My Thoughts on Story 027 – “The War Machines”

Here we are, at the final complete First Doctor story. “The Tenth Planet” mostly exists, and the one missing episode has been animated. “The Smugglers” exists only in reconstructions, which…well, from it’s reputation, likely won’t be an experience I’ll treasure.

But enough about the future. Let’s focus on the past.

c027-war-machines-prototype-doctor-who-whobackwhen
A dark and strange time when someone thought this looked threatening.

This is also the last of the good First Doctor stories. Everything I have heard about “The Smugglers” makes me suspect it’s going to suck hard, and “The Tenth Planet” is merely ok. But this story was actually pretty good.

First off, it’s nice to see the Doctor on “contemporary” Earth, wandering around London, doing stuff. This was the first major story to feature then-present Earth in a major way (“Planet of Giants” sort-of does, but not really), and it also showcases a nicely larger budget. The fight scenes between the soldiers and the war machines is not something that we’d ever seen before, at least not on that scale. It’s nice to have it here.

It’s also great to see Ben and Polly get introduced. They really are two wonderful characters, and along with the improved budget and return to then-present Earth, it kind of gives us a preview of what to expect in the next season.

Alas, not all is wine and roses. First off, the machines themselves look ridiculous, and the whole idea of a super-intelligent computer (which likely has less computing power than my cell phone), wanting to take over the world is always eye-rolling and seldom done well.

But the real problem here is the treatment of Dodo. She wasn’t a perfect companion, but she really deserved better than becoming the Doctor Who version of Chuck Cunningham.

Cast
Others
Production
Writer Ian Stuart Black
Kit Pedler (idea)
Director Michael Ferguson
Script editor Gerry Davis
Producer Innes Lloyd
Executive producer(s) None
Incidental music composer Stock music
Production code BB
Series Season 3
Length 4 episodes, 25 minutes each (material missing from parts 3-4 recently restored)
Date started 25 June 1966
Date ended 16 July 1966

Next story: “The Smugglers”

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