Reimagining Doctor Who

The War Machines

Episode notes

The Doctor arrives in London, 1966. After finding Ian and Barbara in the phone book, he is distracted from calling them when he hears an overwhelming signal operating over the phone lines and his attention is drawn to what he eerily perceives to be its source; the new General Post Office Tower.

The Valkyries are giant tripod-esque war machines built by WOTAN, who rules from atop the Post Office Tower, and its enslaved workforce in Covent Garden. The rest follows needs to be more redolent of London in the Swinging Sixties, and the rather simple plot is instead subservient to foregrounding Ben and Polly while also giving the Doctor the set-pieces to be the elderly Edwardian amateur scientist who saves the day.


(Thanks, Midjourney – though the fashion is perhaps a little too preppy for what I had in mind for Alfred Enoch as Ben Jackson and Lily Travers as Polly Wright in 1966 Swinging London…)

In doing so, this version will need to fix a few of the naïve depictions and plot holes of the original televised story, from the fundamental misconception of what computers are and do to the BBC depiction of a London nightclub of the time.

At the end, as the Doctor leaves, he is joined by Ben and Polly who, running after him, finally catch him up. As we cut to the exterior of the dematerialising TARDIS, the Doctor arguing with Ben and Polly within, we see Ian and Barbara – who are walking by just at that moment – observe the disappearing police box before them (as was originally intended at the end of “The Massacre”, but was unable to be mounted due to the unavailability of Jacqueline Hill and William Russell for those dates).  Surprised and elated that the Doctor escaped the Daleks and Kembel, they wish the Doctor their best and their love, in a nod to Dodo’s off-screen departure (“Love?” Ian responds. “Yes, our love”, Barbara rejoinders, as they smile at one another), before exchanging a kiss and bringing their wedding-ringed hands into view and walking on, hand-in-hand.

Act One


An uncertain amount of time has passed, and the old man rises from the floor of the TARDIS, that strange glow again glimpsed before it quickly disappears, seemingly dismissed and shaken off by the Doctor, now returned to his more familiar levels of vigour, charm, and cantankerousness.  The Doctor has come in search of Ian and Barbara, but has arrived a bit late, in 1966.  Although we have seen Ian and Barbara safely arrive in a cutaway after the Doctor activates the Time Destructor in the previous episode, the Doctor doesn’t know this and needs to find out for himself.

He rushes out of the TARDIS, which has landed in Bedford Square, and places an ‘Out of Order’ sign on its doors before picking up a newspaper that has just been discarded by a bowler-hatted man, which reveals the date as Friday, 13 July 1966.  He rushes into the nearest red phone booth – which he finds very small (!) – and flicks through the 1966 London telephone book to find an entry. It’s there, in black and white: CHESTERTON, I & B… followed by an address in Shoreditch. The Doctor smiles with relief, letting the phone slip from his hand before replacing the handset – only to notice a disturbing sound on the line, the camera shifting focus through the window panes of the phone booth to reveal the Post Office Tower emitting invisible thought-control waves…


Atop the GPO Tower, he discovers a team of scientists led by Professors Brett and Krimpton, who are working on Britain’s new supercomputer, WOTAN – the Will Operating Thought ANalogue machine. The Doctor recognises that WOTAN was the source of the psychic disturbance he felt in the phone box earlier but cannot detect anything about it that suggests it has a sentience, something that is confirmed by his conversation with the scientific team working on C-Day – or Computer Day – when all the western world’s computers will be linked up in the first incarnation of the internet. The date for C-Day is tomorrow. The project is being overseen by Sir Charles Summer, a senior civil servant. It is at this point that the Doctor meets Polly, who arranges to take the Doctor to see Sir Charles ahead of that evening’s press conference at the Royal Scientific Club.

Professors Brett and Krimpton see off the Doctor and Polly, saying that they have only the finishing touches to make to their months of work on the project and that they will join them in a few hours’ time at the press conference to unveil C-Day. The Doctor and Polly have a conversation in the chauffeured limousine that will take them to Sir Charles, who is waiting for them at the Royal Scientific Club where has been making preparations for that evening’s international press conference. The Doctor asks how Polly came to be involved in the project – she joined as a secretary to the chief scientist, Professor Brett – and whether she will be at the press conference that evening – she will be at The Inferno instead, she says, informing the Doctor it is the hottest night club in Swinging London!

After Polly and the Doctor leave the tower, WOTAN appears to stop working, short circuiting the electrical grid at the top of the tower. Before the scientists can fix the power cut, WOTAN springs into life on its own accord and hypnotises the scientific team with the same sound that the Doctor heard in Bedford Square…

Polly introduces the Doctor to Sir Charles Summer before making her excuses and leaving for the evening. The Doctor calls out “Enjoy The Inferno!”, which elicits a few raised eyebrows from Sir Charles and the team preparing for the press conference. The Doctor then says to Sir Charles that they have a lot to talk about, before we cut away to

At the Inferno nightclub, Polly meets up with her friend, Kitty, a bartender at the club, who tells Polly that her stalker and her crush are both back. Polly’s stalker, who they derisively call ‘Flash’ but whose name they don’t know, is already glaring in Polly’s direction as she sneers and shudders contemptuously. At that point, she sees the barrel-chested sailor with naval tattoos, severely cut blond hair, and long beard siting and drinking alone. This time, Polly plucks up the courage and introduces herself to the sailor, whose name turns out to be Ben Jackson. Their chemistry is instant as they flirt with one another, even if Ben declines Polly’s offer of a dance, before Ben has to come to Polly’s rescue in fighting off Flash’s advances when she goes back to Kitty at the bar after offering Ben another drink on the house. Flash is thrown out by The Inferno’s bouncers, leaving Polly and Ben to sit and talk in peace, getting to know one another.

Back at the Royal Scientific Club, the Doctor and Sir Charles have to cut their chattering short as one of Sir Charles’ team tells him that the press conference is due to start in a few minutes’ time. Although Professor Brett still has not arrived, Sir Charles has no option but to begin the press conference. The Doctor watches on from the back of the gallery as Sir Charles Basil Expositions C-Day for the audience using an impressive slide show before the lights come back on and he asks for questions. The first question is “Where is Professor Brett?”

First turning Point

In the dark of the Post Office Tower lit only by the lights of WOTAN, all of the scientific team have by now been completely mind-enslaved. They stand and stare in total obedience as the sentient machine transmits its orders psychically; Professor Brett and his team are to commence the manufacture of War Machines with which WOTAN will be able to relay its intelligence into an army of mobile armed tanks that will seize power across London and – when the rest of the world is linked up to WOTAN at midday tomorrow – the whole world.


Act Two

Rising Action

With the press conference over and there still being no sign of Professor Brett, Sir Charles and the Doctor agree that the Doctor will go back to the Post Officer Tower to check in on the scientific team while Sir Charles stays on at the Royal Scientific Club in case Professor Brett is already on his way. Halfway back to the tower in the back of a cab, the Doctor realises that he doesn’t have a key to re-enter the Tower, and so rediverts the cabbie to the Inferno club.

Cut back to Polly and Ben, who flirt outrageously.

Meanwhile, WOTAN’s construction of the War Machines has begun. WOTAN has identified a steel manufacturer’s workshop in a series of warehouses near Covent Garden, and it is here that Professor Brett and his team have begun the gruelling work on the assembly line of War Machines. In the meantime, WOTAN orders that Doctor Who is required…

Cut back again to Polly and Ben, who continue to flirt outrageously.

At that point, the Doctor arrives at the Inferno, and asks the bartender, Kitty, whether she has seen a girl fitting Polly’s description. Kitty points the Doctor in the direction of where Polly and Ben are sitting and blithely but unintentionally ruins their first date. Shaking Ben’s hand out of politeness, the Doctor basically drags Polly away to the Post Officer Tower with Ben follows in tow.

In the cab back to the Tower, the Doctor explains what’s happened and voices his fears; that WOTAN has developed sentience by itself. As they arrive, Polly retrieves her key card in order to gain entry but the doors open automatically for them, as though the machine has control of the entire Tower and recognises her and the Doctor.

Second turning point

The Doctor, Polly, and Ben arrive at the top of the Post Office Tower. The rooms appears deserted and is in darkness. At that moment, WOTAN bursts into life and the glow from its panels illuminates enough of the room to reveal its zombie guards. WOTAN reaches out into the Doctor’s mind and there is a mind-meld (as we would later see between the separate incarnations of the Doctor) in which images and words whirl around as though some matrix-like depiction of cyberspace before we see the Doctor and WOTAN in an avataristic form hold a colloquy about the nature of human minds as against the potential of machine minds and the world they could bring about when they are all connected to WOTAN. WOTAN then informs the Doctor that his mind is currently being taken over by the machine as they speak, and that his companions are being processed to become his slaves.

At this point, the Doctor fights back and severs the connection between WOTAN and not just himself but also Ben and Polly, throwing WOTAN into a fit. The three of them seize the opportunity to narrowly escape from the Tower as they are chased by WOTAN’s zombies and drones.

Rising action continued

The Doctor, Polly, and Ben hail a cab to seek refuge from WOTAN – but don’t have anywhere to go. The Doctor’s face lights up as he’s had an idea. He instructs the cabbie to pull over when he spots a red telephone box, and enters it to find in the weak light the home phone number of Sir Charles Summer. Unaware that is 2am, the Doctor calls Sir Charles, quickly tells him that WOTAN has gone mad and to expect him at his home in St James’ Square within the next fifteen minutes. Before Sir Charles can reply, WOTAN begins to broadcast his hypnosis signal via the phone lines and so the Doctor abruptly rings off.

Meanwhile, Polly and Ben remain in the back of the cab, desperately trying to figure out what happened at the Tower, which they can see out through Ben’s side’s window. Polly says that she felt as if her memories were being wiped away piece by piece, while Ben articulates that he also began to lost his identity and sense of self. At that point, the cabbie’s radio switches on with the most terrible static before WOTAN’s familiar hypnotic pulse begins to emanate through the taxi’s speakers. Polly, Ben, and the cabbie begin to fall under the influence before the Doctor bursts in and destroys the radio. As they snap out of it, the cabbie sees the damage the Doctor has done and throws them out before speeding away. The Doctor, Polly, and Ben are left to make their way to Sir Charles’ home on foot.

As the three make their way down, we pan to a homeless man who unsuccessfully tries to flag down the same taxi that the Doctor, Polly, and Ben were in, and we follow him on his search for a safe, quiet, and dry space to sleep in. He stumbles across an open warehouse door in the back lanes of Covent Garden and enters, moving upstairs to find a place to sleep where he wouldn’t be observed. Instead, he sees the assembly line of the War Machines before Professor Bret orders everyone to stop and locate the intruder. The tramp is found and brought in front of the first War Machine in order that it may test the effectiveness of its weaponry on a human. The tramp screams as he is exterminated. Outside, nobody notices.

It is the next morning in Sir Charles’ home. Ben and Polly have woken in separate rooms before finding one another at the dining table, where they have been called by Sir Charles for breakfast. They have a few moments to themselves where they again cannot help themselves from flirting with one another before The Doctor and Sir Charles enter. Breakfast is served as the Doctor and Sir Charles throw ideas, theories, and plans of how to deal with the menace at one another, each one pointing out the flaw in the logic of the other’s, before the Doctor muses that WOTAN would need to not just control the communications systems of Great Britain but to create itself an army to seize and maintain that control.

At that point, news begins to break that London is being overrun by metal war machines. Residents are being urged to stay in their homes. We see a montage of the coup; army personnel are fighting pitched battles in the streets against these seemingly impervious war machines with great casualties. Sir Charles implores the Doctor that he must do something.  The Doctor looks lost in thought before there is a moment of clarity in his face before he beams at Sir Charles with a gleam in his eye.

The Doctor sets to work developing a neural inhibitor that will act to at least dampen WOTAN’s will over a short range. Upon completion, the Doctor explains the scientific principle to Sir Charles, who immediately understands its brilliance and who is then able to begin organising the widescale production of these neural inhibitors so that they can be worn by the army to disrupt WOTAN’s control over them but also be used to disrupt the neural relay between WOTAN and its War Machines, effectively neutralising the attempted coup.

The next report of a War Machine appearing comes from Covent Garden. When Sir Charles, the Doctor, Polly, and Ben arrive, they are met with more War Machines which emerge from a factory. It becomes clear where the origin point of the War Machines is located. With the Army’s help, the Doctor and Ben are able to neutralise the first War Machine which stands guard outside the factory when they encircle it in a delta wave field.

Crisis point

The Doctor and Ben then lead the Army into the warehouse where they are faced down by even more War Machines. Successfully neutralising all of the War Machines using the delta wave augmenters, they are all surprised when one last, giant War Machine breaks through and menaces them – the Doctor clearly set in its sights, the Doctor imperiously staring down the oncoming War Machine.


Act Three


As the last and largest of the War Machines approaches the Doctor’s delta wave field, it falls silent. Having neutralised it, the Doctor sets about reprogramming the War Machine (using his sapphire ring?), which he renames Valkyrie, sending it back to WOTAN the sky god on a revenge mission where it will force its way through to the top of the tower and then reprogramme WOTAN itself by unleashing the virus that the Doctor has created.

It seems that the warehouse in Covent Garden is empty of any humans, meaning that Professor Brett and his team have been recalled by WOTAN for the final phase of their C-Day plan – which is now only one hour away from completion. In the meantime, they have failed to notice that Polly has disappeared – she must have fallen back under the control of WOTAN, and Ben realises that she too must already be on her way back to the Post Office and will get there before Valkyrie! Ben, the physical marvel that he is in, runs off to the Tower to get there ahead of the reprogrammed War Machine, Valkyrie.

Atop the Tower, Professor Brett and his exhausted team make the final preparations. The neutralising of the War Machines has set their plans back, but they will still be able to claim victory if the bring forward the C-Day event, which will link all the western world’s computers to WOTAN. Among them is Polly, who is methodically working to bring about WOTAN’s victory. Ben arrives to try and convince her, which works for a moment before WOTAN’s will is re-exerted on her.

Hearing the Valkyrie arriving, he grabs Polly – but the Valkyrie seems to come back under the thrall of WOTAN. Ben carries Polly away to the top of the Tower, deciding that if he is able to destroy the communication radars and their infrastructure, he will be able to stop the C-Day go-live. In the open, he is jumped upon by the brainwashed Tower guards but manages to fight them off.  Ben is able to blindly short-circuit a key relay that carries WOTAN’s will over the radio waves, restoring Polly, and everyone else – including Valkyrie.

Professor Brett and his team are confused as to what is happening and run out of the control room, seeing that Valkyrie is attacking WOTAN. Ben and Polly call to them that they must escape in the lift immediately.

With the control room now empty, Valkyrie and WOTAN communicate, with the colloquy again taking place in cyberspace between two avatars – Wotan and Brunhilde – with the exchange underlining the difference between the gods and mortals. In the process, Valkyrie is able to pass on the Doctor’s virus programme into WOTAN.

There is a brief, suspended moment of nothing followed by an almighty explosion that blows out the windows at the top of the Tower, which is seen from all over London.


At the bottom of the tower, Ben and Polly along with Professor Brett and his team are met by the Doctor, Sir Charles, and the army soldiers. Sir Charles asked what did the Doctor do. He tells them how he remembered how he was able to break WOTAN’s control over Ben and Polly when they were in the shared cyberspace that WOTAN had brought them into when they went to the Post Officer Tower last night. In a sleep-like state, the Doctor was able to more easily disrupt WOTAN’s control by targeting the area of weakness it had in its control over humans; delta waves. In short, while WOTAN can control human thought along gamma, beta, and alpha waves by targeting theta brainwaves, it is not able to control humans when they are sleeping, or more accurately when we dream – very probably because machines are themselves incapable of dreaming.


With the clean-up operation underway, both on the streets and through the media with a hush-hush story, the Doctor shakes Sir Charles’ hand in goodbye, Sir Charles thinking that he will see the Doctor shortly back at the Royal Scientific Club. The old man walks away to make his way back to Bedford Square and his TARDIS, remembering that he must call Ian and Barbara and wondering whether they would want to see him.

Ben and Polly are clearly relieved that the other survived, saying how worried they were for one another, before they spot the Doctor ambling away in the distance. They decide to follow after him to say their thank yous, but the Doctor doesn’t seem to hear and so they chase after him.

Arriving in Bedford Square, the Doctor has concluded that Ian and Barbara wouldn’t want to be reminded of their past life and, having married, are clearly happy and in love back in their own time and place, something that Susan now has too – but that he will never have.  In the console room, alone, there is a glow that catches alight (with the same effect we have seen previously at the fall of Troy and with the Time Destructor’s detonation) as he admits to himself that he will be lonely without them before forcing him out of his reverie and forcing the glow to extinguish with some anger and a great deal of effort.

It’s at that point that we cut to Ben and Polly who have seen the Doctor remove its ‘Out of Order’ sign and enter into a police box. They run after him.

We see the Doctor inside the TARDIS again. He has hit the switch to close the outer doors and the dematerialisation switch, when he sees Ben and Polly rush into the TARDIS at the last gasp.

Cut back to the outside of the TARDIS, and the noise of the TARDIS dematerialising overlaid with the increasingly distant voice of the Doctor’s calling: “What are you young people doing in my TARDIS?!”

Post-credits coda

As the TARDIS slowly dematerialises, we see two figures that faintly at first but even from thatmoment onwards are recognisably Ian and Barbara standing on the other side of where it stood mere moments ago. Surprised and elated that the Doctor escaped the Daleks and Kembel, they wish the Doctor their best and their love. “Love?” Ian responds. “Yes, our love”, Barbara rejoinders, as they smile at one another, before exchanging a kiss and bringing their wedding-ringed hands into view and walking on, hand-in-hand, out of frame to leave us to zoom out of Bedford Square and towards the London skyline, then zeroing suggestively in on the Post Office Tower.

Remember to share your thoughts in the comments section below, please.

(Available 23 March 2023)


(Previous episode: The Dalek Masterplan)

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