Feeds

Digital deviants: The many MAD COMPUTERS of Doctor Who

Through space and time with the universe's worst IT

Top three mobile application threats

WOTAN

Reg Hardware retro numbers

The first Doctor faced arguably the most archetypal of mechanised threats: WOTAN, the Will Operating Thought ANalogue from the 1966 serial The War Machines, was a computer that wanted computers to rule the world in place of humans.

WOTAN didn’t plan to go it alone. Its goal was to link all the world’s computers under its own control in an event called C-Day - 16 July, if you’d like to mark your calendar. In the meantime, it practised by hypnotising humans to work as its drones, via signals that could even be transmitted over the telephone network – a neat plot twist, considering that mass-produced phone modems had only appeared a few years earlier.

Screenshot from Doctor Who serial 'The War Machines'

This Germanic-sounding contraption planned a one-computer blitzkreig
Source: BBC

Job One for WOTAN’s human slaves was to build an army of 12 “mobile computers” – the eponymous War Machines – designed to go tearing around London, smashing things up while they disabled the humans’ weapons using some unseen force.

Fortunately for the Doctor, he was able to capture one of the War Machines and turn it on WOTAN itself. It seems some of the mobile computers had been set about their tasks without being “completely programmed” – a classic IT project cock-up if there ever was one.

Mentalis

Reg Hardware retro numbers

Mentalis was another thinking machine bent on war, but this one was less concerned with winning than with making sure the humans lost. In 1979’s The Armageddon Factor, it presided over the deserted planet Zeos, from which it waged a never-ending campaign against neighboring Atrios. So effective at its job was Mentalis that the Marshal of Atrios, commander of that planet’s armed forces, didn’t even realise that there were no living Zeons left and that he was only fighting a battle computer.

Screenshot from Doctor Who serial 'The Armageddon Factor'

The new mainframe we bought from the Planet of Evil just doesn’t have the quality of our old one
Source: BBC

Dismantling Mentalis and restoring peace on Atrios took the combined efforts of the fourth Doctor and Drax, a fellow Time Lord who originally built the machine. And even that called for some fiddling around with the flow of time itself, or else Mentalis, upon realising the war was over, would have self-destructed, obliterating both Atrios and Zeos in the process.

In all, we’d say Mentalis’ programming seemed to have overstepped its remit somewhat. But then, when you're looking at stocking your data center with systems built by someone called the Shadow, who lives someplace called the Planet of Evil and who claims to be a servant of the Black Guardian, maybe you should get a second quote.

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

Next page: The Master Brain

More from The Register

next story
Feast your PUNY eyes on highest resolution phone display EVER
Too much pixel dust for your strained eyeballs to handle
Samsung Galaxy S5 fingerprint scanner hacked in just 4 DAYS
Sammy's newbie cooked slower than iPhone, also costs more to build
Microsoft lobs pre-release Windows Phone 8.1 at devs who dare
App makers can load it before anyone else, but if they do they're stuck with it
Report: Apple seeking to raise iPhone 6 price by a HUNDRED BUCKS
'Well, that 5c experiment didn't go so well – let's try the other direction'
Rounded corners? Pah! Amazon's '3D phone has eye-tracking tech'
Now THAT'S what we call a proper new feature
Zucker punched: Google gobbles Facebook-wooed Titan Aerospace
Up, up and away in my beautiful balloon flying broadband-bot
US mobile firms cave on kill switch, agree to install anti-theft code
Slow and kludgy rollout will protect corporate profits
AMD unveils Godzilla's graphics card – 'the world's fastest, period'
The Radeon R9 295X2: Water-cooled, 5,632 stream processors, 11.5TFLOPS
Sony battery recall as VAIO goes out with a bang, not a whimper
The perils of having Panasonic as a partner
NORKS' own smartmobe pegged as Chinese landfill Android
Fake kit in the hermit kingdom? That's just Kim Jong-un-believable!
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a defence for mobile apps
In this whitepaper learn the various considerations for defending mobile applications; from the mobile application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies needed to properly assess mobile applications risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.