Monday, 16 August 2010

Blast from the Past: The War Machines

Huge metal creatures glide across the ground, stalking the streets of London, and armed with two powerful weapons emerging from the front of their case. This description could easily be that of a Dalek, but instead it is of a War Machine. The resemblance that they bare to the Daleks has often been noted by fans of the programme, but that doesn’t stop this story from creating changes of its own…

The opening aerial shot of London feels new and fresh to the show, with this being the first story to be solely set in the present day. The scenes in the ‘Inferno’ bar offer another new atmosphere to the show, where we get to see everyday people having a fun time, and meet the lively characters of Ben and Polly. However, I’m not overly impressed with some of the extras’ boogieing and jiving, which is quite embarrassing to watch (imagine when your Dad used to dance in front of your friends or relatives, and you’d be weeping on the inside - that sort of dancing).

Jackie Lane’s character of Dodo is soon whisked off by a phone call to the Post Office Tower, however she seems to be acting rather strangely. After being possessed by WOTAN, she is given instructions to collect the Doctor (who is in the bar, where she has just been summoned from). It doesn’t take the Doctor long to realise what has happened though, and Dodo is set to rest for the day. Strangely enough, this is the last time that we see Dodo, and she never has a proper farewell scene with the Doctor. Her character is as dead as a Dodo (pun intended - sorry).

Queue scenes of battle and mayhem with killer robotic machines – perfect! After London citizens flee the streets and people in phone boxes get zapped, the Doctor makes his move and stands up to the menacing War Machines (they even knock over bins – they should get an Asbo). William Hartnell shines in the scenes with the War Machine, acting as a powerful authority over the enemies, yet still having a joyful and childlike quality to him when he achieves his task and stops their force.

This story is one of the finest to emerge from the William Hartnell era, where the use of location filming (a rarity for the time) combined with convincing studio sets (a huge rarity for the time) allowed the energetic story to fully blossom. The new “hip-and-groovy” companions of Ben and Polly gave the show a promising future, and ensured that this story was a huge turning point for the show, even if it was another Dalek… I mean, very original-looking War Machine story.

Tomorrow: The Tomb of the Cybermen

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