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Doctor Who story number 26
Two things gave rise to this story. The first was a desire to replace the historical format, as it was felt that viewers didn't like it. The choice was now to go for a contemporary or near future setting - near future being anywhere from next year to next century in practise. The more important factor was the desire to root the show in a realistic scientific background.
Story editor Gerry Davis went hunting for an expert, talking to a variety of people including Patrick Moore - however he didn't get anything useful until he was reccomended to speak to Christopher "Kit" Pedler. The standard question through all the conversations had been "what if the Post Office Tower took over?" (having a view of the thing from your office must have been great as it was built, and this had been Davis' inspiration for the question). Only Pedler could give a creative and interesting idea - A computer in the post office tower, acting via the telephone and controlled humans. They managed to put together a whole outline and then passed it on the a staff writer, who was busy so they gave what he'd managed to get done to Ian Stuart Black, who had just finished The Savages.
With the departure of Peter Purves in the previous story there was already a new male companion to introduce, and Jackie Lane had to be removed as well - it had been decided that the "teenage girl companion" archetype was pretty much done and dusted. The new character choice was a more mature girl in her early twenties, which at least meant Anneke Wills wasn't having to pretend she was a girl of 16. The other character added was Ben Jackson, who it was eventually decided would be a seaman. Both characters were made more up to date to line up with the swinging sixties, and now it was considered okay to have a Cockney accent in the show. Jackie Lane's contract had only been extended for two episodes, so she got a rather crap leaving scene - none at all.
Storywise this is a pretty solid peice, even having some good character scenes in it. It's quite a surprise to have the Doctor on present day Earth, though it has happened in other stories he's always been just passing through and chased by the Daleks. Here he lands, gets involved with trouble and leaves again when everything is sorted out. Not only that, he gets involved with the army in the same capacity as we'd see him in the 70's - here the presence of the army fighting an unearthly menace in London is likely inspired by Quatermass and the Pit. The key word here is different, so different to what's gone before yet identifiable to us now because this is the model for all the later stories set on contemporary Earth. It's still one of the more interesting stories, and though some of the science is vague it's worth watching.
Note that linking computers globally to share processing power is quite visionary for a science fiction show made in 1966. Who says sci-fi is never good for anything?
Ian Stuart Black, material by Pat Dunlop (Concept by Kit Pedler)
This story has 4 episodes
The TARDIS materialises in Fitzroy Square, London, 1966. Dodo is impressed with the completed Post Office Tower but the Doctor feels there is something evil there. The Doctor flim-flams his way into the tower and goes up to the top floor, where Professor Brett and his secretary Polly are going over notes on the new computer, WOTAN - Will Operating Thought ANalogue. Brett is happy to speak to the Doctor and show off his life's work, but the Doctor feels the evil coming from the computer. Let's just pretend that there's no evil emmanations coming from WOTAN, okay? Because frankly if I have to type anything like that again I'll scream in pain.
The Doctor tests WOTAN by asking it for the square root of 17422 (131.992424) - not impressed? It was the 60's, and WOTAN can also do speech recognition). It's output is on ticker tape, but hey, speech recognition Dodo then decides to ask WOTAN something it can't possibly know - define TARDIS. WOTAN does, which disturbs the Doctor. Dodo now goes all silent and stands there doing nothing, but the Doctor thinks she's just dazed and he wakes her up again. Polly talks to her while the Doctor gets a run-down on the computer - WOTAN is to be linked to other computers around the world and be the central hub for a massive processing network. Polly takes Dodo to The Inferno nightclub in Covent Garden, where they meet a young sailor called Ben Jackson, while the Doctor goes to the press conference at the Royal Scientific Club where the announcement about the WOTAN linkup is taking place. Sir Charles Summer is dealing with the press, who raise interesting questions: Won't the controllers of WOTAN have immense power with the world's computer systems under their control? Apparently WOTAN can't be subverted by humans. Won't WOTAN be a replacement for human reasoning? No, WOTAN will merely help, not replace, human endeavours. But through all this, where is Professor Brett?
Brett is in his office, and has been distracted by a phone call. Feeling like he's been observed all day he calls in Major Green, the head of security, who tells him there's no way someone has been able to hide inside the offices. Brett chalks this all up to overwork but as soon as he's alone the sounds form the computer intensify and he can't control himself. Back at the press conference he bursts in, grabs his assistant Krimpton and drags him out, ignoring everyone. Back at the Post Office Tower Green is in the same room as WOTAN and he gets taken over, and dials the phone - which goes through to the nightclub. He asks for Dodo, and when she's on the line switches the call to WOTAN, and shes back under it's control and she leaves the club. At the Post Office Tower Krimpton thinks WOTAN has broken down, but is told by Brett in the elevator that mankind has failed - with humans in charge there can be no new advancement. WOTAN has concluded that the only way for things to change now is for it to be in control. In the office Brett then tells him mankind must either serve WOTAN or be eliminated. When Krimpton tries to leave WOTAN uses the same subliminal signal (what the hell else can it be?) to control him. Dodo enters and WOTAN speaks to her: "Doctor Who is required. Bring him here."
WOTAN plans to take over London, then Washington, D.C. and Moscow, who obviously won't be able to do anything about WOTAN while it controls their computers. The plan is to build individual War Machines at strategic locations - Krimpton will design them, Green will find secluded locations, and slave labour will be aquired by calling dial-a-slave: WOTAN will pick numbers at random and take over their minds. However it also wants the Doctor's mind under it's control. The Doctor happens to be at The Inferno, discussing with Polly and Ben what to do about the missing Dodo - then she turns up. The Doctor has managed to score them both rooms at Sir Charle's home, and no one has notied the two men ready to subdue the Doctor waiting in the shadows. Unable to act with others around Dodo is rather dissapointed when she can't get the Doctor away from the group outside and sulks in the taxi - Ben heads off to his lodgings and Polly leaves with the other two after agreeing to meet Ben tomorrow.
In a nearby warehouse a large group of slaves are being worked hard to build a War Machine - they seem come in handy kitsets with the WOTAN symbol on them - taking a break to capture and kill the homeless man we saw just before in the taxi scene when he sneaks into the warehouse, and dump his body. The Doctor recognises him in the newspaper the next morning. Sir Charles also has bad news: Prominent scientists working at his facility have sent vague resignation letters and no one has seen them since last night. Both are surprised when Polly turns up and tells them that Major Green told her she wasn't needed at the Post Office Tower - and somehow he knew Sir Charle's personal secretary was ill. Dodo comes in and orders Polly to get to work (Yes, "somehow" means "was told by Dodo"), then suggests the Doctor call Professor Brett, which he does. The call is put through to WOTAN and the Doctor reels in agony and collapses. When he comes round Dodo thinks the Doctor is controlled by WOTAN and starts telling him about the construction sites, but when he says he says he felt "As if something enormous and terrific was trying to absorb me!" she stops. The Doctor hypnotises her and packs her off to Sir Charles' summer home to recuperate. So long Dodo. Polly is gone too, but the Doctor and Sir Charles have other problems....
Back in the Covent Garden warehouse the War Machine is nearly finished. It's basically a box with tank treads, two bashing arm things and two, uh, smoke dispensing nozzles. How crap. It has a computer panel on one side and at the front a lone headlight and a big rectangular eye thing (which infortunately does not have a moving red dot like Cylons or K.I.T.T.). Basically it's a big box with shitty weapons and a spinning radar dish on top. It sounds gawkish but it looks pretty imposing. They test it by having one slave stand in front of it, and the War Machine sprays him with nerve gas and he dies - this stuff must dissipate fast.
Professor Brett's WOTAN's office the computer keeps saying "Doctor Who is required" but then Polly comes in and doesn't click there's something wrong until Brett and Krimpton block her from leaving.... Back at Sir Charles' home Ben comes looking for Polly, and the Doctor shows him the newspaper. Ben agrees to go check out the area around the nightclub, but when he gets there he hears sounds from the supposedly deserted warehouse. Inside he watches the War Machine being tested with alarm, but then it starts searching on it's own - and finds Ben. He runs past some boxes labeled "High Explosive" (just like computer games - boxes of explosives stacked around for no reason) and the workers comes after him. He makes it to adoor but find Polly - and realises shes being controlled when Major Green orders the warehouse sealed and she does so. Ben is captured and dragged over to the War Machine to be killed as a threat to mechanized evolution. Polly intervenes though and says that he should be spared - they need all he workers they can get. Ben thanks her for saving him with this ruse, only to find that she didn't do it to help him - she did it to help WOTAN.
WOTAN's plan is for the War Machines to attack at noon tomorrow when the fine-tuned control programming is finished and occupy places of strategic importance, killing all who will not submit. The slaves are being worked until they collapse, Polly included. Ben realises that they have forgotten he's not brainwashed and so he slips out. As he goes he sees Polly notice him, but she says nothing and so he manages to leave. After he's gone Green notices and questions Polly, then orders her to go to WOTAN for punishment (conditioning] must break down eventually and allow personalities through).
Meanwhile Ben has told the Doctor and then Sir Charles his story, and Sir Charles finally agress to callin support, but he will not believe that WOTAN is responsible for the War Machines and goes off to see the Minister of Defence, who calls in the army. A cordon is set up around the Covent Garden warehouse with Sir Charles in command, but Major Green realises something is up when the electronic equipment in the warehouse picks up interference form the army's equipment (while possible I doubt the army turned up with enough electronics). The War Machine is sent out and when it finds the soldiers scouting out an alleyway it fires on them, and one soldier dies (that smoke/gas stuff is pretty selective) and then the soldiers find their weapons jammed by the War Machine, and then the humans under WOTAN's control come out and attack. Oh and now the smoke/gas stuff sets things on fire.
Let's just take a step back from the story for a minute: I don't know what permits would have been required for filming gunfire in a city street, but it's safe to say the Doctor Who team couldn't get them - hence jammed firearms and "smoke guns"
The Doctor and Ben turn up as Sir Charles tries to reason with the people in the warehouse, to no avail. The War Machine comes out and rolls towards the group and they back away - except for the Doctor, who takes a step forwards as it comes closer to smash him with it's bashing thing. Ben tries to pull him back before he gets his head smashed in but it suddenly goes dead. After a flurry of government activity the Minister of Defence turns up, and the Doctor tells everyone that the machines programming was incomplete and it was put into action too soon. He then starts to examine the War Machine and talk to the officials, brushing off Ben's concerns about Polly while handing him his cloak - a key falls out but the Minister interrupts before Ben can return it, so he pockets it and heads off to find Polly.
The Doctor works out that the machine is one of 12, set to attack at noon today. Meanwhile one of the other machines has gone haywire, shot up it's construction site and gone on a rampage around London, heading for the Battersea Power Station. The Doctor doesn't think an assault on the Post Office Tower will work, but when he hears about the other War Machine he hits on a plan. He has three streets shut down and sets up an electromagnetic interference trap, basically a set of high tension cables in a square that they will lure the machine into and then seal up, with lucky Ben getting to do the honours. It arrives, gets caught and neutralized and the Doctor hops into the corral with it (No, I don't know how he does this with the power on either) and turns it off. They then ship it back to Covent Garden and the Doctor changes it's programming. When Ben turns it on - he's getting the mucky jobs today - it immediately heads of to destroy WOTAN, and Ben tries to beat it to the Post Office Tower in case Polly is there - and the Doctor realises that his plan might get two of his friends killed.
Ben somehow manages to get to the Post Office Tower before the War Machine and tries to get Polly to leave, but she does not want to go. He drags her out of the room as the reprogrammed War Machine arrives. WOTAN orders Krimpton and Brett to stop it, and also tries telling the machine to stop but neither option works. The War Machine fires it's weapons killing Krimpton and blowing up WOTAN's central processing unit and itself (I want that gas stuff). Professor Brett is freed from the control of WOTAN and is horrified by the scene. The Doctor, Sir Charles and the Minister arrive, the Doctor announcing that the other War Machines will be quite useless without WOTAN to activate them. Sir Charles makes sure Brett is okay, and when he turns to ask the Doctor something he's gone....
Later (I suspect the next day, what with Polly suspiciously dressed in what looks like some of Ben's spare clothes) Ben and Polly find the Doctor standing in Fitzroy Square, waiting for Dodo. They tell him Sir Charles has sent word that Dodo is staying on Earth, and he mutters about how ungrateful she is. Realising the couple don't have a clue what he's talking about he walks away, and they turn and go - and then realise he's gone into a police box. When Polly comments on the Doctor having a key Ben remembers he's still got the Doctor's other key, and so Polly grabs it and runs to return it. She knocks on the door but gets no answer, and so she tries the key and goes in - and further in. Though he has to get back to the barracks Ben heads in there as well. The Doctor shuts the doors and dematerialises the TARDIS without realising he's got stowaways - though even if he knew he'd probably have done it anyway....
Alan Curtis - Major Green
John Harvey - Professor Brett
Sandra Bryant - Kitty
Ewan Proctor - Flash
William Mervyn - Sir Charles Summer
John Carter - Professor Krimpton
Ric Felgate - American Journalist
John Doye - Interviewer
Desmond Cullum-Jones - Worker
Roy Godfrey - Tramp
Gerald Taylor - War Machine Operator, Voice of WOTAN
John Rolfe - Captain
John Boyd-Brent - Sergeant
Frank Jarvis - Corporal
Robin Dawson - Soldier
Kenneth Kendall - Himself
George Cross - Minister (of defence)
Edward Colliver - Mechanic
John Slavid - Man in Phone Box
Dwight Whylie - Announcer
Carl Conway - US Correspondant
Michael Rathborne Taxi Driver
Eddie Davis - Worker
- The Doctor hangs an "Out of Order" sign on the TARDIS door to stop policemen trying to use it - this is funnier than you think, since the TARDIS never works properly anyway....
- "Doctor Who is required." is a weird line with two possibilities:
- WOTAN heard "Doctor" earlier and filed him as "Doctor Who?" because Brett programmed it to record unknown name variables as Who? - this makes sense. As the simplest explanation it should stand, and allows a much more common sense view of things, as well as showing why you have to test your damn code!
- Another theory comes from the events of a later story - 7th Doctor returns to Earth a few days after he left in An Unearthly Child and gets involved with the army and some Daleks. One can imagine the paperwork getting entered into the computer system and WOTAN being confused by something like this: "He calls himself 'Doctor' - Doctor who?" However this means we have to beleive WOTAN is thick as shit when it comes to reading text yet it can understand conversation. I think it's rubbish, but it is nice rubbish and you can use it if you like - though it's quite a fanboy thing.
- WOTAN has a cute little face - probably to make it easier for viewers to cope with the concept:
- This is what the War Machines look like:
- The Doctor is not too impressed with being told "I dig your fab gear!"
- Speaking of fab gear, Anneke Wills wore her own clothes for this story. She wasn't allowed to afterwards - what a shame.
- Most amusing of all is the credits with this: WOTAN as Himself
- The BBC novel Earthworld by Jacqueline Rayner features a theme park based on the Earth's history on another world in the future where people have lost much of the historical records - they think the War Machines were designed to deliver the mail.
Doctor Who is required. Bring him here. - WOTAN