Saturday, 6 June 2009

Doctor Who: The War Machines

Part One

""Oh, I dig your fab gear."

A whole story full of actual footage! On DVD no less! Something to cherish, as it's something that won't be happening again until the story after next...

The way the title of the story is displayed is very nice indeed, and it's a sign that, although the change in lead actor is still to come, we've entered a new era. It seems incongruous at this point in the show's history to have a story set in contemporary London, not least because the setting demands a degree realism alien to Doctor Who as we've known it. Certainly, the opening shot is reminiscent of the TARDIS' departure from An Unearthly Child, whether intentionally or not, but from that point onwards this is unlike anything we've seen before.

The early scenes of the Doctor and Dodo leaving the TARDIS are dialogue free, which is most effective, and the "Out of Order" sign is a nice visual gag which can only work because this is the first true landing in contemporary Britain. If only Ian and Babs were here! Instead we've got Dodo. it's nice to see Steven get a mention, though.

Surely the biggest Billy-fluff yet: "I can... I can feel... it's got something sort of powerful... it... look at my skin. look at that! I've got that pricking sensation. That sensation again, the same... just as I had when I... fought the Daleks. Those Daleks were near." Not for the first time in recent episodes Hartnell's poor health seems to be showing on screen. A lot of his lines in this story sound as though they're not as scripted, although all other aspects of his performance are spot on as always.

It's such a pleasure to see the lovely Anneke Wills for the first time, so much so that I'm almost prepared to just accept how easily the Doctor and Dodo seem to get into the Post Office Tower without any awkward questions. In fact, no one questions the Doctor's right to be there at any point in the story. This is in a way welcome as it removes a potential source of childishness, but some explanation, if only a throwaway line, would have been nice.

The Doctor's hat and cloak are coolness incarnate, incidentally- no wonder he's able to get past the doormen and into Inferno although, sadly, an opportunity is missed: we don't get to see the Doctor strutting his funky stuff. Still, the scenes in the club are Sixtiesness itself, and it's most odd seeing loads of mods in Doctor Who. This half feels like an episode of The Likely Lads, particularly the one with Anneke Wills in it.

The scenes with Polly and Ben are rather nice- Polly is a very likeable character indeed, although the fact that Anneke Wills is gorgeous probably helps.

I would mention the final line of the episode- "Doctor Who is required. Bring him here."- but let's face it, it's rather innocuous, and I'm sure we all barely noticed it.

Part Two

"Yes, I wonder, Sir Charles, do you no, I don't suppose you would."

Oh dear, the baddies are insisting that their top priority is to "enlist Doctor Who" and generally saying "Doctor Who" all over the place. Still, to paraphrase General Melchett, if all else fails then a straightforward refusal to face facts in the face will see us through.

Polly and Ben are a very likeable pair of characters. Interesting that Polly basically asks Ben out. It's a shame really that, as Polly's about to be brainwashed for the rest of the story, we won't see them again properly together in until the end. Still, there'll be plenty of time to get to know them.

This episode introduces us to what will become a Doctor Who trope, the death of a tramp, but at this point it seems very jarring, an injection of social realism into a Doctor Who sci-fi story. The same episode gives us Dodo's hypnotism and a brief appearance from the Doctor's magic ring- something we haven't seen for a while. We don't realise at the time, but this is the last we'll be seeing of Dodo. I was hardly the character's biggest fan, but her departure is not exactly befitting.

Oh dear, the baddies are saying "Doctor Who" left, right and centre now. La la la la, I can't hear you. Isn't it rather irresponsible of the Doctor to send Ben on such a dangerous mission?

Part Three

"All human beings who break down will be eliminated."

Anneke Wills plays the brainwashed Polly very well indeed- the scenes in the warehouse are very effective. Although once Polly gets caught not snitching on Ben it's rather wakward that she's sent to WOTAN to be punished instead of just shot.

Sir Charles' phone call to the minister gives me a thought: he's Willie Whitelaw!

Soldiers? In contemporary England? In Doctor Who? Heavens above! I wonder if we'll ever see such a thing again? The cliffhanger's great, I don't care how little sense it makes.

Part Four

"The miserable old so and so!"

It's most odd seeing the Doctor assisting the authorities. We've never seen this sort of thing before, and I wouldn't like to see it too often (oh, the dramatic irony!) but at this point it comes across as very sixties in an Avengersy, Adam Adamanty sort of way. The Doctor in this story is the scientist as hero, saving the day by thinking and inventing things, not by action adventure. For that we now have Ben, and very good he is too. But where's Polly? it's a good while since we last saw her.

The Doctor suddenly slipping away from the authorities once the baddies are defeated- another Doctor Who trope makes its entrance here! Dodo gets a mention at the end, which is something, I suppose, but now of course we get the great Ben and Polly aboard the TARDIS. I've never seen The Smugglers before; more than at any point up to now I can't wait to see what happens next.

Overall, that was all good fun. Nothing too clever, perhaps, but there's nothing wrong with that. 4/5.

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