Monday, 2 August 2010

The War Machines


  1. Parking meters! The Post Office Tower! Computer banks! Teletypes! Linking up computers all over the world! Black cabs!

    Suddenly we're in the present day, and Doctor Who feels different to everything we've ever seen before.

    Shortly after arriving, Dodo says "What I'd really like is to go to the hottest nightclub in town..." and then does. I mean, fuck me, they've just gone clubbing. Bless 'em, but I don't really see any of his previous companions as clubbers. Again - it's new, it's modern, suddenly Doctor Who has jumped from the retro world it's been living in straight to the present day. There's just a real step-change in the character of the show, overnight.

    Suddenly there's army trucks, and filming at Covent Garden, and empty streets, and location shots, and genuine TV newsreaders warning you to stay indoors and off the streets, and everything just seems so much bigger and more real.

    The Post Office Tower as the source of all evil never stops being brilliant throughout, and I love the fact that Wotan gets his own credit.

    Amazing stuff, and I would argue that this serial is the moment where Doctor Who becomes recognisably the show that Russell T Davies brought back to life. The use of London locations, the scale, the helpless military... all these are what we see in the show since the 2005 revival.

    Fantastic, seminal. One of the best serials yet.

    PS - Dear computer scientists: When building your amazing super computer, you might want to consider not equipping it with its own super-hypno-ray. I mean, why was that in the plans? Seriously, it's just asking for trouble.

  2. The post office tower as the base of evil! GENIUS !!!!!!
    Seriously, it's a great concept and there is a nice sense of evil running thru the show from the moment The Doctor and Dodo materialise and The Doctor first senses something coming from the newly completed Tower.
    It is wonderful to see the show back in a contemporary setting, with the Tardis having it's very own 'Out of Order' sign to keep out constables!
    The story itself is a nice tale of a massive, and I mean MASSIVE, super computer that decides man has reached a dead end and it's going to take over the world. It's defeated of course but it does take over a floor of the Post Office Tower. Weird now to think how seriously big computers were when the laptop is so ubiquitous these days. Does make you glad that Wotan gets his own credit, I feel he deserves it. There is also a rather charming conversation in Episode 4 where it's explained to a Government minister what a computer program is.
    On the weakness front, the War Machines themselves are famously cumbersome and poorly designed with a caterpillar track that seems particularly useless and ineffective. But I rather like them for all that. And when they are tested by just killing someone who has helped build them it's really terrifying how the fellow in his hipnotised state just stands there and waits for death.

    On the companion front, Dodo gets hypnotised and then disappears to the country to recover in Episode 2 so Ben and Polly do all the assisting and both show a lot of promise for the future adding to the feeling of verve and pace that this story has running through it. At the climax they turn up at the Tardis with a message from Dodo. She's a lot better and she's going to stay here in her own time. Remembering how blase she was on entering the Tardis I guess I'm not surprised that she leaves without even being on screen!!

    As Piers says the whole production value is lifted by the location filming and shots of the Tower and the story does feel much more like the modern show than ever before.

    Overall, despite the weaknesses this story has pace, great Doctor, promising new companions, great concept and is just really enjoyable to watch. So I'm going to give it 9/10. Enjoy

  3. Just realised I haven't done a round-up for season 3 so here it is. For me, this year is much better than the second but not as good as the first. Lots of changes have gone on behind the scenes making it inconsistent but one of the joys of the show is its' variety and this year certainly gives us that. It has a lot of enjoyable stories with "The Gunfighters" being the only real clunker and as it reaches it's end shows an awful lot of promise that season 4 may match the excellence of season 1. Onward....

  4. "Doctor Who is required."

    What a corker this is. The first zinger for quite some time. The story that set the tone for the future.

    There is much to like but, as usual, I’m last to the party and I’m not going to repeat what has been said already. Suffice to say that this last story of series three is easily the best. In fact I’d say The War Machines is the best story I’ve watched since The Dalek Invasion of Earth way back at the front end of that awful dog’s arse of a second series.

    Dodo’s gone then, with about as much ceremony as was appropriate. Ben and Polly are an instantly more likeable pair. They are convincingly modern and seem quite fresh and exciting, with clear personalities. I’m looking forward to travelling with these two.

    The cliffhanger of episode three, that lovely hero moment when the Doctor stands in the path of the oncoming War Machine, is one of my favourite moments of Doctor Who.

    Better than – The Time Meddler
    Not as Good as – The Dalek Invasion of Earth

    And so ends series three. A mixed bag, if I'm generous, and dominated by the hugely ambitious but not entirely succesful Masterplan. Although there have been some stories I enjoyed, I found little to love in this run (just The Time Meddler and The War Machines).

    I must say Peter Purves was been a great presence, especially where Hartnell was absent or not quite firing on all cylinders. The first really good companian since Ian and Barbara.

    There were times I thought it was a wonder that the show survived for a fourth series. It seems clear to me that a shake up is required if it is to endure beyond that..