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3.10 The War Machines

First Doctor with Dodo, Ben and Polly
Follows on from Season One, Season Two, Galaxy Four, Mission to the Unknown, The Myth Makers, The Daleks' Master Plan, The Massacre, The Ark, The Celestial Toymaker, The Gunfighters and The Savages

DOCTOR: The official mind can only take in so much at a time.


Like The Time Meddler before it, The War Machines closes the season out with the dawn of a whole new era for the show, as, following on from Steven's departure in The Savages, the companion baton now passes from granddaughter-figure Dodo to the trendy young adult pairing of Ben and Polly. I always feel bad for Dodo, because there was plenty of potential in her bubbly, light-hearted personality and actress Jackie Lane tried her hardest with weak material, but the character was poorly conceived from the start and never really recovered. Ben and Polly, on the other hand, are instantly engaging. They sparkle, both as individuals and as a pairing, full of promise to take into the new season.

Dodo's poorly written departure is the main weakness, for me, in what is otherwise an entertaining outing for the Doctor, these last two adventures a real return to form for Hartnell after a season marred by behind-the-scenes strife. There's a very fresh, new feel about this adventure, which is quite different from anything that's gone before. It's the first Doctor Who story ever to be set in present-day London, with lots of fabulous location filming to set the scene, and also sees the Doctor, here at his most proactive, working in partnership with the authorities in a way that's almost proto-UNIT – in that sense, the story is years ahead of its time, even if the concept of a sentient computer running amuck isn't exactly original.

After so many missing episodes and recons, it is a real relief to be able to round out the season with four complete episodes. This is the last complete serial of the Hartnell era and the only complete serial of Ben and Polly's too-brief time on the show.

The plot, in a nutshell, is this: landing in London in 1966, Dodo is glad to be home, while the Doctor learns that a powerful computer has set its sights on world domination and enlists the aid of new companions Ben and Polly to save the day.

Writer – Ian Stuart Black / Kit Pedler
Director – Michael Ferguson
Script editor – Gerry Davis
Producer – Innes Lloyd
Aired – 25 June-16 July 1966


Random thoughts while watching:

Episode One

Although this is the last adventure of the season, it really feels like the start of something new, right from the moment the cleverly animated title card comes up, customised for this particular story, all funky and creative and different – such customised title cards will become a regular theme of the Troughton years, but I think I'm right in saying this is the first time the gimmick was used. Then the story itself opens with an aerial panning shot over what was then current day London – a real departure for the show. The shot zooms in on a street corner, just as the TARDIS materialises – it's a fantastic effect for 1966.

As the Doctor and Dodo exit the TARDIS, Dodo is delighted to find herself home, this reaction perhaps foreshadowing her later decision to stay. Well, as blasé as she was about being carried off into time and space, and despite having taken her adventures pretty much in her stride, it's not as if she actually chose to leave in the first place. She'd be even more delighted if she knew how impossible it was for the Doctor to get Ian and Barbara home to 1960s London not so long ago! Yet this is already the second time he's been there since they left! You could read quite a bit into that, if you chose – did he perhaps subconsciously not want to bring them back, does he now subconsciously feel drawn to them? Dodo wistfully remarks that Steven would have liked it here. I'm not so sure, personally – he didn't seem to enjoy the fleeting visit he made to the 1960s during The Daleks' Master Plan, but it's nice to have that little mention of him, to remind us of his very recent departure and reassure us that his friends have not forgotten him.

The newly built Post Office Tower is visible from where the TARDIS has landed. Dodo observes that it wasn't finished when she left, so we know time has passed since the fateful day she ran into the TARDIS, while the Doctor is perturbed, sensing a strange kind of energy about it – he's all agitated and excited about this, while Dodo just laughs at him, amused by this reaction. There's a nice little call-back to his past encounters with the Daleks, as he recalls feeling just this same unease then, and we are reminded that Dodo has never met the Daleks, so is confused by the reference – it's a nice little note of continuity.

I like how the Doctor hangs an 'out of order' sign on the TARDIS door so that any passing policemen won't attempt to use it!

Next thing, the Doctor and Dodo are at the Post Office Tower as honoured guests, being given a tour – it seems the Doctor has introduced himself as an expert in computers, and they've fallen for it. It isn't the first time we've seen him talk his way into a position of power in order to investigate something, but it is the first time it's happened in this sort of present day setting. The Tower is the base for a kind of super-computer called WOTAN, and the Doctor deduces that the sensation he felt outside must have come from that, somehow. We might wonder if this is perhaps a rare manifestation of the latent telepathy of his people first mentioned way back in The Sensorites.

The Doctor introduces Dodo as his secretary, by way of explaining her presence. It's a cover story, part of the pretext used to gain entrance – 'computer expert and secretary' will open a lot more doors in this professional environment than 'time traveller and companion', and follows on from such past cover stories as the 'travelling players' guise in The Gunfighters – but is also, I think, the first time a companion has been cast in the role of official 'assistant' to the Doctor.

Professor Brett explains that his super-computer – which takes up an entire room, bless 1960s computing – is about to be linked up with computers all over the world. This doesn't sound particularly world-shattering to us in the age of the Internet, but would have been cutting edge in 1966. WOTAN is claimed to be a decade ahead of its time – just how Professor Brett achieved this is never explained; presumably he is just that brilliant. WOTAN certainly passes every test thrown at it, even able somehow to extrapolate the meaning of the word 'TARDIS'.

Dodo is introduced to Brett's secretary, Polly, who is tall, blonde and glamorous. I like her immediately: she's bright, breezy and full of down-to-Earth humour. The two girls strike up an instant friendship, which I always like to see. But then Dodo seems to go into something of a trance, staring blankly at the computer – the first hint of trouble ahead. Polly takes her for a sit down and they chat, and just like that the Bechdel test is passed, nice and early in the story: two named women having a casual chat that does not revolve around a man. If only every episode could manage it so effortlessly.

Dodo ruefully admits to being very out of touch and decides that what she'd really like to do is check out the hottest spot in town. Heh. All those adventures through time and space, and now she's home all she wants to do is go clubbing while the Doctor investigates the computer! She doesn't mention her old life once – not much time has passed since she left, but it has been a while, yet there's no mention of the great-aunt she lived with or whatever job she left behind. She just wants to go out and have fun, be a normal young person in London again.

Clocking off for the day, Polly takes Dodo to a club called Inferno, run by a friend of hers named Kitty who immediately enlists Polly's help to cheer up a young sailor who's taken to moping around at the end of the bar over the last few days. Here's where we meet Able-Seaman Ben Jackson, as Polly launches herself into the fray, playful and flirtatious and fun. She's cajoled a smile out of Ben in no time, and he admits the source of his woes: he's been landed with a shore posting for six months, while his ship (HMS Teazer, according to his hat) has sailed for the West Indies without him, and he is not happy about it. It's a fun, effective, very natural way to introduce the character, and immediately we understand that Ben is an active, adventurous young man who joined the Navy because he wants to see the world, and is frustrated with the comparative inactivity of a shore posting – all good qualities in a prospective new companion! Polly teases him for a bit, then moves on – only to immediately be harassed by a drunk clubber, whereupon Ben comes dashing to the rescue, and then the pair bicker in the aftermath.

I really like how much time is spent establishing Ben and Polly here, in their home setting. We aren't told anything about their family backgrounds, Polly doesn't even get a surname, but we are shown both exactly who they are, as individuals, and how they relate to one another, meeting as strangers and establishing a rapport. I just really like that a 4-part adventure has time to establish these new characters like that before plunging them into the thick of the action. The slow build-up really works well for this kind of thing.

The Doctor, meanwhile, pays a visit to the Royal Scientific Club, where a press conference about WOTAN is being held by a Sir Charles Summer. For just about the first time in the show's history, we are told the exact date: the launch of WOTAN takes place in four days' time on 16 July, which means this is 12 July. Ha, I love the little diagram of all the computers worldwide about that come under the central control of WOTAN – including Telstar, Cape Kennedy and the White House! While the Doctor lurks around, listening and pondering, the organisers fret because Professor Brett is late.

Meanwhile, working late at the Tower, Brett admits to security chief Major Green that he can't shake the feeling that someone is watching him… And that would be because someone is watching him: WOTAN. Once he is alone, it pulls him in, a nifty in-camera effect employed to convey the hypnotic effect of the computer as it invades and takes over his mind. Just how a computer built in 1966 is able to think for itself and hypnotise humans is not explained, but the story was very topical in the 1960s, when computers were new and exciting yet also little worrying, in the way that all powerful new technology is worrying. The idea of a computer becoming so powerful it decides to wipe out mankind and rule the world itself has been a common trope in science fiction over the years.

The hypnotised Brett creates quite a sensation by marching into the press conference to collect Professor Krimpton, an electronics expert, and then marching back out with him without speaking to the assembled reporters at all. They rush after him, leaving the Doctor to talk to Sir Charles – who was apparently told to expect him. The Doctor really has inveigled himself into proceedings in no time flat.

At the Inferno night club, Dodo is still dancing with Polly and Ben, who has well and truly cheered up now – all Polly's influence, poor Dodo can't claim any credit. She admits to having had a headache ever since leaving Polly's office, and sits out when Ben sweeps Polly off for another dance. Meanwhile at the Tower, Major Green is hypnotised by WOTAN and makes a phone call – to the Inferno night club, where Kitty tells Dodo the call is for her. How did Green know she was there? Perhaps he didn't, but WOTAN did. How? Probably best not to ask. As soon as Dodo picks up, Green connects the phone to WOTAN – and Dodo is hypnotised over the phone line, possibly activating conditioning implanted earlier, when she went into that semi-trance near the machine. And that's pretty much it for Dodo – this is the last we see of her, hypnosis-free and herself. She leaves the club without a word to a soul.

Escorting Krimpton to WOTAN, Brett blankly spouts the computer's doctrine: that mankind has broken down and further development is impossible. Krimpton is still arguing the point when WOTAN begins to hypnotise him. He puts up more of a fight than anyone else has to this point, but is subdued.

Back at the night club, Polly is concerned when she can't find Dodo anywhere – and let us note for the record that here is where Ben calls her 'Duchess' for the first time, a nickname she protests, but which well and truly sticks, highlighting the contrast between well-spoken Polly and chirpy Cockney sparrow Ben. They have only just met, but have already struck up an easy rapport, bickering and bantering like old friends. Then the Doctor arrives, startling Kitty – her club doesn't often see anyone over 20! Polly, of course, knows him as Dodo's boss, and has to tell him that Dodo has disappeared.

At the Tower, Brett intones WOTAN's intentions: it desires the service of a very special 'human' brain. It isn't the first time the Doctor has been referred to as human, but his alien origin hadn't been nailed down by the show at this point, and anyway, this era of the show often refers to the population of far-flung worlds as human beings, as well, so we can't read too much into it! Dodo arrives to receive instructions and WOTAN speaks for itself for the first time, issuing an order whose wording has proved very controversial in the years since: "Doctor Who is required! Doctor Who is required!"

So there you have it, canon: his name is Doctor Who! Hehe.

It makes for a solid first episode cliffhanger, but does beg the question of a) why WOTAN didn't make a play for the Doctor's mind when he was here earlier – it did, after all, manage to partially hook Dodo despite all the others in the room at the time, and b) why WOTAN has started hypnotising people into its control on the very day the Doctor turned up, and not before.

Episode Two

WOTAN sends the hypnotised Dodo off to fetch the Doctor, while Brett issues orders to Green and Krimpton: WOTAN has decided that it must take control within the next few days, keeping some humans alive to serve the machines while the rest are eliminated. Nice! London will be the first target, and to that end 'War Machines' will be built – mobile computers, in effect. Skilled labour will be recruited in much the same way Dodo was – 'thought control' down the phone lines. Recruitment of the Doctor is the highest priority, of course – and they are still calling him 'Doctor Who'. Well, it's the name he's given in the credits, after all! The kids watching would have known who they meant and not worried about the legitimacy of the name in the slightest!

At the Inferno club, it is locking up time and Dodo has not reappeared. Polly and Ben have hung around to help, or not as the case maybe, and Polly is just about to start phoning hospitals when Dodo herself turns up as if nothing has happened, rudely brushing off all enquiries as to where she has been. The Doctor has had an invitation to stay with Sir Charles Summer and is anxious to be off, but is puzzled by Dodo's disgruntled reaction when Ben hurries off in search of a taxi for them, thwarting her own plans – hypnotised into working against the Doctor, this is the most interesting Dodo has ever been, bless her. On this showing, Jackie Lane could certainly have done far more with the character than she was ever allowed.

Dodo tries to lure the Doctor off into the waiting arms of some of WOTAN's newly-recruited chloroform-wielding henchmen, only to be foiled by Ben again, returning with a taxi. In a seemingly throwaway little exchange, a tramp gets out of the taxi and kind-hearted Polly makes change for him to pay his fare. The Doctor, Polly and a disgruntled Dodo all pile in, Polly makes plans to meet Ben for lunch tomorrow (even if he is no 'Deb's delight'; they really are cute) and they head off, leaving Ben to have a little chat with the tramp before heading home himself.

The tramp is more important than he seems at first glance – more than just a drop of added interest to season the story, he is about to become WOTAN's first victim, in fact. Letting himself into a seemingly disused warehouse for the night, he stumbles upon one of WOTAN's bases of operation – already bustling with activity, WOTAN doesn't waste any time, but we'll just handwave the slight implausibility of all this getting set up so quickly. They can't have the tramp raising the alarm, so he is killed – WOTAN is ruthless. Here we also get our first glimpse of an eponymous War Machine – not quite as fearsome-looking as the dramatic musical sting would have us believe!

Next morning, over breakfast at the Summer residence, the Doctor is perturbed to recognise a photograph in the morning paper – it is the tramp from last night, who has been found dead. You'd think the WOTANites would have been smart enough to conceal the body. You might also wonder why the death of a tramp would make headlines – and how the paper got hold of such a good photograph so fast, within hours of the man's death. The Doctor wonders if it is significant, but Sir Charles is more interested in the numerous letters of resignation he has received from various leading scientists and engineers, none of whom have been seen since last night.

I'm very impressed by the mail service, by the way – none of those letters could have been posted much before midnight, well after last collection, yet Sir Charles is reading them over breakfast! WOTAN is efficient, I guess.

Polly unexpectedly turns up, having been sent to work for Sir Charles for the day by Major Green, for no readily apparent reason – it's a device to have her present for the conversations that follow. When Dodo arrives downstairs, Polly greets her with friendly warmth, but Dodo is cold and distant – still hypnotised. Polly doesn't know her well enough to know how out of character this is, and the Doctor is distracted, doesn't yet notice anything amiss. Dodo is anxious to get the Doctor to Professor Brett, coaxing and goading, as subtly yet firmly as she is capable of. He still sees nothing amiss and agrees to telephone Brett's office – but is promptly switched through to WOTAN, who of course can hypnotise over the phone.

Good thing, then, that the Doctor isn't human and is able to resist the attempt on his mind, although he does have what looks almost like a seizure, much to Sir Charles's alarm. Dodo believes the Doctor is now under WOTAN's control and hastens to pass on a message – and the Doctor, very much not hypnotised, finally realises that something is wrong with her. He breaks the hypnosis and puts her to sleep, and Sir Charles offers to send her down to his house in the country for his wife to look after as she recovers.

And that's that for Dodo, pretty much. It's a shame – she wasn't a well written character, but she deserved better than to go out with a whimper like this. Sir Charles, it must be said, is remarkably generous to these complete strangers! And Hartnell is in fine form – he's full of energy in this story, his Doctor positively sparking with fascination as he ponders over the information he's gleaned from Dodo.

Ooh, more location film shots of planes landing and supplies being offloaded – WOTAN's plans are well underway. For the last adventure of the season, this feels remarkably high budget. In a warehouse somewhere, the first of the War Machines is fitted with destructive weapons for testing. They work. WOTAN is ruthless and thus so are the hypnotised human slaves – it's rather chilling, in spite of the dodgy 1966 effects and inability to retake scenes meaning that the fatal blast of gas looks uncannily like a miss…

But WOTAN is still anxious to locate and recruit Doctor Who. Since Dodo has failed to deliver him, the WOTANites realise they must employ other means – and who should walk right into their hands at the Post Office Tower just at that moment but Polly, come to see what's going on having been puzzled by the Doctor's claims of some terrible danger at her office. She realises too late that he was right.

Some time later, Ben finds his way to Sir Charles' house in search of Polly, who has missed their lunch date. Stood up on the first date – not a good sign, but Ben is concerned rather than annoyed. The Doctor is also concerned, and enlists Ben's help to investigate further, feeling that he'll attract less suspicion than the police. Ben is only too willing to help.

So Ben returns to the derelict warehouse he saw last night – only to find it humming with activity. More location filming – I love location filming and it happened only rarely in this era. Sneaking into the warehouse, he is shocked to witness further testing of the prototype War Machine, which is cumbersome and unwieldy, but nonetheless dangerous for that – so it's unfortunate for Ben that it spots him!

Episode Three

As the War Machine is deactivated, test complete, Ben runs for his life – but he runs straight into Polly just inside the main door. All her usual life and energy is gone – she is impassive, emotionless. Hypnotised. Ben is too panic-stricken to notice, babbling at her about what he's seen, torn now between twin priorities – to get his information back to the Doctor and get Polly out of this place. He's a very emotional chap, is young Ben. There's no guile or artifice about him whatsoever. He wears his heart very much on his sleeve. Polly locks the door, preventing his escape, and he finally realises something is wrong – grapples with her desperately. But it's no good. Ben is captured.

At the Summer residence, the Doctor is growing concerned that Ben has been gone for so long – he expected news long before now. He still cautions Sir Charles against calling the police, but is reminded that he has no evidence that anything is amiss at all – and the clock is ticking, the big switch-on growing ever closer.

Oddly enough, considering they just slaughtered one of their own purely to see if the War Machine prototype worked, the WOTANites don't kill Ben out of hand, but take time to tell him about their evil plans and why all opposition must be crushed, while Ben rails at them frantically, trying to talk them around. The attempt is futile, of course. Polly, although hypnotised, speaks up in Ben's defence – WOTAN needs labour so Ben can be put to work now and destroyed later, she suggests. Does this suggestion come from WOTAN, or is some tiny spark of Polly's own self bleeding through here? It isn't clear and I like that ambiguity.

Ben still doesn't fully understand – he's half-suspected these people are brainwashed or hypnotised but doesn't entirely grasp what that means. He's too straightforward by nature, full of sincerity as he tries to thank Polly for her intercession – she helped him therefore she must be okay and just playing along, is his reasoning, but Polly remains cold and impassive, instructs him to work. It's funny, because when you break it down, there's a degree of similarity between Ben and Dodo, who was also very straightforward and rarely recognised guile or artifice when she saw it, yet Ben works as a character in a way Dodo never really did.

At the Post Office Tower, Brett and Krimpton exposit that the War Machines will be ready by noon tomorrow, will be programmed to destroy all human life, and that the final order to attack will come from WOTAN.

At the warehouse, the hypnotised slaves are worked ruthlessly – no rest permitted. Exhausted but still hypnotised, Polly doesn't understand why Ben keeps asking if she is okay, showing concern for her – she insists she is well and happy to work for the success of the machines. Ben still doesn't entirely understand what's going on, but he manages to extract quite a bit of information from Polly anyway, and then realises the guard has been taken off the door – hypnotised slaves have no desire to escape, after all, and all hands are needed for this final push. He sees his chance and creeps to the door – looks back to see that Polly has seen him. It's a really nicely played moment – they hold one another's eyes, frozen. Will Polly raise the alarm? But then she turns back to her work – lets Ben escape. There's nothing he can do for her – trying to get her out of here is how he got caught in the first place. He runs for it.

At the Summer house, the Doctor has just been hanging around waiting all day, fretting. He is full of self-recrimination, feeling that after what happened to Dodo he should never have let either Ben or Polly out of his sight. Well, there wasn't much he could do about Polly – she overheard something that worried her and snuck out to investigate without a word to a soul, but he is definitely responsible for Ben, having knowingly sent him into danger simply because he was available, willing and convenient. Ben arrives back at the house at that moment, just about on his knees with exhaustion. He babbles what he knows, frantic.

At the warehouse, Major Green has noticed Ben's disappearance and questions Polly, who can't explain why she allowed him to escape. The word 'friend' strikes a chord – her hypnosis is beginning to break down, as she remembers that Ben was her friend and is distressed. Green sends her back to WOTAN to be punished for her betrayal.

Sir Charles can't believe Ben's incredible story, but the Doctor does, he absolutely does – it confirms his worst fears. Impatient Ben, having seen what he's seen and been horrified by the immediacy of the danger, rails at them both for wasting time, but the Doctor shouts him down as well – they need Sir Charles's help and authority if they are to defeat this menace, he insists. Sir Charles gives in, but while he and Ben argue about whether or not the police can handle the situation, the Doctor points out the bigger problem – the machine in Covent Garden is not the only one, and there is no way of telling where the others are. He feels they should strike at the heart of the menace: WOTAN. Sir Charles sees no evidence linking Brett and WOTAN to any of this and won't listen to Ben's arguments, all stiff-upper lip and cool detachment versus Ben's impassioned pleading. The Doctor jokes to Ben that they've riled the man – the official mind can only take in so much at a time, he observes!

Sir Charles calls in the Ministry, who send in the army. This really does feel like proto-UNIT now! Troops assemble, streets are cordoned off – it's a full blown military exercise, and there's the Doctor right in the middle of it all. A patrol is sent into the warehouse to investigate. They are spotted at once and the War Machine attacks. Soldiers die, their weapons won't work, hypnotised slaves join the struggle – general mayhem ensues. The choreography and cinematography of the battle isn't bad, for 1966. Director Michael Ferguson did a good job.

A handful of survivors retreat, pursued by the War Machine – and this leads to one of the iconic images of the season. As the War Machine bears down and the army fall back, the Doctor stands his ground, staring down the barrel of the machine.

Episode Four

While the army men retreat, Ben frantically rushes forward again, trying to pull the Doctor to safety. I find Ben also has a fair bit in common with the departed Steven Taylor, both being impulsive, loyal and emotional, wearing their hearts on their sleeve. But where Steven was a serious-minded and hot-tempered cynic, Ben is warm-hearted and good-humoured, a real sweetie. What you see is absolutely what you get.

The Doctor brushes him away – he has an idea, wishes to test it, continues to face down the deadly machine…which doesn't kill him, doesn't even try. It spins around – and stops.

Oh, there's a nice little scene set in a pub – people gathering around to watch the news on a telly there. I like it. It drives home that these events are taking place in the here and now, in London, affecting ordinary people – this is the first Doctor Who adventure ever to be set in the present, and such scenes really underline that setting. For viewers watching this at the time, after three full seasons of adventures set on far-flung planets or way back in history, it must have had quite an impact. It's also a very effective way of putting a bit of exposition across, news reports explaining how the authorities are reacting to this unfolding emergency.

The Doctor is in his element, thoroughly enjoying himself as he is introduced to the Minister and explains what went wrong with the War Machine – it's a computer that hasn't been fully programmed, basically, deployed before it was ready. I love the almost childlike delight with which he examines the machine – he's having a whale of a time. Sir Charles is pleased to be able to claim credit for forcing the enemy's hand by attacking the warehouse. No one mentions the loss of life in that attack.

Ben is worried because he can't find Polly – it's just as well she's got him looking out for her, as no one else is concerned at all. They're all looking at the bigger picture, the Doctor included – and of course, the Doctor barely knows Polly, so has no vested interest in her safety in particular, she's just one more in a whole city at risk. His focus is on the War Machine, which he is taking apart to see how it works. Ben, though, leaves the big picture to others and is focused on his missing friend – or almost friend. He hasn't known Polly any longer than the Doctor, really, but in that time they bonded, formed a flirtatious friendship with prospects. He saw her hypnotised, knows how vulnerable she is in that condition. He's worried for her – and it's that very human emotion that has become our audience window into this story. Somewhere along the line, whole-hearted Ben has become our primary POV character here, in a way poor Dodo never was, her place usurped before she's officially left.

It's funny to think – we're so used to the Doctor and a solo female companion being the norm, it's hard to believe anything different could ever have been the case, but in its early years the show was very much an ensemble while for most of this third season there has always been a man as the primary companion, with a shifting roster of secondary female companions alongside – Ben very much follows on from Polly, in that regard, and so will Jamie after him. It wasn't until the '70s that the pattern began to shift.

Entertainingly, during this scene the Doctor decides he's hot and takes his cloak off, giving it to Ben to hold. As he passes it over, he knocks an attachment off the War Machine. In 1966 there were no retakes, so they just carry on as if nothing had happened, actor Michael Craze quietly picking the attachment up and slotting it back onto the machine before he exits the scene, as coolly if it were meant to be done like that all along.

The Doctor has calculated that there may be as many as eleven other machines being readied for an attack at noon today. The Minister quails at the thought of it. WOTAN has problems of its own as one of the War Machines goes rogue. That's what you get for a rush job! And the Covent Garden slave workers are recovering, freed from WOTAN's control as they are no longer needed – but left with no memory of anything that's happened. The Doctor recommends medical attention for them, in line with the rest he prescribed for Dodo. Sir Charles is all for an assault on the Post Office Tower, grasping that the root of all this lies there but understanding none of the complexities of the matter – the Doctor argues with him over his strong-arm tactics, and again this is tremendously proto-UNIT.

The rogue War Machine begins to terrorise the streets of London. Again we are shown both the official and public response, via news reports of the escalating situation, frightened members of the public listening to their radios and phoning in their sightings, really grounding the story in a sense of the here and now, making it feel very real and very big – this is a technique that was used again to great effect 40 years later in the Russell Davies era of the show!

Ben too is listening to the news reports on the radio, but his focus remains on Polly, his single-mindedness reminiscent of Ian and Barbara's relationship. Ian too never cared about the bigger picture if Barbara was in danger; she was always all he could see. The Doctor, though, insists that they can't afford to worry about a single person, an attitude Ben half-resents even though one of the soldiers points out that the Doctor has other things to worry about. This is the value of having a companion by the Doctor's side in his adventures – their differing perspectives can be used to show different sides of a story, different considerations on different scales; while the one is focused on the abstract the other is free to look at the immediate, so to speak. Ben can't stop fretting. Polly saved his life, in his view, when she allowed him to escape. He won't be easy till he finds her.

It amuses me to see how Ben manages to stick tight to the Doctor, at the heart of the action, when technically he's got no business being there – the army are in charge and you'd think they'd shoo away any non-essential personnel; Ben may be in the Navy but he's not officially part of this operation. He's with the Doctor, though, and the Doctor has a way of inveigling both himself and his companions into any official business through sheer force of personality.

There are some fantastic little establishing shots of the mayhem unfolding around London – the director did a fabulous job.

The authorities – represented by Sir Charles and the Minister – are at a loss for what to do, so turn to the Doctor, placing the responsibility on his shoulders. He rises to that challenge with aplomb. He's studied the captured War Machine, has learned how it works, and makes plans to use that knowledge against the others. The rogue machine must be captured, which means luring it into a trap. While Sir Charles fusses and harries, the Doctor remains calm, ordering equipment and making plans. There are a few cracks in the logic here perhaps, contrivances and devices, but it works.

Polly arrives back at the Post Office Tower to be punished for letting Ben escape, as per instruction – but Brett and Krimpton are far too busy to punish her so put her to work instead, which amuses me.

I love how much location filming there is in this serial, really grounding the story in the reality of everyday London life. It must have been a real kick for Londoners to watch at the time, seeing the Doctor striding around their own streets like this.

The Doctor is absolutely in his element, bossing everyone around, getting everything set up just so. He arranges for the rogue War Machine to be funnelled toward a trap – an electromagnetic box – and proposes to connect the final cable himself, when the machine is inside. Ben tactlessly protests that the Doctor is a bit past that sort of thing, inspiring much indignant wrath, but sticks to his guns and volunteers for the job himself.

The trap is set. The rogue War Machine approaches, firing randomly as it goes. At the edge of the trap it hesitates, then proceeds. Ben sprints behind it to connect the final cable and the power is switched on. The machine is trapped. A good job well done. Then the Doctor very boldly climbs inside the ring with the machine and chides it for temper! It doesn't attack and he is able to disable it, smiling happily at his own success – he really is having an absolute blast here.

The media are still all over the story – it really is a Davies-esque touch, 40 years ahead of time.

Sir Charles and the Minister are perturbed, troubled by how heavily reliant upon the Doctor they have become – both his alarming predictions and his eccentric behaviour, as he just gets on with pursuing his own ideas without offering any explanation to anyone before he is good and ready. He really hasn't changed in that, even over all the years since!

The Doctor has reprogrammed the War Machine. There's a lot of convoluted conversation to explain this, which sounds long-winded and unnecessary to modern ears, accustomed as we are to technical language, but in 1966 computers were primitive and knowledge of them far from widespread. To us it would be enough to say 'I re-programmed it' and leave it at that, but to that audience, further explanation of what this means in practice was necessary, I guess. With supreme confidence in his handiwork, he switches the machine back on – or rather, has Ben do it for him, keeping the new companion fully involved. He dramatically observes that this all started at the Post Office Tower and will probably end there. Ben is still worried about Polly, wondering if she has gone back there. The Doctor won't allow himself concern for an individual, knowing he has only until noon to stop WOTAN. Ben decides that if they have until noon, he has until then to see about Polly himself. He rushes off before the Doctor can stop him. I enjoy how startled and flustered the Doctor is by this – he'd been enjoying himself so much, taking control of the situation, working smoothly with Ben and with the authorities…and then Ben suddenly reminds him that there are still a lot of variables in play, humans being such unpredictable creatures. The Doctor can't control everything.

The Doctor's re-programmed War Machine hurries through the streets of London. At the Post Office Tower, final preparations underway – little more than ten minutes until the planned attack at midday. WOTAN rather egotistically insists it must give the final order itself. The Doctor explains that when his re-programmed machine faces WOTAN it will be like two electrical currents crossing – and all the hypnotised people will be released.

At the Tower, Ben finds Polly working alongside Brett and Krimpton and bursts in urging her to get out while she can. There's no subtlety about Ben whatsoever, no guile and no stratagem – there were probably much better ways of handling this than direct confrontation, but direct confrontation is always Ben's first choice, it wouldn't occur to him to do anything else. He's a very direct sort of chap, and is painfully aware of how little time there is. All he sees is the danger to Polly. He pushes Brett and Krimpton aside to drag her out of the room – tipping them off in the process with his claims that WOTAN is finished, which alarms them.

As Ben hauls a struggling Polly out of the room, the re-programmed War Machine enters it, firing fairly indiscriminately – so Ben's impulsive action was just as well, or Polly might well have been killed over something that was in no way her fault. She's lucky she had Ben to advocate for her and to take action to remove her – it's a shame poor Krimpton didn't have the same. He was hypnotised very much against his will, fighting all the while, now tries to stop the attacking machine because he is under WOTAN's control and is shot down as a result. Poor chap. The Doctor's plan was necessary to save London and possibly the world – but there is collateral damage, as in any battle. Polly could very easily have been part of that collateral damage.

The War Machine and WOTAN destroy one another and a very confused Professor Brett wakes up from his hypnosis to find himself standing in the ruins of his office with no memory and Krimpton dead at his feet. The Doctor, arriving with Sir Charles and the Minister, is confident that the other War Machines will be immobilised, waiting for orders that will never come – and then he slips away while no one is looking. His work here is done.

Some time later, the Doctor stands outside his TARDIS waiting impatiently – anxious to be off. He's waiting for Dodo, of course, his travelling companion who hasn't been seen or heard of since episode two. He is just about to give in and go without her – which is interesting, but of course he knows she is safely home here, so it wouldn't be like abandoning her on another planet or in another time – but just then Ben and Polly come running down the street toward him. He greets them warmly, pleased to see Polly looking so well again, and I wonder how much time has passed – after all, when Dodo was released from hypnosis he put her to sleep for 48 hours to recover! I doubt Polly's had the same, yet she seems well enough, so that treatment for Dodo seems a tad overkill.

Polly has a message from Sir Charles about Dodo, who sends her love but has decided to stay here in London. This abrupt, off-screen departure for Dodo came about because Jackie Lane's contract had ended halfway through the adventure and was not renewed – it's a terrible shame she wasn't given a proper ending, though. The character wasn't very successful, mainly because of poor writing, but she deserved better. Still, her decision to stay in London isn't exactly unexpected or out of character – she never chose to go with the Doctor in the first place, after all, and although she's enjoyed her time with him she always seemed to be going with the flow rather than actively wanting to be there. She was excited about being back in London at the start of this serial, so deciding to stay rather than continue with the Doctor's aimless wanderings follows. It's her leaving without even saying goodbye that rankles, sending a message to be passed on third hand.

The Doctor is certainly disgruntled by it, grumbling about ingratitude, after taking her all through space and time. Dodo's departure leaves him completely alone, for the first time since we've known him – he's always had at least one companion at his side, although Dodo first turned up at a time when he'd broken with Steven and thought himself alone. Then he was full of sorrow and regret. Here he's just really miffed. He shakes hands with Ben and Polly and sends them off on their way before turning to unlock the TARDIS. They, for their part, are curious, suspecting that there is more than meets the eye, so they retreat down the street then turn and watch – and are surprised to see the old man entering the police box. Ben remembers that Dodo gave him a key to return to the Doctor, so they run back down the street – and hey, this means that Dodo is the very first Doctor Who companion after Susan to be shown on-screen to have had her own TARDIS key!

Ben is due back to barracks and is worried about being late, but he lets Polly talk him into using Dodo's key to let themselves into the TARDIS – they believe it to be no more than a police box with an old man doing something mysterious inside…

Seconds later, the TARDIS dematerialises, much to the surprise of a random passing couple – with two new companions aboard, swept away into time and space by a case of bad timing! The Doctor is not alone after all.

Quotable Quotes

DODO: London. Home. It's marvellous to be back. It seems ages since I left.
DOCTOR: Oh, when you've seen the ages that I've see, you won't use that term quite so freely.

BRETT: Ah, Doctor! I understand from Major Green you're a specialist in computer development.
DOCTOR: Well, hardly a specialist, sir, but I dabble, yes, I dabble.

POLLY: Is this your first time in London?
DODO: Oh, no. It feels like it though. I'm so out of touch.

POLLY: Stand by, Dodo. This looks like a rescue mission. The Navy's in trouble.

KITTY: Polly, you're a wonder. How do you do it?
POLLY: Oh, it's just a knack, you know. Anytime you want a bit of brightness in your life, come to Pol.

KRIMPTON: I'm human. There's nothing more important than human life. Machines cannot govern man!

POLLY: Surely she wouldn't have left without a word to us?
BEN: I shouldn't think so. She seemed a nice bird, friendly. Not stuck up like you, Duchess.
POLLY: Look, don't call me Duchess. I'm worried about Dodo. I'm supposed to be looking after her.

KITTY: Have one on the house, Doctor. It isn't every day we get the over twenties in this place. Oh, I dig your fab gear.

WOTAN: Doctor Who is required. Bring him here.

POLLY: I think we ought to go to the Police.
KITTY: I'd rather not have them round here, if you don't mind. We have got a licence to think of.

POLLY: Listen, if you meet me at the reception of the Post Office Tower tomorrow, I'll stand you lunch.
BEN: Yeah, yeah, all right. But I'm no Deb's delight, you know.
POLLY: I can see that.

DOCTOR: The official mind can only take in so much at a time.

DOCTOR: That is very dangerous, Sir Charles. And if I may say so, your strong arm methods have already got us into plenty of trouble.

DOCTOR: My dear boy, if we worry about one person we shall never solve anything, shall we?
BEN: Looks such a kind old bloke, too, don't he?
SERGEANT: He's got other things to think about, mate.
BEN: Yeah, I know, but this bird saved my life, see.

DOCTOR: I shall connect the cable myself.
SUMMER: Bah, that's impossible. With the War Machine inside? You'll be killed.
DOCTOR: That is a risk we have to take.
BEN: You're a bit past that sort of lark aren't you, Doctor?
DOCTOR: I beg your pardon, young man?
BEN: Well, I reckon that's a job for me, sir.

POLLY: She says she's feeling much better and she'd like to stay here in London, and she sends you her love.
DOCTOR: Her love? Oh, there's gratitude for you. Take her all the way around the world, through space and time, and then…
BEN: Come again, Doctor?

The Verdict

Overall and taken as a whole, I really, really enjoy this adventure – it feels so fresh and new, its current-day setting and location filming a real departure from the norm. I love how energised the Doctor is, how much he enjoys himself throughout, taking charge and making himself thoroughly at home even while only passing through. Dodo's poorly written departure is the one sour note, but in contrast I thoroughly enjoy her replacements, Ben and Polly. Of the two, Ben is the better established by the end of the adventure, having received the lion's share of the development – aided and abetted by having been himself throughout while Polly spent half the story under hypnosis. What we did see of the non-mind controlled Polly was a delight, however, and while my inner feminist calls it a shame to see the women side-lined while Ben builds up a strong working partnership with the Doctor, on the other hand, since women have over the years since been predominant as companions, I enjoy seeing the Doctor operating with a male sidekick for a time.

Big thumbs up for this one.