The War Machines

Written by Ian Stuart Black with  Kit Pedler

Directed by Michael Ferguson

A long time ago in a faraway land called Edinburgh, I once studied the art of artificial intelligence. Every so so often I would tell someone what I did, and they would get a slightly worried look and ask if it were possible that one day some sort of Skynet would rise up and take over the planet. my usual response to this was to say that I not only hoped so, but harbourview the ambition to design and build such a mechanical conquistador myself and thus be responsible for the downfall of mankind. There was no truth to this, I just said ti for the look on their faces. I don’t do much with A.I. anymore, but I do have a degree in the subject, and so can say with some reasonable amount of authority that if such a thing were going to happen it would not be for some time yet, and we’ll have plenty of time kill each other all off long before then.

People didn’t really know as much about A.I. back in 1966, not even if they were the chief scientific advisor* to Doctor Who, as co-writer Kit Pedler was at the time, so the notion of a contemporary computer gaining sentience and then deciding that humanity was not fit to run its own affairs was probably quite plausible, particularly since computers were to most people mysterious and distant objects, owned only by a few research institutes and large companies. Joe public probably didn’t realise that they had trouble counting above 2.

This story is remarkable for being the first story set on contemporary Earth since the very first episode of Who, other than Planet of Giants, where the crew were all 1 inch tall. The Doctor spent half of the 70s kicking around the home counties, and nowadays he’s somewhere in England every other week, so that it took three almost years for the Doctor to return really demonstrates the change in direction that the show has taken since the ‘60s.

At least the London setting meant that Dodo could be left somewhere other than an active war zone. somehow, the way the Doctor pretty much just forgets her about halfway through the story is even more insulting to her. One minute she’s there, the next she’s gone, and you won’t see her again. Much as Jackie Lane did her best though, she’s not much of a loss.

What about her replacements though? I have to admit to really liking Ben and Polly, despite their slight dullness. Michael Craze is even more fucking handsome than Peter Purvis, but for some reason that doesn’t bother me the way it did with Steven. He’s so fucking handsome that even Anneke Wills merely looks pretty next to him. Bastard.

And so the third year of Who came to a close. Although Hartnell’s acting was top notch, him facing down a half programmed war machine has to stand out as an all time great cliffhanger, his memory was beginning to suffer, and it was becoming increasingly obvious that he had trouble remembering his lines.

My memory is also a bit shit sometimes. Remember how I said that the Gunfighters was Hartnell’s last historical story? I was talking gobshite, as you will soon find out in The Smugglers. Is it as forgettable as my brain seems to think? Find out next time.

*that may not have been his official job title, but its one that I insist on using.

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