Friday, February 17, 2012


"Raaaahr!  I's a MONSTA!"
"You are an enemy of mechanized evolution. Nothing must be allowed to prevent the machines taking over. They are the next stage of the growth of the life force on Earth. All obstacles will be swept aside--including you."

1) Hmmm....there's something missing from this story--oh, yes, The Doctor! Hartnell appears in maybe twenty minutes of this serial, mainly by sitting around extrapolating with his friend Sir Charles. The bulk of the heavy lifting is done by Michael Craze's Ben and loads and loads of stock footage of the titular War Machines rumbling around London.

2) And speaking of those War Machines--Ye Gods, these are some of the most craptacular monsters I've seen. They come off as gigantic refrigerator containers leaning at an angle with some of the most unconvincing weaponry mounted on the front. Plus they move slower than a turtle and are accompanied by a jangly electronic beeping that is just designed to put your teeth on edge.

3) This is the last serial to feature Jackie Lane as DoDo--and after seeing this, I prolly should never grumble about the terrible outros given later companions like Leela and Peri again. For, you see, thanks to Ms. Lane's contract expiring mid-story, DoDo is literally packed off to the country and never seen again. She is mentioned in a line of dialogue by Polly, but still....

4) Wotan is not the only human controlling computer we're going to meet on this journey--but he's gotta be the stupidest. While there is some rumbling about Wotan wanting to connect up with every other master computer in the world and fashioning it into a sort of Forbin Project-esque controlling body, all it seems to be concerned with is building those silly-ass refrigerator carton monsters and sending them out to smash things. And it doesn't even bother to make the refrigerator carton monster's operating system complicated enough that the Doctor can't hack it and turn it into the weapon of its destruction.

"This is what I'm reduced to fighting?  I fought Daleks,
young man...DAAAALEKS!"
5) And speaking of Wotan, what was the whole point of the Post Tower setting? Even though there is some twittering about this new urban fixture in the middle of London, Wotan's plan, well, doesn't really need the Post Tower at all. I suspect that Wotan is using the Tower's numerous broadcast relays to exert its mental influence on London proper, but it's never clearly stated.

6) I know this might be a real nit-picky thing for me to say, but it set my teeth on edge every single time one of the characters refers to Hartnell specifically as 'Doctor Who.' Supposedly this is the only serial where this happens, and boy does it stick out like a sore thumb.

7) I think I might've been more impressed with the Refrigerator Carton Monsters if a) the special effects department had built more than one of them, and b) the scenes in Part Four of said Monster rampaging didn't occur on a nearly empty street. Hell, the only casualties that occur throughout the serial are people controlled by Wotan who are literally fed to the RCMs, a stray bum, and a guy in a phone booth. Very unimpressive for a creature designed by Wotan to take over entire cities.

Yes, I would watch Anneke Wills make these kind of
faces all day...they're so entertaining....
8) This is the first appearance of Anneke Wills (who was one of the other finalist up for the role of Susan before Verity Lambert settled on Carole Ann Ford) as Polly, a swinging 60's dollybird. The thing that strikes me about Wills is not her looks--obviously the reason she Wills was cast--but the rubbery quality of her face. It's actually quite expressive, and Wills pulls some wonderfully comedic faces at times that's really endeared me to her...which I guess is fortunate, given how little she actually gets to do.
(and I will not mention how she has a rather uncanny resemblance to my niece Jessica...)

9) And on the other side we get Michael Craze's cockney sailor Ben....and I don't know what to make of him. It's obvious that at this point the male companion is now just here to hit things, which is a step down from Ian and Steven. And yet there's this weird sorta screwball comedy chemistry between Craze and Wills, with the same sort of hints of a relationship in the offing. I might not have reacted to Ben as enthusiastically if he was introduced earlier, or if her was paired off with a different companion, but him in tandem with Polly makes for some promise.

10) And the thing that at turns amazed and infuriated me the most? This serial, while written by Ian Stuart Black, was based on a story by Kit Pedlar. Pedlar was a noted futurist who specialized in cybernetics and was concerned about the increasing computerization of the world. Thankfully, after this hamfisted, ineptly constructed tale, Pedlar will be paired up with much more compatible writer Gerry Davis and create one of the Whoniverse's Trinity of Terror, The Cybermen.

Overall....a sad, sad little serial that's difficult to get through and badly constructed. Add into the fact that there are several thoroughly awful moments, including the reveal of the monster and the sudden disappearance of a companion, and you've got a serial to avoid.

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