The War Machines
The War Machines was the tenth and final story of Season 3 of Doctor Who. There were several companion cast changes in this story — Dodo Chaplet, played by Jackie Lane, left, while Polly and Ben Jackson, played by Anneke Wills and Michael Craze, joined. Ben and Polly join Dodo herself, Barbara and Ian in the fact that they accidentally entered the TARDIS and then later joined the First Doctor as companions.
The Doctor and Dodo arrive back in modern-day London, the Doctor taking care to hang an “OUT OF ORDER” sign on the TARDIS door to keep away any unwanted police. Immediately the Doctor senses something isn’t quite right about the newly completed Post Office Tower, comparing it to a feeling he previously had around the Daleks. He takes Dodo to investigate.
The Doctor, posing as a computer specialist, is escorted to the top of the tower by Major Green, where he meets Professor Brett and the professor’s life’s work, WOTAN. Also in the room is Professor Brett’s secretary, Polly. The Professor proceeds to explain how WOTAN is the most advanced computer ever made and how it will soon be linked to other computers around the world to create a central intelligence. The Doctor challenges WOTAN to give him the square root of a large number, which it does flawlessly. Dodo, hoping to stump the computer, asks it what the word TARDIS means which it also answers correctly, much to the Doctor’s consternation. Dodo then becomes seemingly mesmerized by the machine. When brought back into the conversation she complains about a slight buzzing in the ears. Polly, looking after Dodo, invites her to go to a dance club called the Inferno.
Arriving at the club, Kitty, the bartender and Polly’s friend, tells them that a sailor that Polly met the previous week has come into the bar every night since and sat at the end of the bar drinking and depressed. Just then, the sailor enters and Kitty asks Polly to try to cheer him up. Polly and Dodo make a valiant attempt, but finally decide to leave him to himself. Shortly after, when Polly is being harassed by another patron calling himself Flash, the sailor jumps to her defense, starting and quickly ending a minor bar fight. Dodo is then able to get the sailor’s name, Ben Jackson.
A taxi pulls up to the Royal Scientific Club, the location of a press conference about WOTAN. The assembled reporters learn that on the following Monday, 16 July, all other computers around the world will come under the control of WOTAN in an event called Computer Day or C-Day. After a number of questions from reporters, Sir Charles Summer, head of the Royal Scientific Club, tells those gathered that WOTAN actually thinks and has no political allegiances or any reason to lie or hide the truth. Professor Brett, who is oddly absent, is sent for by Sir Charles.
Professor Brett, caught on the phone in his office, finally prepares to leave for the press conference when he calls in Major Green. The Professor informs the major that he’s had the feeling all day that someone has been watching and listening to the goings on in the area. The major assures the professor that the building, and especially the area WOTAN is in, is secure. After Major Green leaves, Professor Brett prepares to go, but hears a strange buzzing coming from WOTAN. Stopping momentarily, he is overcome by the buzzing, and though he attempts to fight off the sound, he quickly comes under the mental control of WOTAN.
Back at the Inferno, Dodo tells Polly and Ben that she has a bit of a headache, but tells them that she is really fine. When they go off to dance though, Dodo’s face shows that something isn’t right.
Just as Sir Charles prepares to dismiss the gathered reporters, Professor Brett finally arrives, but he does not seem himself at all. While he refuses any comment to the media, he takes Professor Krimpton aside on urgent business. Sir Charles introduces himself to the Doctor, who inquires about Professor Krimpton. Sir Charles, remarking that Krimpton is their foremost electronic expert, begins to worry that something is wrong with WOTAN, and leaves to find out. The Doctor seems to have other ideas.
Back with WOTAN, Major Green enters the room on his rounds and quickly comes under the control of the machine. He then calls the Inferno and places WOTAN on the phone. It takes control of Dodo through the phone, and she then leaves. Shortly after, Professor Brett returns to WOTAN with Professor Krimpton and explains to him that WOTAN has come to the conclusion that humans cannot develop the world any further and that it will take control and humans will be the servants. When Professor Krimpton attempts to leave, he is stopped by Major Green and becomes the fourth to fall under WOTAN’s control.
At the Inferno, Polly and Ben are looking for Dodo when the Doctor arrives. Polly tells the Doctor that Dodo had received a call about half an hour before and then seems to have left. Dodo then arrives in Professor Brett’s office and is instructed to bring the Doctor so that he can be brought under the control of WOTAN.
As Dodo leaves to find the Doctor, WOTAN issues his directions to Professor Brett, Major Green, and Professor Krimpton. WOTAN will decide who lives and who dies. London will be taken over first, followed by Washington and Moscow. A skilled labor force, obtained through telephone-based thought control, will be gathered in a number of points in London to construct “the machines”, mobile computers. Green will determine the locations, Brett will oversee construction, and Krimpton will prepare their programming. Prior to programming preparation, though, Krimpton is instructed to assist with obtaining “Doctor Who”.
The Doctor remains at the Inferno until closing time. Polly prepares to call hospitals, but Dodo walks back in, claiming that the call was from some old friends and that she was just around the corner with them. As the four leave the club, Ben and Polly go to flag down a taxi for the Doctor and Dodo. Dodo, seeing fellow conspirators waiting in the shadows to grab the Doctor, begins to guide him a little way down the street when Ben and Polly arrive with the taxi. Polly decides to tag along with the Doctor and Dodo to Sir Charles’ house where the Doctor is being put up. As she leaves, Polly arranges to meet Ben tomorrow at the Post Office Tower for lunch. A homeless man, who had gotten out of the Doctor’s cab, stops Ben to ask for a little money for food, mentioning that he is planning on sleeping in an empty warehouse nearby.
In that no-longer empty warehouse is Professor Brett, handing out blueprints for the machines that the laborers are constructing. The homeless man, upon entering the warehouse, sees the activity and overhears Professor Brett’s directions. Quickly an alarm comes from a nearby computer and Brett sends a number of the laborers to find the intruder. The homeless man attempts to leave, but is surrounded and quickly killed.
The next morning the Doctor is visiting with Sir Charles and looking at the paper when he sees the picture of the homeless man in an article about his murder. While Sir Charles is only mildly interested, he brings to the Doctor an issue of two well respected scientists who work for the Royal Scientific Club who both sent letters of resignation that morning and since cannot seem to be found. Shortly thereafter Polly enters informing Sir Charles that Major Green had called her and sent her to assist Sir Charles since Professor Brett did not need her for the day and because Sir Charles’s secretary was ill. Sir Charles, surprised that Major Green knew of his secretary’s absence, accepts Polly’s assistance for the day. As Polly heads out of the room, Dodo walks in. When she hears Sir Charles’s concern about the resignation of two of his computer scientists, Dodo presses the Doctor to contact Professor Brett. The Doctor agrees.
Professors Brett and Krimpton are working in the office when the phone rings. Picking it up, Brett realizes it is the Doctor and Krimpton patches the phone through to WOTAN.
The Doctor, still in Sir Charles’s office, doubles over in pain. Dodo and Sir Charles assist the weakened Doctor to a nearby chair and Sir Charles leaves to get some water. Dodo, believing that the Doctor is now under WOTAN’s control, begins to give the Doctor WOTAN’s instructions. The Doctor quickly shakes off the effect of the call, but is still confused as to what happened. As Polly and Sir Charles return with water, Dodo remarks that the Doctor did not receive any instructions. When Polly asks what happened, the Doctor realizes that the problem was not with the phone, but with something in Professor Brett’s office. The Doctor orders Dodo to stop, which she does, and then realizes that she has been hypnotized. The Doctor uses this power to send her to sleep. The Doctor informs Sir Charles and Polly that Dodo will sleep for about 48 hours and afterward will need quiet and rest. Sir Charles agrees to have Dodo taken to his country estate where his wife will care for her, and turns to ask Polly to make arrangements, but she has already left the room. The Doctor then begins to wonder what the “strategic points in London” that Dodo mentioned might be.
In a customs shed near the airport and in a large factory, parts for WOTAN’s War Machines are being unloaded and constructed. Back in the warehouse, one of the machines is powered on, and Major Green arrives to test its destructive capabilities on one of the laborers, who is immediately killed.
At the Post Office Tower in Professor Brett’s office, WOTAN inquires to the location of “Doctor Who”. When it is suggested that Dodo may have failed in her attempt to procure the Doctor, WOTAN says that he must be found. Moments later Polly, enters to make sure that Professor Brett is all right, but quickly she realizes something is very wrong.
At Sir Charles’s office, Ben arrives looking for Polly, who stood him up for their lunch date, and was informed she would be here. When Ben says he can’t find Polly, the Doctor is concerned about her. Mentioning the homeless man in the paper, the Doctor asks Ben to investigate the area around the club to see if they can find any information about what is going on.
Ben, looking around the area outside the Inferno, overhears Major Green’s testing of WOTAN’s machine and heads inside to find out what’s going on. Ben watches the War Machine destroy a table with good results, look around the room with some problems, and then move around a room and destroy some crates that are in its way. As it comes around another corner Ben is caught directly in the machine’s line of sight.
Ben, backed up against a wall of boxes, ducks behind another nearby box and makes his way to a door with the War Machine sounding an alert. Major Green calls the laborers to search for the unknown trespasser just as Ben ducks through the door and finds Polly in the entryway. Ben warns Polly to get away and tells her he must inform the Doctor what he’s seen. Polly asks him what he saw in the monotone voice of those hypnotized by WOTAN. As he moves toward the door to leave, Polly locks him in and he is captured.
Four hours later at Sir Charles’s office, the Doctor has grown worried about Ben. Sir Charles tells the Doctor that rumors shouldn’t postpone C-Day and that they should allow the police to look into them, but the Doctor fears that the police might only drive the threat further underground.
In the warehouse, Major Green tells Ben of the coming “mechanized evolution” and prepares to have him destroyed. Polly enters with directions from WOTAN that more labor is needed and that Ben is to be kept alive as long as he is useful. When Ben goes to thank Polly, thinking it all a ruse, she tells him he must work towards the victory of the War Machines.
In Professor Brett’s office, he and Professor Krimpton take note of the completion time of noon on the following day. The purpose and function of the War Machines are also detailed.
The War Machine in the warehouse has almost completed all tests; the laborers are preparing armaments for the War Machines, but they are tiring — some carted away unconscious. Ben, working in a back room of the warehouse, attempts to talk Polly into resting when he notices that the guard on the door is gone. He goes to investigate, but as he prepares to run he locks eyes with Polly. Instead of sounding an alarm, Polly simply goes back to moving crates. After prying the locks from the entryway door, Ben finally escapes the warehouse.
As the Doctor prepares to go in search of Ben, Sir Charles’s doorbell rings and Ben stumbles in. He reports that Polly is in a warehouse and being controlled, and that there is a killer machine there as well.
Major Green confronts Polly concerning Ben’s whereabouts. She informs Green that Ben has escaped, but she cannot answer why she didn’t raise an alarm and then becomes confused. When Major Green informs Polly that those under WOTAN have no friends or family, she seems to remember her affiliation with Ben. As the control over her breaks down, Major Green informs the laborers that Polly must be sent back to WOTAN to be punished.
Sir Charles refuses to believe Ben’s story, while Ben is anxious to get moving and take action against the machine. As Sir Charles prepares to contact the police to raid the warehouse, the Doctor points out that something bigger is going on and that, from what Ben has told him, it sounds as if there are more machines being built around London. When the Doctor recommends striking at WOTAN, Sir Charles refuses and says that there is nothing to connect this machine to Professor Brett, even though Polly is one of those under control. The Doctor and Ben, knowing they have riled Sir Charles, depart, and Sir Charles contacts the Ministry of Defense, which will send in the army. Sir Charles decides to head toward the warehouse himself.
Soldiers are mobilized to the neighborhood around the warehouse. They find considerable electrical and radio activity coming from the warehouse and surround it. Sir Charles informs the commanding officer of what he knows, and Orange Patrol is sent to enter the warehouse. Interference in the radio signals tips off Major Green that something is happening and he alerts the laborers. As Orange Patrol confronts the War Machine, Green gives the order to attack and the laborers and the War Machine assault the patrol. Orange Patrol quickly finds that its weapons are useless against the War Machine and thus they must retreat.
Just as the remaining members of Orange Patrol exit the warehouse, the Doctor and Ben join Sir Charles and inquire about what is happening. As Orange Patrol rounds the corner toward the main army forces, the War Machine exits the warehouse in pursuit. The leader of Orange Patrol reports that the machine nearly wiped them out as it comes around the corner into view. Sir Charles, assuming someone is inside the tank-like machine, attempts to call the operator to stand down. As the army realizes that their guns are somehow being jammed, the commanding officer informs Sir Charles that the area will have to be evacuated. As everyone retreats, the Doctor stands his ground as the light from the War Machine’s “eye” falls across his face.
As the War Machine approaches, Ben attempts to pull the Doctor to safety, but the Doctor stands his ground. The War Machine moves around him and comes to a halt with its top mount radar dish ceasing to function.
On a television set in a local pub, the news reports that the War Machine has been put out of action, but that further attacks of a similar nature can be expected over the next day.
The Doctor, examining the War Machine, finds that the programming and test had not been completed and that the computer has failed. Sir Charles notes to the Minister of Defense that if the programming and test had been completed, it would have been nearly unstoppable. The Minister remarks that the other War Machines must be found and destroyed before they are operational.
Elsewhere in London, construction of the second War Machine has been completed and testing begins.
The Doctor is investigating the inoperable War Machine when Ben arrives, having been unable to find Polly. When the Doctor hands his cloak to Ben, a TARDIS key falls from the pocket and Ben picks it up. As he goes to hand the key back to the Doctor, the Minister of Defense approaches, asking for a status report from the Doctor. The Doctor has decoded the machine and determined that there are 11 more units in the 20 to 30 miles around London, all set to begin an attack at noon.
Testing of the second War Machine continues, but as the tester walks in front of the machine he is accidentally killed by a blast from its weaponry.
At the Tower, Professor Brett notes that contact with the second War Machine has broken down, implying the machine has gone rogue. Professor Krimpton goes to correct the programming that is at fault.
Outside the Covent Garden warehouse one of the survivors is brought in for questioning. As he passes, the Doctor realizes it is Major Green and follows so that he may ask a few questions of the man. Major Green, disoriented and confused, doesn’t recognize the Doctor or the War Machine that he built. He is led away by soldiers for medical assistance. While Sir Charles wants to raid the Post Office Tower and retrieve Professor Brett, the Doctor berates Sir Charles’s “strong-arm” methods and the Minister seems to agree as he turns to the Doctor for guidance.
Meanwhile, a man in a telephone booth contacts the police to report that another of the War Machines is on the streets of London. While on the phone, the War Machine spots him and kills him. Over the radio, a warning goes out to the citizens of London to stay off the streets and not confront the machines.
Ben is still worried about Polly’s whereabouts. The Doctor tells Ben that if all he worries about is one person then nothing shall ever get done, but Ben feels he owes it to Polly since she saved his life.
As the second War Machine approaches the Battersea Power Station, Sir Charles goes to the Doctor and the Minister to find out if they have any other ideas. The Doctor wants to capture the functional machine by using electro-magnetics to paralyze it and therefore use the captured machine to their advantage.
Back in Professor Brett’s office, Polly enters and requests to be judged by WOTAN for allowing Ben to escape. Professor Brett informs her that she will be judged later because her assistance is currently needed.
Sir Charles assists the Doctor in obtaining the necessary equipment for the Doctor’s magnetic field, and the Minister of Defense assists in closing off roads to funnel the War Machine to the optimal location to spring the trap. Sir Charles, Ben, and the Doctor discuss the Doctor’s plan, which requires moving behind the War Machine to connect a final cable to spring the trap. While the Doctor plans to do it himself, Ben feels that a younger man should take the risk.
As the machine approaches, Ben takes up his position, preparing to run and connect the cable. After hesitating, the War Machine moves into the trap area, Ben connects the cable, and the switch is thrown. While the War Machine isn’t shut down by the magnetic field, it does allow the Doctor to get close enough to shut the machine down manually and examine a complete machine.
Elsewhere, questions are going out around the world wondering if the attacks are limited to London or if the whole world is at risk.
The Minister and Sir Charles are concerned about the length of time it is taking for the Doctor to examine the machine. Finally, the Doctor returns to the Minister and Sir Charles to let them know that he has reprogrammed the machine and that he is ready to send it to complete its new orders. As Ben flips a switch, the War Machine hums to life and moves out of the army operating headquarters, heading to the Post Office Tower. Ben, still concerned about Polly and fearing that she returned to the Tower, rushes off in hopes of arriving before the War Machine and rescuing Polly. The Doctor does not approve of this action.
In the Minister’s car, the Doctor explains that should everything go as planned with his reprogrammed War Machine, — WOTAN should be deactivated and all those under hypnosis should be released.
In Professor Brett’s office, he and Krimpton are preparing to release the ten remaining War Machines. As the War Machine arrives at the base of the Tower, Ben arrives in the hall outside Professor Brett’s office and sees Polly working at the computer. He rushes in, pushing past Professor Brett, grabs Polly and drags her out of the office and down the hall just as the War Machine exits the elevator. Krimpton attempts to get close enough to the War Machine to shut it down, but is killed in the process. The War Machine fires repeatedly into WOTAN and finally destroys it. Professor Brett, grabbing his head in pain, finally comes to his senses, though he has no memory of what happened. As the Doctor, Sir Charles and the Minister exit the elevator, they find the office filled with smoke and a charred WOTAN. As Professor Brett asks what happened, Sir Charles directs him to ask the Doctor, who is no longer there.
Later, the Doctor is standing outside the TARDIS, with the “OUT OF ORDER” sign still on the door, waiting. As he begins to turn and enter the ship, Polly and Ben run across the street to greet him. The Doctor informs them he is waiting for Dodo. Polly tells him that although Dodo feels much better, she wants to stay in London and that she sends her love. The Doctor, surprised and seemingly a little hurt, thanks Polly and Ben for their help and sends them on their way. Down the street, they watch as the Doctor unlocks the police box and enters. When Polly mentions the key, Ben remembers that he still needs to return the one he picked up when it fell from the Doctor’s cloak. They run back to return the key, and when the Doctor doesn’t answer, Polly unlocks the door. She and Ben enter, and the TARDIS dematerializes.