes, it's truly remarkable.
The square route of 17422 is 131.9924 to four decimal places. Rounding up to 3, as the number is given by WOTAN, would give 131.992!
DODO: May I try it now?
BRETT: Certainly, go ahead.
DODO: Now let's see, you funny looking contraption. Here's one you'll never get. What does the word Tardis mean? Doctor?
DOCTOR: Well, what did it say my dear?
DODO: Got it right. Time And Relative Dimensions In Space.
DOCTOR: Good heavens! Let me see. Well now, how would it know that?
Can of worms, open. When Susan defined the acronym TARDIS in An Unearthly Child it stood for Time And Relative Dimension In Space. Dimension singular. From here on it's almost always plural!

The walk to the Post Office Tower has obviously tired the Doctor out because he takes a cab back to Bedford Square, where the Tardis landed, to attend the conference at The Royal Scientific club.

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If you look on Doctor Who: The War Machines DVD there's an excellent Then & Now feature on the locations in this story! also has a good pictorial guide.

SUMMER: Gentleman, ladies, may I have your attention please? Well, you're heard the backroom boys, now it's about time you my turn. C Day, that is Computer Day, will be next Monday, July the 16th, that is in four days time. Now on that date all the computer systems in this country, and subsequently in the whole world will come under the control of this central computer which we call WOTAN. Now, as you've heard, that will have both peaceful and military implications. I need hardly tell you that this is a great step forward for Britain, and indeed I may say, for the whole world. Now, have you got any questions?
STONE: Roy Stone, New York Sketch.
SUMMER: Fire away.
STONE: Sir, doesn't this put a great deal of power into the hands of whoever operates WOTAN?
SUMMER: No one operates WOTAN. WOTAN operates itself. The computer is merely a brain which thinks logically without any political or private ends. It is pure thought. It makes calculations, it supplies only the truth. It has no imaginative powers.
STONE: Is there no way of fixing it so it can give the wrong answers?
SUMMER: There would be no point. Now don't forget that a computer like WOTAN is not a human being.
STONE: Oh, but surely, sir
SUMMER: It has no reason to suppress the truth, it has no emotions. It is our soul.
STONE: It seems to me by the way you're talking, sir, that this machine can think for itself like a human being.
SUMMER: It can. Only much more accurately.
STONE: But sir, I mean, isn't this kinda risky? I mean, suppose it decides it can do without people, what then?
SUMMER: I hardly think it'll come to that. I'm sure that Professor Brett and his team will have the machine well under control.
I've repeatedly said that producer Innes Lloyd and script editor Gerry Davis were saddled with several stories which began life under the previous regime. This is the first story 100% down to them. An early decision was to set more stories on contemporary Earth. Wanting to ground the series more in reality and scientific fact they tried to recruit a scientific advisor for the show. The man they settled on was Doctor Christopher "Kit" Peddler. A medical doctor by training Pedler had become interested in the eye and was at this point was the head of the electron microscopy department at the Institute of Ophthalmology of the University of London. He'd appeared on Tomorrow's World and as a result had become a "go to" for scientific opinion. For more on Pedler read Michael Seeley's superb The Quest for Pedler.

Amoung the questions Davies asked his candidates was "What would happen if the Post Office Tower took over?", the Tower being newly completed and in the news. Peddler came up with the idea of the computer in the tower controlling Robotic agents, and the concept of it being linked to other computers by Telephone. Wiklipedia's History of the Internet confirms work was in progress at the time into connecting computers by telephone making this aspect of the story reflect contemporary cutting edge research and predating the Green Death's Boss by seven years and the Terminator's Skynet by eighteen years. At the time of writing no computer connected to the internet has yet attempted to take over the world.

vlcsnap-2015-03-19-16h50m01s52But while the Doctor is at the news conference we're busy meeting the Doctor's other forthcoming companion, able seaman Ben Jackson. I like the idea that this isn't the first time he and Polly have met and that he took a shine to her on a previous visit to the Inferno and has been lurking there since in the hope of meeting her again.

It's while she's in the Inferno that Dodo receives the phone call that completes her take over by WOTAN. Unlike Brett, Green & Krimpton we don't get to hear Eric Siday's Musique Electronique: Hypnotic when she's possessed.

We know that something's wrong with WOTAN but threat isn't made 100% obvious till the closing moments of the episode when WOTAN speaks for the first time giving some suspense to proceedings.

BRETT: There is one special human brain that WOTAN needs. The task of leading this brain here to serve WOTAN will be an extremely delicate matter. It has been arranged.
GREEN: Someone is coming.
BRETT: The fourth member called here to receive orders.
BRETT: The Doctor's secretary.

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DODO: What are my instructions?
WOTAN: Doctor Who is required. Bring him here.

One of the other things this story has that sets it apart is the shear number of people who are in it: In addition to the regular cast, both existing and new, over 70 individuals appear onscreen, some in more than one role, and there's a large number of extras in episodes 1, 3 & 4! So it makes sense to look at the main cast and the new companions during episode 2.

There's a couple of cast credited members only in this episode. One of them is a first Doctor Who appearance for Ric Felgate who's credited as American Journalist but named as Roy Stone of the New York Sketch. He returns as Brent in The Seeds of Death Episodes One to Four and The Ambassadors of Death where he plays both Astronaut Van Lyden and his alien counterpart. All three of his Doctor Who appearances were directed by Michael Ferguson who is directing his first story here. Ric Felgate was married to Cynthia Felgate one of the creative forces behind Play School. Fergusson went on to be a producer on both The Bill, at the height of it's popularity, and Eastenders, where he was responsible for introducing the Mitchell brothers to the show.

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On the right is the only other member of the press corps with a speaking role so I'm assuming that's John Doye as the Interviewer. He was an uncredited cowboy in Don't Shoot the Pianist, Johnny Ringo & The O.K. Corral, the second, third and fourth episodes of The Gunfighters. To his left is Sam Mansary, an uncredited Journalist. He was an Alien Delegate in Mission to the Unknown and m'learned colleagues are reasonably certain that that delegate is Beaus. He'll be back as an uncredited African Diplomat in Day of the Daleks: Episode Four. Mansary was in one of the earliest pieces of television science fiction when he appeared in the A for Andromeda episode The Murderer as Fitter and he later appears in Kit Pedler & Gerry Davies' creation Doomwatch as a Man the episode Public Enemy. Amongst the rest of the journalists we have Jack Rowlands, also down on IMDB as Interviewer, who was an extra in The Myth Makers episode 2: Small Prophet, Quick Return and Graham Tonbridge who was in The Massacre episode 3: Priest of Death as a Council Member. The Massacre also had a large number of extras and you'll see episodes of that keep popping up on supporting artist's resumes in this story!

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Meanwhile amongst the hip young things boogying the night away in The Inferno Club we have Alan Norburn was previously a Guardian in The Ark 3 & 4, The Return and The Bomb, as was Victor Munt who'll return as a UNIT Soldier in Doctor Who and the Silurians: Episode 3. He's got a Adam Adamant Lives! to his name as a Partygoer/Tourist in Death Has a Thousand Faces and a Doomwatch as a Man in In the Dark. Barry Noble, another Inferno Customer, was an Egyptian Warrior in Dalek Masterplan 9: Escape Switch, a Parisian Man in The Massacre 3: Priest of Death and will return as a Cyberman in The Moonbase episode 4. Also previously participating in the same The Massacre episode are Nigel James, who was a guard, and Peter Stewart a Parisian in Rue des Fosses St. Germain who here plays the Policeman who approaches the Tardis!

Amongst the Inferno customers with no other Doctor Who appearances we find Tina Simmons, who's got a woman in Doomwatch: By the Pricking of My Thumbs... on her CV and Valerie Shelton, a Person in Beauty Salon in Adam Adamant Lives!: The Resurrectionists. Chris Reck MIGHT be an Inferno Customer or "Man in News Room" according to IMDB. Does that mean a journalist at the press conference or is IMDB confusing his appearance in episode 4 as a Reporter? He was also in Adam Adamant Lives!: Death Has a Thousand Faces as another Partygoer/Tourist. Finally George Wilder, who can be seen in the back of some scenes as Kennedy, Sir Charles Summers chauffeur, was in Quatermass and the Pit: The Wild Hunt as a Civil Servant. It's worth pointing this out because, as Evil of the Daleks will show us, at the very same time another man named Kennedy is under instructions to steal the Tardis!

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