Trash Culture’s Dr. Who Reviews – The War Machines (1966)

by Chad Denton

The Doctor lands in 1966 London with Dodo. Right away the Doctor notices a newly constructed tower and tells Dodo he can sense something “alien” and “powerful” about it, similar to the feelings he had when he first encountered the Daleks. Pretending to be a scientist and his secretary, the Doctor and Dodo enter the tower and meet Dr. Brett, the inventor of a new computer system, WOTAN, that is capable of independent thought but has “no imaginative parts.” Brett boasts that WOTAN will be linked to other government and military computer systems across the Western world and even the Doctor is disconcerted by WOTAN’s capabilities.

While the Doctor attends the press conference announcing the existence of WOTAN, Brett’s assistant, Polly, takes Dodo to a nightclub. Dodo feels ill and remembers being exposed to a high-pitched noise while in WOTAN’s room, and then disappears after a sailor named Ben gets into a fight with a man harassing Polly. Behind the scenes of the press conference, WOTAN manages to brainwash Brett, one other scientist, and the tower’s chief of security. WOTAN declares its intent to “develop the planet further,” by naturally enslaving or wiping out humanity. It turns out that WOTAN also managed to take over Dodo’s mind, and enlists her in the goal of acquiring the Doctor’s valuable mind.

WOTAN begins construction of war machines in an abandoned warehouse with the intention of starting his invasion of the world with London. Dodo gets the Doctor on the phone with WOTAN, where he is exposed to and overwhelmed by the hypnotizing noise, but the noise only shocks him. Because Dodo assumes the Doctor has been enlisted in WOTAN’s army, the Doctor realizes what’s happened and deprograms her, a process that puts her out of commission. After Polly also disappears, the Doctor asks for Ben’s help. Ben does find Polly, but she has already been brainwashed and is helping WOTAN’s other minions in building a robotic army. Ben narrowly escapes from being drafted into WOTAN’s labor force and warns the Doctor and another scientist, Sir Charles. The Doctor wants to attack WOTAN directly, but Sir Charles refuses to believe that WOTAN is involved and instead gets the British government to sic soldiers on the war machines, one of which is unleashed on the squadron. The Doctor watches as the soldiers prove to be pretty much helpless. As the soldiers retreat, the Doctor stands before the machine, forcing it to stop since its programming was not complete. With Ben’s help, the Doctor later captures another machine and reprograms it to attack the tower and destroy WOTAN. Against the Doctor’s objections, Ben sets out on his own to rescue Polly, which he manages to do just before the machine destroys WOTAN and breaks its hypnotic control over the others.

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