Doctor Who, The War Machines, 1966
The War Machines is the ninth and final story in Doctor Who’s third season. It would be William Hartnell’s final full season, he would go on to feature in the first two stories of season four before that historic regeneration scene. The story ran for four episodes and would be the final appearance for Jackie Lane as Dodo. It also introduces the characters of Ben and Polly who would go on to travel with both the first Doctor and, after his regeneration, the second.
The idea for the story came from Kit Pedler who was being interviewed for a position as science adviser to the series. All of the interviewees were asked what would happen if the recently built Post Office Tower somehow took over. Pedler suggested that it would be the work of a rogue computer that communicated with the outside world by means of the telephone system.
The producers liked the idea and not only offered Pedler the job but developed the idea into a script (one of the few to feature a ‘Story Idea by’ credit). Pat Dunlop was initially hired to write a full script from Pedler’s idea, but quit after becoming busy with other work and the scripts were subsequently written by Ian Stuart Black, who had written the previous story.
Only one War Machine prop was actually constructed; the production team changed the numbers, to represent the different machines.
The TARDIS arrives in London in 1966 and the Doctor and his assistant Dodo visit the Post Office Tower. There they meet Professor Brett who’s invented a revolutionary new computer called the WONTAN (Will Operating Thought Analogue), which is capable of independent thought.
Soon enough though, in the manner of newly sentient computers everywhere, the WONTAN decides that humans are inferior and that it’s time for machines to rule over them. It sets about constructing a fleet of war machines to take over the world, using its hypnotic powers.
Can the Doctor reprogram them before its too late?
William Hartnell – The Doctor
Jackie Lane – Dodo Chaplett
Michael Craze – Ben Jackson
Anneke Wills – Polly
Gerald Taylor – War Machine Operator/Voice of Wotan
Written By: Ian Stuart Black, from a story by Kit Pedler
Script Editor: Gerry Davis
Produced By: Innes Lloyd
Original Transmission Dates: 25th June – 16th July 1966