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21 August 2018 @ 08:07 pm
The Randomiser: The War Machines  
We are still watching randomly but I'm so stupidly behind with writing about our viewing its not really even worth being... I don't know... something about. I blame the trains. Normally I write on the train but with the trains having been in meltdown since May there's been a lot more driving and a lot less training.

The War Machines has long been one of my favourite Hartnell stories. The Tame Layman observed halfway through that it has a distinctly Avengers-like vibe to it which may explain my fondness. In fact, it doesn't just have a distinctly Avengers-vibe it feels much more like an Avengers story than it does like a Doctor Who story. It's pacey and self-consciously contemporary in a way a lot of Hartnell stories are not (albeit without quite the stylishness of The Avengers) and arguably is as much a precursor of the UNIT stories as The Web of Fear and The Invasion.

In this tale of mad computer WOTAN seeking to take over the world, the Doctor is far from a random trouble-making alien who appears in a crisis and confounds authority. Here he is pretty much a member of the establishment, staying with Sir Charles and attending Press conferenecs. Much has been made of WOTAN saying "Bring me Doctor Who" from frantic attempts to retcon it, to the rather more astute observation that the writer and production team of the moment clearly only had the vaguest idea what Doctor Who was like as a show. An observation which, while astute, doesn't entirely explain matters. It was nobody's first attempt at Doctor Who - though none of them had been involved with the show very long. There is definitely a feeling, though, that the new brooms are beginning to sweep clean while at the same time settling in and learning the ropes.

The net result is that poor old Dodo is served very poorly - hypnotised by WOTAN and then dispatched to the country to recover, never to be seen again - while the two new companions, Ben and Polly, shine in the environs of contemporary London.

Tame Layman was very critical of the eponymous War Machines, built by WOTAN, and in particular spent a good deal of time detailing all the ways they were Not As Good as Daleks. They are, indeed, not as good as Daleks but as clunky, somewhat unconvincing, slow moving robots in Doctor Who go they are OK and benefit from some outdoor filming and a contemporary setting that encourages the extras to behave more naturalistically than they often do in Doctor Who.

I'm not sure I'd still call The War Machines my favourite Hartnell. It's storytelling is a little disjointed and its plot a little straightforward and while it wouldn't have been out of place in the Pertwee years, it doesn't feel much like the Doctor Who of its time. I'm still hugely fond of it though.

This entry was originally posted at https://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/512103.html.
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on August 21st, 2018 08:24 pm (UTC)
I like it too. It does have a distinctive feel. I always find it fascinating that they manage the scene of the Doctor in the disco without falling into self-parody, which I'm not sure any later iteration of the programme would manage, including the current version. And Ben and Polly have been unfairly ignored by fandom.

Re: "Doctor Who is required," we now know from Missy that his name really is Doctor Who (maybe) so maybe WOTAN was smarter than we thought. Although I get the impression that there was a not-quite-made-explicit idea that WOTAN is psychic and reads Dodo's mind in that scene, so Doctor Who might just be how she sees the Doctor. Although in a couple of stories' time, the Doctor would adopt the German pseudonym "Doctor von Wer" and then sign a note to Professor Zaroff as "Doctor W." so Innes Lloyd and Gerry Davis probably felt that that really was his name. Maybe Missy sent them a memo?
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on August 27th, 2018 02:52 pm (UTC)
Jim Smith (I think) wrote a piece not so long ago about how the idea that the main character is "The Doctor" and not "Doctor Who" is a weird bit of gate-keeping fans have come up with which is definitely not true in terms of publicity surrounding the show, production documents and the like, and is arguably not true within the show either.
daniel_saundersdaniel_saunders on August 27th, 2018 03:31 pm (UTC)
He's probably right. The character was credited as "Doctor Who" for the first eighteen seasons and then again for Eccleston's series. It's hard to argue against the programme's own credits.

I used to get annoyed about new fans referring to each multi-episode original series story as an 'episode' (singular) or 'arc' (e.g. "my favourite episode is Genesis of the Daleks" or "The Ribos Operation is an under-rated arc"), but eventually I realised that I was probably trying to gate-keep. Although the pedant in me still gets annoyed sometimes.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on August 28th, 2018 07:00 pm (UTC)
I think there's a distinction between liking things to be correct and using greater knowledge (or made up fanlore) as an excuse to draw up them-and-us boundaries and make people feel unwelcome - if you see what I mean.
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on August 28th, 2018 09:43 pm (UTC)
Well, I certainly wasn't trying to make people feel unwelcome, but I think it took me a very long time to cope with the influx of new fans with very different additional interests, cultural references and slang (and perhaps also political views, or at least ways of expressing them) to me, and I probably haven't completely got there yet. And I have been called a pedant in the past!

(I quite like the new Time Team format and participants, though. Although I wonder if viewing odd episodes at a time is a cause or an effect of new ways of watching TV.)
louisedennislouisedennis on August 29th, 2018 11:15 am (UTC)
I wonder if viewing odd episodes at a time is a cause or an effect of new ways of watching TV.

I would suspect it is unrelated - current modes of watching TV lean towards the binge-watch...
liadtbunny: Avengers readingliadtbunny on August 22nd, 2018 02:11 pm (UTC)
I like the War Machines. One facing down the machines is cool. The machines may not look good but they'll still kill you.
louisedennis: Who:Onelouisedennis on August 27th, 2018 02:53 pm (UTC)
I did feel he was being a little unfair to the poor War Machines. They aren't the Daleks but there are worse offenders in terms of Monster Costumes - at least they don't look like a man in a suit.