Doctor Doctor Who Guide

Let’s begin by getting the positive points out of the way. It’s not dull. Well, OK, it’s a bit dull, compared to the all-action extravaganzas of the twenty-first century, but it’s not, say, The Sensorites. Each episode does noticeably advance the story, while Ben and Polly are lively and engaging. Michael Craze, in particular, gives a terrific performance and the scene in the nightclub is fun.

Oh, and they get rid of Dodo. That’s about it, though.

OK, so the basic plot of a computer gone crazy would not have been quite so clichéd in 1966. It would be unfair to expect the writers to accurately predict future developments in future technology, so we can accept quirks such as a sentient computer capable of independent thought but without anyone having invented the monitor. I think making it capable of telepathy and hypnosis is stretching it a little, though.

The plot is so full of holes that it strains credibility far beyond breaking point, which is particularly frustrating because it has no real excuse. This isn’t a complicated story involving time travelling alien invaders – it’s a straightforward computer-goes-mad scenario. A second draft would surely have resolved most of the problems.

In the long list of improbable events, the most glaring is the impossible ascent of the the Post Office Tower by the reprogrammed War Machine at the end. The dead tramp appearing as front page news only hours after his body was dumped is pretty unlikely. The way the Doctor is instantly accepted by everyone as an authority would be fine if even the smallest suggestion of overcoming some initial difficulty, or explanation of how he was achieving this, was presented on screen, but it isn’t.

All of these, though, are minor annoyances. The crucial problem with the War Machines is that WOTAN’s plans make no sense at all. As has been frequently pointed out, if it’s serious about taking over the world, it’s going a pretty strange way about it. Why not simply wait until it’s connected to all of the computers in the world? Why draw attention to itself by shooting people and leaving their corpses outside its secret warehouse, or trying to capture the Doctor? Why have the secret warehouse and the War Machines at all? How does it get all the War Machine parts – complete with logos – so quickly?

In short, WOTAN doesn’t act like a computer at all, and certainly not a supremely intelligent one. Its attributes appear to be an ability to recognise the Doctor and the TARDIS, a rare knack for hypnosis (so good it can even achieve it over the telephone), and an addiction to insane evil schemes ostensibly aimed at world domination.

Sound like anyone we know? That’s right, the whole thing makes perfect sense as long as you imagine that WOTAN is not in fact a sentient computer at all, but is in fact the Master, hiding under a table.

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