Shows - Review
Doctor Who (1963-1989)
Episode: The War Machines (Part 1)
Review by: Michael Hickerson
I'll be the first to admit that I don't dabble much in the Hartnell years. Not that I really dislike the first Doctor, but he's not my favorite. Give me a good McCoy, Troughton, or Baker story anyday.
But every once in a while, an unexplained urge seizes me to power up the VCR and journey back to the Hartnell years. Or better yet, to buy one of his stories on video. Which explains how I came to the War Machines. Those wonderful people at The Doctor Who Restoration Team Website found some old footage that needed to be restored to this adventure. I'm glad they did because it's the lure that really whetted my appitite to see this story again and, perhaps, discover something new and exciting about it.
And it worked.
The War Machines has been described as the first "modern" Doctor Who adventure. After spending two and a half seasons avoiding the modern day, the Doctor and Dodo return to London for an adventure. In many ways, this story can be seen as an early seed for the UNIT stories that will emerge during the Troughton era. And, overall, the modern setting helps quite a bit. It gives us some interesting areas to look at and helps ground the story a bit more in reality.
Usually when fandom refers to 60s Who that was set in London, the images that come mind are the Yeti in the underground or the fantastic location shots of the Cybermen emerging from the sewers. Yet, The War Machines has some of this, but it's not as readily burned into the collective Who psyche. I think part of it is that The War Machines is the experimental story-- trying to see what will happen when set in modern times. And for the most part, the settings aren't really that memorable. I mean, is it really plausible that there are this many warehouses in London, producing these incidious machines? Another fact may be that we only see one War Machine at a time, which takes down a bit on the menance.
And, of course, it's got the big continuity error. WOTAN and several other cast members refer to the good Doctor as "Doctor Who." For me, it's one of those things like seeing the wires on Toberman in Tomb of the Cybermen-- I just let it slide off and not detract from my enjoyment. The creators in the 60s had no idea that the series would last this long, much less me scrutinized in such detail as we do today. Such errors exist and the series is stronger for them. It gives us something to debate about or cringe at. But taken for what it is, four fairly well done episodes, The War Machines really stands out as a decent, fun Hartnell adventure. It's not a classic on the level of The Daleks or The Aztecs, but it's still a joy to watch.
Last Updated: 10/25/2006
Other Reviews by Michael Hickerson
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