Doctor Who altered its course with The War Machines. Rather than travelling to a distant planet to meet strange-looking aliens, or to Earth's past to encounter a significant historical figure, War Machines is set in comtemporary London, the swinging mid-60s, and it shows! For the very first time in the series' young history, the Doctor and his companion(s) face a modern-day threat, the first time, that is, when they are large enough to interact with the rest of the characters, unlike Planet of The Giants.
As Professor Brett states, WOTAN is ten years ahead of its time. Well, maybe not ten. Perhaps only five years, which would put it smack down in the beginning of the Pertwee Years, right next to a simlar story, Mind of Evil, about a machine taking over people's minds. If anything, The War Machines foreshadows the Third Doctor's era. Hartnell dabbles with electronic gadgets, works with the military (not UNIT yet, but very UNIT-like), and endures incompetent politicians to prevent a menace from taking over the world. Sound familiar? The Pertwee Years four years early. In fact, if you re-hash this script and use it toward another popular 60s TV program, The Avengers, it would feel right at home. I anticipated John Steed and Emma Peel to show up on my TV screen at any minute.
Incidentally, the notion expressed that Doctor Who finally has taken its intended form with The War Machines is about as bogus the Doctor's background being changed during the McCoy years to be something more than a timelord. The intended course in any series is how it originates, not how it becomes. The originators of any series always deserve the "intended course" label. This is not to say that the new direction of the show is bad, but let's not claim that this is where Sidney Newman & Verity Lambert envisioned Doctor Who going.
Basically, The War Machines steers Doctor Who in a new direction, a very subtle foreboding of the early 70s, worth every one of the four stars I gave it. However this story could have been a five-star beauty. How you ask? Where have you gone Ian & Barbara. The Doctor may as well have been companion-less. Dodo barely features at all, disappearing somewhere in episode two, never to be seen again. We are given the revelation at the end that she has decided to stay in London, and bids the Doctor goodbye by relaying a message through the new companions, Ben & Polly. As the Doctor says, that's gratitude for you, not even showing the decency to see the Doctor off personally after being given the experience of her life. Dodo should have gotten a more substantial exit. As for the aforementioned new companions, Ben & Polly fit in with the swinging 60s era, and Polly is pleasing to the eye, however they are no Ian & Barbara. In retrospect, War Machines could have been the perfect swan song for Ian & Barbara. I can just see them telling the Doctor that "we have decided to remain here" at the end of this story, fate having steered the Tardis back in their own time finally. An opportunity sadly lost...