|Reviews for The War Machines|
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|An Odd Mix... Seeds of the Future?|
|By:||Doug, Pocono Summit, PA, USA|
|Date:||Monday 3 September 2007|
|Rating: || 7|
In The War Machines, The Doctor and Dodo find that they have arrived back in contemporary (1966) London, and immediately the Doctor senses something sinister at work nearby, in the Post Office Tower. It turns out that what he had sensed, in a manner similar to what he experiences when Daleks are nearby, was the supercomputer WOTAN (Will Operating Thought ANalogue), which has artificial intelligence (i.e. the ability to reason on its own terms). WOTAN promptly begins to hypnotize people, taking over their minds to such an extent that they build 'war machines' for the superbrain that are meant to control or destroy humanity.
It's kind of difficult to critically review The War Machines. Some elements of the production are intriguing and work really well, while other aspects really do not work well. One rather interesting part of the plot is the Doctor's easy familiarity with high-level government authorities, as if he has been known to them and respected by them for some time. This is something the viewer did not see in previous episodes, and bears more similarity to The Avengers than to Doctor Who, as seen up to that point. Intriguing, but curiously inexplicable. Nevertheless, this works well and is one of the better features of the story, and seems almost a precursor of the Doctor's affiliation with UNIT that would develop and follow in future seasons.
On the other hand, Dodo, the companion who received what was arguably the single worst introduction into the series, back at the end of The Massacre, here receives what is arguably the worst sendoff any companion ever had in the series' history. After being hypnotized and manipulated by WOTAN, Dodo's hypnotic state is broken by the Doctor, who sends her away to the countryside in episode 2 to rest and recover, and this is the last we see of her. In addition to this, WOTAN repeatedly refers to the Doctor as "Doctor Who," which struck me as being totally absurd the first time I viewed this story, and now just seems amusingly strange (but still ridiculous, I guess). Other quibbles would include the impossibly fast reporting of the tramp's death and the highly improbable picture of him in the paper, the impossible 'W' labeling on the boxes containing the war machine parts (not to mention the ridiculous speed of the startup of the production operation), the lack of an explanation for how the war machine reprogrammed by the Doctor is able to reach the upper floor of the Post Office Tower, and the uninspired casting and introduction of Ben and Polly as the new companions.
Back on the plus side, being set in (the at the time) contemporary London of 1966 makes this story rather more interesting than many that had come before it; the visual style of the entire production, and the vocal effects of WOTAN are just cool; and the special 'War Machines' graphic intro to each episode is a fresh approach that gets one's attention and lends the entire production a sort of higher energy and attractiveness.
Overall, style and experimental elements make The War Machines too interesting to give a low rating, but the troublesome script elements significantly take away from what was in other respects a very nicely-executed production. A qualified 7 out of 10.