Retro Review: Doctor Who – The War Machines (DVD)

But when WOTAN decides that it should rule the world, the Doctor is the only person who can stop its rampaging War Machines from destroying London.

Synopsis: The TARDIS arrives in London 1966, where the Doctor and Dodo visit the recently opened Post Office Tower. At its top they discover a brilliant new problem-solving computer – the Will Operating  Thought ANologue.

But when WOTAN decides that it should rule the world, the Doctor is the only person who can stop its rampaging War Machines from destroying London.

Review: In this classic 60’s episode of Doctor Who we are given a story, which for when it was made. Is way ahead of its time.

In The War Machines. We have an allegory, which when it was made was pure science fiction. Whereas now it is a very real cautionary tale, which plays on humanity’s very real fears about machines and computers taking over.

The story was developed based on a story idea by Kit Pedler who is credited as the co-creator of the original Cybermen. Not the Cybermen from the modern series, which they royally messed up. The real deal.

The story makes great use of the Post Office Tower, which still stands to this day in central London.

In a nutshell a Computer called WOTAN has developed an ego and starts to take control of the people in and around London and gets them to build a small army of war machines in order to destroy London.

WOTAN does not seem to have a specific motive for doing this other than having total control over humans.

What dates this episode aside from the rather bulky looking war machines is the fact that the machines refer to the Doctor as Doctor Who. It wasn’t as a established back then in the series that the Doctor was simply called Doctor and the Who part was not his second name.

This is an episode that they could make today and it would likely be even more effective with present day technology and our fears surrounding it.

This said. The story for the time it was made is way ahead of its time and that is despite how dated it looks with London of the swinging sixties and clumsiness of the special effects.

The Doctor meets Ben and Polly

It’s a fun episode to watch and also introduces the first Doctor’s final companions Ben and Polly to the series.

As far as the extras go on this DVD. You get a fair bit. But among my favourites are the six minute look at the various locations that were used with a then and now perspective. And a brief documentary narrated and hosted by the late Labour MP Tony Benn who takes us on a tour of the Post Office Tower and talks about his part in opening it to the general public. In the documentary Benn refers to the 60’s as a time when the UK had such a confidence that we could achieve anything. So this is a great bit of nostalgia, but its also a great endorsement of what we are able to do as a country when we are all united.

The War Machines is a story that I would actually put on the list for newly acquainted Doctor Who fans to have a look at.

Doctor Who - The War Machines
  • Packaging
  • Story
  • Acting
  • Visual Effects
  • Incidental Music
  • DVD Extras

Ian Cullen is the founder of and has been a fan of science fiction and fantasy from birth. In the past few years he has written for 'Star Trek' Magazine as well as interviewed numerous comics writers, television producers and actors for the SFP-NOW podcast at: When he is not writing for Ian enjoys playing his guitar, studying music, watching movies and reading his comics. Ian is both the founder and owner of You can contact ian at:
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