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41 of 41 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "I dig your fab gear!"
Hartnell's travels as the Doctor only rarely took him to contemporary Earth so it's the visual delight of seeing him out and about in 1960's London taking black cabs, admiring the newly finished Post Office Tower and strolling into nightclubs, that is the first and most immediate pleasure here. Surrounded by soldiers, assisting the establishment by fighting an invasion of...
Published on 31 Aug 2008 by Hector Lerbioz

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not the first choice for a William Hartnell Doctor Who DVD
I'm collecting the set of William Hartnell Doctor Who DVDs, as, sadly, I'm old enough to remember him the first time round, and of couse being scared witless by the Daleks! And I still believe that the 'original' Doctor had a lot that was lost in some of the subsequent ones #including David Tennant, though I'm probably in a minority of 1 there!#.
So recently I added...
Published on 12 Dec 2009 by John Wiltshire


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41 of 41 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "I dig your fab gear!", 31 Aug 2008
By 
Hector Lerbioz (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Doctor Who: The War Machines [DVD] (DVD)
Hartnell's travels as the Doctor only rarely took him to contemporary Earth so it's the visual delight of seeing him out and about in 1960's London taking black cabs, admiring the newly finished Post Office Tower and strolling into nightclubs, that is the first and most immediate pleasure here. Surrounded by soldiers, assisting the establishment by fighting an invasion of robots, you could easily insert Jon Pertwee without it looking out of place. 1966's THE WAR MACHINES therefore provides a (somewhat shakey) template for what DR WHO would start to be with later Troughton entries like THE WEB OF FEAR and THE INVASION, and would become virtually full time from 1970-74.

Later forays by the show into the "here and now" such as 1967's THE FACELESS ONES would be a little more assured when it came to the details of the plot, but almost no other DR WHO story from the '60's evokes such a delicious sense of the culture and ambience of the time. From youngsters in suits and ties grooving uncomfortably at the Inferno nightclub ("the hottest nightspot in town"),to an oblique reference to Hartnell's resemblance to Jimmy Saville, to the appearance of contemporary newsreader Kenneth Kendall warning viewers to stay indoors during the War Machine attack on London, this feels like an authentic look at swinging London.

This fun '60's vibe is also enhanced by the debut of 2 new companions: Anneke Wills' trendy girl-about-town, Polly, and Michael Craze's heart of gold cockney sailor, Ben. The duo look like they were at least partially inspired by Julie Christie and Michael Caine. They're both instantly likeable and are the 2 most interesting characters amongst the supporting cast. Hartnell's is a mostly commanding and dignified performance, give or take the odd fluffed line - reports of his increasing ill health towards the end of his time in the role do not seem to prevent him from giving of his best.

The plot, concerning a man-made supercomputer trying to take over the world by possessing human beings and getting them to build killer robots is let's be honest, utter nonsense. However, since this is a series about a man travelling around the universe and saving planets in a blue police box, as DR WHO fans, most of us are not going to let this worry us. On the other hand though the details of WOTAN's schemes may be unbelievable, the story effectively taps into the fears of the time about the direction in which technology was taking us. Whilst it's unlikely that we'll have robots gassing us on the streets any time soon, it's interesting to note that firstly, the plans to link up WOTAN with computers all over the world seem to be prescient in light of the arrival of the internet. Secondly, as the disc's production subtitles note, the basis of the plot of THE WAR MACHINES bears an uncanny similarity to that of the TERMINATOR movie franchise.

By all accounts, viewers in 1966 were not impressed by this serial. Some considered the War Machines themselves to be "poor relations to the Daleks". Looking at the 4 episodes now, it seems to me that time has been kind to THE WAR MACHINES. The machines themselves have an impressive on-screen presence considerably expoited by Michael Ferguson's excellent, sometimes almost cinematic, use of low and high camera angles.

That this is a disc to savour is a feeling very much present in the excellent package of extra features. "WOTAN ASSEMBLY" deftly chronicles the restoration of the episodes, demonstrating that the real heroes here are the boffins of the Restoration team who recreated the incomplete moments and restored the scratched or wobbly pictures. ONE FOOT IN THE PAST is a history of the GPO Tower presented by politician and ex-Postmaster General Tony Benn. Although there are no references to WOTAN or the TARDIS, this feature feels absolutely in keeping with everything else on the DVD. When he laments the fact that the Tower is now closed to the public following the privatisation of the 1980's it's hard to disagree with him.

I defy anybody of a certain age to look at the BLUE PETER extracts from 1965 and '66 and not have a broad grin of sheer nostalgic pleasure on their face. Christopher Trace and Valerie Singleton variously chat about the Tower (Trace visits it), meet a War Machine and later introduce a viewer who has his own home made Dalek - hilariously complete with a gun that fires talcum powder!

Best of all is a superb commentary by Anneke Wills and Michael Ferguson. Wills' difficulties with Hartnell have been well documented in the past, but here she appears to generously put all this aside and simply wallows in the joy of re-experiencing her work from over 40 years ago. Her shriek of laughter at Hartnell's "temper,temper!" gag in episode 4 provoked a similar reaction from me. Ferguson may have forgotten one or two details about the making of the show (perfectly understandable) but has much of interest to say and also seems to enjoy himself. His admiration of Hartnell is touching and a fitting way to celebrate the many excellent qualities of this restored story.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Disco Inferno, 20 Sep 2001
By A Customer
I'd have to say this is probably my favourite Hartnell story, with the possible exception of Dalek Invasion Of Earth. It's refreshing to see the first Doctor on contemporary (1966) Earth. Earthbound stories tend to work better in terms of achieving a more realistic look and this certainly does, featuring so heavily such familiar London sights as the Post Office tower, and a slightly different looking Covent Garden!
It is a genuinely chilling story in parts. The idea of being hypnotised by a strange noise at the other end of a telephone line seeming frighteningly possible in this day and age... Hartnell is a little distant at times, nearing the end of his time on the programme and the War Machines themselves are laughably unthreatening to look at, but the overall look of the story is highly realistic and entertaining. Great to finally see a complete Ben and Polly story as well. I think this might be the only one.
Definitely worth buying though. It'll restore your faith in Hartnell as the Doctor and it's great fun to watch the extras doing their psychedelic dancing in Club Inferno!
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The War Machines, 11 Oct 2003
By 
Kat (Norwich, Norfolk United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
I think I'm right in saying this is one of the first stories to be completely based on contemporary Earth and to benefit from the 'Yeti in the Loos at Tooting Bec' effect. It's atmospheric and very creepy to watch the War Machines trundle through the streets of London controlled by a super Computer in the then newly opened Post Office Tower. I suppose it was written to touch on the fears of where computerisation would lead and it does scare. It also is the story that introduces the sailor, Ben and the resourceful Polly who are both fun believable characters and an improvement on Dodo who feels very wooden. There are lighter bits, such as a policeman trying to go into the TARDIS thinking it's a real police box until he sees an out of order sign, and William Hartnell seems to be enjoying himself. Well worth a look.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Really classy story - top stuff, 26 Aug 2008
By 
L. Green "Feltano" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Doctor Who: The War Machines [DVD] (DVD)
Barcode: 5014503244125

Just watched this and all I can say is wow! What an amazing story - with the at the time newly constructed Post Office Tower looming everpresent in the background, the Doctor takes to the streets of London to try and avert a potential world threatening plan. We also meet two instantly likeable new companions in the form of trendy it-girl Polly and cockney sailor Ben.

The story is paced to perfection, building quickly, the tension peaking in the edge-of-your-seat moments of the end of episode cliffhangers. From the panoramic shots of London to the full scale attack launched by the army on the Covent Garden warehouse, for Doctor Who - especially in terms of early serials - this is the show on a grand, almost filmic scale. The War Machines has some quite mature elements to it too such as the death of the unwitting tramp who just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time or the way Polly is hypnotised, becoming emotionless and cold to Ben's pleading for her to run.

Of course, this being Doctor Who, there are always those charming moments of comedy to lighten the mood too, one of the best probably being the comment from Polly's friend Kitty when she says to the Doctor 'I dig your fab gear!' All round, the acting is top-notch from everyone - Brett, Krimpton and Major Green making a suitably sinister villainous threesome as WOTAN's brainwashed servants.

The War Machines themselves, despite their boxy appearance, actually still look pretty impressive in their design, even now. If i was going to be picky, the endless discordant beeping and humming that issues from them can get a bit annoying but in many ways, it adds to their menace, defining them as efficient, merciless killers, especially as we see one mow down a load of soldiers with its gas weapon. And of course there's the 'bring me Doctor Who' bit from WOTAN, but hey, that's forgivable.

Hartnell takes a bit of a step-back from the action in the middle section of this story but really comes into his own in the final episode as he devises an ingenious trap to disable the War Machine on the rampage.

Theis serial makes a fitting tribute to the legacy of Hartnell's Doctor, his character facing only 2 more serials before his regeneration and it is clear to see how influential this episode has been to soo many aspects of the show that came to follow. The themes in The War Machines - a robotic attack on contemporary London + soldiers fighting back - are a nice precursor to Troughton's epic serial, The Invasion, a few years later and as it says in the accompanying booklet of this DVD, this story wouldn't have seemed out of place in Pertwee's Earthbound time as the Doctor either.

The extras are a good bunch too with a commentary by Anneke Wills and director Michael Ferguson. There's the always interesting Now and Then look at locations, a lovely nostalgic look at the Post Office Tower with MP Tony Benn and even a quirky Blue Peter episode which shows you how to build the tower in one of their classic 'makes'. There's also a short feature on how this story - previously completely lost - was recovered from Australia and Nigeria.

So, all round, another great Doctor Who DVD package from 2 Entertain.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Must have For Harnell Aficionados!, 26 July 2000
By A Customer
London 1966: - Professor Brett's ultra-intelligent computer WOTAN is about to be linked up with other advanced machines around the world to create a problem-solving network. However, trouble is afoot: - WOTAN has hypnotised Brett and several other technical wizards, using their skills to breed a new lifeform - the War Machine, which the computer is using to threaten London. However, WOTAN has a much higher goal than merely London itself, and time is running short for the Doctor and his allies as soon the world will face a merciless army of bloodthirsty Machines programmed to desroy all animal life...
This is very much a tale of it's time - I mean we've got the Post Office Tower (WOTAN's HQ), cameos by BBC news reporters and even a clip from Blue Peter at the start of the vid. WOTAN's scheme is far-fetched in the extreme, and the design of the War Machines themselves leaves a fair bit to be desired. The idea that these roaring clunkers could do anything except knock over dustbins (and believe me, that's what they do for most of the time) can generously be described as ludicrous. However, the direction is fine (like the explosion of WOTAN at the end!), and Hartnell gets the chance to shine in one of his last appearances. Me, I want a copy of that scary music they use when WOTAN hypnotises people. The good news is that Jackie Lane's Dodo abruptly decides to get lost in the last episode, and we have get Cockney couple Polly + Ben as her replacement. All in all, not a bad tale. Try it.
James
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A tired Doctor hits the Sixties, 13 Aug 2012
By 
J Bate (Hartlepool) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Doctor Who: The War Machines [DVD] (DVD)
I bought this DVD a while back but am watching it now in sequence as part of my ongoing classic marathon. This story, set in London on a contemporary earth of 1966, sets the template for the earth set stories of the next decade, of the many alien invasion attempts that will come and will make a golden era for the show. It is clear from the involvement of the Army in this story that there is a requirement for a team of people to work closely with the doctor and company to stop these alien encounters, this would come later with UNIT, which goes partly to explain the forming of the organisation with situations such as those in "The War Machines" happening a whole lot more often, with the Yeti invasion happening the following year, and the Cybermen, Autons and many other alien foes etc to follow in further years.
As the story sets up a new format, it appears constantly new and fresh, it seems, to me at least that so much location filming in a Hartnell story is practically unheard of, at least with those that exist today. It is refreshing to see the Tardis in the familiar setting of London and it is nice to see The Doctor in a more familiar surrounding as he is one in particular that spends most of his incarnation skulking around lonely planets. The story is fast paced, with great supporting actors and some strong ideas, along with a host of modern up to date characters and we even get half an episode set in a night club of all places!, the most bizarre of all is seeing the first doctor involved in those sequences. There are clearly some more adult themes present here, such as a drunken man trying to take advantage of Polly and we all know he wasn't after a talk about episode continuity now don't we.
There are constant changes of scene, shooting back and forth to different places and locations, and it really does keep you interested and enthralled in the plot.
I had read before that Jackie Lane's exit was too abrupt and unexplained but I thought they'd handled it quite well knowing they couldn't film a goodbye scene on a count of her contract ending, but since I've watched the story in sequence I can see she has been on the Tardis for quite a long time so it could have been handled a little better, perhaps with her explaining she would like to stay on Earth now or something. It is her home period after all its not like shes been dropped in the middle of the sense-sphere or something.
If you are a fan of the Troughton/Pertwee invasion stories, take a look at this story as the pilot for that format.
A jolly good show. Five stars.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wotan Demands "Doctor Who is Required", 4 Jan 2012
This review is from: Doctor Who: The War Machines [DVD] (DVD)
The War Machines is the first Doctor Who serial to be set in contemporary London and in Ian Stuart Black's War Machines its London in the swinging 60's, The War Machines was brought about by the need to refresh Doctor Who, the show was 3 years old at this point and in the early days of television 3 years was like 3 decades, so producer Innes Lloyd decided to do something different. The War Machines concerns a computer that becomes self-aware and decides that humanity cannot develop any further and so must be erased. It is a classic story and one that thank God still exists in the BBC archives, after being returned from Nigeria in 1985 of course. WOTAN {Will Operating Thought ANalogue} is the central villian of the piece and although it is a sterotypical 60's computer, it is rather a clever concept. People in 60's Britain were so concerned about computers taking over the world and replacing humanity that the idea was always begging to be written for Who at some point, I imagine that this serial scared more adults than children as adults were all to aware of the tensions that were brewing over seas between America and Russia.

Although The War Machines is not the best Hartnell story, it is one of the more entertaining ones and this comes at a time when the old boy was tiring fast and his relationship with his fellow cast and crew members was rocky. William Hartnell knew that his days in the role of the popular hero were numbered and so we start to see and hear the anger and passion that fueled this great actor. Billy is on top form for me here and looks to be doing what he does best, dominating the show and making himself centre of everybody's attention. The conviction that he burned in to those 60's cameras was inspiring and for me his interpretation of the Doctor was the most powerful. Nobody could show as much furry as old Billy boy. Anneke Wills and Michael Craze make their debuts here and are a breath of fresh air to a show that after Dodo was really in need of re-establishing its companions, I have always had a fondness for Ben & Polly, they were at their best with Pat but that does not mean they don't shine here. This is a great adventure for them to become aquainted with the Doctor and start their travels with him.

The BBC DVD release is brilliant, for too long we have been waiting for this serial to be released on to DVD and now its here we could not have asked for anything better. The DVD has been painstakenly put together from all different sources and extracts that have been returned from all over the world. So now in 2008, we have a complete version of the original serial and its never looked better, the picture and sound quality is immense and I just can't believe that I am watching a recording that is now 45 years old and of this quality. The modern restoration equipment has been used to good effect here and so I am chuffed with the DVD I got on my shelf. It seems criminal to pay such a small price for such a great DVD, The extras are varied I grant you, but nonetheless entertaining, there are some very interesting documentaries on this release and a fantastic commentary with Anneke Wills and the original Director. Highly Recommended.

All in All a bargain release and well worth the money.

10/10

Many thanks for your time,

M.B.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars WAR MACHINES, 8 May 2011
By 
K. Gooch "Keith Gooch" (Edinburgh Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Doctor Who: The War Machines [DVD] (DVD)
Many people disregard William Hartnell's performance as The Doctor, because of his unfortunate ability to fluff his lines, which is a shame, as he is still the original and best, despite what numerous polls have since declared.

here in the War Machines, he is arguably at his best. Initially saddled with one of the worst companions in the shows history, Dodo (Jackie Lane) the Doctor arrives back in 1966 London at the early period shortly after the opening of the latest marvel of the age the Post Office Tower.

Buried in the heart of the tower is an evil computer named Wotan, who in a move long before the Internet of for that matter the movie Terminator, links up with all the major computers in the world and at the point of going live decides that humanity needs to be replaced and goes about building vast War Machines to go about ridding the world of its human occupants.

Using its hypnotic powers Wotan hypnotises various people including Dodo to help in its plans to build the War Machines and it is left to the Doctor who seems immune to Wotan's pwoers to save humanity, backed by his new found friends Ben and Polly.

This story has everything, rather naff War Machines that obviously somebody in the BBC thought would rival the Daleks, the first appearance of Ben and Polly and one of the latter William Hartnell performances and a good one, as he has to carry a lot of the show himself.

Would throughly recommend it to anyone who hasn't seen it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Who at its best, 12 Jun 2009
By 
D. Spence "Book Fan" (Edinburgh/Aberdeen, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Doctor Who: The War Machines [DVD] (DVD)
A classic example of Classic Who retaining an appeal even in the modern day.

For the first time in the show's history, the Doctor- whose ability to pilot the TARDIS in this era is shockingly erratic- takes an active role in the defence of contemporary Earth, establishing the groundwork for the themes and storylines that would become so prominent after the Third Doctor joins UNIT during his exile in the 1970s. Amid a backdrop of popular sixties culture counterbalanced by various government officials, the Doctor must take a stand against an advanced computer, and the restults do not disappoint.

While the War Machines themselves may appear rather clunky by modern standards- and the noises they make can become frustrating at times-, their sheer size and their weapons make them clearly formidable opponents (Even if the 'hammer' section seems a bit excessive). WOTAN itself is a surprisingly chilling enemy for a creature that is essentially just a box with a strange voice, perfectly reflecting the chilling arrogance of so many creatures in the future that would come to seek dominantion over mankind through their own belief in their superiority.

And as for the characters...

While Dodo herself could receive a more appropriate send-off after her time in the TARDIS- although we are treated to a tragic view of her later life in "Who Killed Kennedy"-, new companions Ben and Polly- in their only surviving story in the present- make a very effective debut, Ben demonstrating his own personal strength and dedication to the Doctor after very little time in his company while Polly herself provides a fresh example of the culture of her time.

Hartnell's Doctor himself is in particularly top form, the First Doctor's old body nevertheless reflecting his exceptional intellect and ability to win supprt wherever he goes, quickly earning the assistance of government official Sir Charles Summer and a military platoon as he leads them against the War Machines, culminating in a very effective strategy of turning the enemy's own weapons against them.

(On a slightly unrelated note, anyone who enjoyed this may also appreciate the Past Doctor novel "The Time Travellers", which features the First Doctor, Susan, Ian and Barbara visiting an alternate timeline showing how things would have turned out if the Doctor had not been present to defeat WOTAN; the new version of 2006 that has resulted from that loss is a VERY chilling new world to witness)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WOTAN to take over the world, 7 Sep 2008
This review is from: Doctor Who: The War Machines [DVD] (DVD)
Well after many months of waiting one of favourite William Hartnell stories has been released onto DVD.

This is without doubt a brilliant story which even today still has that same fear, of computers trying to take over humans and for them to rule mankind, its done in a very effective but simplistic way and so just becareful next time you answer your telephone

The departure of Dodo was rather sudden and i think not very well thought through,one minute she is recuperating, the next she is no longer wanting to travel with the Doctor and thats that, all though it does introudce i believe one of the top travelling companions that have travelled with the Doctor, Ben (Michael Craze)& Polly (Anneke Wilks) they have a brilliant chemistry on screen and throughout this story, the only sad fact is that most of the stories featuring Ben & Polly now only exist on Audio Recordings as the cretins and BBC junked all the existing reels.

The extras on this DVD are also worth mentioning, the Blue Peter clips from where the BT tower (now telecom tower) first openened were brilliant and too see how different it looks now to when it did back in the 60's is brilliant and also a little bonus at the start and end of this section, the Now & Then featurette which shows scenes where it was filmed was also a fascinating insight to how things have changed in 40 years
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