The War Machines : Episode 4
First Broadcast July 16th, 1966 @ 5.15pm (5.5m viewers)
‘The War Machines’ provides a notable turning point in the history of Doctor Who, bringing to an end season 3 of the show before a summer break. When the show would return in the autumn William Hartnell’s departure would be a pressing concern but this episode attempted to boost the show and prepare for the next era with a new duo of Ben and Polly.
Although this was the final story of the third season of Doctor Who it was actually the first time in the show’s history that the location for an entire adventure was modern-day Earth. Later in the Second Doctor’s tenure and even more significantly during his third incarnation, the concept of alien activity on modern-day Earth had the potential to grip the audience and bring a dose of reality to the show. Fortunately, the alien villainy would improve from the somewhat bland, undynamic and largely unthreatening War Machines seen in this story. As a part of this strategy, Producer Innes Lloyd and Script Editor Gerry Davis had decided to ground the show in science, using the advice of the former doctor of ophthalmology Kit Pedler. To make it even more current and modern, a pair of nightclubbers from swinging Sixties London were created to become the new companions for the Doctor.
The story of Jackie Lane’s departure from Doctor Who is a sad one, informed that her character Dodo Chaplet was to be written out even whilst her debut story was being transmitted. This decision was made by Lloyd and Davis as a part of modernising the programme and they had already written out Steven Taylor in the previous story ‘The Savages’ which had been the first story the new team had commissioned. Dodo too was disposed of at the earliest convenience. Such was the seeming disdain the production team had for Jackie Lane’s character she failed to make it past the second instalment of ‘The War Machines’. Conditioned and mesmerised by the mysterious WOTAN, Dodo is snapped out of her hypnotic state by the Doctor and packed off to recuperate at Sir Charles’ country estate from which she would never return. Shamefully she does not receive a farewell scene and it for new companion Polly to explain her absence.
Memorable Moment (Spoiler Warning)
Polly, an attractive ‘Sixties Chick’ straight out of The Inferno nightclub in swinging London, and Ben Jackson, a cockney sailor, provide an interesting combination but one which works very well. Their relationship develops nicely, with Ben rescuing ‘Duchess’ from Professor Brett’s office in the nick of time as the reprogrammed War Machine destroys WOTAN. This younger pairing were therefore, capable of adding more youthful dynamism, running towards the TARDIS in the last moments of the show. The final scene sees the Doctor enter the TARDIS having said his farewells to Ben and Polly, only for the duo to sneak their way back into the ship using a key picked up earlier. The Doctor’s reaction to these two hitchhikers would be seen eight weeks later in episode 1 of ‘The Smugglers’, which received a 45-second trailer after this episode had been broadcast, but sadly we are not able to enjoy it today.